LBJ Summit: Carter Highlights Inequality As Strong Civil Rights Issue in 2014

CarterAUSTIN-Looking back on America’s past, Former President Jimmy Carter reminded Americans that in 2014, inequality remains one of the major issues in the country.

“We are pretty much dormant now,” on the race issue, Carter said during his sit down session Tuesday at the LBJ Civil Rights Summit in Austin. “I think too many people are at ease with the still-existing disparity.”

Carter was referring to the “gross disparity” and inequalities that exist between black and white people in employment and education quality.

The 89-year old former president is the first of four living U.S. presidents speaking at the  event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The LBJ Presidential Library is hosting the Civil Rights Summit and will be a series of panel discussions keynote addresses that reflect on the nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today.

Carter reminded the audience of key government statistics that show that inequalities do still exist.

One key statistic was government statistics on unemployment. The Black unemployment rate stands at 12-percent, compared to about 6-percent for Whites.

Even though he praised Johnson for his efforts to change civil rights attitudes in the 1960s, he reminded citizens that America has fallen short in the 50 years since improving on the measure and bringing about equal rights and pay for all.

Politically, the majority of whites vote Republican and see racial discrimination against blacks as mostly a thing of the past, blacks vote overwhelmingly Democratic and see racism as an ongoing problem.

Another issue he blasted is the opening up of political campaign financing and contributions as not good for civil rights, democracy and fair political representation

“A lot of that money pours into the campaigns is spent on negative commercials. … So by the time the election’s over, you have a polarized Texas or polarized Georgia, red and blue states. Then, when people get to Washington, they don’t trust each other,” he said.

Carter, the 39th president of the United States, was born October 1, 1924, in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia, and grew up in the nearby community of Archery. He attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. In the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant.

On July 7, 1946, he married Rosalynn Smith of Plains. In 1953, he resigned his naval commission and took over the Carter farms, and he and Rosalynn operated Carter’s Warehouse, a general-purpose seed and farm supply company in Plains.

He quickly became a leader of the community, serving on county boards supervising education, the hospital authority, and the library.

In 1962 he won election to the Georgia Senate.

Growing up in Georgia, he recalled being influenced by black culture and the history of difficult obstacles, odds and conditions that blacks had to overcome and endure in his beloved state.

It was those situations that caused him to call for the end of racial discrimination after he was elected governor of that state in 1970. He became Georgia’s 76th governor on January 12, 1971.

He later was the Democratic National Committee campaign chairman for the 1974 congressional and gubernatorial elections.

Carter elected president and served as president from January 20, 1977, to January 20, 1981.

In 2002, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 “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.”

Johnson began his quest for a more just and honorable America with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most transformational civil rights legislation since Reconstruction and a crucial step in the realization of America’s promise. In the years that followed, LBJ passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“LBJ’s courage changed my life,” he said. “His courage changed America.”

During Carter’s presidency, he faced some difficult challenges and with some successes. Some significant foreign policy accomplishments of his administration included the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He championed human rights throughout the world.

On the domestic side, the administration’s achievements included a comprehensive energy program conducted by a new Department of Energy; deregulation in energy, transportation, communications, and finance; major educational programs under a new Department of Education; and major environmental protection legislation, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Carter also spoke of unequal pay, violence and discrimination against women in other countries and of problems in the United States. He also laid the groundwork for future discussions on the role of women and the treatment and abuses of women as the new civil rights battle for modern times.

He has worked to advance human rights, with a focus including women’s rights, addressed in his book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.

“Human rights abuses are everywhere in the world,” he said. “America must set the example for the world.”

The permanent facilities of The Carter Presidential Center were dedicated in October 1986, and include the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, administered by the National Archives.

The Carters have three sons, one daughter, nine grandsons, three granddaughters, four great-grandsons and five great-granddaughters.

Bill Clinton will speak today and President Barack Obama is scheduled to give the keynote address Thursday. George W. Bush will be the event’s final speaker Thursday.

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