Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jimmy Carter: Questions

Jimmy Carter: Questions

Lecture committee chose student questions.

What sparked your engagement with these issues?

Carter: We were taught as children to honor Abraham's covenant, and to protect and preserve Israel has been a deep commitment. As governor I visited with Meir and Rabin in Israel and Palestine. I resolved that when I became president I would make this a top priority - I saw this as even a nuclear threat in Cold War (he says nuclear right) since Russia was supporting Egypt and other states.

Should the US promote democracy abroad and how?

In some of our observed elections, the US govt has provided support. In 2006 US did not abide by results when Hamas won, and cut off humanitarian aid. We should again raise the banner of human rights (applause) instead of being branded proprietor of Gitmo and Abu Gharib.

Is the 1967 border still realistic?

Yes. Still the only recognized border. Geneva accords call for some modifications - to keep people one state or the other (I have trouble without a map-he comes back to it late) Palestinians need a contiguous areas.

How to remove settlers?

It's backed by a strong majority of Israelis. With Gaza pullout people were given new homes and $$$. If a sound peace agreement were reached resettlement could work.

How did your faith affect decisions as president and what's the role of religion in politics?

Jefferson calls for wall of separation (applause) No officeholder should impose their own faith with an advantage. I kept that principle and it should be returned. Only in the last few years have churches gotten so directly involved - endorsement, faith based initiatives - that should be changed (more applause)

How did military service affect presidency?

My ambition was to be a submarine man. So I was familiar with military principles and discipline, how to get along in the closed society of a sub. I was in Navy in `48 when Truman integrated. (applause) This was courageous. I saw the beneficial effect on my ship. But in Georgia our country was still affected by separate but equal and no one spoke out. In my inaugural speech as governor I said "the time for racial discrimination is over". And in my presidential inaugural I defined human rights as our top principle.

Why Habitat?

Well, HQ is nine miles from home... I met Habitat members in my church and I helped raise money. I went to a Habitat site and off the cuff said "Rosalyn, you and I should come up here." So we did... we alternate years between US and overseas. Usually it takes five days, but last year in India we got done in four - "because Brad Pitt showed up." Loads of volunteers. Next plans are for LA and New Orleans. Challenges all of us to volunteer in the Katrina area. need 1000 vols a day, only getting 600.

Energy policy

"Any change in present policies would be an improvement." Biggest applause yet. In my presidency we had a crisis and I made this my top domestic priority. We made fuel efficiency standards. Average car got 12 MPG! We set 28.5. Increased US oil production. We dropped from 9 million barrels a day to 5 million. Now up to 12 million a day. Why? Energy policy shaped by oil companies. Strict fuel efficiency would help fast but Bush opposes. It hurts our auto producers - other countries doing better.

He's in good voice, the familiar accent... almost like being a teenager again...

Campaign finance (gets applause) How can a lesser known candidate win?

"I'm an expert on this." Our whole campaign had no money - we stayed on couches because we were broke. We had a White House reception for every family who let us stay - 765 families! Only one of 10 Americans check public finance box. I used public finance, so did Ford and Reagan. We never resorted to negative ads (applause) It would have been suicidal. Now a candidate needs $100 million, much of it spent on negative ads. That carries over to office, hatred between parties, people did trust the process. "After the 2000 election - I guess you could call it an election..." (applause) We recommended campaign finance and conduct changes. One of our recommendations was regional primaries. (no applause at that) Would give every American an equal chance to participate. Frontloading makes $$ more important, we need drastic change.

Last question at 8:06. Back to peace in Middle East.

A few of you, take my advice and go to Palestine and Israel. See what is happening, report back to your peers. Get on line and read details of Geneva Accords - an honest and balanced agreement. If and when peace is reached, I predict this will be the framework. And every time a candidate comes here, make them pledge they will take a balanced position: peace for Israel, justice for Palestine. I chose Iowa over 100 other schools because of the caucuses. You can be a key factor in bringing peace and justice for all people in the Holy Land.

That's it at 8:09. He brings up the lecture committee, who asked the questions, and they give him the the award and a Hawkeyes swim cap. People make their way to exits and one last wave. Time to fix the typos.

Sue Dvorsky says: "We loved it! We've fallen a long way, but we're coming back!" The tentative UI attendance count is 7000. Overheard from some departing folks:
"The problem is he's too much statesman and not enough politician"
"Yes, he's a great humanitarian" trailing off as they walk away.

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