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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rise “from challenge to greatness” America’s duty ─ Jimmy Carter

Old Glory
“Challenges of a Superpower”
Excerpt, editing by 
Carolyn Bennett

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke to a California audience early this year. These are some of his thoughts.

“America is now the world’s unchallenged superpower in many ways. And I would say that this is a time of assessing what America is and what the future of our country should be.

It is “the American heritage that in times of challenge we have habitually or historically risen to greatness. And we realize that, in a democracy like ours, change from challenge to greatness is a matter of responsibility for individual citizens.”

What are the goals of a great nation? “They’re the same as the goals of a great person.

Former First Lady
Rosalynn Carter
Former U.S. President
Jimmy Carter
“They are the goals that have been established most clearly in religions that we might adopt as our own — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and so forth. And they are all the same. There’s really no incompatibility between a desire, on the part of a human being, to be a superb human being in the eyes of whatever God he or she worships; than it is for a nation to say,

‘I want to be a superb nation; I want to be a genuine superpower in all the meanings of the word.’

“What are those characteristics?

 … A commitment to peace, a commitment to justice, a commitment to freedom or democracy, a commitment to human rights, to protecting the environment that we’ve inherited, to sharing wealth with others. I think those are the hallmarks of a superpower.

As Carter assessed the state of America in the present moment, he also made clear his personal allegiance, one to which I also subscribe : 
Conversations with
Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter
“I’m not criticizing my country, which I think is the best nation on earth, and I’m very proud to have served,” he said.
But I’m pointing out that in this time of assessment, I’d say particularly for … children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren … for students and for other young people, we need at least to look at what the possibilities are for improving. 
This is some of Carter’s assessment.

Violence, Absence of Peace: Since World War II, we [the United States] have been almost constantly at war —

…in Korea and then Vietnam, Cambodia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Libya, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Iraq, Afghanistan.

I don’t know about the future. Iran, Syria, Mali? You get the point.

ur country is now looked upon as the foremost war-like nation on earth. And there is almost a complete dearth now of a commitment of America to negotiate differences with others. It is not just Democrats or Republicans or a particular president. It is a consciousness or attitude of Americans like you and me.

e need to be working for peace for others as well as ourselves.… The Middle East is a typical example where there is a need for peace.

Assessment dark; language, dialogue, talking imperative 

Palestine and U.S.: My own belief … is that [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu for the first time has decided on a one-state solution.

Under his administration, Israel has been madly building settlements in East Jerusalem and also in the West Bank — nobody wants Gaza, and this means that it’s becoming decreasingly likely that you could have a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. I’m very discouraged about that, and the only thing that can be done about it is for the United States to play a major role. 

If President Obama will go back to the two premises that he had earlier — no more Israeli settlements in Palestine and the 1967 borders would prevail between the two, modified to accommodate the large settlement that’s right outside of Jerusalem — then that would be the best solution.

I think the Arab world will accept this. On two or three occasions already, every Arab country, in fact, every Muslim country, even including Iran, has agreed that is a premise they will accept and that they will recognize Israel equal to all the Arab countries with trade, commerce, and diplomatic relations. But so far that has not been possible. And I don’t think the Israelis are going to do it unless the United States plays a very strong role.

…[Now] is the first time since Israel has been a nation that the United States has … zero influence, either in Jerusalem or among the Palestinians. And I’m very grieved about that….

Iran and U.S.(nuclear issue) : There was an earlier deal worked out between Brazil and Turkey and Iran that said that they could go up to 20 percent, and Iran agreed to let the international inspectors come in.

So far, the United States has never offered Iran to lift all the economic sanctions if they would agree on limiting their nuclear capabilities at 20 percent and letting the IAEA come in and inspect them.

But even if Iran should develop — this is the worst case and I hope it doesn’t happen — if they should develop two or three nuclear weapons, then they know that if they should challenge Israel, for instance, with one of their nuclear weapons, Israel has, I don’t know, 200 nuclear weapons of a very advanced nature. We [the U. S.] have 5,000, and I’m not sure that the Iranians are suicidal enough to want to have their own country wiped off the map by challenging Israel.
North Korea

North Korea and U.S.: My own preference is that we negotiate with Iran and with North Korea as well; we have not been willing even to talk to North Korea for a number of years.

