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Former President Carter Urges Support for Trump Administration

  • VOA Staff

Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter arrive during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2017.

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. president was the sixth presidential accession former President Jimmy Carter had witnessed since leaving the White House in 1981.

Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, joined three other former presidents and first ladies at the U.S. Capitol to witness the peaceful transfer of power Friday.

At 92, Carter was the oldest former president to attend an inauguration.

Beforehand, in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, the peanut farmer-turned-politician candidly told one of his weekly audiences for Sunday school lessons at Maranatha Baptist Church that Trump wasn't his preferred candidate in the 2016 election.

"We have 22 voters in our family. None of our family voted for him," Carter told the crowd. Carter is a Democrat, while Trump is a Republican.

But Carter was the first former president to accept an invitation to Trump's inauguration.

"I was the only former president, for a long time, who said he was going. I think we need to get to know the new president and give him support," he said.


Carter spoke with Voice of America from the Carter Center in Atlanta, his nonprofit organization that works to promote fair elections, peace in conflict zones, human rights and good health.

"We want to be helpful to them when they get into office," Carter said in the exclusive interview. "So we hope that this relationship of supporting President Trump and his new administration will be beneficial to them, and also to help when they think it's appropriate, to help us reach our goals, in those particular areas of the world."

Carter Center programs

Carter, who has a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said one way he could help the new Trump administration was by sharing information gathered through various Carter Center programs around the world.

"We're preparing a brief memorandum from me to the new secretary of state and new secretary of defense, for instance, on our mapping program inside Syria and what we have learned from President Putin and that sort of thing," Carter said.

As president, Carter mediated the Camp David talks in 1978, resulting in the first permanent peace agreement between Israel and Egypt the following year. The former president said he hoped Trump would focus on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, an elusive goal of recent U.S. presidents.

"We want them to know we have a full-time office in Jerusalem and in Ramallah in the West Bank and also in Gaza now for 35 years," he told VOA. "We have a lot of inside information on what is going on inside the boundary of what we call the Holy Land. And I want to share the information with them."

When Carter was elected in 1976, the country was still reeling from the Watergate scandal from the Richard Nixon administration. That year, he rode a wave of populist anger into the White House, in much the same way Trump won in 2016. While Carter didn't vote for Trump, he is one of the few men alive today who understand the demands of the office of the presidency.

Trump "has never been involved in politics before," Carter told the crowd at his church in Plains. "He has a lot to learn. He'll learn — sometimes the hard way, like I did."

A hostage crisis in Iran, rising inflation and petroleum shortages were some of the factors that led to Carter's 1980 re-election loss to Ronald Reagan.

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