1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan

1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
Grade Levels
Product Rating
Not yet rated
File Type
Word Document File
Be sure that you have an application to open this file type before downloading and/or purchasing.
0.7 MB   |   11 pages




Prior to the mod-1970s, few Americans outside Georgia had ever heard of Jimmy Carter, a onetime governor of that state. But on Election Day 1976, Americans elected Carter President of the United States. He won a slim popular majority, receiving slightly more than 50 percent of the vote to Ford’s 48%. In the Electoral College, Carter won 297 votes compared to 240 for Ford.
Carter’s rise was the result of several factors. Most important was the turmoil of the 1960s and Watergate, which created a backlash against professional politicians. Carter seized this opportunity by casting himself as a fresh face, with no ties to Washington, DC. A Born-again Christian who taught Sunday school, Carter won the support of many Christian fundamentalists, people who believe in a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible as the foundation of the Christian faith. This group became increasingly involved in politics in the 1970s.








SCORE: ____________

Carter Pays a Price for Inexperience
From the beginning of his presidency, Jimmy Carter sought to portray himself as a “citizen” President. He became the first President since William Henry Harrison to walk all the way from the Capitol to the White House during the inaugural parade. He held town meetings, wore casual clothes, and carried his own suitcase.
However, Carter’s inexperience, which helped him get elected, hurt him during the early days of his presidency. As an outsiders, he did not have close ties with the Democratic leadership in Congress. He submitted numerous bills to Congress, but few of them passed without major changed by his own party.
Just one day after his inauguration, Carter fulfilled one of his campaign pledges by granting amnesty, or political pardons, to Americans who had evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. Carter hoped this act would help the nation move beyond the divisions caused by that war. Yet the war remained an emotional issue, and many Americans criticized the President for forgiving those who had refused to fight. Republican Senator Barry Goldwater called the amnesty “the most disgraceful thing that a President had ever done.”

Problems Sap the Nation’s Confidence
Like Ford, Carter contended with the energy crisis and severe inflation. Inflation ate away at people’s savings, raised the price of necessities, and made American goods more costly abroad. The US automobile industry, long a symbol of the nation’s economic power, became a symbol of its ills. Japanese car companies vastly expanded their sales in the United States by selling better built and more fuel efficient cars a reasonable prices. The situation grew so bad that Chrysler, one the three major American automobile companies needed a federal loan to survive.
At the center of the nation’s economic ills lay the ongoing energy crisis. In 1973, a gallon of gas cost about 40 cents. By the end of the decade, it cost close to $1.20. To make matters worse, the winter of 1976 to 1977 was an especially bitter one in parts of the United States, increasing the need for heating oil. Fuel shortages caused factory closings and business losses.
Carter responsed to the oil crisis by calling on Americans to conserve and asking Congress to raise taxes on crude oil, which he hoped would encourage conservation. However, the bill that finally passed in the Senate had few of the President’s ideas in it. Critics saw this as one more example of Carter’s poor leadership skills.
Carter did implement several domestic policies that his successors would build on during the 1980s to fight inflation, Carter nominated Paul Volker to head the Federal Reserve Board. Under Volcker’s lead, the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates. In the long term, this policy helped to bring an end to the inflation that had plagued the nation for so long.

What challenges did President Carter face?
Create a resume for President Carter leading up to the Presidency

Changing Values Stir Unease
Social and cultural changes that had begun in the 1950s and 1960s continued unabated in the 1970s. As a result, by the end of the decade, the United States was a very different society from the one it had been a generation earlier. These differences gave rise to an ongoing debate about the nation’s values.

Demography Affects Politics
The migration of Americans to the Sunbelt and the continued growth of the suburbs, both of which had begun in the post- World War II years, continues during the 1970s. As northern industries suffered, many blue collar workers and their families moved from the Rusty Belt States of the Northeast and Midwest to the Sunbelt of the South and West. They sought work in the oil fields of Texas and Oklahoma and in the defense plants of Southern California, the Southwest, and the Northwest. These trends changed the face of the United States.
The election of Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter demonstrated the growing political power of the Sunbelt. Earlier in the century, Presidents tended to come from the large northern industrial states, such as New York and Ohio. In the latter decades of the twentieth century, President tended to come from the Sunbelt.
The influx of immigrants from Latin America and Asia represented a different kind of demographic change. Even before the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans had migrated to the United States. This migration, especially from Mexico and other Latin American countries, continues to be strong in the 1970s. The growing power of the Latino vote did not escape the notice of politicians. Richard Nixon was the first presidential candidate to seriously court the Spanish speaking vote.

The “Me” Generation” Comes of Age

During the 1960s, radicals had challenged many of society’s traditional values. They questioned restrictions on premarital sex and drug use. They sported causal clothing and long hairstyles that many of their parents’ generation found improper. Yet the counterculture remained a relatively isolated phenomenon during the 1960s. By the end of the 1970s, in contrast, these behaviors had become more common. Nationwide, the divorce rate had more than doubled between 1965 and 1979, and twice as many children were born out of wedlock. To some Americans, the new ways were a sign of troubled times.

