[Vision2020] Although I am not a church-going Christian . . .
thansen at moscow.com
Sun Nov 3 12:57:10 PST 2013
I like to think that Jimmy Carter is the standard to live by.
Courtesy of Parade Magazine at:
An Intimate Chat with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter
Nearly 33 years after leaving the White House, the former president and first lady reflect on the work they are most proud of, how Washington politics have changed, and the secret to their 67-year marriage.
At 10 o’clock on Sunday mornings, Jimmy Carter can often be found teaching scripture at the Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Ga. (pop. 776). People from all over the world visit the modest brick structure in hopes of seeing the 39th president hold forth on the Good Book. Afterward, they line up on the church’s rolling lawn as Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, pose patiently for photos. For many, it’s an “only in America” moment.
The Carters moved back to Plains in 1981, after Carter found himself, as he said, “involuntarily retired.” But his life of public service was far from over. Carter has enjoyed the longest post-presidency of any U.S. president, and one of the most productive. His work through the Carter Center, the nonprofit he and Mrs. Carter began in 1982 with the aim of “waging peace, fighting disease, and building hope” throughout the world, played a large part in his 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.
At 89 and 86 years old, respectively, President and Mrs. Carter have hardly slowed down. On a Saturday afternoon this fall at their four-bedroom ranch home, they spoke with author and presidential historian Mark K. Updegrove about their lives today and shared their views on the nation and the world. Later, they then sent Updegrove on his way with a brown bag lunch of tomato and onion sandwiches, baby carrots, and graham crackers spread with peanut butter—naturally, from the peanut farmers from Plains—prepared by the former first lady herself.
Our work here in Plains is demanding, too. We try to keep our little town vibrant and alive. And we own two farms. I have a full and very unpredictable—I’d say adventurous—challenging, interesting, and most of the time gratifying life.Parade: What do your lives look like today?
Jimmy Carter: I get up at 5 o’clock, and I work on whatever project is most important at the moment. I’m writing my 28th book and in constant communication with the Carter Center. I deal with foreign leaders regularly. Once a month I go to Atlanta to teach at Emory University.
What is the mission of the Carter Center?
JC: To promote peace and human rights. When we see a situation not being addressed by the UN or the U.S. government, that’s where we concentrate our efforts. One example is neglected diseases; we’re trying to eliminate guinea-worm disease in South Sudan. We’re almost finished now eliminating river blindness in Latin America.
We also help with troubled elections, and try to deal with political situations that aren’t being adequately addressed.
Many cite the perpetrators in the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings and say we don’t have a gun control issue—we have a mental health issue. What is your view?Mrs. Carter, you’ve been active in mental health for more than 40 years. Has it been destigmatized as much as you’d hoped?
Rosalynn Carter: No. The stigma on depression and anxiety disorders is lifting a bit, but for major mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, there’s been very little change. The mental health community has been trying to educate people that the brain is just like any other body part. If you have a heart problem, you get help. But a poll showed that the more people learn something’s wrong with the brain, the more afraid they get of dealing with it.
RC: There’s a mental health problem in the sense that people are so afraid of the stigma that they don’t get help. But there’s absolutely a gun control problem in the country. Only 4 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by people with mental illnesses. It’s just unbelievable to me that the National Rifle Association has so much power. I think Americans probably want gun control but Congress can’t vote for it.
The country is polarized—not only in Washington, but back home, too. The other factor is the gerrymandering of districts.
President Carter, in the White House you had a legislative batting average of 76 percent, according to Congressional Quarterly. Today’s Washington seems defined by bitter partisanship. How has it changed?
JC: Dramatically. The most seminal cause has been the massive influx of money into campaigns. The Citizens United ruling was a terrible mistake. Now even corporations with partial ownership from overseas have an almost unlimited impact on elections. A lot of that money is used for negative advertising. The main way you win elections these days is by destroying the reputation of your opponent. And the winners go to Washington highly imbued with partisanship. There’s no social relationship between Democratic and Republican senators or House members. And floor debates have become rare.
What was your reaction to your grandson James Carter IV uncovering the hidden camera video of Mitt Romney making his infamous comments about the 47 percent?
JC: I think it was the turning point [in the election]. About six months later, President Obama came to Atlanta, and another grandson, Jason, a state senator, took James over to meet the president, and Obama thanked him profusely. I was very proud.
How would you evaluate the Obama presidency so far?
JC: He’s done the best he could under the circumstances. His major accomplishment was Obamacare, and the implementation of it now is questionable at best.
There’s wide speculation Hillary Clinton will run in 2016. What would you advise her?
JC: Most of the Democratic candidates consult with me, at least to be polite. I tell them, “Go ahead and run.” I use myself as an example. Nobody thought I had a chance in God’s world to be the nominee. Obviously, she’ll have a good chance if she does run.
You and George H. W. Bush are our oldest former presidents. Do you have a relationship?
JC: Although Gerald Ford was my closest personal friend, President Bush and I have an excellent relationship. I have often said that his administration cooperated the best with me and the Carter Center.
You came to the defense of Paula Deen in June after she admitted to using a racial slur, and offered her advice. What was it?
JC: She’s a very close friend. I told her she ought to publicize what she’s done for very poor people in Savannah, more than two-thirds of whom are African-American. She said she’d done that. What she did was admit what almost every southerner of her age would have to admit—that sometime in their lives they probably used the word. I’m not making an excuse—I don’t need to. I was in the navy when Truman ordained that racial discrimination be over in the military. I came home looking upon African-Americans as equals.
Mrs. Carter, what’s the secret to your 67-year marriage?
RC: I think space. He lets me do things I am interested in, and I let him do things he’s interested in. It all developed when we had the farm supply business and I was keeping the books. It wasn’t long before I knew more about the business than he did. So I could give him advice. We learned to respect each other.
What would you like your legacy to be?
RC: I hope I’ve contributed something to the mental health field. But I hope people will think—I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities, I tried to take advantage of them.
Mr. President, how do you hope history remembers you?
JC: I’d like to be judged primarily by our work at the Carter Center for the last 32 years. I don’t mean to exclude the White House. But in my more self-satisfied moments, I think about our unwavering promotion of peace and human rights. We never deliberately deviate from those commitments. Even though it’s sometimes not a popular thing to do.
The Carter Family
An update on the kids, and their health concern.
For his children, the four years that Jimmy Carter spent in the White House were short and not entirely sweet. Chip, who served as an unofficial aide to his father, and Amy, who was 9 when she moved to Washington, got most of the media scrutiny. (Jack was living on his own by the time Carter was elected, and Jeff was in college.) As Chip joked not long ago, “Plains was an interesting town in that everybody knew everything that everybody did—there were no secrets. So it was an almost inherited ability to live in the White House because of that.”
Since their father left office, Chip and Amy have kept fairly low profiles, though both in their various ways have carried on the family tradition of social activism. In early adulthood, Amy was involved in several protests, including one at the University of Massachusetts opposing CIA recruiters on campus, at which she was arrested. Now married with two sons, Amy, 46, is on the Board of Councilors of her father’s nonprofit. Meanwhile, Chip, 63, is a past president of the Friendship Force, a cultural exchange program that brings together people from many countries.
Along with pride in his kids, Carter also has a constant worry about them. The ex-president’s mother and father both suffered from pancreatic cancer, and his two sisters and brother died from it. The Carters are among the families being studied by researchers in hopes of finding a cure. —Bill Hewitt
Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .
"There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill."
- John Lennon
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