Written by Mikaela Gantz
As a political science major, I often get asked who my favorite president is. Now it’s very easy for me to point out presidents I did not like for a variety of reasons. It’s a lot easier to point at a specific president and the overwhelming wrongs versus point at one who’s my favorite. I think it’s partly because what makes a good president is so vague. You need charisma, intelligence, good foreign relations, an understanding of the United States public, public speaking skills, and so many other things. Truth is, I can’t think of a president who’s had a perfect run.
So I’ve started basing my ranking based off of empathy, foreign relations, environmental acts, and overall quality of character. Jimmy Carter, in my opinion, has all those things. Now, if you have a decent understanding of history you will probably know he is not seen as a great president. In fact, he’s viewed as one of the worst presidents of all time. Strictly based off of approval rating leaving office, 34%, he doesn’t rank anywhere near most of the presidents with terms after or before his. So you’re probably wondering, why on earth would someone who should probably know better chose Jimmy Carter as her favorite president?
I have an answer. Jimmy Carter is unparalleled in his humanity, compassion, and empathy. It made him a wonderful president at times, but it was also his downfall. He served as president shortly after a very tumultuous end to the Vietnam war. The public was not happy with the Presidency and the country, and faith had to be gained back. He decided to pardon Vietnam draft evaders, a decision that was very controversial. He also negotiated very controversial Panama Canal treaties. However, he successfully mediated the Camp David accords which established a framework for peace in the Middle East. He also established United States diplomatic relations with the PRC (China). He had the most comprehensive forward thinking environmental policy out of any president. 14 pieces of environmental legislation were passed during his time in office, as well as the creation of the department of energy. Ironically, one of the biggest issues he faced was inflation, largely due to the energy crisis because of the United States reliance on oil. The end of his presidency was marked by a series of fatal disasters. Most notably, the Iranian hostage crisis in Tehran.
The administration’s inability to get the United States citizens out, and the failed military operation, cost Carter the public’s approval. The reason the hostage crisis happened, however, is sometimes overlooked. I can’t explain in detail (word count) but essentially the Shah of Iran (who was not liked AT ALL) by the people, requested a lifesaving treatment in the United States. Jimmy Carter granted this and the Ayatollah of Iran incited Iranian militants to storm the American embassy in Iran. So, Carter is blamed for this (perhaps rightfully so) because he wanted to save a man’s life. It wasn’t about the politics for Jimmy Carter, and in that moment that was perhaps the problem.
The point remains, he was undoubtedly one of the best humans ever to sit in the oval office. He was far ahead of his time concerning environmental policy, human rights, and social reforms. Most importantly, he is a humanitarian who has my utmost respect.