ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Rudy, the Carter Center spends every day in Africa, and I go over several times a year. We
have helped conduct many elections there, for example, in Ghana, just recently, which had
a wonderful election process. We also did the election in Liberia when the only African
female president [Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf] was elected.
Books by Jimmy Carter
* * * * *
Jimmy Carter’s White House Diary
An Interview and Book Review by Kam Williams
Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. He and his wife of 64 years, Rosalynn, still make their home in their birthplace, Plains, Georgia, a predominantly African-American town with a population of just 637. However, the inseparable, peripatetic couple continues to travel around the world together on behalf causes advancing peace, healthcare and a number of other humanitarian concerns.
President Carter is also a very prolific writer, and the author of over two dozen books. Here, he discusses his latest best-seller, White House Diary, an annotated version of the private journal he kept during his tenure in office.
* * * * *
Jimmy Carter: Hi Kam, good morning.
Kam Williams: President Carter. Thanks for the time. Im honored to have this opportunity.
Jimmy Carter: Its my pleasure. Ive been looking forward to this.
Kam Williams: The first time we were supposed to speak, the interview was cancelled because you fell ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. How are you feeling now?
Jimmy Carter: Im getting along fine. I was just sick for one day, but it got a lot of publicity.
Kam Williams: And hows Rosalynn and the rest of the family?
Jimmy Carter: Oh, everybodys fine, thanks, and the familys growing rapidly.
Kam Williams: I actually got to shake your hand at a campaign rally in Newark, New Jersey in 1980. So, when I started to read White House Diary, the first thing I did was to look at your journal entry for that day to see whether you mentioned receiving words of encouragement from a bright, young black man with red hair and freckles who stood out in the crowd and made a lasting impression on you. But no such luck.
Jimmy Carter: [Laughs] Well, thank you for coming out. I appreciate that very much.
Kam Williams: When I told my readers Id be speaking with you, I received an avalanche of questions to ask . More than Ive ever received before.
Jimmy Carter: Really? Then, lets get going and Ill try to answer all of them.
Kam Williams: Yale grad Tommy Russell says: You have been on missions to North Korea and to Palestine to visit the leaders of countries that traditional politicians and philosophers shun as unpalatable or useless to negotiate with, and have discovered that negotiation is possible. What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from meeting with these leaders that others consider to be on the fringe?
Jimmy Carter: Well, first of all, its important to meet with the people who can shape future events, and who might be causing a current problem. And to ignore them means that the problem will continue. Secondly, Ive found that they really appreciate it when someone who is responsible will meet with them, and they really go out of their way to try to be accommodating. On both of my major trips to North Korea, the leaders of the country made it plain that they want to make progress towards doing away with nuclear weapons and towards ending the longstanding, official state of war which persists between North Korea and the United States and South Korea, a war which has continued since the ceasefire over fifty years ago. That sort of thing happens quite often when we meet with people who are kind of international outcasts with whom the government of the United States wont meet. So, when I get back home, I always give a thorough report to the President and Secretary of State to make sure that they know what the possibilities are.
Kam Williams: Tommy also has a much less serious query: Having started out as a peanut farmer, do you love a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
Jimmy Carter: [Chuckles] Absolutely, Tommy! We have them quite often in our home. And I think our grandchildren like them even more than we do.
Kam Williams: PJ Lorenz asks: Of your many accomplishments, which one is the most meaningful to you?
Jimmy Carter: I think maybe the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt which ended a long series of very challenging wars threatening the very existence of Israel. That would be one. Another that comes to mind right offhand is the peace treaty turning control of the Panama Canal over to Panamanians. The profitability and effectiveness of the Canal is now five times as great as when the United States was in charge of it.
Kam Williams: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What do you think of the housing crisis here in America today, given the escalating number of foreclosures and your work with Habitat for Humanity?
