Carter, James Earl
A political leader of the twentieth century; the president from 1977 to 1981. In 1976, Carter was a peanut farmer who had been a naval officer and the governor of Georgia; he stood outside the main power groups of the Democratic party. He gained the party's nomination, however, and defeated President Gerald Ford in the election of 1976. As president, Carter brought the heads of government of Israel and Egypt (see also Egypt) together to sign a historic peace treaty in 1979, reestablishing diplomatic relations between their two countries (see Arab-Israeli conflict). He responded to an invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979 by putting an embargo on grain sales to the invader and by keeping the United States out of the 1980 summer Olympic Games, which were held in the Soviet Union. Many Americans found Carter's leadership too cautious, however, and blamed him for a lack of improvement in the economy. His most striking loss of popularity came when revolutionaries in Iran stormed the United States embassy there in 1979 and held several dozen Americans as hostages for over a year (see Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini). The Iranians agreed to release the hostages only in the last minutes of Carter's presidency in early 1981, after Carter had lost the election of 1980 to Ronald Reagan. After leaving the presidency, he visited several nations, including Haiti and North Korea, as a peacemaker. He also participated in projects to refurbish housing for the poor.