tv American Perspectives CSPAN February 19, 2011 8:00pm-11:00pm EST
sunday, "q&a," and "prime minister's questions." watch the programming online at c-span.org. c-span, washington your way, a public service created by america's cable companies. >> next, jimmy carter talks about his presidency and the situation in the middle east. chris christie gives a speech critical of president obama's infrastructure and technology agenda. after that, former president george h. w. bush and john lewis received the presidential medal of freedom at the white house. recently, former president jimmy carter sat down at the lyndon johnson presidential library in texas to talk about his presidency and the situation in
the least. he commented on his work with the carter center. this form as an hour and 15 minutes. -- this forum is an hour and 15 minutes. >> my name is tom johnson. i'm a friend of the lbj family. 16 years ago, the first harry middleton lector took place in this auditorium. the next day, ladybird johnson, who established the lectureship to honor the man who was then library director, wrote to him to express her pride and her gratification that the event had been "a watershed day in the life of the lbj library." she was moved by what she felt was the chemistry that the speaker had created between himself and his audience, which was heavily composed that day by
students. contrary to the fog of cynicism and gloom we have seen as a country to have been wrapped in for some time, she wrote, the atmosphere, the chemistry of that day, was so upbeat. the speaker that day, the creator of that chemistry, was president jimmy carter. president carter returned to the library a few years later in another unforgettable apparent. he and president gerald ford once posed a political war that they have waged, met on the stage, and exchanged a very common discourse with the disposition to seek common
ground on the issues that were confronting this nation. it was a display of the american political system at its very finest. no one who was here that day will ever forget that. and, how we need so need that stability and that respect for each other today. so, it is a great honor for us to welcome this splendid man back here once again. i say it from the memory of the rich distinctions that he has already conferred on this library and this school by his visit. 39 president of the united states, winner of the nobel prize for peace, a tireless global traveler for the cause of
as the outstanding new executive director of the lbj library, not quite so new anymore, but a person we are delighted to have in that position, certainly a worthy successor, welcome, mark. [applause] >> welcome to you. thank you so much for being here. we are delighted to have you back. you, at a very precarious time in the sense that i think all of our minds are on what is going on in the middle east right now. there is no u.s. president more associated with the middle east venue. your broker the peace accord between israel and egypt. i wanted to talk a little bit about how you view this situation in the middle east
currently. >> bank appeared to be here and to be at this library. when i was governor, and after lyndon johnson left office, i wrote him a personal letter. i don't know if you still have a torn up. you might want to look at up -- look it up. if you find it, i would like a copy of it. i hand wrote it on an airplane trip. it is still the tender box for the whole world. other places are threatening to erupt. i include the middle east in its totality, including lebanon and also pakistan. i think what you referred to primarily was between israel and its neighbors.
when i became president in ancient days, there was no effort for me to begin trying to negotiate for peace. nobody put pressure on me. there was nothing going on. there had been four major wars in the previous 25 years. all of them led on the arab side by egypt, who was then in bed with the soviet union and all of the military capabilities, including 12,000 advisers from russia. we were supporting israel. when i became president, i wanted to try to bring peace to the holy land, about which i talked since i was 18 years old. i began to meet with major leaguers. -- major leaders. the finance person i met was sought -- saddat.
we were able to get an agreement between israel and egypt in 1978. the pakistan is would be given full autonomy. six months later, we had a peace treaty between israel and egypt in april of 1979, not a word of which has ever been violated. after a up office in january, and voluntarily retired by the election results of 1980, we were still close friends. i visited him in egypt. our wives were friends. his children and grandchildren were friends. our grandchildren were friends. we were very close to each other. october 8 of that year, sadat was assassinated.
mubarak was the vice president and immediately took office. since then, for 30 years or so, mubarak has chosen not to have a vice president. he is spoken about as an enlightened leader following in footsteps, but then he became more and more powerful. they became very rich, investing heavily in the future money- making schemes. he decided not to let anybody challenging for president. for 30 years, they had no elements of democracy or freedom, and it became increasingly abusive. then came the demonstrations in tunisia that were successful. they began three weeks ago, yesterday, in egypt. not organized by any particular group, not the muslim
brotherhood or anyone else, because the political parties had been kept under wraps or out of existence by mubarak. they grew and eventually, mubarak was forced to leave. i don't know what will happen now. in israel and the west bank, in gaza, also in syria as well as egypt, we have been involved there for a number of years. we have full-time officers in those places. i have been negotiating with omar sulieman, chosen by mubarak two weeks ago to be his vice president, which he had never had before. he was head of the intelligence services for egypt. when i went to the middle east, which i do several times a year, i try to have a lunch with him. he knows more about the middle east than anyone else. he had intelligence capabilities there for spies and others.
what will happen now i don't know. the effort by the united states to bring peace between israel and its neighbors is completely at a stalemate. nothing is happening. that is not an exaggeration. it is completely dead in the water. president obama demanded in egypt and cairo about easing the settlement, which was completely ignored. nothing is happening. i think that in the future, we will see may be more flexibility in dealing with the primary issues i have, which is bringing peace to israel and its neighbors. the carter center will be involved as much as possible.
this election will be the first since sadat's death. i will be sending a group over there to see how we can help them formulate a new constitution and also to have successfully elections in september. that might be more than you wanted to know about it. [laughter] >> we need to know. the egyptian military currently holds power in egypt, and they have said they would yield to the democratic process. can we trust that they will make good on their promise? the ostensibly have an interest in protecting the status quo. what are your views on the. >> when the bark decided to step down, he said omar would take over. he was in bed with mubarak. that was not satisfactory to the freedom demonstrators. they refused.
the military has been very congenial and helpful to the demonstrators in tahrir square and other places. they protected them against a very abusive police and others. i think many of the young people had confidence in the military in generic terms to protect them. there is a conference that the military has now. they have only met twice in history. now, they have met four or five times since mubarak left office. it was that meeting together after mubarak was still in office, and they passed word that he had to step down. the military has been in power for more than 50 years. that was a product of the military. the military will be in charge of egypt's security and a lot of
other factors in egypt in the future. my guess is the military leaders don't want to give up their political influence or power, but they have seen what the demonstrators have done, and i think the demands of the demonstrators will not permit the military to keep charge of the political situation. they still have a lot of financial investment in various aspect of -- aspects of the egyptian life. i do not think demonstrators will accept anything other than honest and fair elections, with parties allowed for the first time, both for the parliament of egypt and the presidency. as you know, yesterday, the military junta dissolved the group created under mubarak's leadership. there's a good chance now the military, despite the fact they
would rather stay in power, will give up political power for honest elections and freedom for the people. >> mr. president, how should we view the muslim brotherhood? >> i have known members of the muslim brotherhood. when i go to egypt and other places, i try to meet with all the political >> they also have ties with gaza. i think the muslim brotherhood are not anything to be afraid of in the upcoming political situation, the evolution that i see as most likely, because they will be subsumed in the overwhelming demonstration of
desire for freedom and true democracy. i would say a secular or nonreligious government that we saw in the demonstrations in the last three weeks, and of the muslim brotherhood might put together a party. public opinion polls that i have seen show that only about 50% of egyptians would support the muslim brotherhood. that will be one of many parties to run, and i don't think there is any likelihood at all of them prevailing and establishing sharia or extremist law. >> there is clearly been a domino effect. i am wondering what should the u.s. role be now, and how we balance our security and financial interests with their role in fostering democracy in that part of the world? >> we are, long way in recent
years. although we have been very close to mubarak and other dictators in the middle east that don't permit freedoms as we cherish them, we used to have the same arrangement in south america. when i became president, the previous presidents, including president johnson and others, had been very close to the dictators in south america. most of the countries in south america were military dictatorships. our business community in america form of partnership to make sure they got first choice at iron and steel and bauxite and pineapples and bananas are anything that might be attractive coming out of south america. what our business community and political leaders wanted, and that includes political leaders on both sides in the congress and the white house, was to have stability.
stability is quite often incompatible with freedom. whenever demonstrators like the ones we saw in tunisia and egypt began to rise and south america, we would say they are all communists, and we have to stamp them out, because it might be a threat to us. we would send in marines and the army to back up the dictators in holding down any sort of freedom fighters. that were just poor people looking for a better life. that changed, and i was part of that change when i became president. within five years after i left the white house, every country in south america had become a democracy, and they still are, by the way, although some are not quite friendly with us like venezuela. but anyway, they are democracies. i think this will be a signal for the united states that what
we did in south america, to start doing the same thing in the middle east, particularly in the arab countries. and permit increasing freedom of elections. some countries like jordan, which we visit regularly, have something of an election for parliamentary members. free elections that we have monitored in palestine and the west bank in gaza and east jerusalem have been completely open, free, democratic, and safe. it is almost a pure democracy, although they are in existence right this moment. this past april i was in 11 on and we monitor that election as well. there is some kind of breaking the groundwork in been in some of the arab countries that are controlled from the center, opening up, and i think the u.s. will be much more cautious in the future of taking sides openly or overtly with the military dictatorships,
including arab leaders who are our friends, if there is an honest exhibition of desire for more democracy. even in saudi arabia, there have been 10 leaders, most of them professors who have formed a political party. that is as far as they have gotten. that have asked the king to prove their party. i am sure that if king abdullah says no, they will this band immediately, but they are an example of what freedom means now. i would guess that yemen might be the next scrutable -- next crucial area. bahrain has had very large demonstrations. syria is very stable. they have a young, fairly progressive president who inherited the office from his father. i think that united states in the future will be more amenable to democracy taking over, even in the arab countries where their leaders are close friends.
