Jimmy Carter Man from Plains – the Movie

Three things happened after I watched this movie:

  1. I got an overwhelming feeling of admiration for Jimmy Carter. I will now go out and buy a biography first, and then I’ll probably read some of his books.
  2. Suddenly I found myself interested in studying up about Palestine and Israel, and the conflict that has been going on for millennia.
  3. I was motivated to look at my own life and start doing some things that matter, really matter, and stop feeling sorry for myself when the job is tough and I go home tired at night.

The movie is a documentary by Demme that follows Carter around on a sequence of trips in the fall of 2006, promoting his controversial book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. You see Carter, at age 83, in an endless string of rides in the backseat of SUVs, led motorcade style by local police cruisers with sirens and flashing lights, in airplanes, hotels, television studios and on the streets.

He struck me as a man with a mission and a vision, endless energy, resourceful intellect and a resounding goodness that permeates him and all those around him.

For a detailed review of this movie, Ebert does a much better job than I can do at:


When we think of Carter, we think of a bumbling president, with inflation in the double digits, a terrible economy, hostages in Iran held for 444 days, and we think of Ronald Reagan coming in like a knight in shining armor, rescuing us from the incompetence of Jimmy Carter as president.

Did you know that Jimmy Carter is widely rumored as one of the most intelligent presidents we have ever had with an IQ of over 170? Clinton is rumored to be in that range.

I have to admire a man that grows up in the small own of Plains, GA, with a population of under 700 souls, works in the fields, gets an education, gets a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, becomes a state senator and governor of his state all before he is 50 years old. Then he becomes president of the United States, only to be viewed as a less than effective chief executive. Then, when others would rest, he starts a new career working on world peace, becoming a Nobel Laureate, helps as a carpenter for Habitats for Humanity, travels the world as one of the most renowned elder statesman, writes a series of books and promotes the cause of peace all over the world.

He does not accept fees for speeches, flies in commercial airliners and carries his own luggage.

In contrast, Clinton made close to $100 million dollars since he left office, mostly from speaking engagements.

Note Roger Ebert’s paragraph on Bush’s comments in contrast, at the link above, duplicated here:

I saw this film for the first time in September at the Toronto Film Festival. On the same day, I read a news story about the new book Dead Certain by John Draper, in which President George W. Bush confided some of his plans for retirement. Bush told Draper: “I’ll give some speeches to replenish the ol’ coffers — I don’t know what my dad gets; it’s more than $50,000-$75,000 per speech — Clinton’s making a lot of money.” In another interview, Bush noted Clinton’s recent work with the U.N. and said that after he retired, “You won’t catch me hanging around the U.N.”

Carter is more than hanging around the U.N. He appears to be a selfless man not driven by ego, but rather by a deep sense of purpose and right. I’d be proud just to shake his hand.

Now I have to go buy a biography. But before that I have to finish the one I am reading now about FDR.

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