There’s been not a single day of talks with North Korea since President [Barack] Obama has been in office. I’ve been there twice since then.

What they want is to have a peace treaty with the United States. So far, we just have a cease fire between the United States and North Korea, left over from the end of the Korean War 60 years ago.

So there’s a lot of parallelism between them (North Korea and Iran). I don’t believe either one of those countries is going to be suicidal enough to use nuclear weapons. I hope we can prevent their nuclear weapon capability by good faith talks with both countries.

China and the U.S.: When I travel around the world now — my wife and I have been to more than 140 countries —you see that the Chinese are very influential, all over Africa, all over Latin America, and I think are forming contracts for political and economic benefit. I think in the future, China wants to stay peaceful.

The Chinese have not been at war since 1979. So they’re worried about U.S. attitude. But, I think that the best way for us to compete with China and win, if we want to have a victor or a loser, is for us to adhere to the principles that I mentioned earlier of peace and justice and democracy and freedom and environment, and that sort of thing. That’s what I think we should do to compete with them successfully.

There’s no way that China is going to ever threaten the United States militarily; and I don’t think they’re ever going to threaten the United States politically either, unless they change and make the democracy that exists in their little villages prevail in their big cities and counties and provinces.

Domestic Assessment

U.S. diplomat
Eleanor Roosevelt
Universal Declaration of
Human Rights

America was a nation with the foremost commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was passed with Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership when the United Nations was first formed [1948]. And for much of the time during the interim period, we’ve been the champion of human rights.

That is no longer the case.

Look up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on your computer; you’ll find there are 30 paragraphs.

And our staff at The Carter Center has determined that we [the United States] are now violating 10 of those 30 paragraphs.

We have now disavowed the application of the Geneva controls on treatment of prisoners at war.
And …there has been a lot of altercation back and forth lately about the use of drones to assassinate Americans living in foreign countries, or not excluding [drone use] within the United States.

9/11’s illegal “law”: Guantanamo: … Half of [the people imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay] have never been tried at all and never have been accused of a crime.

All of them now are faced with the prospect of serving the rest of their lives in prison.

Our president [U.S. President Barack Obama] has announced that we [the United States]

…have the right to send people to prison for life without a trial, without legal counsel, and without any specific charge against them.

U.S. Prison
Guantanamo Bay
This policy toward human rights is generally accepted now, particularly since 9/11; whereas, before then, the restraints on treatment of prisoners and commitments to human rights were very firm and unequivocal in the United States.

Death: We [the United States] are the only industrialized nation on earth that still has a death penalty.

In fact, 90 percent of all the executions in the world are in four countries — Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and the United States.

…Almost all of the [U.S.] prison population …, or a large proportion of them, are poor or minorities, or have mental illnesses. … The largest mental institution in the United States is a prison in Los Angeles, California.

…. We [The Carter Center] are very much against the death penalty [and against drones] as a matter of principle. I would like to see the death penalty eliminated. As a matter of fact, when I was governor and president, nobody was executed because the Supreme Court at that time had put a hold on all capital punishment impositions. … My own belief is that the threat of the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime.
JUSTICE (equity) USA

“‘The Greatest Challenge the World [including the United States] Faces in the New Millennium’ [is] the growing chasm between rich people and poor people.
Since … 1980, the income for the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled; and income for the top 100th of a percent has quintupled, because of our political system permitting the more powerful people, the richer people, to benefit from tax laws and so forth.


High school graduation rates in America stopped climbing last year [2012] for the first time since 1890; the cost of tuition in either public or private institutions has increased from 4 percent of average income to 10 percent of family income; and the number of Americans living in poverty has increased 31 percent in just the last five years [2008-2013].

When I ran for office, first of all as a peanut farmer and a governor, against the incumbent, [U.S. President] Gerald Ford … the amount of money we raised for the general election was zero.

When I ran four years later against … Ronald Reagan, we raised zero. We just used a $2 per person check-off.

Now there’s a massive infusion of money into the primary and general election system, unrestricted by the stupid decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. And most of that money is spent on negative commercials to destroy the reputation of opponents.


