Former President Jimmy Carter talked about racial disparities, the Camp David peace negotiations, and our country’s inability to act during a conversation last night with LBJ Presidential Library director Mark K. Updegrove, wrapping up the first day of the Civil Rights Summit in Austin, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The 89-year-old Carter, who took the stage after a musical performance by Graham Nash and an introduction by former LBJ Presidential Library director Harry Middleton, said that “too many people are at ease with the still-existing disparity” between black and white Americans, citing high unemployment rates for African-Americans and some schools in the South that are still segregated. “We’re pretty much dormant now,” Carter said.
In a poignant discussion about the Camp David peace accords, Carter said that the last day was the turning point. “We thought we had failed,” he said. But after delivering signed photos of himself with Prime Minister Begin, in which he addressed each of Begin’s eight grandchildren by name, Carter said that Begin responded by saying, “Why don’t we try one more time.”
Carter also discussed wage gaps between men and women, modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and his support of gay marriage. When asked what he thinks is the greatest concern facing the country right now, Carter said, “The government’s inability to act.”
The Civil Rights Summit is a three-day event celebrating the landmark legislation that was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson and helped establish equality among all Americans. Carter was the first out of four living presidents scheduled to speak at the event, which will conclude on Thursday night with a conversation with former President George W. Bush. President Obama will give the keynote address at 11:30 a.m. CST tomorrow. Go to www.civilrightssummit.org for more information.