Some critics called the 1970s the “me decade” because many Americans appeared to be absorbed with improving themselves. This trend was reflected in the rose of movements like Transcendental Meditation (TM), a practice based in Eastern religious ideas. Those who practice TM sought to find inner relaxation and vitality by chanting their personal mantras for about half an hour twice a day.
The seventies also witnessed an increasing interest in personal fitness and health. Millions began to job for exercise and to eat natural, or less processed, foods. In 1970, just over 100 men and women ran in the New York City Marathon. Ten years later, more than 14,000 ran in the race. Body building took off too, largely due to the influence of Arnold Schwarzenegger. A charismatic personality, Schwarzenegger went on to become one of Hollywood’s most popular actors and later, governor of California.

Conservative Reassert Traditional Values.
The 1970s witnessed a resurgence of fundamental Christianity, partly as a response to the shift in values. To some commentators, it seemed as if the nation was experiencing another Great Awakening, like the great religious movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the total number of Americans who attend church on a regular basis did not change much, the number of men and women who belonged to evangelical churches rose rapidly. One in five Americans considered himself or herself a religious fundamentalist by 1980.
Ministers used the media to gain a broader audience. Those who preached on television- known as televangelists- such as Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and Marion “Pat” Robertson, reached millions of viewers. Falwell’s daily radio broadcasts were carried by 280 radio stations, and his weekly television show broadcast was to 1.5 million viewers.
Religious conservatives firmly opposed many of the social changes begun in the 1960s that had gone mainstream in the 1970s. They opposed the Supreme Court’s rulings that legalized abortion and restricted prayer in school. Falwell formed a prominent Christian organization known as the Moral Majority in 1979.
During the 1970s, religious conservatives began forming alliance with other conservatives. They worked with economic conservatives, who sought to cut taxes and government spending, as well as supporters of a stronger foreign policy, who favored increasing defense spending. Together, they began forging a new political majority. By 1980, Ronald Reagan, another politician outsider, would use this alliance to win elections to the White House.

Early in his presidency, Jimmy Carter proclaimed that as much as possible, American foreign policy would be guided by a concern for human rights. Carter hoped to make his foreign policy into a tool to end acts of political repression such as torture, murder, and imprisonment without trial. This policy direction helped reaffirm the position of the United States as a nation of freedom and justice. However, it undercut the goal of better relations with the Soviet Union.
Relations with the Soviet Union Cool
At first, Carter continued Nixon’s and Ford’s policies toward the Soviet Union. He worked to achieve détente. He continued efforts at arms control, meeting with Leonid Brezhnev in June 1979 and signing the SALT II treaty (pledged to limit nuclear arms production).
However, relations between the two superpowers soon took a decidedly frosty turn. The SALT II treaty was bitterly debated in the United States Senate, where its opponents argues that it put the national security of the United States in jeopardy. Then, in December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded the neighboring country of Afghanistan to prop up a tottering communist government. Carter responded by withdrawing the SALT II treaty from Senate consideration and by imposing sanctions, or penalties, on the Soviets. The sanctions included a US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games held in Moscow as well as a suspension of grain dales to the Soviet Union.

Carter Supports Human Rights in the Developing World
Since the end of World War II, American Presidents have tended to see the developing world- the poor nations of Asia, Africa. And Latin America- as another stage for the Cold War. Carter broke with that approach and insisted that foreign policy toward the developing world should revolve around the expansion of human rights. Carter believed that US relations with foreign countries should be determined by how a country treated its citizens
Carter’s emphasis on human rights led him to alter the US relationship with a number of dictators. In Nicaragua, the Somoza family had ruled the country with an iron grip since the mid-1930s, most of the time with the support of the United States. In 1978, a leftist group known as the Sandinistas began a rebellion against the country’s ruler, General Anastasio Somoza. His brutal response to the rebellion helped convince Carter ti withdraw US support. Without US aid, General Somoza had to flee Nicaragua, and the Sandinistas came to power.
Carter’s Policies Get Mixed Results in Latin America
The Carter Administration briefly sought to improve relations with Cuba, ruled by communist Fidel Castro since 1959. However, US-Cuban relations soured in 1980 when Castro announced that any Cuban could leave the island from the port of Mariel for the United States. However, Castro insisted that any boats headed to the US would also have to take criminals from the island’s prisons. Because of this condition, the Mariel boatlift developed a bad reputation in the eyes of many Americans. Fewer than 20 percent of the people transported had spent time in prison, and many of those were political prisoners. Still, Americans were repelled by Castro’s lack of concern for the welfare of the migrants and by the idea that he would send criminals to the United States.
Carter’s most controversial foreign policy move involved his decision to return the Panama Canal Zone back to Panama. You will recall the Panama had given the US control of a wide strip of land across the middle of the country in 1903 that later became the site of the Panama Canal. In 1977, Carter negotiated a set of treaties to return the Canal Zone back to Panama by 1999. Many Americans worries that the loss of control over the canal would threaten American shipping and security. Nonetheless, the United States Senate narrowly ratified the treaties in 1978, and all control of the Canal was ultimately turned over to Panama.
Questions: In what ways did President Carter’s policies differ from those of Ford?

