China, he noted, has "been at peace" since he normalized relations with Beijing in 1979. Since then, Carter said, the U.S. has spent trillions on military conflict, while China has invested similar amounts in high-speed rail, new college campuses and other infrastructure. He told Emory freshmen he's not "favorably" comparing China's human rights record, but rather emphasizing the costs of war.
Carter hasn't backed anyone in the Democratic presidential primaries, even as some candidates call on the former president. But he says re-electing President Donald Trump would be "a disaster."
He disclosed that he voted for Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, over the establishment favorite Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. This time, Carter cautions Democrats not to go too far left, warning that an embrace of single-payer, government-run health insurance could cost the party votes among moderates and independents. That would seem to rule out Sanders and another progressive favorite, Elizabeth Warren.
But Carter said he would like to see a woman as president, and made a notable observation on age, saying he couldn't have managed "the duties I experienced when I was president" when he was 80 years old. That could be seen to nix not only Sanders, at 78, but the more moderate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is 76. Warren is 70.
Two longshot candidates who apparently fit Carter's stated priorities for the party are Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, a 37-year-old who was born after Carter's presidency ended, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a moderate who is close to Carter's vice president and fellow Minnesotan, Walter Mondale. Both have visited Carter since declaring their candidacies.
Carter has given no indication that he will endorse, making clear only that he'll be "voting Democratic" in the general election.
While he matter-of-factly declares his intentions to vote next fall, Carter also talks with the realism of a nonagenarian, born when the world population was a quarter of what it is today and the life expectancy of American males was 58 years.
He noted he's often said he wanted to live long enough to announce the end of Guinea worm disease, a parasitic infection attributed to poor drinking water. There were 3.5 million cases in 21 countries in 1986, when the Carter Center began its eradication program. In 2018, there were 28 cases worldwide.
A year later, Carter expresses disappointment over an outbreak of the disease among dogs, with new human cases in Chad, Angola and Cameroon. Researchers from multiple universities, he said, are "trying to figure out what to do about it."
Meanwhile, the former president told a rapt Carter Center audience that they might have heard his final annual report, because he plans to start devoting more time to his family.
"This may be our last conversation with you," Carter said. "We may or may not have one next year."