Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beyond the White House by Jimmy Carter

From the publisher's website: This is the story of President Jimmy Carter's post-presidency, the most admired and productive in the nation's history. Through The Carter Center, which he and Rosalynn Carter founded in 1982, he has fought neglected diseases, waged peace in war zones, and built hope among some of the most forgotten and needy people in the world.

The Carter Center is the home of the Carter Library and the offices for Jimmy and Rosalynn's efforts around the world. Beyond the White House was organized in three different sections. The first and lengthiest section was about the Carter Center work mediating disputes between nations. This section was arranged by location. Jimmy would say, "Let's talk about Palestine." and then he would tell the tale of that particular situation. That format made it somewhat difficult for me to follow because I think chronologically and I also have very poor geography skills! I kept expecting things to be in a sequence of dates but they weren't. There were the occasional moments that I could actually remember from my own history and with those I had a bit of a peg to place it into a timeline. But for most of that section, I was pretty lost. Carter constantly reiterated that he always sought the permission of the United States government before any mediation or negotiations would occur. However, he reported that sometimes later, the given permission would be publicly denied by the United States government. Growing up in Georgia, we were all very excited to have Carter elected president and my impression of him has always been that he was an honest and Godly man. So I accepted all these assurances that he was operating with the blessing of whatever administration was current. My MIL had a distinctly different opinion and has little respect for Carter's work because she views him as a renegade. No decisive conclusion on that - just interesting to me how opposite our viewpoints could be each based on nothing more than our gut instincts - and hers perhaps on a lot of Fox News.

The next section was Rosalynn describing her efforts with some social program - perhaps literacy? It was fine. As you can guess, "fine" didn't make much of an impression on me.

But then came the section on the Carter Center's efforts to eradicate neglected diseases. This part was good. The descriptions were fascinating. Most of these diseases I had never heard of before, others I knew a little bit about. When David Sedaris described Hugh and his mother experiencing guinea worms in When You Are Engulfed in Flames it tickled me silly. When Carter describes them emerging slowly and painfully from these poor villagers who could have prevented the entire experience with such basic hygiene and health is no longer ticklish, it still gives you a sensation in your stomach but it is not funny. The most vivid image was Carter describing some poor children in a remote area - probably Africa - that from a distance appeared to be wearing thick rimmed glasses. But when he got closer, he saw that the ring of black around their eyes was a circle of flies feeding on the matter. Egads - that picture will stay with you awhile!

I can't say that I would recommend this book to anyone. I listened to it as part of the U.S. President's Reading Project but there are probably better, more interesting choices out there. This is my second book for the U.S. President's Reading Project.

This is one of my books for the 2009 Audiobook Challenge too. 6/12 completed on that one - click on the button to see how it's going!

1 comment:

Lezlie said...

Nice job! I think it's the first Jimmy Carter book reviewed for the Challenge!