Jimmy Carter: It just shows the desperate need and desire of people for homes. But it is also evidence of the greed of those banks which made loans knowing that borrowers wouldnt be able to repay. The lenders then sold the bad mortgages to unsuspecting investors so that by the time the foreclosures transpired they caused a great deal of distress to all the folks who had been taken advantage of.
Kam Williams: Bernadette was also wondering whether you think it will be possible to end the Cuban boycott in the near future given the current political climate.
Jimmy Carter: I hope so. I tried to do it thirty years ago, when I was President. We established diplomatic relations with Cuba to the extent that we have an Intersection in Havana for the United States diplomats, and one in Washington for Cuban diplomats. So, I believe that the boycott that we have against Cuba is counterproductive, and it also makes the twelve million or so Cuban people suffer unnecessarily just because of a foolish policy of the United States.
Kam Williams: Bernadettes final question is: Have you perceived that race relations have been affected positively by the election of Barack Obama?
Jimmy Carter: Im afraid not. The election of Barack Obama was a very wonderful step forward for the country, which has unfortunately been tainted by the ugly reaction of some right wing activists who are doing their best to cast aspersions on his character and to question his religion and citizenship
Kam Williams: Jimmy Bayan says: The Iran Hostage Crisis lasted 444 days. In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently that may have ended it sooner?
Jimmy Carter: I would have sent one more helicopter, which would have meant that we could have brought out all the hostages and also the rescue team. We had an unexpected failure of three of our eight helicopters on that rescue attempt in 1980, so we didnt have enough to get everyone out.
Kam Williams: Jimmy also asks, what is your assessment of the current Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Do you feel that hes laughing at us?
Jimmy Carter: Ahmadinejad is just a buffoon, sort of a clown on the international scene who tries to be provocative so he can get his name in the paper and his face on television.
Kam Williams: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier observes that youve been recognized for your lifelong commitment to human rights. She asks: What did it mean to you to win the Nobel Peace Prize?
Jimmy Carter: It was a great honor for me, and for the Carter Center, which has concentrated its efforts on alleviating suffering among the poorest people in the world afflicted with disease, particularly those from thirty-five nations in Africa. So, it was a great tribute to the great work of the Carter Center.
Kam Williams: Patricia adds that you and the late Dr. Martin Luther King are the only two native Georgians to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and you are the only U.S President to receive the Martin Luther King Nonviolent Peace Prize. And in 2006, you gave a eulogy at the funeral of Coretta Scott King. What did that mean to you?
Jimmy Carter: The King family and I were very close. They gave me their full support when I ran for President, and when I was in the White House, Coretta and Daddy King would come by quite often to give me advice about what I could do to help African-Americans and the poor.
Kam Williams: Hisani Dubose says: Thank you for remaining true to the things you believe in. That’s in short supply these days. How do you finance your great humanitarian work?
Jimmy Carter: Well, we have about a quarter-million contributors who make modest donations every year to the Carter Center, and we get some large ones as well. So, we are always looking for private donors who believe in what were doing to make sure that we have the funds available to carry out our programs.
Kam Williams: David Mr. B Barradale asks: Do you think about how much less dependent on fossil fuels we would be if you had been reelected in 1980?
Jimmy Carter: [Chuckles] I think about that often, as a matter of fact. While I was in office, we were able to cut down the imports of oil from foreign countries by 50%, from about eight to just four million barrels a day. Now that figures up to twelve million. So, yes, David, I often think about how much better off wed be.
Kam Williams: Leisa Hinds-Simpson says: Given the lower than expected popularity rating for President Obama, what strategy do you propose to increase the ratings and to get a feeling of confidence back on track in the Obama administration?
Jimmy Carter: I believe his popularitys going to increase over the next two years as he comes out swinging after the Republicans take charge of the House of Representatives. I think hes going to be much more of a fighter in taking his case directly to the people than he has been.
Kam Williams: FSU grad Laz Lyles asks, how would you want those of us who weren’t yet born during your administration to think of your tenure as president?
