Prospects for peace in the Middle East, the meaning
of the word war, the repercussions of the USA PATRIOT
Act and a question from the youngest attendee ever to ask one were
just a few of the subjects addressed by former President Jimmy Carter
at his 22nd annual Town Hall meeting with the Emory community, Wednesday,
Sept. 24 in the P.E. Center.
Accompanied by his wife Rosalynn, seated in the front row, and President
Jim Wagner and Student Government Association President Euler Bropleh
on stage, Carter opened his comments with a few brief statements
on the work of the Carter Center before diving into the no-holds-barred
question and answer session that is the highlight of the event every
The audience, which filled the P.E. Center floor and bleachers,
was made up of primarily freshmen, but one of the first questions
can from someone even younger5-year-old Harry Kincaid, who
wore a tie-dye t-shirt and was perched on the shoulders of his father.
I want to be president one day, read the question. How
did you do it?
Carter answered that he had had a lot of luck. He ran for president
during a time, the mid-1970s, when many Americans were recovering
from the Watergate scandal and did not trust the government. Therefore,
his advice to the young man was simple.
I promised to tell the truth, Carter said. After the
audience applauded, Carter had one more comment. Good luck.
Unless my grandson Hugo decides to run the same year as you.
Carters banter was a light-hearted moment during an evening
that was somewhat heavy with talk on serious political issues.
The first question of the night asked Carter what he thought were
the greatest challenges to Mideast peace. The former President began
by outlining the situation between the Israelis and the Egyptians
25 years ago when the Camp David Accords were signed.
Both sides were flexible, Carter said. They wanted peace, they were
led by men of integrity and courage, and there was a balanced mediator.
Nowadays maybe none of those provisions exist in their entirety,
The United States has not entered into a balanced mediation
role between Israel and the Palestinians, he continued. And
a question must be answered by Israel. Do we want peace or do we
want to maintain our settlements in the area that is controlled
by the Palestinians? Peace or settlements?
When asked if the word war was too easily applied to
any conflict, Carter agreed, adding that it gives people a sense
of despair, hopelessness and fear. It within the response to this
question that Carter framed his opposition to the United States
unilateral attack against Iraq.
We have alienated people who could be our allies and could
be sharing the responsibility now, he said, adding that he
would have supported an attack with international cooperation.
Carter also criticized the USA PATRIOT Act, calling it an unprecedented
attack on civil liberties. I dont believe the benefits
that might be derived from the PATRIOT Act nearly equal the damage
to the basic human rights that have always made this country great,
Not all of Carters comments were political, though. In response
to a question about how to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, he
challenged the audience not only to try an improve conditions for
the poor around the world, but at home as well. He called the growing
chasm between the very rich and the very poor the worlds greatest
challenge. The gap is getting wider, and the wider it gets,
the less the rich people care, he said.
Along those same lines, when asked if he had ever heard any advice
that inspired him, Carter recalled the words of his high school
teacher Julia Cole-man, who said, Accommodate changing times
but cling to unchanging principles.
Carter then listed some of them. Justice, peace, humility,
service, compassion, and if youll excuse the expression, love,
he said. Those are unchanging. I dont always observe
them, but I try to.
Bropleh, in his remarks, called Carter a living hero,
and thanked him for being the first U.S. President to visit his
home country, Liberia. It is my hope that you believe in Liberia
and you can help us rebuild our country, Bropleh said.
The evening also marked the largest public appearance to date of
Emorys newly rechristened immortal spirit, James W. Dooley.
Dooley looked suspiciously like his predecessor, William M., but
when a member of his entourage stepped to the podium to relate his
thoughts they were quite distinctiveand punchy.
I keep a copy of your 1977 Time Magazine Man of the
Year Award issue with me in my coffin, Dooley said through
his sunglasses-wearing interpreter. President Carter, your
face is the first one I see when I awake. Sometimes its not
the most perfect sight.