Emory Report
Sept. 18, 2006
Volume 59, Number 4


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Sept. 18, 2006
Carter candidly speaks on peanuts and politics

BY mary loftus

Improvements in technology at Emory earned praise from former President Jimmy Carter at his 25th annual Town Hall with the University community Sept. 13 in the Woodruff P.E. Center.

The meeting began with the debut of a short film, “Filling the Chasm,” which highlights the relationship between The Carter Center and Emory and interviews students who interned at the center.

“But I’m not talking about the film,” Carter said with a wry grin, “I’m talking about Dooley on a scooter!”
Indeed, Emory’s resident immortal spirit, James W. Dooley, made his traditional appearance at the Town Hall—with a few twists. The skeleton sped down the aisle on a sleek scooter, guards running alongside, and has apparently acquired a pet, a small black cat on a purple velvet leash.

On a more serious note, President Jim Wagner announced that, inspired by Carter’s work to reduce the growing gap between the world’s richest and poorest inhabitants, Emory and The Carter Center are working together to establish an Institute for Developing Nations. This initiative, led by Special Assistant to the President for International Strategy Tom Robertson and a steering committee of senior faculty and administrators, would strengthen the University’s connection to The Carter Center and coordinate global outreach programs across the institutions.

Then Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life John Ford stepped to the cards filled with students’ questions, which Carter, a distinguished professor at Emory since 1982, promised to answer candidly.
“I’ve gotten through 24 years of these, and I’m 81 years old, so I don’t have nearly the trepidation I use to about it,” he said.

As the capacity crowd of about 1,500 quieted, Carter tackled topics from his favorite type of peanut to his views on socialized medicine. Here’s an assortment of his answers:

On whom he’ll be backing in the 2008 elections: “The Democratic candidate.”
On healthcare coverage: “I am in favor of universal health care—that the basic necessities of medical care are covered for everyone, with guarantees from the government. . . .[but] I’m not in favor of socialized medicine. Doctors should not be controlled by the government.”

On the invasion of Afghanistan: “Afghanistan was one of the few justifiable wars since World War II, going after the heart of Al Qaeda and attempting to capture Osama bin Laden. I fully supported that decision. I believe, however, that this process was aborted when we shifted to the unnecessary, unwarranted, unjust war in Iraq.”

On a “secret, classified action” during his presidency: “The development of planes that could fly undetected by enemy radar. Also, I used to fly from Washington to Camp David, and then when the press left, get on a helicopter and fly to Pennsylvania to go fly-fishing.”

On Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding of New Orleans: “I love New Orleans. My daughter went to graduate school in art history at Tulane. I don’t believe it will ever be rebuilt the way it was. In the Ninth Ward, there has still been very little done. We [the government] failed the people in New Orleans and other parts of the country who were hit by Katrina. . . . I have confidence in the people of New Orleans. I believe the city will reconstitute itself, perhaps in a different form, but one that will still be cherished by all Americans.”

On his favorite peanut: “I used to grow 12 different varieties on my own farm. My favorite is to pick them off the ground, cook them in salty water, and have boiled peanuts.”

On his degree of satisfaction with the current president: “I don’t know how much time we have [laughter from crowd]. I’ve written a book, ‘Our Endangered Values,’ which is a clear, somewhat concise assessment of what has happened to our country over the last five years. There has been a radical and misadvised change in policy. And I’m not talking about from Democrat to Republican. This is a change even from the policies of George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan. We now have a policy espousing pre-emptive war. Now we can attack other countries if we disagree with their leadership or policies.”

On the environment: “This administration casts its lot with those who are polluters.”

On taxes: “Every tax law in the last five years has been for the richest one-tenth of one percent of Americans, to the detriment of the working poor.”

On his Secret Service detail’s “intrusiveness”: “They are highly trained, and part of that training is how not to intrude on our privacy. We’ve become very attached to the agents assigned to us. They make sure threats are addressed adequately, and have made it possible for me to go into some troubled nations where my life would otherwise be in danger. Also, when I’m turkey hunting, they stay far away.”

On North Korea and Iran: “Our refusal to talk with people who don’t agree with us is very counterproductive.”
On the future of America and the world: “In this country, we have the freedom to correct our mistakes. . . . As for the world, I am hopeful that it will be more peaceful in the future than it is now, and that the plight of third world suffering and destitution will be alleviated.”