>> what about iran? we have seen there has been a severe reaction among the leadership, significantly different than egypt. what do you think will transpire there in the coming days? >> about eight or nine years ago there was an honest and fair election in iran and a very moderate president was elected. he served until netanyahu became president. netanyahu was elected fairly the first time when he took office, but then this last election, there is great doubt about whether it was an honest election. the ultimate power in iran is obviously religious. ayatollah khamenei in iran made the ultimate decisions, even be telling what netanyahu says he is about to do on many vetoing what netanyahu says he is about
to do on many occasions. as much as we would like to see it, the president being elected that is not approve directly by the religious leaders -- even in previous elections that i just described in a contrary way, the ayatollah and his religious leaders can decide if a candidate can run or not run for the parliament and for president, so they have veto power over any candidate. they have a very careful screening process to make sure no radicals would be elected who might be a danger to the present law and the leadership of the ayatollahs. >> how has president obama done in handling the middle eastern situation? >> i think he has done quite well the last three weeks in
handling the egyptian situation. at first, he and the secretary of state and the vice president were saying that mubarak was our friend, that we needed to have stability, and that some day there might be a change their and we trusted mubarak to make the changes. that was the first series of statements made by the president and all of his subordinates. as the times change from one week to another, they became more and more supportive of the dissidents who were demonstrating against mubarak and then finally the president announced that he wanted to see the changes made before democracy and freedom now. that is when the board responded very angrily that he would not respond to outside pressure. i would say that in general, that obama has handled egypt very well, about the same way i would have handled it if i had been in office. i would probably have been loyal
to me or in the beginning, because the united states wants to send -- does not want to send signals that we will abandon you the first time demonstrators go public. we have had to show our friends and allies in saudi arabia and other places that we will back you as long as you meet minimum standards on freedom and democracy. but once it became clear that mubarak would not do so, then we did the right thing in giving our support completely to the revolutionaries. they did not want to be branded accurately by the allegation that they would gain control from washington. they wanted the world to know that it was a self originating effort for freedom and that they did not depend on washington to let them be successful.
>> how do you think obama has done since stepping into office in january 2009? >> i think he has done the best he could in domestic affairs, dealing with problems that president johnson and i and none of the predecessors of obama ever had to face. that is a completely polarized nation and a completely polarized congress. you have to remember that the major things that obama advocated when he came into office after promising them in his campaign, sometimes on most major issues that the republicans had supported earlier, he could not get a single vote among republicans in the house or senate. so they made a determination at the beginning, the republicans did, that they would not support obama on anything. after the election in november, during the so-called lame-duck session, they moderated their position a little bit, but he
was faced with opposition in the congress that i never experienced. in fact, my main challenge in the congress when i was president was the liberal democrats. after the first year i was in office, ted kennedy decided to run for president against me, and he garnered a lot of support from the more liberal democrats, so i had to turn to the conservative democrats and moderate republicans to help me, and that is why we were very successful. no one in the last 50 years has been more successful in congress except lyndon johnson. on domestic affairs, he has done the best he could and has prevailed on a number of issues for which he has not gotten much credit. as far as the middle east is concerned, i was pleased when president obama made the speech in cairo calling for an end -- i and almost all of his predecessors have said that
every settlement building in palestine was both illegal and an obstacle to peace. when he made his speech in cairo, he said that all the settlements have to seize, but under great pressure, which i experienced myself before i was president and after i left, i know how that pressure can be. he has completely backed down, and more recently has been full accommodating to the demands of netanyahu and the israelis, it even more than george w. bush was. as a matter of fact, a few months ago, the obama administration's spoke person, you'll recall and, made an offer to the israelis of things that no previous president had ever offered them, just if they would stop building settlements for three months. netanyahu turn them down.
as a result of that, i think president obama has basically given up on peace in the middle east. so we don't have anything going on now as far as bringing peace between israel and the palestinians. his concern in israel and the syrians on the golan heights, israel and lebanon. nothing is going on. in the past number of months when omar suleiman was negotiating between one group of palestinians and hamas to bring them together with the reconciliation so they could have another election, the u.s. basically vetoed that whole process because israel preferred that they not be reunited. ofi don't have any feeling
success in what president obama has done in the middle east. i am not here to criticize him but you ask me, and i have told you the truth. i hope is that the shake-up in egypt and the potential shake up in other countries will cause some new flexibility in addressing the issues on which the entire international community agrees, that israel should withdraw from the west bank and east jerusalem, except to modify the borders were the main settlements are and that the palestinians should be given the right to have their own elections and choose their own people, and they should live in peace and harmony with the two- state solution. the impending threat now is a one-state solution, which means just one israel all the way
between the jordan river and the mediterranean sea. at this moment, jews are in a minority. there is a majority of non-jews living in that one state right now. the israelis still have more number of votes because many of the arabs and a lot of christians and muslims are not yet old enough to vote. it is obvious that in the future there will be a majority living in that one state who are not jews. so israel have to make a choice then of persecuting the palestinians so they cannot vote, or permitting a vote where the jews might be in the minority. they would no longer have control of the whole government. that is something that nobody wants. what we want is a two-state solution with israel living in its present country with
modification of the borders and the palestinians living in their country alongside, living in peace with each other. >> you mentioned something that bears repeating. you have the best legislating that of -- legislative batting average with the exception of lyndon johnson. you also talked about the divisions in washington. can they be repaired, and if so, how? >> i think one encouraging factor is the taking over of the house of representatives by the republicans. i am speaking as a completely objective democrat. [laughter] in the last two years, in my opinion, the republicans have been completely irresponsible,
because they did not have any responsibility. in the white house, the senate, or the house. and now they do have part of the political responsibility, that is how they run the house representatives. i see in the future when there are serious disagreements that obama will make this proposal, it will go to the house of representatives, they will vote it down or amend it, then it will go to the senate for a stalemate because of the very frequent filibuster. then obama can take his position to the public of the united states and say this is specifically what i advocate in the field of welfare, budget, military, or whatever, and this is what i think is right and this is what the majority of senators say is right, and this is a specific position that the
republicans in the house take, so let the public make a choice. do you approve -- agree with meat or agree with them? it will present to opposing views were both sides have some responsibility. i don't know if you follow me or not. it is kind of complicated, but i think that is what is likely to happen in the future. i think you'll see more cooperation in the next two years on key issues then we have seen the first two years, except for the lame-duck session. >> the photo behind us as men of the year. about half of the audience are students here, all of whom are likely not born until after you step down from office. >> much later. >> you talk in your most recent book about the improbability of you becoming president in 1976.
can you talk a little bit about that race and how you eventually got the nomination and ultimately the presidency itself? >> i was just the governor of georgia. there had not been any president from the deep south since the 1840's. because of the race issue, primarily, because we were looked upon as the primary preservers of separate but equal, or racial segregation. our leaders in the congress and so forth were all determined to preserve racial segregation. there was a stigma of the deep south that was very deep. because lyndon johnson became president, and because he
passed the voting rights act and the civil rights act of 1964, it liberated me to overcome that stigma, potentially. i saw that as an opening, a very small opening, that i might fill. i began to campaign when i left the governor's mansion, and i did not have any money. almost all of the democratic party leaders worked for some of the nine write-in candidates running against me, including lloyd bentsen from texas, as you remember. i did not have much of a chance. i campaigned by myself with just one assistant, jody powell, who later became my press
secretary. we never stayed in a hotel or motel. we cannot afford it. none of the people who work for me on the campaign were permitted to stay in a motel unless they pay their own way. when we went into town, we would try to find somebody to let us in the night with them. i would have to stay all night listening to their stories are questions, but we met impact, and so when we left they supported us. i hate to say this in a way, but i was kind of like the tea party the last year. the people that supported me were so fed up with washington that they were looking for somebody to represent non washington politics. we were in the aftermath of the vietnam war and the aftermath of watergate, and the aftermath of the assassination of robert kennedy and john candy and also
more luther king jr.. we were in the aftermath of the church investigating -- robert kennedy and john kennedy. the cia had committed serious crimes, even of assassination. there was disillusionment on the part of the american people with washington, and that was the main thing that i emphasize. i told them i would never lie to them and so forth and emphasize the fact that i was from the deep south, that i was a peanut farmer and that sort of thing. it was because of those volunteers in texas and other places that had never been involved in politics before that i was finally elected. amazingly, still to be, i ran against one of the best man i have ever known in texas, and that was lloyd bentsen.
i beat lloyd bentsen to to one in texas, which was amazing, even now, to me. i had a kind of groundswell of support among people who had not been involved in politics before, and that is really how i was able to prevail. >> but you knew that you would be the first president from the deep south to be elected since zachary taylor. you were a one-term governor from the state of georgia. what made you think you could win? [laughter] but i tell my wife that if i only got two votes, i was going to stay in until the end. my tenacity was one thing, i was not about to back down, even when i had disappointments. i had several disciplines and embarrassment's where i made mistakes, but i stuck with it. at first my only potential
opponents that was well known -- one was ted kennedy, who was running for president, and the other was george wallace, a segregationist from the deep south. my idea when i first began to think about running was that i was between kennedy and wallace as a moderate, and that would be my avenue to the white house. when ted kennedy withdrew from the campaign after chappaquiddick and so forth, i saw a lot of very wonderful people, most of them out of the u.s. senate and from the house of representatives enter the race against me. so i was disappointed, but i kept going. the reason i first got in it was i thought it was between me and george wallace and ted kennedy. >> what is your proudest accomplishment as president?
>> i think the product accomplishments in general terms is maintaining peace. we never dropped a bomb, we never fired a bullet, we never launched a missile when i was president. the main thing is that we try to bring that sort of relationship to other countries. i have spent a lot of time negotiating between israel and egypt to prevent another war and to normalize diplomatic relations with the people's republic of china, and working in africa with the zimbabwe and south africa to try to bring democracy. those kind of things. the number one thing of which i am most proud i guess would be the treaty between israel and egypt, which is precious even
today. >> it still remains in effect after all these years. >> not a single word has ever been violated. back we talked at great length about your post presidency, which talked-about as being the most satisfying chapter in your life. talk a little bit about the work you have done at the carter center and its impetus upon leaving the white house. >> when i left the white house, i was fairly young, just 56 years old. my life expectancy was 25 years, so my first question was, what am i going to do the next 25 years? i had already been accomplished peanut farmer and a good fertilizer salesman, did not want to go back to that. i made a foolish statement that i would not serve on corporate boards or spin my life making public speeches for money, which is not a wise thing to say.
