Jimmy Carter's story is one of the greatest dramas in American politics. In 1980, he was overwhelmingly voted out of office in a humiliating defeat. Over the subsequent two decades, he became one of the most admired statesmen and humanitarians in America and the world. Jimmy Carter, part of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's award-winning Presidents series, traces his rapid ascent in politics, dramatic fall from grace and unexpected resurrection.
"Few stories better illustrate the intersection of character and leadership than the story of Jimmy Carter," says producer, writer and director Adriana Bosch (Ulysses S. Grant, The Rockefellers, Reagan). "The very qualities that got him elected -- tenacity, religious certitude and an absolute confidence in his abilities -- made it nearly impossible for him to govern."
To tell Carter's story, the documentary interviews the people who know him best. Wife Rosalynn provides a rare glimpse of the inner life of their marriage, his early career and political struggles. Son Chip speaks with candor about the president who was his father, and the life of this political family. Others appearing in the film include vice president Walter F. Mondale, press secretary Jody Powell, budget director Bert Lance, pollster Patrick Caddell, U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, congressman Dan Rostenkowski and Carter's most important biographers, Douglas Brinkley and Peter Bourne. The program also features Carter family home movies, as well as a rare film sequence of Carter's final hours in the Oval Office, when he and his advisors waited in vain for the release of the Americans who had been held hostage in Tehran for 444 days.
Carter was the first president to confront the challenge of militant Islam, then embodied by the Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian revolution. Carter was also the first president to embark on what would prove to be the excruciating road to peace in the Middle East. But in the end, he would be undone by his failure to secure the hostages' release and by a plummeting economy.
The documentary shows how Carter's political redemption was accomplished by Carter himself. The memories of his presidency -- gas lines, inflation, recession, the Iran hostage crisis, an ineffectual and fractured administration, and the so-called national malaise -- would be eclipsed, finally, by his post-presidential successes as a peacemaker in the world's most troubled areas, and his emergence as a champion for the poor in his own country.
My American Experience
Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?