The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site commemorates the life and presidency of Jimmy Carter, who grew up and still lives in rural southwest Georgia. The time President Carter spent in his hometown of Plains was formative for his time as president, so the national park site honors that fact. The park visitor center is located in the old school that President Carter and his wife attended. In addition to the film and museum inside that gives an overview of Carter’s presidency, several of the rooms of the school look as they did when the Carters went to school there. Visitors can learn about important teachers in President Carter’s life, those who taught him values that he would take to the Oval Office.
Visitors can walk or drive to downtown Plains, Georgia. There they will find a small row of stores, one of which was the store out of which the Carter family sold their peanuts. Just down the street, there is a small building that served as Carter’s campaign headquarters for his run for presidency. The building has some mementos from the campaign, as well as TV footage that shows how Carter ran his campaign. The campaign headquarters is interesting to tour and, if nothing else, will show visitors how modest campaigns were run just a few presidential campaigns ago.
Finally, visitors can drive a few miles away to President Carter’s boyhood home in Archery. Visitors can walk the grounds of the Carter farm, strolling in and out of the different buildings with farming implements still inside. Visitors can peak inside the quite small quarters of the Carters’ farmhands. The farmhands were some of President Carter’s closest companions growing up. In interacting with the farmhands, he also learned about the values of equality when the south was still racially divided, a characteristic that he would make an important part of his public service. Visitors can walk through the Carter home, which was quite rustic and basic, but also one of the nicest homes in the area. One of the most interesting and unique parts of our tour was seeing the way the world had changed during President Carter’s lifetime. When he was a young child, his family was able to get running water into their home, a luxury in those days in rural Georgia. Contrast that fact with the smartphones that many of the visitors were using, and the differences between the amenities Carter had growing up and those today become even more stark.
The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site presents visitors with a look at how President Carter’s life shaped the president that he would become, and how his life continues to influence his work even today. We found that a visit really does give an interesting perspective on the ways that certain childhood events had a profound impact on President Carter’s later years and on the policies that he helped shape during his years as president. To our knowledge, there is no other president whose life story is so rich and capable of being known, yet whose humble beginnings seem so distant and foreign to our modern world.