[laughter] so i did not know what i was going to do. i had the responsibility of raising money in building a presidential library, and that was not good for a defeated democrat who has no plans to run for future office. i had the same problem that gerald ford face. as we approached the planning stage of the core presidential library, -- carter presidential library, i wanted to former carter center separately. my first thought was that i would just have a place like camp david where people that had a conflict on their hands, say from a foreign country, could come to the carter center and i could negotiate between them. i would be glad to go to their country. that was the whole idea. later we adopted a policy -- we decided not to ever duplicate what the united states was doing or the united nations or
the world bank or harvard university, but just to do things that nobody else wanted to do. that got us more and more involved in health care in africa. senate by% of our total budget and personnel -- 75% are budget is devoted to health care in africa and to some degree in latin america. we have addressed diseases that are not any longer known anywhere in the rich world. to some degree, malaria. that is what we do in countries all over africa. we also had a major agriculture program for about 15 years where
we would go into small farmers operations with an average of only 2 acres of land, and we would teach them how to increase their production of basic food grains, corn, wheat, grain, rice, and we educated 8 million farm families on how to double or triple their production. we looked on that as part of health care, like it would increase nutrition, because everything they grew they could eat or sell the surplus. that is how we got started in the outside world. as we win in those countries and became involved deeply on the village level, of eradicating diseases and giving people madison, teaching them how to do better in agriculture, if they had a conflict like a civil war, they would ask the carter center to help them resolve it, and i was eager to do it. if they had made the first
election for a democratic election, the last thing they want is for the united nations to come in, but since we were already there, they asked us to do it. we just finished telling our 82nd election in southern sudann egypt. that is how the carter center has a vault. we still negotiate for peace agreements. we still hold elections and promote democracy and freedom. the most important aspect is the commitment to a mental health. she is now the world leader in trying to remove the stigma from mental illness and to promote mental health in this country and around the world. >> you talked about tenacity. anyone who knows about your career knows that that is true,
but no more so than when you took aim at two particularly insidious and pervasive third- world diseases, guinea worm disease and river blindness. you talk about how this -- how pervasive those were and why you decided to take aim at them. >> guinea worm, you may remember reading about it. the symbol for a doctor is a staff with most people think a staff -- snake. it is actually a guinea worm. it is a horrendous disease brought on by drinking impure water route to the stagnant pond. in most places in africa, they have a pond that fills up during the rainy season. they drink the water during the dry season. they don't have wells or running water.
breeding in those stagnant waters is the guinea worm ag. if people drink the water, and it has eggs in it, they will have one growing in their body. it gets to be about 30 inches long. when they get ready to be merged, rejectem -- emerge, they make a horrible sore that destroys muscle tissue. it emerges from the cuban body and takes about 30 days to come out -- from the human body and takes about 30 days to come out. they are female, so they lay more eggs. we find out about this in 1985. nobody wanted to deal with it.
it is an isolated villages. they are scattered all over africa and india. i adopted the total eradication of this disease as our first major health project. we started a general survey in every country that had guinea worm, starting in pakistan, by the way. we found guinea worm in 23,600 villages. the carter center has been in every village. we had 3.6 million cases of guinea worm. we began to treat the problem by giving people a very fine net or filter cloth that they could strain the water through. we have reduced now from 3.6 million, last year, we have less
than 1/10 of 1%. 1600 cases in the whole world. [applause] >> i don't want to take too much time, but river blindness is a prevalent disease in arab countries. when you have a rapid stream that bubbles, tiny flies breed in the water. they sting people. an average young child gets stung 30,000 times a year. the stings are ugly and painful. they lay eggs inside the body that becomes small worms. those worms come over 12 years, travel through the bloodstream and wind up in the eye. they attack the eye and cause
blindness. what has happened over the centuries is that people move away from the streams to get away from the flies, and they moved up on the hillside. they move out of the bottom lands. it is productive. that has happened all over africa. we decided we would address that. the ceo of merck and co. developed in medicine called heartguard for dogs. a scientist found this heartguard will also do away with guinea worm. he came to the carter center and said they would give us the madison free of charge if we would deliver it to the people and control the disease. i went to africa with the ceo of
merck, and we got on television. i said, you have given us medicine. would you give it to us all over the world? he was on television. [laughter] he finally said yes. [laughter] last year, the carter center treated 11,300,000 people with free medicine from merck and co., and none of those people will have river blindness. the worms that live in sores on your back still breed that tiny little microscopic worms. if you get rid of those, nobody goes blind. restarted in south america giving the medicine twice or four times a year. now we are in the process of
doing away with river blindness in south america. we are trying this also in africa. it is a major thing for us. the problem is that you cannot send the pills to villages and ask them to give it to each other. if you have river blindness, you would rather have the medicine than a diamond the same size. it does very voluble. somebody steals them and sells them. we have to go in and deliver the pills direct in amounts -- the mouths of people. we train people to do this. it is a challenge we undertake. >> we ask that the questions be brought to me at the convenience of my staff. let me go back to -- thank you
very much. let me go back to -- leaving office. your post presidency is considered the most remarkable of any president in american history. can you tell us about those first days after office and the questions that you and mrs. carter were asking yourself about your future? >> we really did not know what to do. i was in debt. i did not make any money in the white house. we spent what we have. after i was defeated in 1980, a representative came and told me i was $1 million in debt. the previous business i had that my brother had been running, we have four i years of drought in georgia.
-- we had four years of drought in georgia. i was $1 million in debt. i had to build the presidential library. i did not know what i was going to do. luckily, arthur daniel midland co. decided to buy my warehouse for enough to pay off the debt. i started off from scratch. you know about the history of the carter center. this was a challenging time for me and rose. i was invited -- i had to coiffures to the presidents of universities, but i wanted to get out of politics. [laughter] [applause] i did not want to spend the rest of my life raising money, so i have to do that now. i was also invited to be a professor in the university
system of georgia. they have 33 universities and colleges. i was supposed to go around to different ones and make speeches. i did not want to be controlled by the georgia legislature, either. the university president at the time invite me to teach at emory. they promised me complete freedom of speech. i decided to go. i have been published professor. every month, i teach in a different part of the university. the whole year, i teach in every major department. law, history, political science, theology, religion, english, medicine, and so forth. i have done that now for 30 years. i enjoyed that very much. we have had a very full life in relationships. we had a difficult time the
first two years in getting the carter center started because the reagan administration was determined not to give us any support. sometimes we would arrange to go to a foreign country, and not, with the ambassador leave the country, but the ambassador with sabotaging our whole trip. we have that problem until george became secretary of state. then it changed. we had a hard time at first. we prevailed. we have had wonderful relationships, particularly with the center for disease control, which was next door to us. we deal with presidents and kings, and also with ministers of health and agriculture, and so forth. one of the things that has made it possible for the carter center to be successful is when
i go in, i can meet with the president. if i come to eradicate guinea worm, he may not know what i want. i will say, why don't you bring your cabinet in so i can tell you. that has been the source of our strength. i never have been overseas without getting permission from the white house. sometimes reluctant, but i have always been able to get permission. i always make a written report to the president and secretary of state. usually the secretary of the united nations, when i come back from a trip. when i go to a sensitive area, like to meet with hamas or syrians or the north koreans, i always give a report to the white house. >> what is the funniest thing
that happened to you in the white house? >> it was not funny to me, but it was funny to everybody else. [laughter] one time when i was on vacation from the white house, i went fishing in one of our fish ponds. we have four fish ponds now. we are avid fishers. while i was fishing, my press secretary was there. he was fishing on the bank. i was on the boat. a bunch of dogs were chasing a rabbit. how many of you know about this story? ok. the rabbit jump in the water. rabbits can swim very well. the rabbit swam toward my boat. i splashed water on the rabbit
and it turned and went to the bank. two years later, jody was one drinking -- was with some other people -- [laughter] in one of the taverns in washington. he embellished the story enormously to get a local appreciation or maybe free beer or something. it was a wild rabbit that attacked me in my boat, and i was saved by the skin of my teeth from being bitten. he thought the rabbit probably had rabies. this became the number one story in the whole world. president carter is already beleaguered. he is even afraid of rabbits. i was not laughing, and i am not
laughing still. i still get about 3000 letters a week. i get letters about rabbits. people want to know, if i throw a rabbit in the pond or the swimming pool, will it go wrong? i have had to describe rabbits for a long time. >> infamously, of the killer rabbit story might be a cautionary tale about the effects of alcohol. who's your favorite president? >> i have always said my favorite was harry truman. i can explain that. i was a submarine officer. i was in the naval academy when
roosevelt died and harry truman became president. almost completely unknown. roosevelt never did confide in harry truman. he was on the outside looking in. when roosevelt died, i cried. i had the prospect of harry truman being my commanding officer. my commanding chief. later when i was in submarines, i began to appreciate what harry truman stood for and what he did. i think he was honest. i doubt if he ever used a three- cent stamp if he did not pay for it. he was on -- under tremendous pressure to try to prevent president johnson putting in
place the civil rights act. he was under the pressure of my senator, dick russell, and strom thurmond, and others. truman, already unpopular, he went out of office the most unpopular president in history, said all racial discrimination in the military forces was over. that day. he was convinced by his generals and admirals, and overwhelmingly in the congress, and by many other people in america. he did it. my life on the submarine was changed by that decision. it affected my whole future. after truman left office, there is not much made on civil rights. it was eight years later before
rosa parks sat in the front of a school bus or martin luther king became active. he was eight years ahead of them. president johnson was the ultimate hero in successfully ending legal civil discrimination. truman was my favorite because of that. i would say that the most successful president in my memory was lyndon johnson, who had his great society program. the civil rights act was only one part of it. it was medicaid and medicare, and a massive program for poverty. i was governor when he put into effect the elementary school lacked. i went up and testified in favor of that act. all of those things transformed
the life of america. he was courageous enough to control budget deficits even when he was faced with terrible problems with the budget during the vietnam war. he enforced taxes and other things to make possible. he has been the most successful president by far, and one of the main reasons i am here. >> this question comes from one of our students. how can young people be a positive force in the political process today? >> well, i will say some things that some of you may not like. this is the that first thing i have said that you -- i would like for the young
people, coming generations, to strive for transcendence in political affairs, for superlative accomplishments, not just in your own profession, but in the political life of america. i would like for our country to become a real superpower, and i realize that now, our military is larger than the budgets of the next 20 nations in the world, almost equal to all of the defense budgets honor. i know that we are still the
most powerful economic system honor -- on earth. culturally, we are still number one, with facebook, twitter, google, our music, and so forth. we are still the most powerful and influential country. "superpower," in my opinion for the young people, ought to be a characteristic of a nation that emulates the highest ideals of a human being. i happen to be a christian. i talk quite often of the standards of jesus christ. we know him as the prince of thieves. we know that he espoused justice, and he reached out to
people in need, was forgiving, and so forth. i don't see why the gun people of this nation cannot set as your goals that our country will be a superpower in that respect. what does this mean? one thing is, whenever people in a foreign country are faced with a civil war, i would like for the first thought that came carmines, why don't we go to the united states? the united states is a world champion of peace. the united states resorts to conflict in extremely rare occasions, and tries to resolve disputes peacefully. i would like for people who
want democracy and freedom to say, the united states has the best democratic electoral system on earth. it is not affected by how wealthy candidate is or how much special-interest money can be guarded it -- garnered into an expensive campaign, but anyone can be qualified to serve as president. i would like for the world to say the united states is a champion of environment. in the forefront of the move to prevent global warming, for instance. i would like to see the united states be the most generous nation on earth, sharing our
wealth and resources with other people who are in need, like norway, sweden, denmark, or the netherlands. so, i am not criticizing my country, which i love. it is still the greatest nation in the world. but, the aspects of basic morality, based on the principles of christianity and other religions as well, the united states is not the leader. we are not the leader in preserving peace. the carter center has programs in 73 countries. i would say most of those countries, if you say which is the country on earth most likely to go to war, most of them would
say the united states. we are not in the forefront of environmental issues, but lyndon johnson once. the elections we had in the year 2000, in 2004, showed increasingly the outcome of elections depends on money. it would be impossible now for anybody to be a candidate for either party that did not raise $100 million in advance, or $200 million. so, we have not stigma on ourselves, but we have opportunities to improve in the future. it requires some thoughts that are independent and innovative. i would say, idealistic.
