President Carter: Courageous?

March 30, 2008
By Katie Pierson, Alpharetta, GA

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty with the Panamanian government signing over control of the Panama Canal, an action that was not supported by the people of America. The canal had proved to be a significant source of wealth and steady trade between South America and the United States and was also the working place for many American men (Panama). Most of society believed that President Carter was making a mistake in “giving back” the Panama Canal. Ronald Reagan himself formed a group that broadcasted the idea that President Carter’s actions were a “sign of U.S. weakness” and were strongly opposing him (The Jimmy). However, Carter felt that his actions were just and that, after 75 years, the U.S. could relinquish its hold on the Panama Canal (The Jimmy).
Jimmy Carter knew in his heart that it was time to give the canal and the area surrounding back to the Panamanians. In the 1960s, the Panamanian people had announced their opinion that the Americans had “worn out their welcome” in Panama and felt that it was degrading to their country for the U.S. to have control over part of their land (Panama; The Jimmy). As it were, the newest American aircraft carriers and barges could not longer fit through the canal and the president saw no need to keep the canal in American possession (The Jimmy). Americans, on the other hand, did not agree with the president or see the reasons for which they should give the canal back. Ridicule and harsh sayings followed President Carter everywhere he stepped foot. A source said that a nickname had arisen for President Jimmy Carter, the “Head Peanut”, in mockery of his former occupation as a peanut farmer in the state of Georgia. The same source said that during that time while driving from Columbus, Georgia to Atlanta, he noticed a sign in front of a convenience store which said “Head Peanut Gives Away Canal- Alabama Next” (Bill Pierson).

In spite of the ridicule, Jimmy Carter followed what he believed was right and presented the idea to congress, who “approved the treaties by only one vote” (The Jimmy). In John F. Kennedy’s Profiles In Courage, he notes that for a politician to be truly courageous he must put what is best for the country above how society is trying to persuade him. Most of the country was against President Carter in his decision to return the canal, yet he still thought of what would be the most beneficial to the United States of America. John F. Kennedy also writes that “love of self” is a crucial part of being courageous. If a person knows what he believes and believes it to the full, he can put that above and pressure that comes their. I believe Jimmy Carter’s actions were courageous because he put the benefits of the country above all else, even when he knew that his career could possibly be jeopardized. President Jimmy Carter falls in line with that of Daniel Webster, Edmund Ross, Lucius Lamar, and so many others.

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