Monday, November 05, 2007

My evening with Jimmy Carter

Years ago I made list of people I’'d like to meet and talk with - and at the top is Jimmy Carter.

So far, I'’ve only met him once at a book signing. But this weekend, I had a surprisingly personal, yet virtual, meeting with him through the new documentary, Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains

The movie portrays Carter as the dedicated, religious, humble, concerned former president that he is. Even if one doesn't agree with his ideas, he is still a most-admired world leader for his unwavering integrity.

Rarely has he created the kind of real controversy he has with his recent book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

In it, he characterizes the enforced, unequal separation of Palestinians that exists in Israel's occupied territories as apartheid. What’s interesting is that the movie follows him weathering the ire of political correctness. And he struggles to maintain his trademark humility in the face of news sound bites, fiery talk show rhetoric, and pundits looking to pick a fight.

As for the film as a documentary, some reviewers say it’s limited because of the dependence on Carter's public speaking appearances and talk show interviews for much of its material. While it may not be anywhere near a full accounting of Carter's legacy (and traveling with Jimmy Carter isn't exactly going backstage with the Tom Petty), it is still quite compelling. From my feeling of the audience, too, it seemed to derive its appeal from so many sources you couldn’t keep track of them all.

So until I can have dinner with Jimmy Carter, I'’ll appreciate the chance to spend a couple of hours with him through this film.

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