Tag Archives: President Carter

Hero of the Week: March 23, President Jimmy Carter

23 Mar

Hero of the Week

In an age where major party presidential candidates sign pledges of discrimination and turn a blind eye to death threats at their debates and vicious attacks on women from their pet pundits, it is heartening to remember that our country has elected some truly noble men to our highest office. Long-time readers of TSM will know of our admiration for President Carter; after leaving office he made the most of his fame and power and spent his time and energy making the world a better place. He recently published a new book, NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter, in which he addresses faith and the proper role of religion in our civic lives.

A brilliant but humble man, he articulately expresses his own faith and the deep importance of maintaining a secular state. Of particular relevance are his comments regarding the use of religion as a club against women.

I separated from the Southern Baptists when they adopted the discriminatory attitude towards women, because I believe what Paul taught in Galatians that there is no distinction in God’s eyes between men and women, slaves and masters, Jews and non-Jews -– everybody is created equally in the eyes of God.

Are you listening Right Wing Republicans and Tea Party bitter tea bags? Pretty simple, isn’t it? In a later question, Carter addresses a topic that even President Obama waffles on, full  marriage equality.

Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies. I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine.

What an eloquent statement about the separation of church and state, the difference between personal values and legislation, and Carter’s own wonderful understanding of our innate humanity.

Honorable mention this week goes to regular TSM hero Elizabeth Warren. Not content to wait until she’s asked about an issue, Warren has made LGBT rights and marriage equality active parts of her campaign.

Marriage equality is morally right. I’d be glad to see it included in the Democratic platform. It helps raise awareness of the impact of DOMA and it helps build support to repeal it.

Black History Month 2012: Patricia Roberts Harris

28 Feb

Today we honor and celebrate a woman who dedicated her life to social justice and broke the color barrier as the first African-American woman U.S. ambassador, U.S. Cabinet Secretary, and law school Dean: Patricia Roberts Harris. Born in Illinois in 1924, she was committed to her studies and graduated summa cum laude from Howard University. During her time there she also participated in one of the nation’s first lunch counter sit-ins, whetting her appetite for change and social justice. She worked for some years as the Assistant Director of the American Council on Human Rights, a position which she left to attend law school at George Washington University. She graduated first in her class.

She served briefly in the U.S. Department of Justice where she began a friendship with the new U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy. She returned to Howard University and became a professor at its law school. In 1963, President Kennedy appointed her co-chairman of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights. She also worked in local D.C. Democratic politics, becoming a delegate to the 1964 convention and working on President Johnson’s re-election campaign (She sounds like an ideal social worker to me). After he won a return to office, he promptly appointed her Ambassador to Luxembourg, making her the first African-American woman to serve as a U.S. ambassador.

She served until 1967 and then returned to Howard, where she was made Dean of the law school in 1969, the first African-American woman to achieve such a post at any U.S. University. In 1972 she left to joint a private D.C. law firm; during this time she also served as a director at IBM. She also continued to work for the Democratic National Committee, including a stint as chair of the credentials committee. In 1977, President Carter appointed her as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Coming in at #13 in Presidential succession, she was the first African-American woman to be in line for the presidency and the first to serve as a Cabinet Secretary.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, one Senator questioned whether a corporate lawyer was well suited to serve the people who most needed HUD’s services. Famous for her blunt, no-nonsense style, she replied:

I am one of them. You do not seem to understand who I am. I am a Black woman, the daughter of a dining-car worker. I am a Black woman who could not buy a house eight years ago in parts of the District of Columbia!

Nice!  I love the way she confronts micro-aggressions.  After two years, she was appointed Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare a position which became Secretary of Health and Human Services during her tenure. She left the Cabinet when Carter was defeated for re-election. She returned to law and in 1982 was appointed a full-time professor at the George Washington National Law Center, a position she served in until her death from breast cancer in 1985 at the age of 60.

Sometimes described as blunt and tough, Harris demanded the best from her staff and herself during her public service. She was an able administrator who reshaped HUD, which was in disarray when she took over the post. Harris worked hard to rebuild urban neighborhoods and to encourage businesses to invest in troubled areas. Whether working for the government or private firms, she also maintained her engagement in social justice contributing time and money to many causes and continuing a life-long involvement with the NAACP. A pioneer in many ways, Harris (a civil rights heroine) is a wonderful role model for the next generation of people striving for social justice.

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