A Personal Message from Jimmy Carter
During my four years in the White House I kept a personal diary by dictating my thoughts and observations several times each day. When time permitted, my secretary would type the notes and file the pages in large binders. With rare exceptions, I did not examine these typed notes until February 1981, when Rosalynn and I unpacked our belongings after returning to our home in Plains, Georgia. I was surprised to find twenty-one large volumes of double-spaced text—a total of more than five thousand pages! I still have the original document in my home, and one copy has been sequestered in the Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.
Until now, none of the diary entries have been revealed except when snippets have been used in museum exhibits or when I have quoted brief excerpts in books I have written about official matters. Recently, though, I reread parts of the diary and was struck by the number of subjects that were of common interest to me and other presidents. And so—almost thirty years after leaving the White House—I decided that it would be worthwhile to publish excerpts from my diary. I also decided that it would be useful to add explanatory notes to help the reader understand the context of the entries, bring to life the duties of a president, offer insights into a number of the people I worked with, and point out how many of the important challenges faced by our country remain the same.
When preparing this book, I decided not to revise the original transcript, despite a temptation to conceal my errors, misjudgments of people, or lack of foresight. Instead, I chose to use the unchanged excerpts from the diaries that I considered to be most revealing and interesting. For the sake of compression, I concentrated on a few general themes that are still pertinent—especially Middle East peace negotiations, nuclear weaponry, U.S.-China relations, energy policy, anti-inflation efforts, health policy, and my relationships with Congress. I also included some elements of my personal life that illustrate how it feels and what it means to be president.
This website will provide you with a wealth of information about both White House Diary and my four years as president. Revisiting my diary was a fascinating experience for me, and I hope you'll enjoy the book that emerged from the long shelf of binders that greeted me on my return to Plains three decades ago.