Jimmy Carter's tenure as the 39th president of the United States began with his inauguration on January 20, 1977, and ended on January 20, 1981. Carter, a Democrat from Georgia, took office after defeating incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election. His presidency ended following his defeat in the 1980 presidential election by Republican Ronald Reagan.
Carter took office during a period of "stagflation," as the economy experienced a combination of high inflation and slow economic growth. His budgetary policies centered on taming inflation by reducing deficits and government spending. Responding to energy concerns that had persisted through much of the 1970s, his administration enacted a national energy policy designed to promote energy conservation and the development of alternative resources. Despite Carter's policies, the country was beset by an energy crisis in 1979, which was followed by a recession in 1980. Carter sought reforms to the country's welfare, health care, and tax systems, but was largely unsuccessful, partly due to poor relations with Congress.
Taking office in the midst of the Cold War, Carter reoriented U.S. foreign policy towards an emphasis on human rights. He continued the conciliatory Cold War policies of his predecessors, normalizing relations with China and pursuing further Strategic Arms Limitation Talks with the Soviet Union. In an effort to end the Arab–Israeli conflict, he helped arrange the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Through the Torrijos–Carter Treaties, Carter guaranteed the eventual transfer of the Panama Canal to Panama. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he discarded his conciliatory policies towards the Soviet Union and began a period of military build-up and diplomatic pressure such as pulling out of the Moscow Olympics.
The final fifteen months of Carter's presidential tenure were marked by several additional major crises, including the Iran hostage crisis and economic malaise. Ted Kennedy, a prominent liberal Democrat who protested Carter's opposition to a national health insurance system, challenged Carter in the 1980 Democratic primaries. Boosted by public support for his policies in late 1979 and early 1980, Carter rallied to defeat Kennedy and win re-nomination. In the general election, Carter faced Reagan, a conservative former governor of California. Reagan won a decisive victory. In polls of historians and political scientists, Carter is usually ranked as a below-average president, but is seen more positively through his post-presidency humanitarian activities across the globe.