Jimmy Carter: I would say two things: One would be human rights, which weve already covered. The other would be peace. We not only brought peace to many countries and people around the world, but we never dropped a bomb, we never launched a missile, and we never fired a bullet while I was in office. Yet we protected the interests of the American people in a peaceful, but strong way.
Kam Williams: Lester Chisholm says: Knowing what you know about the worlds current state of affairs, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, how would you have led this country differently when you were president?
Jimmy Carter: I think I would have been much more attuned to the concerns of people who were desperately in need. I was unfamiliar, for instance, with the plight of those living in the small villages, in the deserts, and the jungles of Africa. Now, every day, the Carter Center works among those people in a very exciting, fruitful, and gratifying way. Thats definitely one of the things I wish had been aware of when I was in the White House.
Kam Williams: Larry Greenberg recalls that in 1978, you declared a federal emergency at Love Canal. He asks: How would you characterize progress in our nations management of toxic materials since then?
Jimmy Carter: [Chuckles] We passed the Superfund Act the last few months I was in office, which finally made it possible to fine the large corporations which were polluting our streams, our soil and our air, and to make them pay for the cleanup. Im proud of passing those laws, but I would just hope that Congress and incumbent Presidents will continue to enforce them.
Kam Williams: Rudy Lewis says: Many African nations are celebrating a half-century of independence. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about those countries ability to deal with matters of poverty and self-governance?
Jimmy Carter: Rudy, the Carter Center spends every day in Africa, and I go over several times a year. We have helped conduct many elections there, for example, in Ghana, just recently, which had a wonderful election process. We also did the election in Liberia when the only African female president [Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf] was elected. So, Ive witnessed a very strong move towards democracy since leaving the White House. But unfortunately, some of the African leaders employ various nefarious means to remain in office far beyond what their constitutions permit.
President Carter in Nigeria
Id say its a mixed bag, but in general the 53 countries on the continent of Africa have made great progress towards freedom and democracy, and in terms of electing good, sound administrations.
Kam Williams: Rudy also says: You have made progressive statements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Do you think that the parties will sign a meaningful peace agreement on the proposed Two-State Solution within the next five years?
Jimmy Carter: They will, if Israel would agree to withdraw from the occupied territories. I dont think theres going to be peace as long as Israel is occupying land that belongs to the Palestinians, to Lebanon and to Syria. So, thats a decision that Israel will have to make.
Kam Williams: Wesley Derbyshire says: I have always appreciated your diplomatic strength. If you were still in office, how would you handle getting us out of this expensive war in Afghanistan?
Jimmy Carter: Id get us out as soon as possible. We know definitively that Al-Qaida isnt all over Afghanistan anymore. According to CIA estimates, there are less than a hundred Al-Qaida members in the entire country. Most of them are in Pakistan. So, its hard for me to understand why were still fighting there and sending in more and more troops. I would get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
Kam Williams: Howard Harris asks: Was being President worth it?
Jimmy Carter: It was. For one thing, I enjoyed being President. Secondly, I believe we accomplished a lot of good things while I was in office. We maintained a very good working relationship with both Republicans and Democrats during my tenure. Consequently, we had a very high batting average in dealing with Congress on some very controversial issues. Plus, we kept our nation at peace, we obeyed the law, and we told the truth.
Kam Williams: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Despite the tremendous accomplishments of your presidency and post-presidency, some people still reflect on the candor of your Playboy interview admissions about having “lust in your heart.” If you were to do a Playboy interview today, would you be as forthcoming?
Jimmy Carter: [LOL] No, I dont think I would. I was a little bit naïve back in those days. All I did was quote a Bible verse from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said that people who have lust in their heart as just as guilty as those who commit adultery. But that landed me in serious trouble. As a matter of fact, that almost cost me the election. By the way, it was the best-selling Playboy issue in history.
Kam Williams: Childrens book author Irene Smalls asks: What is the most critical issue facing America today?
