Thursday, March 27, 2008

Flawed Heroes

For some reason unknown to me, I don't have heroes or join fan clubs or put individuals on pedestals. One of my flaws is that I tend to see the world in black and white with limited shades of gray. Regardless, I look for models, for men and women who merit respect, trust, admiration and emulation. Here's a portion of a conversation between two such people who temper my cynicism and give me hope.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mr. President, what you’re proudest of?

JIMMY CARTER: I think the espousing and implementation, in many cases, of basic human rights around the world and raising high that banner so that many others could follow our leadership. And I’m proud that we were able to broaden the definition of human rights beyond just the right of assembly and freedom of speech and freedom of religion and trial by jury and electing our own leaders as political rights, but also to the other rights, the right of a human being to have healthcare and education and self-respect and dignity, a hope for the future. To the extent that we have been successful in some of those cases, not enough of them, I’m very proud that that’s what the Carter Center has been able to do.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush told his biographer, when he asked what he would be doing when he left office, that his dad can make something like $50,000 to $75,000 a pop for speeches, so he might go out on the speaking trail. Do you have any recommendations for him?

JIMMY CARTER: No. You have to remember that former presidents, just like four or five different people you meet on the street, are all different, and we have different motivations, different ideas. And, you know, I’ve chosen my career since I left the White House. I never have been on the lecture circuit, which is very lucrative. I’ve never been on corporate boards, which is also very lucrative and very gratifying. I’ve just decided to devote my life to the Carter Center. But President Reagan and way back to President Truman and Johnson and the others have done all different things. So I don’t have any, really, advice. We have made the Carter Center available as a potential model for presidents who have left office since I was there, and they have all sent delegations here to see what we do at the Carter Center, and in some cases they have emulated some portions of our chosen career.

AMY GOODMAN: To people who are in their eighties and nineties, your thoughts?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, you know, it depends on any individual’s mental and physical capability—I’ve been fortunate so far—and also what they think is best. I wrote a book about this a number of years ago that pointed out that after retirement there are unprecedented opportunities for the expansion of one’s life, to learn how to speak Spanish or to learn how to paint a picture or to learn how to be an expert on bird watching or to make furniture or to do different things, or to get involved in benevolent affairs.

I work every year for at least a week with Habitat for Humanity. We’ve done this for twenty-four years, my wife and I. And on many occasions, among the four to five, six, seven, sometimes 10,000 people who join us as volunteers for a week, there are people even older than I am. So I think there’s a good opportunity for serving your fellow human beings in benevolent ways. And sometimes even an older person can just go to a place like Grady Hospital and volunteer maybe two afternoons a week just to rock premature babies or something like that.

AMY GOODMAN: And your partnership with Rosalynn?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, we have survived pleasantly sixty-one years so far. We’re going on our sixty-second year, and we still get along quite well. That’s the best thing that happened to me in my life.


Blogger Buffalo said...

There is no doubt that Jimmy Carter is a good and moral man. In retrospect he wasn't a bad president. At the very least he didn't screw anything up. Now days that is saying quite a bit.

3/27/2008 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Melody said...

We're eager to hear about your Grand Canyon trip too. Don't forget to share.

3/28/2008 06:05:00 AM  
Blogger Him said...

In restrospect, we should ALL be ashamed of ourselves.....

3/28/2008 06:21:00 PM  

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