ATLANTA -- Jimmy Carter celebrated his 95th birthday on Tuesday, becoming the first U.S. president to reach that milestone as he continues his humanitarian work and occasionally weighs in on politics and policy.
Carter still lives in tiny Plains, Georgia, and planned no public celebrations on Tuesday. But he's had plenty to say recently, warning that re-electing President Donald Trump would be "a disaster" and expressing hopes that his Carter Center will become a more forceful advocate against armed conflicts in the future, including "wars by the United States."
"I just want to keep the whole world at peace," Carter said as he presented his annual Carter Center report last month.
"We have been at war more than 226 years. We have been at peace for about 16 years" since the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he said. And every U.S. military conflict from the Korean War onward has been a war of "choice," he said.
The 39th president survived a dire cancer diagnosis in 2015 and surpassed George H.W. Bush as the longest-lived U.S. president in history this spring. He's had some trouble walking after a hip replacement in May, but still teaches Sunday School in Plains, and with his wife of 73 years, Rosalynn, now 92, still plans an upcoming trip to help build houses with Habitat for Humanity in Nashville, Tennessee.
"The United States is very deeply inclined to go to war," Carter said, partly to "implant American policies" in other countries, and partly to "make a hero" out of wartime commanders in chief. This has significant economic consequences, he said: China has "been at peace" since he normalized relations with Beijing in 1979, and while the U.S. has spent trillions on military conflict, China has invested similar amounts in high-speed rail, new college campuses and other infrastructure.
Carter talks with the realism of a nonagenarian, born in 1924 when the world population was quarter of what it is today and life expectancy for American males was 58 years. Saying he plans to start spending more time with his extended family, he told the Carter Center audience that "this may be our last conversation with you ... we may or may not have one next year."
Carter has been accepting visits from several 2020 presidential candidate s, but he's held back on endorsing any of his fellow Democrats, offering only clues to his thinking.
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