and it is going to be the next generation that will have to bring this about. >> [inaudible] >> i think a lot of people would say, he only served one term. he got defeated the first time. that is not my preference. [laughter] i would like for people to remember that i kept the peace and that i promoted human rights. almost without hesitation, and without too much equivocation. we had some leaders on earth that are not true democrats, but what i explained as south america was one. i would say peace and human rights. that would be my preference.
attack because america is on the wrong track. we are fighting back and we will get it back. >> on a road to the white house, herman cain, is now a potential 2012 republican presidential candidate. what's his appearance from a lincoln day dinner in new hampshire. the state will host their first in the nation primary. road to the white house, sunday. >> abraham lincoln and a unique perspective from 53 scholars, journalists, and writers. from his early years as a lawyer to his presidency and relevancy to date. the publishers are offering c- span viewers of the hardcover edition of abraham lincoln for a
special price of $5 plus shipping and handling. go to c-span.org/books. >> earlier this week, new jersey governor chris christi dismissed president obama's technology agenda. he called on washington to focus on medicare, medicaid, and social security. he said politicians will be rewarded for ideas like raising the social security retirement age. this is one hour 10 minutes. >> when most americans here in new jersey, they think of snooki
and traffic jams. chris christie is the best governor in years. he is a national figure as attested to by today's announcement that he will serve as the republican governor audrey association vice chair of policy. he introduced citizens of new jersey to what he called "a culture of truth." they echo what new jersey and america paltry people believe. he captured the public's imagination with his plane speech and passion. the bridge across the delaware river and the political revolution chris christie estimate is being taken up by many governors across america.
i believe they will give us a dose of his state of the state address. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome governor chris christie. [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. thank you for the introduction and invitation to be here today. i came today because i think it is important for those of us who believe that our country is off on the wrong track to begin the conversation and ford new jersey's is safe to continue the conversation to fix the problems in a direct way. i fear that after watching how
things had been going over the last month or two that we are missing a historic opportunity. i will not participate silently. i gave my state at the state speech for new jersey. what i said it was that i was not going to do the normal state of the state or state of the union speech. george will put it better than i ever could. he said these species have become an attempt to strip the erogenous zones of every constituent in america. they become laundry lists, and things you do for your cabinet said that after sitting in the balcony, you measure the department of labor. i ended up with a good enough reason to give a speech like that, especially during these times.
i said the really big things in that speech. i do not think there will be a disagreement in this room. i do not think there should be a disagreement across the country about what those big things are for new jersey or for america. for us in new jersey it does three things. it is restoring and maintaining fiscal sanity. it is getting our pensions and health benefits under control, reformed, and at the cost lower. it is reforming education system that cost too much and produces too little for our society today and for our children's future. if you look at those three issues, these are not in and of themselves democratic or republican issues. each governor across america is
constructing -- is confronting the same things i am confronting in new jersey. out of control spending in many if not most states. taxes that have been raised to new levels. debt loads that are out of control but for state entitlements and for general borrowing. every governor republican or democrat is facing this problem. if you look at it, just look at our little area of the world. you get me elected as a conservative republican in one of the bluest states in america. across the river, you had the son of a liberal icon to is saying the exact same things i am saying. i defy you to look at the first six weeks of the cuomo
administration and discern much of the difference between what governor andrew cuomo is saying and what governor christie is saying on these big issues. it is not because all of a sudden governor cuomo and i have decided we are members of the same party. we are not. but we are confronted with the same problems. these problems and issues are not partisan. they are obvious and they are long overdue to be stopped. that is why you see andrew cuomo or even jerry brown from california talking about reducing salaries of state workers by 8% to 10% -- saying the same thing that scott walker is fighting in wisconsin, that
suzanne mel martinez is fighting in the massacre. i said to the people of new jersey when i ran for governor that if they gave me the opportunity to be there governor, not only would the state bill on a path toward fiscal recovery, but we would lead the nation because we had a one year head start on everybody because of our audit election year. we had a one-year head start on a huge new class of governors that would come in during the election of 2010. you can imagine how that was received in new jersey. this is a state that during my time is a united states attorney was known for a few things -- political corruption, the sopranos, the real housewives of new jersey, and, regrettably, the jersey shore.
not all of as a leader of things that would matter for our children's future. i believe part of the leadership is understanding, articulating, and believing in that which is special and unique about the people you serve. having been born in new jersey and raised there and lived there all my life, i know that if presented with a challenge directly without any sugar coating, the people of new jersey would step up to the plate and answered the call. after 13 months as governor, there is plenty of evidence that we were right. when i came at to office we confronted a $2.20 billion budget deficit for 2010. we had five minutes left.
the former governor thought it was just fine and did not worry about it. $2.20 billion. my chief of staff brought me a sheet of paper that showed me if i did not act immediately to stop the planned spending that new jersey would not meet its payroll for the second day period in march. imagine that. the state with the second highest per capita income in america has so overspent, overboard, and overtaxed that it would not meet payroll in march of 2010. we acted immediately to use the executive authority without the permission of the legislature. it was not the time for compromise. we did it without raising taxes
on the people in the state who had their taxes raised 115 times in the eight years preceding my governorship. 115 tax and fee increases in eight years. we intended spending and we balance the budget. returned immediately toward this fiscal year we are in now. we are confronted with an $11 billion budget deficit on a $29 billion budget. it is the highest budget deficit by percentage of any state in america. the partisan democrats in my state believe they have the right with they wanted me. he would have to raise taxes. they put it on the table that they wanted to increase the tax that they loved the most, the income tax, and specifically what they called the millionaire's tax. i had to give you some new jersey math. [laughter] when democrats in new jersey
call it a leaner tax, that means anyone who makes $400,000 or over. that is a new jersey math. they wanted to raise their taxes again from 89% marginal rate to nearly 11%. they told me if i did not agree they would close down the government. there would be no budget 2011 without an income tax increase. this had happened four years earlier in new jersey. they argued how much to raise taxes. the democrats controlled the legislature. they closed down the government on a democratic governor because they could not agree how much to raise the sales tax. the governor invited the press into his office, now my office. there was a cot in the office. it is not normally there.
he took to sleeping there until the crisis was averted. i knew these were the same people who had been in the legislature when he was there who were threatening to do the same thing. i decided to call them down early on and tell them we were under new management. i told them if they wanted to close down the government, that was fine, but i was not moving any cot into the office to sleep in here. upstairs, open a beer, and watch the mets. when you decide to reopen the government, and give me a call and i will come back. [laughter] do not think i am is sleeping on some cot. take a look at me.
it is not happening. [laughter] we stood up for our principles. we submitted a budget that cuts real spending 9% year over year, not projected growth, real spending. every department of state government was cut. we balanced the budget. we did it without any new or increased taxes on the people of the state of new jersey for a first time in eight years. the budget was called dead on arrival without an income tax increase. it passed with 99.8% of the line items exactly as they were as i submitted them back in march. that was with a democratic legislature. why? because we stood up for what we believed in. we made it clear we would not compromise our principles.
we compromised on things that were not core principle items. we would not compromise on raising taxes on the people of new jersey. that leads us to today. that is why fiscal discipline is so important. just because we went to that once does not mean we should be patting ourselves on the back and take our eye off the ball. this is a problem that took a decade to develop and it will take longer than eight years for us to fix it. fiscal discipline is extraordinarily important not only for new jersey, but for america. now we have a whole new way of budgeting by in new jersey. we do not assume every program will be funded any longer. we do not assume a certain increase in every budget. the democrats will say they need $10 million of deficits for this year. that is because they are playing
from the old playbook that said that everything i do this year, next year i want to reverse and go right back. that is not going to happen. it cannot happen if states are going to progress and get out of this crisis. we now have to stick to a new type of approach of budgeting from the bottom up, requiring every one of my cabinet officers if they come to me and tell me what each one of their programs cost and how much they are willing to cut it, but say to me which of their programs are necessary and how they need to find them. this is how much money you are getting an whatever does not fit into your equation is ours. we have to find that that which we really need and to do that, we have to cut what we like rather than what we need. you hear this debate going on
down here now. you have folks tell you that every bit of federal spending is absolutely necessary. it is not. in fact, some of it is not even necessary. we have to bring a new approach and the discipline to this. when people say, "you cannot tackle these big problems without touching pensions and benefits." >> that is the equivalent of federal entitlements at the state level. take my word for it, i rolled out my pension and benefit reform in september on a tuesday and on that friday i went to a firefighter's convention with 7500 firefighters at 2:00 on a friday afternoon. i think you know what they had for lunch. [laughter]
quite rolled out a very specific benefit proposal. raise the retirement age, eliminate cola, increase the amount they have to contribute to their pensions every year. those reforms would take our current pension system which is underfunded by $54 million, and cut it in half to $28 million. it gets us on the path to solvency. you can imagine how that was received by 7500 firefighters. i was booed lustily. when i get to the stage, they do some more. i got to the microphone and they do some more and told me i could do better than that.
