Atlanta surprised us today. We really knew nothing about the city other than we wanted to visit the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. We found a reasonably priced hotel in the Midtown area, a perfect place to stay for city folk like us.
We mapped the library and decided it was walkable, about 3 miles, and the weather was good for a walk. We went a few blocks and got on the Beltline, Atlanta’s hike and bike trail. The Beltline is a 22 mile long trail built on a former rail line that circles the city. It is considered to be one of the largest urban re-development in the US and was started as a thesis project back in 1999. The trail is well used by locals and the development along the route is amazing. Obviously the train was used to haul product from the various factories and the old buildings are now lofts or entertainment or dining centers. The old Ford factory is now condos. The former Sears Roebuck building is Ponce City Market, a mixed use project filled with restaurants, bars, shops, apartments and more. A brewery is in a former warehouse. Lots of apartments and lofts and who wouldn’t want to live along this trail. We saw bikers, runners, dog walkers, commuters, and folks like us, using the trail to get somewhere without traffic.
The Carter Library was truly inspiring. History commonly says he has been more successful in his post-president life, but he was very productive and forward thinking as our leader. During his four years in the White House, he established the department of Energy and proposed very progressive alternative energy reforms, negotiated peace between Egypt and Israel, brokered the Panama Canal treaty, appointed more minorities to the judiciary than any predecessor, and much more. The most difficult time of his presidency was the situation with hostages at the American Embassy in Iran. In 1979, the Shah was ousted and sought medical services in the US. Upon his arrival here, the embassy was stormed and some 60 employees were taken hostage. Carter chose diplomatic efforts to deal with the situation, which seemed to crawl. Some suggested military action but it was feared that the rebels would kill the hostages in retaliation. His secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, resigned rather than be part of a military response. In April, Carter ordered a covert rescue operation, but it failed when weather conditions caused a helicopter to crash, killing 8 servicemen. The operation was aborted. Many consider this to be the reason for Carter losing re-election. Due to on-going negotiations, he was not able to campaign as much as he would have liked and Ronald Reagan took advantage of the bad press, showing Carter as weak. Some even speculate that Reagan and his election committee were negotiating with Iran behind the scenes (isn’t this illegal?) to be certain the hostages would not be released before the election. (they were set free as Reagan was giving his inauguration speech)
The library also has sections on Carter’s early years and his post-presidential life, as well as Roselynn’s contribution as First Lady and advisor. He was very successful as a youngster, a student at the Naval Academy, a Naval officer, a businessman, and an elected official in his home state of Georgia. His life after he left the White House is one of greatest inspiration. The Carter Center (housed next to the library/museum) is known as an election monitor around the world, but they also work with disease that can be eradicated, such as the Guinea worm, which is almost completely been eliminated, due to their efforts working in partnership with the local countries and health organizations. His Nobel Peace prize was on display among other awards he’d won. He and Roselynn still teach Sunday School in Plains. And of course they are known worldwide for their work with Habitat for Humanity. In their 90s, they are still giving and doing.
I could not help but think, of all the displays we saw, before, during and after the presidency, would you possibly put Trump in any of these scenarios? No.
In the gift shop, I asked if Mr. Carter comes over much. The cashier said he is there 5 or 6 times per month, dines in the cafeteria, talks to everyone, knows the staff. I mentioned that we’d visited a few other presidential libraries and they all have official vehicles. (I’m told Reagan’s has Air Force One) But knowing Jimmy Carter, he probably would not want a useable vehicle out of commission. She said he travels a lot, always commercial, and talks to everyone on the plane. Such a humble person. So sincere. The type of person you want representing your country and the type we need now.
Carter was president while I was in my early 20s, a time when I should have been more aware and active, but I learned much about this great man today. Jimmy Carter is truly the moral compass of our country.