For many years the feeling has been that Carter accomplished more in retirement than he did as President. While he certainly set a high bar for what a former president can accomplish, his accomplishments during his presidency are often overlooked because he only served one term. Here are just some of those accomplishments:
1) Camp David Accords - The Camp David Accords are usually seen as Jimmy Carter's greatest foreign policy success and as one of the main accomplishments of his presidency. The Camp David Accords were a series of meetings and peace treaties between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Anwar Menachem Begin. These treaties ended a bitter rivalry between the countries that were made worse by the Six-Day War in 1967. The peace between Israel and Egypt proved to be a lasting one and shaped Middle Eastern politics for decades
2) He created the Department of Energy and established and passed the first national energy package that began moving the country away from fossil fuels.
3) Created the Department of Education which set the first national standards for education and greatly increased federal funding targeted to states with underfunded education.
4) He signed several bills which aimed to improve the environment. On August 3, 1977, he signed into law the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). The SMCRA regulated the environmental effects of coal mining in the U.S. through the creation of two programs: one for regulating active coal mines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. On December 2, 1980, President Carter signed into law the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Act doubled the amount of public land set aside for national parks and wildlife refuges. Jimmy Carter also established the Superfund through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. The Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants.
5) In 1903, Panama signed a treaty with the United States that gave the U.S. rights to the Panama Canal Zone. Since the 1960s, Panama wanted to re-negotiate this treaty and thus the Panama Canal had become a subject of dispute between Panama and the United States. Believing that it was morally right, President Carter wanted to return the Panama Canal to Panama. On September 7, 1977, the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were signed by the United States and Panama. The treaties were named after Jimmy Carter and the Commander of Panama’s National Guard, General Omar Torrijos. The first treaty gave the United States the permanent right to defend the Panama Canal from any threat that might interfere with its continued neutral service to ships of all nations. The second treaty gave Panama full control of the canal from 12:00 on December 31, 1999.
6) Announces normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China
7) Signed the agreement with the Soviet Union on SALT II
8) Signed the International Covenant on Human Rights
9) He worked to require seatbelts or airbags, which would go on to save 9,000 American lives each year.
10) He signed the Alaska Land Act, tripling the size of the nation’s protected wilderness areas.
11) He deregulated the airline industry, paving the way for middle-class Americans to fly for the first time in large numbers, and he deregulated natural gas, laying the groundwork for our current energy independence.
Finally, he set the United States' position on human rights as an important element of our foreign policy. This position made the United States the world leader in the promotion of democracy around the world. He continued this work post-presidency through the Carter Center. Carter may not have been elected to a second term but he used his post-presidency time to implement much of what he hoped to accomplish in a second term through the Carter Center. This contrasts dramatically with Trump's love affair with dictators and his need to try to rerun the outcome of his defeat.
At this time it is important to recognize how consequential his presidency was in addition to his post-presidency accomplishments.
I was fortunate to have a front-row seat at his Inauguration. I sat 3 rows back from Billy Carter's family. How I got that seat is a whole other story but it involves a secretary in Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt's office. He also was the only President I ever shook hands with on a visit to the Air and Space Museum.