-- and i told them they could do better than that. they did. [laughter] and then i took away the prepared notes i had. i actually took them all of the podium, crumbled them up, and through them all the ground. i told them i understood their anger and frustration. i understand you feel deceived and betrayed. the reason you feel these things is because you have been deceived and betrayed. for 20 years and governors have come into this room and lie to you, promised the benefits they could not pay for, and make promises they knew they could not keep, and hoped they would the man or woman who would not be left holding the bag. i understand why you feel angry, the trade, industry by those people. why are you doing the first guy who tells you the truth?
the way we used to think about politics. the old playbook says "light, the seed, obfuscate, make it to the next election." estate says that by 2020 the new jersey pension system could be bankrupt. when i told a friend about that study, he asked why i cared. that is the way politics has been practiced in our country for too long and practiced in new jersey for too long. i said to those firefighters, "15 years from now when you have a pension left because of what i did, you'll be looking for my address on the internet to send me a thank you note." leadership today in america has to be about doing the big things
and being courageous. that is what it has to be about. health benefit reform is an analogy to medicare and medicaid here in washington. if you think the workers in new jersey hold on any less strong to the benefits they get from the government -- teachers in new jersey to pay nothing for their health insurance from the date they are hired until the date they die for full family medical coverage that costs the state of new jersey $24,000 per family, you are not paying attention. battles are similar. here is the problem. you cannot fix these problems if you do not talk about them. i look at what is happening in washington, d.c., right now and
i am worried. i am worried. i heard the president of the state of the union speech. he said america was not doing the big things. i am not saying he copied me. [laughter] i think it is important to note what he says the big things are. high-speed rail, high-speed internet access for 8% of america by some date. electric cars on the road by sunday. ladies and gentlemen, that is became the of american politics. those are not the big things. many guarantee you something, if we do not think the real big things there will be no electric cars on the road.
there will be no high-speed internet access. we will not be able to care about the niceties of life, the investments that washington continues to want to make. that is not what we need to be talking about. no one is talking about it. what this has become, i read, is a political strategy. the president is not talking about it because he is waiting for the republicans to talk about it. our new republicans in the house of representatives are waiting for him to talk about it. let me suggest to you that my children's future is more important than some political strategy. let me suggest to you that what the game is being played down here is irresponsible and is
dangerous. we need to say these things out loud. when we say we are cutting spending and say everything is on the table, when we say entitlement programs we should be specific. what is the truth that no one is talking about? here is the truth that no one is talking about. you will have to raise the retirement age for social security. i just said it and i am is still standing here. [laughter] i did not vaporize into the carpeting and i said it. we have to reform medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us. once again, lightning did not come to the windows and strike me dead. we have to fix medicaid because it is not only bankrupting the federal government, it is bankrupting each state government. there you go. if we are not honest about these
things on the state level about pensions and benefits, on the federal level about social security, medicare, and medicaid we are on the path to ruin. now i hear people say we are going to fast. we need to slip down a little bit. i hear the same thing in new jersey all the time. the legislature says they need to steady the governor's reprisal -- proposal. i never worked in trenton before i became governor. they do speak a different language in state capitals and in this capital. when you become governor -- and no one tells you this -- you need to get your angeles translation dictionary. the language in trenton is different. i do not care whether this is a congress or the state
legislature of new jersey, when they say "we need to study the executive proposal," you think they will take the time to consider it and think about it. what it means in trenton and what i suspect it means in washington is "we are going to drag our feet until it dies a natural death because we do not want our fingerprints on it for murdering it, but we also do not have the guts to do it." that is what "study" means in government parlance. in new jersey they call me and patient, among other things. ladies and gentlemen, i think it is time for some impatience. if you think we are moving too slow, think about the specifics. the deficit stands at $1.60 trillion. the social security system is
going to be an assault in 2037. medicare is expected to run a lot of money in 2017. i am inpatient because i want to act now. because i want our health care system to be secure for the future. because i want our retirement system to be secure for the future. one of the things the public sector unions do not understand, they think i am attacking them and their leadership. they are greedy, selfish, and self interested. the members of the union are being ill-served by the leadership of the unions. i am saving your pensions and your health care for the rest of your life. yes you have to take a little less. that is the way it goes. we are in difficult times. there were promises made that could not be kept. but it is no longer time to wait.
leadership, in my opinion, is not about waiting period. i get four years as governor of new jersey. i do not have time to wait. anyone who leads the government has a defined period of time to act. i understand the strategy in washington is waiting until 2012. that is five years away from medicare insolvency. all the excuse be then? these are hard things to do. they are not impossible to do. here is what politicians fear -- you do these things by saying what i say and you'll be vaporized into the cockpit politically. look at what happened and in new jersey and new york. i was elected with 49% of the vote in a three-way race.
i was the first republican elected to state-wide office in 12 years. not with a majority -- 49% of the vote. when i said we would cut education by more than $1 billion, we are going to cut every program we can find in government and balance without raising taxes. and everybody told me i could not do it. they said might attribute -- approval raising -- approval ratings would go into the toilet. i said we needed to start the -- start treating the people of new jersey like they are smart. do you not think they know we are in deep trouble? these are tough, smart, cell where people to understand that we have dug ourselves a hole for more than a decade and a book --
and that we will only get out by climbing. it is time to do it. what has happened? after 13 months of fighting and arguing and pushing and impatience, my approval ratings or 54%. no disaster, in fact, more popular today than the day i was elected. that is in a state that is as democratic as in the state in america for a republican governor. if you really want to see eye- popping numbers, look across the river at the person who was recently characterized as my soul mate. i wonder how he feels about that? [laughter] for governor andrew cuomo, his job approval was at 77%.
they always talk about cutting spending, not raising taxes, taking on public-sector unions, capping school superintendent the hard things, the things people tell you will lead to political ruin. they don't. politicians make this mistake all the time. they run last election next time. they think that what happened before will happen again. they don't look around to see that our country and our states are weighed down by an all betroth -- albatross of irresponsibility. u.s. citizens have permitted us to get away with it. the last example of that is education reform. all i will say about this is
that in my state, where we spend the most in america, $24,000 for people in newark, $20,000 in asbury park, the system says, don't worry, help is on the way. the help as more money. more money. more money is not going to solve this problem until we take on the issues that are really causing the problem. until we are willing to do that, to look the teachers' union in the eye and say to them, you do not represent the best that teachers have to offer. you often represent the worst.
[applause] it is time for us to honestly say that we can separate the teachers from the union. we have great teachers in new jersey working hard and making a huge difference in the lives of many children, but we don't have enough of them. one of the reasons is because the bad teachers who remain are crowding out the opportunity for the good ones. when you have reductions, the last ones in are the first ones out because all that matters is seniority -- seniority and not talent, until we send a new generation of teachers, enthusiastic teachers, away, because we have built a system, as michelle put better than i could, that cares more about the feelings of adults than it cares about the future of our children. i will not take responsibility for that approach. i will not take responsibility
for leaving a generation of children behind in america. i won't do it. we need to speak out and say it is time to fix that system. tell me, where else in america, two places, where there is a profession where there is no reward for excellence and no consequence for failure. we all know the first one. weathermen. [laughter] it does not matter. it will snows 6 inches. its nose 18. what is it different? they are right back on tv the next night. unfortunately, the second one is teaching. the great teacher, the only reward they get is the psychic reward of knowing they have done a great job for children in the classroom. the teacher next door, was lousy and does not care, get paid the same as the teacher who stays
late and comes early, the same as that teacher who communicate with parents, the same as the teacher who feels it is his or her responsibility to let the .hild up to the next greaade that is not what america is. america is built on rewarding excellence and has a consequence for failure. we need to deal with that issue as well, not only in every state, but in america. there is a lot of talk now about partisanship and the negative, angry tone in some of our political debate. there is a time and a place for partnership. i believe in that. so that our founding fathers. they believed in partnership. they believed in vigorous debate. so do i.. it is the nature of our country to have principled disagreements among people of goodwill. i am not disagreeing with folks just for the sake of
disagreeing. i am not fighting for the sake of fighting. i fight for the things that matter. i save my energy for the fight of consequence. as a result, some people say i am too much of a fighter. well, i will tell you, i am fighting now, because now the time that matters the most to new jersey's future of america's future. we are teetering on the edge of disaster. i love when people talk about american exceptional as an -- exceptionalism, but that has to include the courage to do the right thing it cannot just be a belief that, because we are exceptional, everything will work out okay. part of being truly exceptional is being willing to to the
difficult things, to stop playing the political games, stop looking at the bumper pool of politics and step up and start doing the right thing. this is the new era that we elected officials have inherited, whether we like it or not. that is the story. we have two choices, either stand up and do the right thing, to speak the truth and speak it bluntly and directly or to join the long parade of leaders who have come before us and failed. and maybe people will not remember us. maybe they will not pinned responsibility for failure on us because there has been so much failure around us. but i did not run for this job for failure. i ran for this job for success. for success not just for me,
personally, and my children, but success for my state and, hopefully, to provide an example for the rest of the country, that you can do the difficult things. it seems to me that what america is really all about is a group of people that came from every corner of the surf because they wanted a chance for greatness -- corner of this earth because they wanted a chance for greatness. that is what made us the greatest country on earth. are calling at this time is to confront these issues, to save them aloud, to stop playing around. let's not waste another minute. you know, the world war ii generation was called the greatest generation and they were because they put their lives on the line to protect our way of life. they're called -- -- the greatest generation because we
judge them. we judge them in the aftermath. and we found them to be great by any objective measure. let me guarantee you. we will be judge, too. we will be judged by our grandchildren and our children. in this moment of crisis, what can we do? do we barriers -- bury our heads in the sand? do we surround ourselves with creature comforts and believe that, just because we are america, everything will be ok? or will our children and grandchildren and say that, in this moment of crisis, we stood up and did the hard things that made the future of grain as possible for them? believe me, we will be judged. i know the way that i want that judgment turned out for me. and i know of that, in the hearts and the mines of most -- and the minds of most new jersey
yans, how they want that judgment to turn out for them. it is time to do the really big things that will lead america to another century of exceptional was of -- of exceptionalism and not another century of second- best. that is why i came down here to talk to you today. thank you very much. [applause] thank you. thank you. we have some time for a few questions.
