Emory Report
September 29, 2008
Volume 61, Number 6



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29, 2008
Carter candid as ever

By Ann Hardie

Ever true to his reputation for speaking his mind, former President and Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter unleashed his disdain for the policies of the Bush Administration at his annual town hall gathering for students Sept. 24.

Thunderous applause broke out following Carter’s answer to a student inquiring how he would advise Barack Obama should the Democratic contender become president.

Carter offered up a “to do” list for either Obama or Republican candidate John McCain that included telling the truth, being honest with the American people, championing human rights, forgoing torture, addressing global warming and channeling tax breaks to the poor.

“To summarize in one sentence: Do exactly the opposite of what has been done the last seven years,” Carter said.

The event was Carter’s 27th annual town hall since becoming a distinguished professor at Emory in 1982 and founding The Carter Center devoted to promoting human rights.

Carter told the students spilling into the bleachers of the WoodPEC arena that he looked upon the town halls with trepidation because of the toughness of their questions.

But several were softballs that Carter hit out of the park, including one inquiring if the peanut farmer from Plains actually liked peanuts.

“I like to plant peanuts. I like to grow peanuts. I like to sell peanuts. I like to eat peanuts of all kinds,” he said.
Carter, who turns 84 next month, then attributed his robust health to his wife Rosalynn’s companionship and to peanuts.

During the hour-long town hall, Carter’s answers often were met with enthusiastic claps and cheers. He drew silence, however, after stating his belief that the drinking age should not be lowered to 18.

Carter, who was elected as the 39th president to a single term in 1976, referred to his presidency as “those ancient days.” Nevertheless, students sought his insight on some of the most pressing domestic and international problems of the day, including this country’s financial crisis, the turmoil in the Middle East and human rights abuses in North Korea.

Time and again, Carter pointed his finger at the current administration for causing or stoking those problems. He said the United States’ dependence on foreign oil is “primarily because the Bush Administration and others before them have gone to bed with the oil companies and the automobile companies.”

Nevertheless, Carter called the United States “the greatest nation in the world” and offered hope that it will right itself and that future generations will live better than today’s.

When asked who will prevail in November’s presidential election, Carter, an Obama supporter, responded: “It depends on whether or not my prayers are answered.”

Following the town hall, Theron Patrick, a freshman from Massachusetts, said he had been surprised by the thickness of Carter’s Southern drawl and his ability to address complicated issues in such a down-to-earth way. Patrick also commended Carter for his willingness to take on the current administration.