Partisan differences of support and disapproval of our two most recent presidents are quite clear, with the personal popularity of President Bush among Democrats lower than was President Clinton's among Republicans while his impeachment proceedings were under way. The ongoing
Iraqi war is especially indicative, with diametrically opposite opinions on whether the conflict is going well or has improved national security.
In a purely logical sense it would seem that Jimmy Carter's presidency would have been anything but a galvanizing force for America's right-wind Christian conservatives. Ironically, though, that was not the case. For example, Joy Porter examines the ironically ground-breaking, unintended political effects of Jimmy Carter's Presidency, i.e., the impacts (or, as Porter actually argues, a lack of them) of the former President's non-right-wing; relatively liberal Evangelism, on future religiously-based American political discourse. As Porter argues, during Carter's 1976 and 1980 campaigns especially, Carter's faith-based but also distinctly liberal values and viewpoints, from which his political priorities also sprang, did at all mirror, much less encourage or promote the much more conservative agenda of the (also Southern-based) religious right.
Still, it was Jimmy Carter himself who (for that exact reason) initially awakened the right wing Southern-based Christians themselves to the galvanizing potential of their actual political agenda(s). As Porter further suggests, Jimmy Carter's faith-based yet distinctly liberal Presidency motivated dissatisfied right-wing Southern Christians to begin more actively coalescing around their own pet issues having to do with their much more conservative ideas about "values" and "morals." Further, when the 1980 presidential race between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan materialized, the Southern Christian right wing rejected their own Southern-born President for a second term and threw its support to the Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan of California. As Porter additionally observes, this was because Reagan's actual, "ecumenical" conservatism was more compatible with theirs.
As Governor of Georgia before becoming President, Jimmy Carter had promoted ecology; promoted greater government efficiency and less waste at taxpayer expense by consolidating 300 departments into just 30; removed racial barriers, and increased educational and other opportunities for disadvantaged children and adults.
As U.S. President, Jimmy carter made Human Rights a cornerstone priority of his presidency. During the Camp David Accords, Carter brokered an Israel-Egypt peace Treaty at Camp David. Carter also brought about the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty during his presidency, thereby promoting peace with Panama over U.S. hegemony over and/or financial profits for U.S. In Panama Canal Zone. In addition, Jimmy Carter was responsible for the success of the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (a.k.a. SALT) talks.
Today, three decades and counting beyond the end of the Carter presidency; with 21st century Americans more divided than ever on issues of all kinds; the now-elder statesmanlike Carter still very often vociferously eschews within his writings the divisiveness he describes as having built for decades. Further, the former President warns of the enormous damage to America's moral and social fabric, that such political divisiveness has already caused and will continue causing unless political fences are somehow mended for good.
In particular, Carter singles out, in various portions of this book published in 2006, various ongoing, "hot button" moral issues like abortion; the death penalty, school prayer, gay rights, gun ownership and other "lifestyle" issues used often and with considerable past success, to galvanize the Christian right wing's political base. It is especially, ironically, interesting, in view of the issues and perspectives covered by Carter in that recent book, that Porter makes the argument that Jimmy Carter himself, ironically, while President, was the person who, as a result of unintended consequences, actually served as a now-understandable, if then unlikely-seeming catalyst for the Christian Right as we know it today.
Jimmy Carter's post-presidential volunteer work and other humanitarian-focused activities, even if not in the purest sense apolitical, seem no longer to be, dominantly at least, and at least for the most part, politically-driven. For instance, through Carter's myriad present-day charitable works, for (for example) non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity and others; through his varied and profuse writings on many public and personal subjects alike - and in all genres - including fiction and poetry; and through his volunteer ambassadorial and other efforts to promote genuine and benign Democratic principles worldwide; the former President in many ways arguably shines brighter today than ever as a beacon of pure non-politically centered human morality. Or maybe there is just that much more dullness and mediocrity; politically, morally, and generally in today's world for him to shine all the more brightly against.
Throughout his life, moreover, Jimmy Carter after losing his bid for a second White House term to Ronald Reagan in 1980, now 27 years ago, has also obviously accepted his weaknesses and mistakes as President for what they then were, and determinedly drew on the strengths he did have and let them work for him. Losing the presidency to Ronald Reagan might have led him into bitterness and recrimination. Instead, he launched the Carter Center in Atlanta, a base for his efforts to reconcile warring factions abroad, eradicate diseases in developing countries, and address domestic problems of housing and poverty.
James Earl ("Jimmy") Carter, Jr. (known all his life as Jimmy Carter) was born on October 1, 1924, in the tiny rural Georgia farming town of Plains. Carter and his three younger siblings, Gloria, Ruth, and Billy, were raised on a 350 acre peanut farm, by far the largest and most prosperous in the tiny rural town of Plains, Georgia. Their father, James Earl Carter, Sr., was a very successful, but still all his life an enormously hard-working and exacting, but always compassionate and fair-minded farming businessman.
Consequently, there was always very little turnover, for years at a time, among the mostly African-American tenant farmers and day laborers who worked at the huge farm owned and run by Jimmy Carter's father (called Earl). Carter recalls, for example, that when he first came home after 11 years spent away from the family farming business, first at Annapolis Naval Academy in Maryland, and then as, among other roles, a command officer in the Navy's then-new nuclear submarine program for seven years until his father died in 1953, he was surprised to see that most of the same people who had been working for his father before he left for Annapolis were still there.
Several kinds of early positive role models; mentors, and lifelong moral influences, strongly inflected and still inflect today, Former President Jimmy Carter's life and work: publicly and privately, as they did when he was President of the United States. For instance, Former President Jimmy Carter recalls today that it was here that he learned the value, intrinsically and otherwise, of doing sustained physical labor carefully, meticulously, and with a sense of pride, and about the dignity of honest work, whatever it was. He learned this watching his father; but even more so from working alongside his father's main assistant, a black man and near-lifetime employee of Earl Carter, Jack Clark.
It was his father's assistant, not Earl himself, who was Jimmy Carter's first real teacher about farm work, especially the details of it, both big and small. As Carter recollects in his memoir of his rural childhood, for example, "Before I was big enough for real farm work, Daddy encouraged me to spend time with Jack Clark, knowing that it was the best way for me to be educated about farm life." In addition to that, "Jack kept up a constant steam of comments about the world as he knew it, or envisioned it."
The former President also recalls that these early formative lessons about the details of farm maintenance remained with him, proving especially helpful again when he first returned from the Navy after his father's death to run the farm.
Today Jimmy Carter further recollects that Clark's wife Rachel, a small, gentle, regally-elegant woman, had "skin lighter than her husband"; and also "a special aura about her." He further adds, "I believe that, if Rachel's ancestors in Africa could be traced, they would be found to be a royal family."
The Clarks were each responsible, if in very different ways, for influencing Jimmy Carter as a boy but Rachel Clark, especially, influenced his world view on matters of conscience and social