ok, back there. yes, sir. >> jimmy wine stain from "the daily callecaller." the change that needs to begin needs to begin now or by the next election cycle. you said that you do not plan to run for president in 2012. no matter what you do in new jersey to fix the fiscal situation, it does not matter if washington does not get it right for the nation. is there any conceivable scenario where you would cede the field as not talking about these issues you're talking about that and say that you're the only one who is talking about them and say that you must run? >> that took a long time, did not? [laughter] i was talking with my wife this morning down here in d.c. i was talking with my wife and i started this q&a. and she said to me, "you do not
think it will ask you about running for president, do you? i said, no, no." i threatened to commit suicide. [laughter] i did. what to have to do short of suicide to convince people that i am not running. apparently, i do have to commit suicide to convince people i am not running. [laughter] this comes from the heart. it is what i really believe. you also have to believe me when i say to you that you have to feel in your heart and in your mind that you are ready for the presidency. you will find a lot of people who will run only because the opportunity presents itself. i am not stupid. i see the opportunity. i see it. that is not the reason to run. that is a lot of white people to run. they see the opportunity. -- that is why a lot of people
do run. they see the opportunity. you have to believe in your heart and in your soul and in your mind that you are ready. i do not believe that about myself right now. that is what i have settle long. i cannot imagine that -- that is what i have said all along. i cannot imagine that changing. believe me, after a year of great progress, we are nowhere near fit. i'm challenged and energized by the job in new jersey and wanted to the best i can to finished that job. plus, my wife would kill me. [laughter] we have been married for 25 years. there are certain things that you know are locked in. there are certain things that you know are locked in and that is on the list. >> -- >> i thought you were a great looking guy. [laughter] >> may be the only idea that one
of your predecessors had that seems to have made sense, having grown up in new jersey, is this idea of consolidating a lot of the small towns -- i grew up in a town of 10,000 people, one square mile, and you think about the duplication of the town government, the police forces, the fire department. i suspected that idea your predecessors as still being studied. >> it is. >> i wonder if it is something that you think is still a viable option in new jersey. >> i do. but i want to do it in a different way. rather than try to force consolidation on people from a single office in trenton, if we put a 2% cap on property taxes, a 2% cap on workers, and now we will have to make some tough choices. one thing we will have to consider is shared services or
consolidation. it will be difficult to sit under that cap without doing some of these things. but i want to localities to decide that. i live in benton county, new jersey. it is 5000 people. it is shaped like a horseshoe. inside the horseshoe is another 5000 people. when the township went to the burrow to say, let's talk about consolidating our police forces, you would have thought that there was an uprising happening inside the town. if that gets imposed from trenton, it will have no validity and they will fight it just for the sake of fighting it. it is part of new jersey's character, as you know, from being there. if you want to control property taxes, this is one of the things you have to consider. you have a 2% cap. the only way to violate it is to go to the voters and get them to vote to exceed the 2% cap.
in the current environment, i see that unlikely. so we have to consider shared services between towns where appropriate. w. the second roa >> on the constitutionality of obamacare, will you alter your approach to the implementation of it in light of the recent court decision? >> one of the things we did was, all the republican governors have written a letter to attorney general holder. the implication is implementing a law that is still in dispute. it is significant. we should get this to the supreme court and get this decided. depending upon what your
attorney general will say, depending on what your law department will say about what you have to do or not do in response to a whole variety of different judgments that have been made on this, that makes it very difficult for us. that is why we want to give it to the supreme court and have decided. i have made no secret of the fact that i am not a fan of the president's plan and some of the flexibility that it takes away from us on issues like medicaid and what not. but now, we are complying with the law. we are doing what our legal counsel is telling us we need to do. but we are begging for someone to clarify the law quickly. the only people who are going to do that are the people who sit at the supreme court. i hope they get it there sooner rather than later. i hope this is not another political strategy to slow-what this thing to make it inevitable. 29 republican governors are not inevitable by any stretch. yes, ma'am. >> to follow-up on that
question, why have you not joined the other governors in the efforts of a lawsuit against obamacare? >> for once, i want new jersey to get a free ride. [laughter] this is a completely foreign concept to the people of new jersey. there are 26 states pursuing this lawsuit. if it is unconstitutional in florida and other states, it will be unconstitutional everywhere. obviously, when i got there, as a trial lawyer, the appellate court thinks, "we got 26 states. they win." that is not the case. for once, new jersey taxpayers will get to benefit for free. i have no desire to be in the middle of that. not because i philosophically
disagree, but because, physically, we do not need our lawyers to join the parade. 26 other states are doing it. war may do it. i understand that governor fallon may do it in oklahoma. i do not have the money to do it. we will let them decide if it is unconstitutional. if they find it unconstitutional, i do not think that they will find the state needs tuesday exempted out. [laughter] >> do you believe that it is no longer the case that social security is the third rail of american politics and you cannot touch it? or are you simply advising your fellow republicans and your fellow executives to take a stand that maybe -- that you believe may be politically fatal? >> i was right with you until
the last clause of that sentence. think the world is changing. i think you will be rewarded for kurds. i think that those who do not show courage will get the office -- i think that you will be rewarded for coverage. i think that those who do not show courage will get the office. what they don't know is shared sacrifice. they want everybody in this thing. if they think the people in washington or the people in trenton are gaming the system and people are getting special vantage and everybody else is getting harsher treatment, they will get some of the third real treatment. but i think these folks believe that they have a group of leaders who will say to them, "this is what is necessary. we will do it fairly. we will share the sacrifice." i think the american people and the people of new jersey will
step up to the plate and be part of that shared sacrifice. we cut everything. everybody said that my approval ratings would tank. instead, they have gone up. that is not because people are not paying attention. it is because people are paying attention. oh, man, people are actually talking to us like we are adults. they are telling us the truth. i understand there would be cynicism. they thought they watched this movie over and over again. understand why you would be cynical. all i am telling you, from out in the field, i think there is something different going on in our country right now and i think the people ready to hear the truth. again, you have to show leadership and show people you're willing to do it first appeared i could not sit back in new jersey and say, and we have a pension benefits problem. i think a will wait for them to come up with a solution.
it took five months. this week, the democrats and the legislature have come up with their plan on pension reform and benefit for four. now we will have a debate. we will have this discussion. i think we will get to a fix. it will not be the perfect fix that i want. that is what comes with divided government. but i started the conversation and i took the risk to put my out there first. in the beginning, the democrats and the legislature to the same thing as down here appeared less see if he gets burned at the state first before we go in. all of a sudden, for five of us later, approval ratings going up, they think, let'this looks e a good idea. you just have to have the spine to say that i'm good to take the risk. but that is what you elect leaders for -- hence the name. [laughter]
if you are waiting midway back in the pack and call yourself a leader, it seems to me that that is not consistent. if you want to be a leader, lead. it does involve some measure of risk. everything does that is worth something. but what did you get sent to this before? really. what did we come to do this for? just to collect a title? before i got this job, i had plenty of titles. i do not need new titles. i came here to achieve and to succeed. and these jobs give you an opportunity to do that like no other jobs that are available, in my view. but you have to step up to the plate. yes, sir, in the back. >> you talk about your disappointment with leaders in washington on entitlements.
are you encouraged by house republican decision to address entitlements in this year's budget? is that encouraging to you? what you think about that? >> i had a budget house republican who called and asked me to campaign for him. and i did. i campaigned in a bunch of different spots in the country. and i say the same -- and i said the same thing to them than that i say now. it is put up or shut time. i will be really clear. if people do not like campaigns and stand up and do the right thing, the next time you see me, this is my arm around the primary polling. [laughter] if you ask me to put my reputation on the line for you, based on a problem -- priest -- based on a promise that you will do with the hard issues, i will
wait-and-see. that is not to be critical of them and of their integrity. but what i am saying is, it u.s. for the responsibility of leadership, -- if you ask for the responsibility of leadership, then you have to do it. there's always some measure of risk in that. always. if you are here just to mark time, the lead. there is something else you can do. >> following up on these questions concerning the third rail, again, one fear i have is that, when it comes to cutting spending, as we are all aware, to put it in the abstract, when you put it in the specific, that is when the third real kicks in. one strategy -- are you in
courage with starting with the low hanging fruit first with programs of people do not like a particular? is it really time for the demographics that is most interested in medicare to be most optimistic about the idea or would except cuts in its program before anything else is cut? >> first of all, there is not enough low hanging fruit to make a dent. ok? fine, should we cut other for it? i cut every department in state government. but that is just the start. i do not think that one is the prerequisite of the other. there's not enough of the other. if you want to do things to cut other discretionary- domestic spending, then you should do that. it is fiscally responsible.
