Fulfilling the role of President of the United States of America is no small feat.
And while being elected into such a prestigious position requires an immense amount of dedication, commitment, and hard work, it also has its perks (jet setting on Air Force One, personal chefs, a team of Secret Service agents – just to name a few).
What many people might not realize, is that many of the perks that come with being President of the United States continue on even after a President has left office. One major perk that most ex-presidents enjoy is the ability to capitalize financially on their time in the White House through participation in private-sector partnerships and various other post-presidential opportunities.
But the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, chose a road less traveled after his 1980 departure from the Oval Office. And that road led him back to Plains, Georgia.
After leaving the White House, rather than riding the coattails of his presidency into a life of wealth and luxury, Carter chose to return to the place that he lived prior to becoming President – a modest, little peanut and cotton farm in Plains, Georgia.
Upon moving back into the very same $167,000 two-bedroom ranch home where he lived prior to his time in the White House, Carter and his wife of 72-years, Rosalynn, were forced to sell their $1 million in debt peanut business.
“We thought we were going to lose everything,” said Rosalynn.
But even with the possibility of losing everything they owned, Carter still refused to use his ex-presidential status for financial gain as so many presidents before (and after) him had done.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it. It just never had been my ambition to be rich,” said Carter in regard to other ex-presidents decision to cash in on their political status.
Carter instead chose to earn a living through writing and has since authored 33 books (and counting) on a variety of topics including his life and career, Middle East peace, women’s rights, fishing, and even a children’s book.
In addition to writing, Carter has chosen to invest his time post-presidency in bettering the world around him, using his Carter Center to support human rights efforts, global health programs, and the promotion of fair elections across the globe.
No stranger to good old-fashioned hard work, Carter has also laced up his work boots countless times to lend a helping hand in renovating over 4,300 homes in 14 different countries with Habitats for Humanity.
However, Carter truly feels the most content enjoying the simple life taking daily walks around his small town of Plains, waving and chatting with any number of the approximately 700 residents that simply view Carter as a ‘good ol’ Southern gentleman’ rather than a famed ex-president.
After a President leaves the White House, they are granted certain amenities and services paid for by the federal government (and U.S. taxpayers) such as an office space, staff, pension, Secret Service detail, and other expenses.
While other living ex-presidents such as Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama each rack up a bill of over $1 million per year to cover their various lifestyle amenities, Carter’s total bill for the current fiscal year was less than half of that at $456,000.
Carter shows his unpretentious nature in other ways, too; he is the only president to return to full-time living in the home that he resided in prior to taking office, him and Rosalynn fly commercial rather than private when traveling, and he prefers working on his writing from a converted garage at his home rather than a big, fancy office.
While Carter and Rosalynn certainly live comfortably thanks to the revenue from his books and presidential pension, they have managed to truly maintain and embrace a simple and purposeful life. Rather than extravagant galas and lavish political engagements, Carter spends his days fishing, teaching Sunday school at the local church, and writing while Rosalyn practices tai chi and meditation, and regularly cooks hearty meals using produce grown right on their own land.
Stuart E. Eizenstat, a Carter aide and biographer, really sums it up best by saying, “Plains is really part of his DNA. He carried it into the White House, and he carried it out of the White House.”
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