Thursday, October 8, 2015

Atlanta, Georgia, Day 2 10/7/15

We began our second day in Atlanta at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Martin Luther King Junior National Historic site and last we drove by the capitol as they were closed by the time we made it there.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum had more to see than we had expected.  It is generally believed that Jimmy Carter lacked the experience needed to move our country forward, especially with the challenges he was given in regards to inflation and the energy crisis.  He was, however, somewhat successful in the foreign affairs arena where he re-established relations with China and also brokered a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.  In the library, with its various videos, one could not help but be filled with the man's honesty and compassion and the work he has accomplished since leaving the presidency is surly to be admired.

The library begins with stories of his boyhood.  He was born in Plains Georgia, in a town of approximately 600 people.  His father was very pro-segregation, owned a local store and dabbled in farming while his mother was a nurse and tended to treat blacks equally .  The town he grew up in was mainly inhabited with impoverished blacks, and Jimmy's playmates growing up were mainly the surrounding black farmhand's children.  All of these things led to Jimmy, at a very young age, growing up to have anti-segregation views which were a contradiction to most from the southern states in that time period. He grew up in a home with no electricity or running water until his teenage years and he personally plowed the fields behind a mule.  We heard how his family emphasized education and that at an early age he established a goal to go into the US Naval Academy, where he would later graduate 60th out of a class of 820.  We learned of the promising career he had as a Navy submarine officer under the legendary Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover (the Father of the Nuclear Navy).  When Jimmy's father died, he resigned his Navy commission to head back to Plains to try and continue some of the political aspirations that his father had begun.  But the first year back was very lean, including the Carters with 3 boys resorting to living in public housing and the farm clearing a meager $200 at year end.  

Fast forwarding...ten years later, in 1963, Jimmy Carter is a state senator.  In 1966 he has a failed run for Georgia state governor and then wins the race the next time around in 1970, serving from 1971-75.  In 1976 he ran for president.  At the time with less than a 2 % name recognition, his campaign strategy was one of morality and honesty.  With voters having just been through the Vietnam war and Watergate, it was the perfect storm for election of personality over experience.   His securing the votes was a surprise to many.

His presidency successes and failures we think are fairly well known.  Successes included the Israel-Egypt Peace treaty, the Panama Canal Treaties, establishing full diplomatic relations with China, the Salt II Strategic Arms Limitation talks, development of the Department of Education and also the Department of Energy, and making advancements in environmental and energy conversation.  On the flip side of the coin, however, he over trusted the Soviets (after negotiating the arms control treaty they invaded Afghanistan) , unemployment and inflation sky rocketed during his term, and of course there was the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  While he developed good relations with some foreign countries, he was not normally thought well of by our NATO allies.

Concerning life in the White house, one thing we were not aware of prior to our visit was that seven Carters actually moved into the White house.  While everyone knows that little Amy their daughter was there with them, so were their sons Chip and Jeff along with their wives and eventually a grandchild too.

Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn are most respected for their work after leaving the White house when they established the Carter Center in 1982.  Their success here are many.  They have helped to advance peace, health, human rights and economic opportunities in more than 80 countries. They are well known for their fight against the Guinea Worm disease, reducing its numbers from 3.5 million people infected in 1986 to just 15 so far this year.  They have observed over 100 elections in 38 countries to assure fairness and have worked to resolve conflicts in many countries including Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and many more.  In 2002 Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."   

In summary, while in many ways he was a president lacking experience, we found him to be intelligent, full of compassion, energetic and truly driven to help mankind.

One more interesting thing we learned at the museum (a bit of trivia really), shown in the pictures below.  The Eagle on the Presidential Seal originally faced the arrows to show strength in war (as shown on the desk).  It was changed to look toward the olive branches in 1946 by President Truman and has remained that way ever since.

Before leaving the Presidential Library we visited the Photo Exhibit by Zeng Yi : The People's China - Village Life.  The expressions he is able to capture in his photography is fascinating.  We have included one of his photos below.

Today was fast-food for us as we still had so much ground we wanted to cover and we were behind our anticipated timeline.  Our next destination was the Martin Luther King Junior National Historic Site. We spent some time in the museum which was broad on information compared to the Civil Right museum we went to in Memphis  Memphis blog. The museum gave a good overview of how Martin Luther King Jr. developed his ideas on so many issues and explained what a great admirer of Gandhi he was.  Our main interest here, however, was seeing his birth home and the church that he grew up in.