And that has fragmented or divided Americans into red and blue states and also has divided candidates against one another, so that when they finally get to Washington, there’s no compatibility detectable now between Democratic and Republican senators or members of Congress, or between a House of Representatives that is Republican and a Democratic president.

And the blame is both ways; it’s not just one way.


…Up until … George Bush, Sr. [President George H. W. Bush], America was in the forefront of nations on earth promoting a good environment and dealing with global warming.

We are now one of the laggard countries. The Europeans and many others are moving ahead of us.

Sources and notes

“Challenges of a Superpower” (PDF): Speech by Jimmy Carter to the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, California, February 24, 2013, http://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/news/editorials-speeches/carter-speech-022413-challenges-of-a-superpower.pdf


Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former U.S. President Jimmy (James Earl) Carter formed The Carter Center after his tenure in the U.S. presidency. The Carter Center now has programs in 73 countries — 35 of them in Africa. “We try to go to countries that promote peace, where the United States is somewhat or totally alienated from them,” Carter said in that February speech.

“The Carter Center — we go to Cuba regularly. We go to North Korea regularly. We have fulltime offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah and also in Gaza City. And we deal with both sides within the Palestinian community, as well as with Israel, and with Jordan, and with Egypt, and with Lebanon, and even with Syria now, where we deal with both sides in the terrible ongoing civil war.

“We see the adverse impact of 60 years of economic embargo as [the United States strives] to destroy the economy of the people of Cuba, who are already suffering under dictatorship….
The same thing is true in North Korea, where I go into the countryside and see the starving children, where the World Health Organization and the United Nations World Food Program measure the upper arms of 10-year-old children that are just about as big around as a golf ball. And we [the United States] have a punitive embargo against them, also having lasted now for 60 years.

“But we try to change that. The Carter Center tries to promote freedom and democracy when countries are facing challenges in their governments.”

The Carter Center works with human rights organizations all over the world, Carter says. “We work with Amnesty International, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the whole gamut of them.

“Every year we have what we call a Human Rights Defenders Conference, where we bring in human rights defenders or human rights heroes to The Carter Center to consider a key issue. …

“The Carter Center confronts —drones, the death penalty, women’s rights, and so forth.”

The Carter Center, One Copenhill, 453 Freedom Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30307

In partnership with Emory University, The Carter Center is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.

Five principles guide The Carter Center

·         Action and results: based on careful research and analysis, it is prepared to take timely action on important and pressing issues

·         Not to duplicate the effective efforts of others

·         Addressing difficult problems and recognizing the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk

·         Nonpartisan, acting as a neutral in dispute resolution activities

·         Belief that people can improve their lives when provided with the necessary skills, knowledge, and access to resources

·         Collaborative with other organizations, public or private, in carrying out its mission


First Lady Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter (née Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, born August 18, 1927, Plains, Georgia, United States): American first lady (1977–1981), the wife of Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, and mental health advocate; one of the most politically astute and active of all American first ladies.

After leaving the White House in 1981 Rosalynn Carter directed considerable energy to the same causes that had long interested her: she continued her efforts to improve mental health care and to promote other projects that, as she said, would result in ‘good for others.’

Among these projects was Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helped people to build their own homes. Mrs. Carter also wrote several books, including First Lady from Plains (1984), which was widely praised as giving the greatest insight into her husband’s administration. Jimmy Carter sometimes pointed out that his wife's first name was Eleanor and that she had been as valuable a working partner to him as had Eleanor Roosevelt to her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32nd U.S. President, 1933-1945). Rosalynn Carter’s popularity among Americans was consistently high compared with that of other first ladies.

President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter (full name: James Earl Carter, Jr., born October 1, 1924, Plains, Georgia, United States): 39th president of the United States (1977–1981), served as the nation’s chief executive during a time of serious problems at home and abroad.

After leaving office Carter embarked on a career of diplomacy and advocacy and in 2002 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

He also became a prolific author, writing on a variety of topics. Two books on the Middle East were Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006) and We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work (2009). His interview with Syria's Forward Magazine, published in January 2009, marked the first time that a former or current U.S. president had been interviewed by a Syrian media outlet. Carter also authored The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War (2003) and a collection of poetry.

Britannica bio notes on Carters


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