Carter’s greatest achievement in foreign policy came in the region that also saw his greatest setback. He helped negotiate a historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, but he failed to win the release of Americans held hostage by Iranian radicals.

Israel and Egypt Agree to Peace.
Egypt and Israel had been enemies since Israel’s founding in 1948. As recently as 1973, the two nations had fought a bitter war. By 1977, eager to improve relations, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met in Jerusalem to negotiate a peace agreement. To help continue the negotiations, Carter invited the two leaders to Camp David, the presidential retreat. For nearly two weeks, the three leaders carried on the difficult negotiations that produced what is known as the Camp David Accords. These agreements provided the framework for a peace treaty in which Egypt formally recognized the nation of Israel. In return, Israel withdrew its troops from the Sinai Peninsula, which it had occupied since 1967. The preamble to the Accords states:
“After four wars during 30 years despite intensive human efforts, the Middle East, which is the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of three great religions, does not enjoy the blessings of peace… (Israel and Egypt) recognize that for peace to ensure, it must involve all those who have been most deeply affected by the conflict. They therefore agree that this framework, as appropriate, is intended by them to constitute a basis for peace not only between Egypt and Israel, but also between Israel and each of its other neighbors…”
-Camp David Accords, September 19, 1978

Iran Seizes American Hostages
Carter hoped that Camp David Accords would usher in a new era of cooperation in the Middle East. Yet events in Iran showed that troubles in the region were far from over. Since the 1950s, the United States had supported the rule of the Shah, or emperor of Iran. In the 1970s, however, opposition to the Shah began to grow within Iran.
The Iranian Revolution which toppled the Shah and brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979, had a strong anti-American component. The United States had supported Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iran’s Shah, to secure a firm ally against communism in the region. However, the Shah’s rule grew more oppressive after 1953, when the CIA had helped him control a challenge to his power. Resentment over political interference and foreign involvement in Iran’s oil industry boiled over when the deposed Shah entered the US for medical treatment. Facing a rebellion at home and dying of cancer, the Shah fled from Iran in January 1979. Fundamentalists Islamic clerics, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini took power. Carter allowed the Shah to enter the US to seek medical treatment. Enraged Iranian radical students invaded the US Embassy and took 66 American hostages, 52 of whom were held for 444 days. The Khomeini government then took control of both the embassy and the hostages to defy the United States.
• January 1979 Iranian Revolution forced the Shah into exile

• February 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran after 15 years in exile

• April 1979 Khomeini takes power

• October 1979 The Shah enters the US

• November 1979 Militant students take 66 Americans hostage. Carter halts oil imports and freezes Iranian assets in the US

• April 1980 Carter severs diplomatic relations with Iran and imposes an economic embargo. A Mission to free the hostages ends in disaster

• January 1981 On the day of Reagan’s inauguration, the hostages are released in exchange for $8 billion in frozen assets and a promise to lift trade sanctions against Iran

The hostage crisis consumed the attention of Carter during the last year of his presidency. To many Americans, Carter’s failure to win all of the hostages’ release was evidence of American weakness. As Peter Bourne put it in his biography of Jimmy Carter “Because people felt that Cater had not been tough enough in foreign policy… some bunch of students would seize American diplomatic officials and hold them prisoner and thumb their nose at the United States.”.
The hostage crisis began to change the way Americans viewed the world outside their borders. Nuclear war between the two superpowers was no longer the only threat to the United States. Although the Cold War still concerned Americans, the threats posed by conflicts in the Middle East threated to become the greatest foreign policy challenge.
• What events triggered the seizer of the American hostages in Iran?
• What actions did Carter take to try to get the hostages released?
• How did the seizure of the US embassy by Iranian students affect American’s view of the world?

Task: Now go back to your rubric and give Jimmy Carter a grade as President.
Be sure to give explanations in your reasoning column and write one paragraph discussing whether or not he was a successful President.


Directions: Use this website to answer the questions on the worksheet http://iranhostagecrisisactivity.weebly.com/

1. Describe the history of relations between the United States and Iran.

The Crisis
2. What led to the Iranian revolution?

3. What did Carter and Khomeini request in their letters?

U.S. stake in Iran Read the first four pages of the document and answer the questions below.

4. According to the National Security Agency report, what was the United States’ greatest stake in Iran? Explain.

5. What did the document have to say about the U.S.S.R.?

6. According to this document, why was the hostage crisis so worrisome to the West?

The economy
7. How would the crisis put new stresses on the U.S. economy and the world financial system?

The hostages’ release
8. What led to the release of the remaining hostages? Describe.

(After the video)
9. How do you observe Carter's dedication to human rights within his decision-making process?

10. Do you agree with Carter's decision on how best to handle the situation?

So What?
11. What were the lasting effects of the hostage situation?

12. How can you see these effects today?

Task: Find two political cartoon on the Iranian Hostage Crisis and describe them completely

Total Pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration

Average Ratings

Overall Quality:
0 ratings
Please log in to post a question.
Digital Download
Digital Download
1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
1970s: Was Jimmy Carter a Good President? Lesson Plan
Teachers Pay Teachers

Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational materials.

Learn More

Keep in Touch!

Sign up