The house is located about one block from the Ebenezer Baptist Church where both King's father and grandfather were pastors, and ML (as Martin Luther Junior was called) later became an associate pastor at age 19.  While the family does not allow pictures inside the home, a few can be found at this link: Inside King Home
We began our tour on the front steps of this 1895 built home.  Here it was pointed out to us the neighboring houses.  The King home was located at the dividing mark of the more affluent houses and the working class houses and because of this the children had friends from various economic realms.  The first room we saw was the parlor.  Being the home of a pastor, and used for many church member visits, this room was strictly off limits to the kids except during piano lessons, which all three of the King children were required to take.  Our guide told us stories of how ML was a typical boy and that he hated piano lessons.  One day M.L. and his brother A.D. unscrewed the piano stool to its greatest point and when their teacher arrived and sat down he fell to the floor.  But this did not stop the lessons.  We heard the story of how at the young age of 6 ML sat at the required family dinner table and was asked by his father what was wrong.  He had played daily with a good friend across the street and all of a sudden was told he was no longer allowed to play with him.  ML thought surely that he had done something wrong.  It is at this tender age that his father explained to him about racism.  ML would continue to dislike whites until sometime in his later teen years. We also heard how at each Sunday dinner the children were required to recite a 'favorite' Bible verse and that often ML would choose John 11:35.  It just so happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible :'Jesus wept.'  After dinner the children had chores and we heard how ML was great at escaping doing the dishes....hiding out in the bathroom.  Eventually we were told his father solved the problem by giving him the dirtiest job in the house, keeping the coal loaded up in the furnace in the basement.  Downstairs is where ML's grandparents and his sister lived with his parents, the boys, the aunt and the uncle all living upstairs.  The aunt was said to be very influential in ML's life and read to the children every night.  All of the children were actually born in this house.  During the hot summers, the King children would often sleep on the upstairs porch as the upstairs after baking in the sun all day was pretty intolerable.  

Our ranger tour guide was full of passion. He toured our group of 10 down the narrow hallways of the birth home and up and down the stairs.  His stories were full bodied, contained many impersonations and were told with a realism and character that we seldom get to experience.  He had our entire group laughing at times and after just a few minutes into the tour everyone completely forgot that this really amazing guide was totally blind.

From the house we first walked by the resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and his wife Coretta.  Their resting place is surrounded by a beautiful reflecting pool next to Freedom Hall.  From there we headed to the Ebenezer Baptist Church.  The church was founded in 1886.  The Rev. John Parker, who was born into slavery was the first pastor of the church.  In 1894 Adam William succeeded Parker as the pastor of the church. At this time the church was struggling with only 17 members on its roles.   Within a year the membership had grown to 65 members and there were plans to build a new church.  Services were first held in the building basement in 1914 and the sanctuary was completed in 1922. Williams urged his members to become home owners and to fight for equal accommodations for their race.  Adam William is the father of Martin Luther King Sr.'s wife. Both Martin Senior and Martin Junior were married in this church.  Their funerals were also held in this church.  Martin Senior was pastor of the church for 44 years.  At the age of 19, Martin Junior joined him as an associate pastor. While sitting in the church pews we listened to sermons of Dr. King.

Wow, our day was so more filled than we ever expected.  While we ran out of time to visit the inside of the Capitol, we took the opportunity to at least drive by the outside. The inside we will need to wait until another trip to Atlanta to see.

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Oval Office Display
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Oval Office Display
That is George Washington on the wall without his wig
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Oval Office Ceiling Eagle Facing Olive Branches
Eagle Facing Arrows from Oval Office Desk
(same Desk that President Obama sits at) Oval Office desk
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Portrait of Jimmy Carter by Octavio Ocampo 1979
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Beijing Olympics Coke Bottles
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Kitten Playing with Mantis (a gift to the Carters)
Embroidery from the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute in China
The background was like a window.  Incredible and Beautiful.
Do not miss the silk embroidery from this research institute if
you ever have the chance to see.
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Our Classroom Shandong:Zeng Yi 1982
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Martin Luther King Jr. Birth home
Resting place of Dr. King Jr. and his wife
Resting place of Dr. King Jr. and his wife
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Georgia State Capital-Completed in 1889
Reflection in an office building of the Georgia State Capital

No comments:

Post a Comment