Jimmy Carter: Id say the growing chasm between rich people and poor people not only in this country but all around the world. That difference between the rich and poor is growing every month. Giving people equal access to enjoying the benefits of this great country is the biggest problem that were not making any progress in resolving.
Kam Williams: Irene is also curious about whether you might like to be President again.
Jimmy Carter: No, Im 86, and too old to be President. Moreover, when I ran, I didnt have any money. Now, it requires raising hundreds of millions of dollars just to get the nomination, and I dont care to be involved in that process.
Kam Williams: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
Jimmy Carter: [Laughs] No, I cant think of any, youve just gone through an excellent string of them which Ive enjoyed tackling.
Kam Williams: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
Jimmy Carter: Not really. I have a great deal of confidence in myself and in my faith. As far as being in dangerous situations around the world is concerned, I always have a Secret Service detail with me as one of the privileges of a former President. So, the answer is No.
Kam Williams: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
Jimmy Carter: Absolutely
Kam Williams: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
Jimmy Carter: Last night.
Kam Williams: Leon Marquis asks: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Jimmy Carter: [LOL] I have a lot of pleasures but I dont feel guilty about them. One of my greatest pleasures is being on the farmland thats been in the family since 1833. I enjoy walking by myself on the same paths where, as a little boy, I delighted in following my father around. I dont feel guilty about it, but thats one I dont care to share with anyone else.
Kam Williams: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
Jimmy Carter: Right now Im reading Washington Rules, a book which points out the serious problem which America faces because we are constantly involved in unnecessary wars.
Kam Williams: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music do you like to listen to?
Jimmy Carter: I listen to Willie Nelson pretty regularly on my iPod.
Kam Williams: What is your favorite dish to cook?
Jimmy Carter: Im an expert cook when it comes to preparing the quail, ducks, geese, and wild turkeys that I hunt on the farm.
Kam Williams: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Jimmy Carter: I see a person whos getting older every year.
Kam Williams: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
Jimmy Carter: Peace for Israel and for Israels neighbors.
Kam Williams: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Jimmy Carter: Moving into a new house, when I was four years old. The front door was locked and we didnt have a key, so my daddy let me climb through the window to open the door.
Kam Williams: The Rudy Lewis question: Whos at the top of your hero list?
Jimmy Carter: Among Presidents, Id say Harry Truman, because he was courageous enough to command that racial segregation be ended in the military. I was serving in a submarine in the U.S. Navy at the time he issued the order.
Kam Williams: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Jimmy Carter: Always tell the truth, and take an interest in serving the people around you as much as possible.
Kam Williams: The Tavis Smiley questions. First, how introspective are you?
Jimmy Carter: Im much more introspective than I was, say, thirty years ago. When I reflect upon my blessings during my very nice lifetime, I am inspired to make sure that I spend the balance of the days of my existence in a productive way.
Kam Williams: Secondly, how do you want to be remembered?
Jimmy Carter: Id like to be remembered as someone who was a champion of peace and human rights.
Kam Williams: Well, thanks again for the time, President Carter. And I really appreciate your addressing each question seriously.
Jimmy Carter: Thank you, Kam. Ive really enjoyed speaking with you. [Donate to or to get involved with the Carter Center.]
* * * * *
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Hardcover, $30.00
612 pages, Illustrated / ISBN: 978-0-374-28099-4
Book Review by Kam Williams
During my four years in the White House, I kept a personal diary by dictating my thoughts and observations several times each day. . . . When dictating entries to my diary . . . I intertwined my personal opinions and activities with a brief description of the official duties I performed.
Readers should remember that I seldom exercised any restraint on what I dictated, because I did not contemplate the more personal entries ever being made public. . . . Despite a temptation to conceal my errors, misjudgments of people, or lack of foresight, I decided when preparing this book not to revise the original transcript. . . .
