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Profile: Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter - 2002-10-11

Jimmy Carter, a man who rose from political obscurity in the southern state of Georgia to become the 39th president of the United States has now won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jimmy Carter left the presidency in 1981, but he really never stopped working. He has continued to travel the world trying to resolve its conflicts.

When the former Georgia governor entered the White House in 1977, he had no experience in Washington. He promised Americans a decent and compassionate government with an emphasis on human rights abroad.

President Carter made history with a resumption of full diplomatic relations with China and the signing of the Panama Canal treaty. He once said the supreme highlight of his presidency was the Camp David agreement that ended the state of war between Israel and Egypt. Helping to arrange that accord fit with Jimmy Carter's life-long philosophy of seeing possibilities where others feared failure.

"The thing that handicaps a lot of us is the fear of failure," Mr. Carter said. "I would like to try for a great thing or lead a transcendent life or excel in this aspect of existence. But I'm afraid that I might be embarrassed by my failure, that others might ridicule me or that I might feel ashamed."

Once out of office he continued to influence world affairs. With his wife Rosalynn, his nearly constant travel companion, the world gained a new crusader for freedom and justice. The Carters would frequently turn up in world trouble spots, from monitoring elections in far flung countries of Africa and Latin America, to negotiating ceasefires in Bosnia. At home, the former president became involved in a project to build homes for the poor known as 'Habitat for Humanity.'

In 1996, as he and his wife watched athletes from around the world parade by at the Atlanta Olympics, Mr. Carter realized he had come to know the world better after leaving the White House than he did during his four years as president.

"When the teams went by last night at the Olympics, we would say on most of the occasions we've been there, we know those people," the former president said. "That's something that I didn't know when I was in the White House. I didn't know the hopes and dreams and fears and doubts and sufferings and potentials of the countries around the world, particularly those in Africa and the poverty stricken countries in Latin America."

Jimmy Carter said it was the things you cannot see, such as justice, truth, humility and compassion, that he considered the guiding lights of his life.