Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States of America.
I am writing to a twelve-year-old Jimmy Carter, although I am now ninety:
As you now live and work on a farm in South Georgia and have just reached your highest goal of learning to plow a field with two mules, I hope you will not limit the other ambitions of your life. Your mother, a registered nurse, is ignoring the strict segregation that hurts your playmates and friends, all of whom are African Americans. Always cherish your close relationship with these rural neighbors and remember, as you grow older, that this racial discrimination is a blight on both white and black people.
I know your top ambition is to go to the Naval Academy and someday serve as a submarine officer. You must always do your best and use this experience to learn about the world we live in and how a strong nation can be a champion of peace. You will see how President Harry Truman’s order to abolish all racial discriminations in the military service will bring welcome changes, but it will always need to be improved.
When you return home from the navy, you must use your years as a farmer to expand your heart and mind as much as your father did, as preparation for the public service that is to come. In private life and in elective office, you should remember the advice from your schoolteacher, Miss Julia Coleman: “We must accommodate changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” These principles will best be expressed in our religious faith but even more clearly and briefly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will be written after a terrible war.
Miss Julia’s words will be good advice, no matter how many challenges and disappointments you will have to face. After every setback, I hope you will reexamine the causes of your failure, reassess your own talents and abilities, and then set even higher goals if that is possible.
One of your greatest sources of happiness will be your wife, Rosalynn, and the growing family that will be coming. Stay close to all of them, bring them together whenever possible, and provide them the same help and support that your own parents gave to you.
You will get to know some great people who personify these high ideals in tangible ways. Some of them will be quite famous, and others will be known just to their own immediate neighbors. Form as close a friendship with them as possible, and learn from their example. You’ll face many challenges throughout your life, but don’t worry. So many people will want to help you along the way.