Throughout this book, I wrote 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 remain the same. . . . In presenting this annotated diary, my intention is not to defend or excuse my own actions or to criticize others, but simply to provide, based on current knowledge, an objective analysis.Excerpted from the Preface (pgs. xiii-xv)
Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, ran the U.S. Ship of State from 1977 to 1981, four perilous years marked by crises in everything from the Middle East to human rights to the economy to the Cold War to the environment to nuclear power. To his credit, Carter in retirement can proudly reflect that during his tenure, We obeyed the law, we told the truth, and we kept the peace. This turn of events proved to be a breath of fresh air for a country which had emerged from the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal extremely cynical about its political leaders.
And thanks to a tip from President Nixon who made the suggestion the first time they met, Carter decided to start keeping a journal while he was in office. If you remember, Jimmy had a certain, down-home folksy charm which had endeared him to the electorate, and that same tone is reflected in White House Diary, a 600-page opus condensed from what was originally over 5,000-pages in length.
The former president augmented the chronologically-arranged text with a sprinkling of present-day commentary where necessary to help elucidate the material. Basically, the book offers both a broad look at the scope of the Chief Executives exhausting daily schedule as well as an intimate peek inside the workings of the mans mind.
Personally, I most enjoyed the humanizing entries, such as the one that starts, Mama fell and broke her right hip as he frets about the health of First Mother Miss Lillian. I could even appreciate the minimalism he employed while on vacation when Fishing all day says it all.
A delightful, eye-opening memoir which reveals Jimmy Carter as still a simple peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, who never compromised his faith, integrity or commitment to family while tackling the responsibilities of what might very well be the most demanding job on the face of the Earth.
* * * * *
By Andrew Bacevich
The U.S. spends more on the military than the entire rest of the world combined and maintains 300,000 troops abroad in an empire of bases, all part of a credo of global leadership and a consensus that the U.S. must maintain a state of semiwar. The Washington consensus, across administrations dating back to the Cold War, is that the world must be organized in alignment with American principles, even if it means using force. Bacevich, with background in the military at the rank of retired army colonel and the perspective afforded by academia, offers a vivid and critical analysis of the assumptions behind the credo of global leadership and eternal military vigilance that has become increasingly expensive and unsustainable.
He details American misadventures from the Bay of Pigs to the invasion in Iraq, and the most prominent figures (semiwarriors par excellence) behind the credo, notably Allen Dulles, director of the CIA in the 1950s, and Curtis LeMay, director of the Strategic Air Command during the same period. The credo of global leadership and hyper-militarism is so ingrained and resilient in the U.S. psyche that it survived even the doubts that surfaced after the miserable failure of U.S. military might in Vietnam. Whatever their party or philosophy, all presidents want to project an image of toughness that has made them vulnerable to the credo, at great cost in American dollars and lives. Bacevich challenges Washington (the president, Congress, and the military industrial complex) as well as citizens to rethink the credo that has directed national security for generations.Vanessa Bush, Booklist
* * * * *
By Jimmy Carter
Born on October 1, 1924, Jimmy Carter grew up on a Georgia farm during the Great Depression. In An Hour Before Daylight, the former president tells the story of his rural boyhood, and paints a sensitive portrait of America before the civil rights movement.
Carter describesin glorious, if sometimes gory, detail–growing up on a farm where everything was done by either hand or mule: plowing fields, “mopping” cotton to kill pests, cutting sugar cane, shaking peanuts, or processing pork. He also describes the joys of walking barefoot (“this habit alone helped to create a sense of intimacy with the earth”), taking naps with his father on the porch after lunch, and hunting with slingshots and boomerangs with his playmatesall of whom were black.
Carter was in constant contact with his black neighbors; he worked alongside them, ate in their homes, and often spent the night in the home of Rachel and Jack Clark, “on a pallet on the floor stuffed with corn shucks,” when his parents were away. However, this intimacy was possible only on the farm. When young Jimmy and his best friend, A.D. Davis, went to town to see a movie, they waited for the train together, paid their 15 cents, and then separated into “white” and “colored” compartments. Once in Americus, they walked to the theater together, but separated again, with Jimmy buying a seat on the main floor or first balcony at the front door, and A.D. going around to the back door to buy his seat up in the upper balcony. After the movie, they returned home on another segregated train.
