In August, I listened to radio host Barbara McVeigh pitch her idea for a weeklong celebration of former President Jimmy Carter beginning on his birthday, October 1. Carter took office when I was a senior in high school, and not much interested in politics. But I remembered he put solar panels on the White House, and my impression of him was as a sincere, compassionate straight-talker. So I was interested. Then she said, “I see this as a positive form of resistance. Shining a light on the kind of leader we value.”
Carter, I realized, was a clean energy visionary during his presidency. He installed solar panels on the White House and established the Department of Energy and recycling programs in government. He encouraged energy conservation, and asked us to turn down the thermostat. He warned about fossil fuel and foreign oil dependence and initiated tax incentives for home insulation and solar energy. Recently, solar panels were installed on his farm to help power his town, Plains, GA
Through the Camp David Accords, Carter negotiated a treaty between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that brought peace between these two countries, ending decades of war.
Carter’s seeking peaceful solutions to conflict around the world continues through the Carter Center he founded in 1982 with his wife Rosalynn. The Carters advocate for health, human rights, economic opportunity and election fairness, improving life and alleviating human suffering in more than 80 countries. And his work isn’t just diplomatic or administrative. This summer, he was briefly hospitalized after becoming dehydrated while hammering and sawing alongside Habitat for Humanity volunteers building homes for low-income residents.
Despite having won the Nobel Peace Prize, UN Human Rights Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it seems Carter is little known as a human rights leader. Yet, each year he hosts the Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum, inviting a relatively small group of activists, scholars and community leaders from many countries to share experience and tactics. This year, with many governments trying to suppress public debate and activism, the Forum focused on protecting human rights in an era of rising authoritarianism. He and Bernie Sanders talked live on Facebook about the dangers of intolerance and repression becoming part of the mainstream.
As Carter said in his Farewell Address to the nation upon leaving the presidency, “If we are to serve as a beacon for human rights, we must continue to perfect here at home the rights and the values which we espouse around the world: a decent education for our children, adequate medical care for all Americans, an end to discrimination against minorities and women, a job for all those able to work, and freedom from injustice and religious intolerance.”… “Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities – not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.”
In Marin County, California, we’re shining the light on Carter’s accomplishments and character and wishing him a happy 93rd birthday. The Novato City Council and Marin County Supervisors proclaimed Oct. 1-8 President Jimmy Carter Week. The Marin Democrats passed a resolution honoring Carter and supporting the celebration week.
Our celebration includes broadcasts, music, a mixer, a
video birthday card and a film by Swiss filmmakers Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller who, along with Michael Stocker from Ocean Conservation Research, will join us for the screening. Their film, A Road Not Taken, focuses on Carter’s White House solar panels and energy policy. I wonder if we would be experiencing climate change today, if we’d stayed on that road?
Carter’s birthday coincides with the ending of the San Francisco Summer of Love anniversary celebration when a heart will be drawn in the sky over the Golden Gate Bridge. That gives us a unique opportunity. We’ll take a group photo with the bridge and heart in the background to include in his video birthday card, belatedly sent, of course. See jimmycarterjamboree2017.com for the full week of activities.
If you’re not in Marin, but would like to join us, sign our MoveOn petition to wish him happy birthday. We’ll incorporate everyone’s names and messages into the video birthday card.
Carter’s lifetime accomplishments, his humanitarian values, vision, courage, compassion, integrity and humility, inspire those of us involved in this project. We hope, through our light-shining celebration, to inspire others too.