There are only two presidents that I would love to spend a day or weekend with and four others, in an alternate universe since they’re dead, that I’d want to have lunch or drinks with to just to ask them a few pressing questions.
I’d love to do lunch with Abraham Lincoln over “chicken fricassee” and find out what it was like to be an awkward Kentucky boy (no Indiana, you can’t claim him) that went on to be one of the most beloved presidents of all-time that freed the slaves.
While eating Boston clam chowder, I would want John F. Kennedy to tell me about his illicit affairs and about what he really thought of his enemies. I’d love to have fresh avocados, macadamia nuts, and rum and cokes with “Tricky Dick”, oops sorry, Richard Nixon to see if he was as mean as he’s made out to be.
And, finally with Ronald Reagan, over honey-baked apples and an “orange blossom”, “The Gipper’s favorite drink when he had one (wait, make mine with vodka instead of gin), I would ask two questions that have made me dislike, almost hate, the man who seemed so gentle.
“Why did you wait so long, after so many gay men had died, to mention “AIDS” in public — six years after it was first mentioned in the New York Times?” And, after that, I would want to know if he really thought anti-war protesters, like the four students at Kent State University in 1970, deserved to die. As California’s governor, he took a hard stance against hippie protestors by saying, “If there’s going to be a blood bath, let’s get on with it.”
Those are the presidents that I would love to meet. However, the two that I’d want to spend a weekend with are my two favorite commander-in-chiefs, Bill Clinton (and, of course, Hillary) and Jimmy Carter.
Yes, the 39th president of the United States from 1977-1981 will turn 88-years-old this October and he’s still active in painting, fly-fishing, woodworking, cycling, tennis, and skiing. Amazing!
In the fall of 1976, as a 12-year-old boy in Kentucky, I cast my first Presidential vote for the Democrat Carter, and four years later, at 16, I voted for him again. So, you might be thinking, that’s impossible. Many things go on in Kentucky that aren’t talked about in other states, but kids still cannot vote. Well, since my Grandmother Helen was not very literate, I accompanied her into the voting booth and I got to vote for the candidates of my choice. Even then, I knew what I was doing. 🙂
Now, you might be thinking, why Carter? Maybe it was because he was a Southerner and he talked like me! I’m kidding. I just liked him.
At age 12, I didn’t know anything about gay rights, but then again, there was no such thing as “rights” for those kind of people in the mid-1970s.
However, in retrospective, I made the right choice. While Carter was a deeply committed Christian that taught Sunday school and prayed several times a day, he was the first president to address gay rights and his administration was the first to meet with gay rights activists. He was opposed to the Briggs Initiative in California that would have banned gays from teaching in public schools.
More recently, Carter supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and he is for civil unions.
Just in case the religious right and the Republicans (Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, are you listening?) didn’t catch what I just wrote, let me repeat something again, “Carter was a deeply committed Christian that taught Sunday school and prayed several times a day”. He “opposes all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and believes there should be equal protection under the law for people who differ in sexual orientation.”
Jimmy Carter is such an amazing man and I hope to accomplish just a fraction of what he’s done in his lifetime.
Many people know him from his one term as President which hasn’t been remembered kindly. President Carter, like current President Barack Obama, faced many huge obstacles, including continuing inflation and a recession.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the last half of Carter’s presidency was tainted by the Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, and the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
EARLY POLITICAL CAREER & RACISM
Before being elected to the highest office in the country, he served on local school, hospital, and library boards, served two terms in the Georgia Senate, and became the Governor of Georgia in 1971.
It was at that time, before he reached out to the gay community, he bucked the Southern mentality by opposing racial segregation. His family was also one of only two that voted to admit blacks to the Plains Baptist Church.
Once he was elected Georgia’s governor, he commented, “I say to you quite frankly, that the time for racial discrimination is over. No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job, or simple justice.”
While leading the “Peach State”, Carter appointed many African-Americans to statewide boards and offices.
CARTER’S RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Then, after his one term (which was all that allowed at the time) as Georgia governor ended in 1975, he began his bid to the presidency with almost no chance of winning since he wasn’t nationally known. When he told his family that he was going to run for President, his mother asked, “President of what?”
Carter became the front-runner by winning the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. He used two different strategies while campaigning: in the South, he ran as a moderate favorite son and in the North, Carter appealed largely to conservative Christian and rural voters.
He was even featured in “Playboy” magazine in 1976 and revealed, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”
Carter chose Senator Walter Mondale as his running mate and in the November 1976 elections, he won the popular vote 50-48% over President Gerald Ford and received 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 240 to become the first president from the Deep South to be elected since 1848!
Earlier I talked about some things that President Carter was not so fondly remembered by, but the Department of Energy and the Department of Education were both created during his four years in office.
When Carter ran for re-election in November 1980, it wasn’t pretty. While Carter got 41% of the popular vote, he only carried six states and the District of Columbia. The electoral vote wasn’t close with Ronald Reagan winning that 489-49.
In a bittersweet moment, on January 20, 1981, just minutes after Carter’s term as president ended, the 52 U.S. captives held hostage at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released after 444 days.
LEAVING OFFICE & HIS 31-YEAR FIGHT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
The four years as President took its toll on Carter and his legacy. He began his term with a 66% approval rating, but it dropped to 34% by the time he left office, with 55% disapproving.
However, his reputation has much improved to a 64% approval rating in 2009. “The Independent” wrote, “Carter is widely considered a better man than he was a president.”
I personally think he did a great job as President with the crap he had going on and he’s definitely a good man.
After leaving office, Carter returned to Georgia and in 1982, he established “The Carter Center” in Atlanta to advance human rights and alleviate unnecessary human suffering by promoting democracy, mediates and prevents conflicts, and monitors the electoral process in support of free and fair elections and to improve global health. He’s also worked very closely with “Habitat for Humanity”.
Among the numerous honors Carter has received are the Presidential Medal of Freedom 1999 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office.
Another thing President Carter and I have in common is that we’re both very outspoken.
He is opposed to the death penalty in all forms and in his Nobel Prize lecture, he urged the “prohibition of the death penalty”.
Carter speaks regularly and has written about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He supports Israel as a country, but criticizes its domestic and foreign policy: “One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6 million Palestinians.” He also adds, “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.”
In 2000, Carter severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, saying the group’s doctrines did not align with his Christian beliefs. Six years later, on BBC’s current affairs program, “Newsnight”, he expressed concern at the increasing influence of the Religious Right on U.S. politics.
In recent years, Carter has been very vocal about his disapproval of the Iraqi war and the presidency of George W. Bush (“I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history”).
After Carter left office, he has written more than 20 books covering a variety of topics, including humanitarian work, aging, religion, human rights, poetry, and a children’s book.
Last September, Carter endorsed Mitt Romney for in the GOP bid for President in 2012, not because he likes Romney, but because he feels Obama’s re-election bid would be strengthened in a race against Romney.
Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in July 2011, making them the second-longest wed Presidential couple after George and Barbara Bush.
So, President Carter, I’d love to spend at least a day with you just listening to you talk about your 88 years. We could start with pancakes for breakfast, have a salad with Roquefort dressing and soup for lunch, and “Southern-style” fried chicken with batter-fried eggplant for dinner and frozen yogurt for dessert.
My schedule is open. Have your people get with my people.
P.S. I didn’t just make up all these food and drinks with the presidents. I did my research. 🙂