I'm in Atlanta for a conference, most of which takes place today, Saturday and on Sunday morning. Yesterday, other than registering for the conference, I had a free day. I decided, geekiest of the potus_geeks that I am, to spend part of it at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library (and the other part at a Braves game!) Here's what I saw at the Carter Library:
The Carter Museum is not easy to access for a first-time visitor to Atlanta. Google maps told me it was a short walk from one of the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) train stations, but it sure didn't feel like such a short walk to me. Although the Carter Center has an address of 433 Freedom Park Trail, the buildings are up on a hill and aren't visible from that street location. If you're coming here, plan your visit better than I did. There is good bus service connections, but I learned that by fluke rather than by good management. From the photo above, you'll see that the entrance to the museum is very scenic, with a small pool in front.
The people who run the center are very friendly, polite and helpful. From the staff at the cafeteria to the gift shop to the security, everyone was very nice. The tour begins in the gift shop, but having said that, everything is reasonably priced. The first stop on the tour is a video about Carter's life narrated by Martin Sheen. Then it's on to a series of displays about Carter's life in chronological order. Some of these have videos and stations to sit and watch them.
Here are a few of the photos I snapped on my iPhone camera:
1. This is part of the exhibit about Carter's youth. Carter claimed that his father, a farmer, was a typical southern segregationist, while his mother taught him the value of racial equality. He later said that in spite of his father's fault, the man was very generous in many other respects.
2. The section on Carter's run for the White House was very interesting to me. He went from being a virtual unknown, campaigning as the ultimate Washington outsider, in the time after Watergate. Some of the video of him speaking to voters in the primary states is quite fun to watch.
3. Here's a board listing many of Carter's achievements. This was interesting, given that one of Carter's weaknesses was the inability to work with Congress.
4-5 . Here is the oval office replica as it was in Carter's time in office. Note the large portrait of George Washington that Carter used for inspiration.
6. The major achievement of Carter's Presidency, in my mind, was the peace accord reached between Egypt and Israel, remembered in this oil painting.
7. Up close, this portrait of Carter is a montage of other smaller images of prominent places, events and objects during his presidency.
8. Here is Carter's Nobel Peace Prize. He was not awarded this during his presidency, but rather after it, for creating the Carter Center. While the Carter Center is a very noble (if not Nobel) accomplishment, I agree with Rosalynn Carter who said that he really should have received the award at the same time as Menachim Begin and Anwar Sadat received theirs, following the Israel-Egypt Peace Accord.
In my mind, it is important to distinguish Carter the man and the Carter Presidency. I have no doubt that Jimmy Carter is a good man, with genuine motives to make the world a better place, with the welfare of the less fortunate in his heart. His accomplishments as President in combating double digit inflation and 20% plus interest rates, and in earning the confidence of his nation are less meritorious, even if his heart was in the right place. Unlike other museums that look at both their presidents' accomplishments as well as failings (the Reagan and Nixon museums come to mind), the Carter museum makes no such admission. Having said that, I don't wish to discourage anyone from visiting the Carter Museum, and on the contrary, I do recommend a visit here if you are in Atlanta. I enjoyed my visit here very much, and will gladly return if I ever am in Atlanta again.