but if you do not feel, with social security and medicare/medicaid, that your participating -- that you are participating in a failing proposition, you will not get to the root of the problem unless you go to that spot. you have to. from my perspective, i do not think that one should be the prerequisite for the other. trotting out all of the same old songs about what we will cut and how we will do it, i think people are bored with that. they know. they know. seriously, is there anybody that you know, except for some of the dumbest people you know, who do not understand that we are in a health-cost crisis? [laughter] is there anybody that you talk to who does not understand that we are going 15 to one social
security payouts for recipients down to two to one? of course, there are some people do not get it. but the job of leadership is to explain it. i went out from september to december to 17 town hall meetings in new jersey, republican towns and democratic towns. the reason for doing it was to explain to folks why what we're doing is important and why their support is important. and to enter the question of the scared teacher who believes the garbage the union tells her, that i am -- and to explain the question of the scared teacher who believes the garbage the union tells her, that i'm taking their pension, or the police officer who bullies were taking their raise -- who believes we are taking their raise, they are not getting raises. think about this in new jersey. in newark, new jersey, the cost
of a police officer is 68% fringe benefits. 32% salary, 60% fringe benefits. i do not have any problem with saying to the police officer, whose service i honor, that you have to change. i think that my neighbor and my neighbors never get it, too, even if their son or daughter is a police officer. they get it because they pay taxes also. there's no free lunch anymore. we have to fix them. i can take one more question, i think. i am getting that rep. yes, sir, in the back with the blue and marin tie. -- blue and maroon tie. >> yesterday, president obama said that, under his budget proposal, by the middle of this decade, our annual spending will
match our annual revenues. we will not be adding to our national debt. a palette, he got to that statement without -- apparently, he got to that statement without adding the interest on the national debt. >> i have enough problems with my own budget. i have not looked at the president's budget. maybe some of you have build deeper. i waited -- i was very hopeful for the state of the union address. i thought the president's speech in arizona was great. i thought it gave him momentum to feel like the country was really behind him after he went through a difficult time and a difficult election. i thought, you know what? this is the moment. he will stand up there. the debt commission report had come in. this guy will stand up there -- and i will tell you, as a republican, what i feared was that he will stand up there and
make the tough calls on entitlements. he will grab a piece of the budget commission report and grab what he likes. he will not look like a centrist. he will actually be one. i actually thought that was quick to happen. i was hopeful. we were 40 minutes into the speech before there was any talk of reducing any type of spending. the first 40 minutes or so was about investments and the big things, like high-speed rail and high-speed internet access and all that stuff. [laughter] by saying that, i am not saying that those things are not good. in the abstract, they are good. nobody is going to say, i hate high-speed internet. can we go slower? [laughter] i do not like high-speed access. nobody says that.
of course, it is good. but we do not live in a vacuum. everything should be compared. what i was looking for that night was for my president to stand up and challenge me and say to me and everyone else in the country that now was the time to fix the problem and i will leave you there. and it was a disappointment that he did not -- and i will lead you there. and it was a disappointment that he did not. he has time to fix it. he has time to lead and i hope he does. more important than the next election is the next generation and what the president is going to do for them. i am not looking for the president to fail. i do not agree with his policies. believe me, i do not agree with his policies. but i want our country to succeed. we get one president at a time, everybody. this is the one we have now. whether you voted for him or not
-- i did not, but you get one at a time. so i was really hopeful that he would stand up and do it and i was disappointed that he did not. but all i can do is speak like this and express my disappointment and lead by example in new jersey. and we will reform pensions in new jersey and health benefits in new jersey to make those systems sound again. we will not do exactly the way i want to do it. we have a democratic legislature to deal with. i will do the best i can to make it happen. we will stay on the course of fiscal discipline. if that means continuing to take on the teacher's union, then i will do it. but that is what i believe i got sent there for. and that is what i believe leadership to mean. so i will conduct myself that way for as long as i have the opportunity to do this job. i came here today, not only because i ed maier the work of a i -- not only because i admire
the work of aie, but because we are grappling with these problems did today and give our specific ideas on how we are facing our problems and hopefully that will be an example for others who watch or hear about this or read about it ays and think that it is possible. it is not easy, but it is possible. then our country will return to the top of prosperity that we have gotten to know for the majority of our lives. if we do not, we are consigning your children to something much, much less than that. it seems to me that the essence of the american dream, from my perspective, is the solemn obligation that we have to leave this country better for our children and grandchildren than we left for us. we cannot fail that test. no one ever said that test would be easy.
for some generations, maybe it has been easy, but not for this one. this is not the circumstances we have inherited. we have to speak about it. we are having success in new jersey and i want to celebrate success in my state and i want to celebrate the people in my state who have stood up next to me while i had to make these tough decisions and said to me over and over again, not just in polls, but when i walk around and the mall or when i walk to my child soccer game or in church on sunday and they say thank you for what you're doing. i had one woman come up to me on the boardwalk this summer and said to me, "governor, how are you? not vote for you. i do not agree with almost anything your doing. but thank you for doing it. someone had to do it, finally." that is powerful stuff. that is powerful stuff. she did not vote for me. she does not agree from me. and from all look on her face, i
suspected she did not like me much either. [laughter] but she felt the need to come up and tell me that. listen, most people admire leadership. and i suspect that most people want to be led if they believe they are being led in a direction that is inherently good and right. so the job of those people who have been fortunate enough like me to be given the responsibility and privilege and the opportunity to lead is a to lead. it is to leave for every day that you have the chance to do it appeared some days -- it is to lead for every day that you have the chance to do it. if that is your cup t, come to new jersey. if it is not, stay away. [laughter] for the next three years, that is the way it will be. thank you for hosting,
>> next, the presidential medal of freedom award ceremony. then jimmy carter on his presidency. later, robin policy and internet regulation. >> to save medicare and social saturday, to make the systems work better, to keep our promise to americans, we have to change. >> donald rumsfeld was the youngest and oldest person to serve as u.s. defense secretary. >> you automatically have an obligation to tell the president the truth and what you really believe. people who do not have
proximity and do not see him often simply do not want to do it. >> the process of writing his memoirs, known and unknown, and address some of the books critical and positive reviews on c-span's "q&a." >> this monday, visit the public and private spaces of america's most recognizable home, the white house. suzanne's original document and the -- documentary provides a look and takes you to the mansion, the west wing, the oval office, the lincoln bedroom, and focuses on the president and first families who it was how it looks today. there are interviews with president obama and the first lady, comments with george and laura bush. inside the white house, america's most famous home. that is on monday. >> former president george h.w.
>> thank you so much, everyone. please be seated. welcome to the white house. some of you have been here before. [laughter] this is one of the things that i most look forward to every year. it is a chance to meet with and, more importantly, honor some of the most extraordinary people in america and around the world. president kennedy once said during a tribute to the poet robert frost that in nation reveals itself not only by the men and women it produces, but by the men and women that it honors. the people that it remembers. i heartily agree. when you look at the men and women who are here today, it says something about who we are as a people. when we award this metal to a congressman john lewis, it says
that we aspire to be a more just, more equal, more perfect union. when we awarded to jasper johns, it says we value the original and the imaginative. when we award it to warren buffett, it says we do not like to be so humble and maybe make a little money along the way. [laughter] and when we awarded to former president george h.w. bush, it says that we celebrate an extraordinary life of service and sacrifice. this year's medal of freedom recipients trouville the best of who we are and -- recipients reveal the best of who we are and who we aspire to be. in the 1970's, john adams and a handful of unpaid attorneys and
law students valued some old desks and said up an environmental law firm in new york city. for 36 years, john sat at the same desk. but the group he co-founded, the natural resources defense council, grew well beyond it. our first obligation is to the environment, john once said. if people want to support the environment, we will support their efforts. if not, we will play hardball. with more than 1 million members, they have won landmark cases and help gain landmark laws to protect our water and air and in varmint and keep our climate sit. if the planet has a lawyer, is john adams. as the girl, marguerite and johnson endured trauma and
abuse that led her to stop speaking. but as a performer and, ultimately, as a writer, a poet, maya angelou found her voice. it is a voice that has spoken to millions, including my mother, which is why my sister is named maya. by holding on even amid cruelty and loss and then expanding to a sense of compassion and an ability to love, by holding onto her humanity, she has inspired countless others who have known injustice and misfortune in their own lives. i will not try to say it better than my angelou herself who wrote "my history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived.
and when faced with courage cannot be lived again. give birth again to the dream." in 1942, and 11-year-old boy from omaha, neb. invested his entire fortune into six shares at $30 per share. [laughter] the stock soon dropped sharply, devastating his holdings. but true to form, the boy did not panic. he held those shares until the stock rebounded, earning himself a small profit. things got a little bit better after that. [laughter] today, we know warren buffett not only as one of the world's richest men, but one of the most admired and respected. unmoved by financial fads, he has doggedly sought out value, but his weight behind companies
with promise, and demonstrated that integrity is not just a good trait. it is good for business. for all the money he has turned, you do not see warren buffett wearing fancy suits or driving fancy cars. instead, you see him devoting the vast majority of his wealth to those around the world more suffering, who are sick or in need of help. and he uses his stature as a leader to press others of great means to do the same. a philanthropist is a lover of humanity and there is no word that fits warren better. i should point out that he is so thrifty that i had to give him a white house type. [laughter] that was -- a white house tie the last time he came to visit. [laughter] so when bill gates came, he wanted one, too. [laughter]
it has been noted that jasper johns's work, playing off familiar images, has transfixed people around the world. historians will tell you that he helped usher in the artistic movement that would define the latter half of the 20th-century. many would say he is one of the greatest artists of our time. yet come of his own efforts, he has simply said, "i am just trying to find a way to make pictures." like a great artist before, jasper johns has pushed the boundaries of what great artists could be. it endured fame -- he did not do it for fame or for success, although he earned both. as he said, "i assumed that everything would lead to complete failure, but i decided it did not matter. that would be my life."
