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President Jimmy Carter

Thursday, June 26, 2008
As the United States is caught up in the frenzy of the 2008 presidential election, Getaway visited the peanut farming town of Plains, Georgia, home to James Earl Carter, the 39th president of the United States.

Plains is around three hours from Atlanta and has a population of just 634. It soared to fame as the hometown of President Carter and his wife Rosalynn in the 1970s. The Carter family has lived in the area since the 1830s. The predominantly farming area grows crops of peanuts, cotton, corn and soybeans. It is home to the Annual Plains Peanut Festival and, of course, there is a Big Peanut outside town, welcoming visitors.

Jimmy Carter's family farm had no white neighbours. Everyone was African-American and racial segregation was alive and unwell. Jimmy’s mother led the way to stop the abuse, treating African-Americans with more dignity.

When Jimmy Carter was elected governor of the state of Georgia in 1971, the quiet town of Plains changed. The tempo quickened even more in 1976 when he became the Democratic Party's nominee for president of the United States. His campaign was successful and he served as president from 1977 to 1981. In 2002 he was recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jimmy Carter's presidential term was not without drama, particularly when 66 Americans were taken hostage in Iran, but during that time another Carter was getting his fair share of publicity. Jimmy's younger brother Billy was out there being a beer-drinking human-headline, which caused some political discomfort for the clean-living president. However, after years of alcoholism, Billy's last 10 years were devoted to helping others with alcohol problems. His widow and brother recently opened a museum dedicated to his life.

The Carters chose to return home to Plains after his presidency and now spend around 75 percent of their time there. They live in the Carter Compound, which will become part of the Carter National Historic Site, managed by the National Parks Service, when the Carters are dead.

Plains is still one of those places with a community that takes care of each other. You are either working your farm, in school or in your church. Jimmy holds a public Sunday school lesson at Plains Maranatha Baptist church at least one Sunday every month.

Now 83, Carter travels the world championing human rights. He is particularly vocal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Carters also spend time at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Another of Jimmy Carter's causes is the non-profit Habitat for Humanity. He and his wife have been members for 25 years. It funds and builds affordable housing around the world for needy families. President and Mrs Carter decided in 1984 to devote one week a year to the cause and they have been involved in projects in Hungary, Mexico, South Africa and the Philippines. Volunteers are always welcome, so check out the website!

Three years after Hurricane Katrina hit America's Gulf Coast, many areas are still in dire need of help. The Carters have joined with Habitat for Humanity to build 250 homes for victims, spread from Texas to Alabama. The project was launched in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and they were joined by countless volunteers from around the world, giving hope to storm victims.

Location

Three hours from Atlanta in Georgia.

Cost

Air New Zealand has flights to Los Angeles. Connections to Atlanta, Georgia are available.

Fares from:

  • Melbourne $1677
  • Brisbane $1687
  • Sydney $1694
  • Perth $1963
  • Adelaide $1979

Prices correct at June 26, 2008.

For further information

Georgia Visitor Center
1763 US Highway 280
Plains, Georgia 31780
Ph: +1 229 824 7477
Fax: +1 229 824 7478
www.georgia.org/Travel
www.presidentialpathways.com

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
300 North Bond Street
Plains, Georgia 31780
Ph: +1 229 824 4104
Fax: +1 229 824 3441
www.nps.gov/jica

Carter Sunday School
Maranatha Baptist Church
148 Georgia Highway 45 North
Plains, Georgia 31780
Ph: +1 229 824 7896
www.mbcplains.com
maranathabaptistchurch@yahoo.com

Habitat for Humanity Australia
Ph: 1800 88 55 99
www.habitat.org.au

Air New Zealand
www.airnewzealand.com.au

Habitat for Humanity Australia
Habitat for Humanity Australia (HFHA) is a not-for-profit organisation which builds simple, decent and affordable homes in partnership with low-income families. HFHA aims to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.

Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity (HFH) as a global organisation has built more than 285,000 houses in more than 90 countries. Every 12 minutes, a family somewhere in the world moves into a better home thanks to HFH, its volunteers and partners.

The Carter Work Project
Established in 1984, the Carter Work Project (CWP) has built thousands of homes for families in need over the last 20 years. In one special week every year, volunteers from all over the world led by former US president Jimmy Carter, his wife Rosalynn and Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford, join forces with volunteers and partner families to build homes in a week-long blitz build.

The annual gathering — which attracts celebrities from all over the world to take part in the build — focuses the world's attention on the critical need for affordable housing. CWP 2009 will bring together thousands of volunteers from Australia and the world to the Asia-Pacific region. The week-long building project will build with an estimated 300 families in the Mekong Delta.

If you would like to participate in one of HFHA's domestic builds here in Australia or volunteer on one of HFHA's Global Village trips in the Asia-Pacific region, please visit the Habitat for Humanity Australia website www.habitat.org.au or contact 1800 88 55 99.

Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.

User comments
I shared an elevator with Jimmy Carter in 1976. It was in Cincinnatti Ohio where the company for whom I worked had their head office. The company owned an apartment in the prestige suburb of Mt. Adams where their visiting executives stayed. I arrived at the apartment after a day in the office to be confronted not only by the permanent concierge, but also a man in a trench coat asking who I was. I questioned "who wants to know", to be told "if you know what's good for you, you will answer the question". After giving my name, he knew what apartment I was in and who my employer was. The next morning whilst waiting for the elevator, the door opposite my apartment opened and out walked Jimmy Carter. In the elevator he stuck out his hand and introduced himself and I did likewise. I asked him how his campaign was going and he assured me that it was going well. Outside, the forecourt was crowded with black limousines, policemen and news media. An interesting experience.

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