“I don’t remember ever questioning the mandatory racial separation, which we accepted like breathing or waking up in Archery every morning.” In this warm, almost sepia-toned narrative, Carter describes his relationships with his parents and with the five peopleonly two of whom were whitewho most affected his early life. Best of all, however, Carter presents his sweetly nostalgic recollections of a lost America.Sunny Delaney, Amazon.com Review
* * * * *
By Jimmy Carter
The book is about Palestine, the occupied territories, and not about Israel. Forced segregation in the West Bank and terrible oppression of the Palestinians create a situation accurately described by the word. I made it plain in the text that this abuse is not based on racism, but on the desire of a minority of Israelis to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land. This violates the basic humanitarian premises on which the nation of Israel was founded. My surprise is that most critics of the book have ignored the facts about Palestinian persecution and its proposals for future peace and resorted to personal attacks on the author. No one could visit the occupied territories and deny that the book is accurate. . . .
I would not want to wait two more years. It is encouraging that President George W. Bush has announced that peace in the Holy Land will be a high priority for his administration during the next two years.
On her January trip to the region, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called for early U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. She has recommended the 2002 offer of the Arab nations as a foundation for peace: full recognition of Israel based on a return to its internationally recognized borders. This offer is compatible with official U.S. Government policy, previous agreements approved by Israeli governments in 1978 and 1993, and with the International Quartet’s “roadmap for peace.” My book proposes that, through negotiated land swaps, this “green line” border be modified to permit a substantial number of Israelis settlers to remain in Palestine. With strong U.S. pressure, backed by the U.N., Russia, and the European Community, Israelis and Palestinians would have to come to the negotiating table.Jimmy Carter
* * * * *
How US Energy Policy Got MilitarizedThe association between “energy security” (as it’s now termed) and “national security” was established long ago. President Franklin D. Roosevelt first forged this association way back in 1945, when he pledged to protect the Saudi Arabian royal family in return for privileged American access to Saudi oil. The relationship was given formal expression in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter told Congress that maintaining the uninterrupted flow of Persian Gulf oil was a “vital interest” of the United States, and attempts by hostile nations to cut that flow would be countered “by any means necessary, including military force.”
To implement this “doctrine,” Carter ordered the creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, specifically earmarked for combat operations in the Persian Gulf area. President Ronald Reagan later turned that force into a full-scale regional combat organization, the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM. Every president since Reagan has added to CENTCOM’s responsibilities, endowing it with additional bases, fleets, air squadrons, and other assets. As the country has, more recently, come to rely on oil from the Caspian Sea basin and Africa, U.S. military capabilities are being beefed up in those areas as well.Alternet
* * * * *
By Jimmy Carter
Carter continues to have one of the most productive and varied post-political careers of any former U.S. president. A prodigious writer with 16 works of nonfiction to his credit, Carter turns to fiction with this account of the Revolutionary War as fought in the Deep South. Because most of the accessible literature revolves around battles fought in New England and the Middle Atlantic colonies, it is easy to overlook the fierce fighting that took place in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The plot revolves around the migration of newlyweds Ethan and Epsey Pratt from Philadelphia to a homestead in Georgia. When the War for Independence heats up, the Pratts and their friends and neighborsmany of them Quakersare forced into the vortex of historical events beyond their control. What Carter lacks in narrative style and characterization, he more than makes up for in the breadth of historical fact and detail interwoven into this obvious labor of love.
It is not surprising that a history-maker would turn to history for fictional inspiration; what is surprising is the effectiveness of his debut effort.
Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
posted 1 November 2010
Related files: Text of Carter Speech