we are richer as a society because it was. and, jasper, you have turned out fine. [laughter] when you are among the youngest of my children, you develop a stock -- a strong sense of empathy. when those children are the kennedys, you also develop a strong set of diplomatic skills just to be heard. both trades helped jean kennedy smith follow her siblings into public service. when her brother, president kennedy, visited ireland in 1963, he promised he would be back in the springtime. 30 years later, it was left up to gene to return for him as president clinton's ambassador to ireland. she was as vital as she was unconventional. she helped young men and women to see past tragedy to look for
peace. she also founded the bsa program, helping people with disabilities, changing the lives of people they have served. they are in 50 countries and have touched millions of lives, ensuring that the family business remained alive and well. by the time she was 21, brookline had spent six years -- gerta klein had spent six years living under not zero. her brother had been -- under not see rule -- under nazi rule. her brother had been taken away and her best friend had been killed. she weighed only 68 pounds when she was found. she married the soldier who rescued her.
ever since, as an author and historian and a crusader for tolerance, she has taught the world that it is in our most hopeless moments that we discover the depths of our lives appeare. "a pre that you never stand a crossroads in your own lives," she said," if you think there's no way out, remember never, ever give up." that is a quote that would be familiar to our next on larry. there is one over her door and national -- to our next honoree. there is one over her door in nashville. "if not us, then who?
if not now, then when? it is a question that john lewis has been asking. it is why, time and again, he faced down death so that all of us could share equally in the joys of life. it is why all these years later he is known as the conscience of the united states congress, still speaking his mind on issues of justice and equality. and generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by kurt, the story of john lewis will come to mind. -- what is meant by courage, the story of john lewis will come to mind. an optometrist from new york, tom gold could have pursued a lucrative career. he was guided by his faith and was led to serve the poorest of
the poor in afghanistan. in 30 years, amid invasion and civil war and the terror of the taliban, the spread of insurgency, he and his wife libby helped bring afghans literally the miracle of sight. last summer, tom and his team of doctors and nurses were ambushed and murdered. today, we honor and remember dr. tom little, a humanitarian in the truest sense of the word, a man who not only dedicated his life to others, but lived that lesson of scripture. "greater love hath no man than this than a man who lays down his life for his friends." yo-yo ma has been a concert cellist since the age of five, despite a a late bloomer. [laughter]
he went on to record over 75 albums and win 16 grammys, which means i am only 14 behind him. [laughter] while he could have settled for being the world's greatest cellist, he said that even greater than his passion for music is his passion for people. and i can testify to this. there's very few people that you will meet with the exuberance and the joy that he possesses. he spent much of his life traveling around the world, and entering students from lebanon to korea to the iraqi national symphony of orchestra. a member of my committee of arts and music, he has been named the investor peace for the united nations and we understand why. in his words, when we enlarge our view of the world, we deepen our understanding of our lives. for sylvia mendez, a lifelong
quest for equality began when she was 8 years old. outraged that their daughter had to attend a segregated school, sylvia's parents link arms with other latino families to fight injustice in a california federal court, a case that would pave the way for brown vs. board of education. the next year, when a classmate taunted her, saying that mexicans did not belong there, she went home in tears beging to leave the school. her mother would not have it. she told sylvia, "do not realize that that is why we went to court? you are just as good as he is." sylvia took those words to heart. ever since, she has made it her mission to spread the word message of tolerance and opportunity to children of all backgrounds and in all walks of life. growing up in communist east germany, angela merkel dream of freedom. when the wall finally crumbled,
she became the first east german and the first woman to become chancellor of germany. to america, chancellor merkel and the country she leads is among our closest allies appeared to me, she is a trusted global partner and a friend. to people around the world, the story of angela merkel is an inspiration. everything is possible, she said, something the world has seen again in recent weeks. "freedom does not come about of itself unless we struggle and amend it and do every day of our lives." angela merkel is not here today. she will be visiting in an official visit soon. i will be presenting her with the award when she comes. stan usual, his brilliance, hitting five home runs in a single day's doubleheader, leading the league in singles, ,oubles, triples, and rbi's
three world series, first ballot hall of famer, "scammed the man -- "stan the man." [laughter] he made that brilliance burn for two decades. he managed -- he matched it with humility. he retired with 17 records, even as he missed a season in his prime to serve his country in the navy. he was the first player to make -- make this -- $100,000. even more shocking, he asked for a pay cut when he did not perform up to his own expectations.
you cannot imagine that happening today. [laughter] stand remains to this day and icon, untarnished, a beloved pillar of his community, a gentleman you would want your kids to emulate. "i had given baseball everything i've got," stan said in his memoirs. when bill russell was in junior high, he was cut from his basketball team. [laughter] he got better after that. [laughter] he led the university of san francisco to to check in ships. in 13 seasons with the baltic sector -- all to frigid boston celtics, he won 11 championships, a record unmatched in any sport. one two while also serving as
the team's coach. as so happens, he was also the first african american ever to hold such a position as a coach in a major league sports team of any sort. more than any athlete of his era, bill russell came to define the word "winner." and yet whenever someone looks up at all 6 feet 9 inches of bill russell, i just did, i always feel small next to him, and asks, are you a basketball player -- he gets this more than you think. he says, no, that is what i do, that is not what i am. i am not a basketball player. i am a man who plays basketball. bill russell the man is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. he marched with king, he stood by ali. when a restaurant refused to
serve the black celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. he endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and possible the success of so many who would follow. i hope one day in the streets of boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to bill russell the player, but bill russell the man. the bronx-born son of irish immigrants, john sweeney, was shaped by three things. his family -- his mother was a maid, his behalf -- his father was a bus driver, instill in him that fundamentally american idea that through hard work, we can make of our lives what we will. the church taught him our obligations to ourselves and one another. and as a child, he saw that by banding together in a union, we can accomplish great things that we cannot accomplish alone.
john devoted his career to the labor movement, adding working folks to its ranks and fighting for fair working conditions and fair wages. as the head of the fl-cio, he was responsible for dozens of unions with millions of working families. family, faith, fidelity to the common good -- visa the values that make john sweeney who he is, of values at the heart of the labor movement that has helped build the world's greatest middle class. finally we recognize our last recipient, not simply with the years he spent as our 41st president. we honor george herbert walker bush for service to america that spanned nearly 70 years. from a decorated navy pilot who nearly gave his life in world war ii to u.s. ambassador to the united nations, from cia
director to u.s. envoy to china, to the vice presidency -- his life is a testament that public service is a noble calling. as president, he expanded america as promise to new immigrants and people with disabilities. he reduced nuclear weapons. he built a broad international coalition to expel a dictator from kuwait. when democratic revolutions swept across eastern europe, it was the steady diplomatic hand of president bush that made possible an achievement once thought impossible -- ending the cold war without firing a shot. i would add that, like the remarkable barbara bush, his humility and his decency reflects the very best of the american spirit. those of you who know him, this is a gentleman.
inspiring citizens to become points of light in service to others, and teaming up with a one-time political opponent to champion relief for the victims of the asian tsunami, the hurricane katrina. and then, just to cap off, well into the 80's, he decides to jump out of airplanes. [laughter] because as he explains, it feels good. these other recipients of the 2010 medal of freedom. so now it is my great pleasure and my great honor to present them with their medals. [applause]
>> john h. adams. john h. adams. and a time when contaminated waterways and polluted air threatened too many of our communities, john h. adams co- founded the natural resources defense council to encourage responsible stewardship of our national resources. a staunch defender of the wonders of our planet, he served as executive director and later as president of the nrdc challenging americans to live up to our responsibilities to leave something better to our children with an urgency matched by few others. decades-long commitment to safeguarding the
earth has left our air purer, our water cleaner, and our planet healthier for generations to come. [applause] dr. maya angelou. out of a youth marked by pain and injustice, dr. maya angelou rose with an unbending determination to fight for civil rights and inspire every one of us to recognize and embrace the possibility and potential we each hold. with her soaring poetry, towering prose, and mastery of range of art forms, dr. angelou has spoken to the conscience of our nation. her soul-stirring words have taught us how to reach across division and honor the beauty of
our world. warren e. buffett. as a world renowned investor and philanthropist, warren e. buffett's business acumen is matched only by his dedication to improving the lives of others. he is a co-founder of the giving pledge, an organization that encourages wealthy americans to donate it least 50% of their wealth to philanthropic causes. warren buffett's example of generosity and compassion has shown us the power of one
individual's determination and inspired countless women and men to help make our world a brighter place. the honorable george herbert walker bush. [applause] from his time as a decorated navy pilot to his years in the white house as the 41st president of united states, president george herbert walker bush has led a life marked by a profound commitment to serving others. as president, he upheld the american value of liberty during
a time of renewal and promise. as a private citizen, he has united americans in times of crisis, lending his tireless efforts to men and women whose lives have been upended by disaster. over the arc of his life, president bush has served our nation is a tremendous force for good, and we proudly salute him for his unwavering devotion to our country and our world. [applause] jasper johns.
old and iconic, the work of jasper johns has left lasting impressions on countless americans. with nontraditional materials and methods, he has explored themes of identity, perception, and patriotism. by asking us to reexamine the familiar, his work has sparked the minds of creative thinkers around the world. jasper johns'innovative creations helped shape the pop, minimal, and conceptual art of -- art movements, and the analysis honors him for his profound influence on a generation of artists. [applause] [laughter] [applause]
gerda weissmann klein. carter of weissmann klein's life is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit. a holocaust survivor, she was separated from her parents and sent to a series of nazi labor camps. in 1945, she was one of the few survivors among those forced to undergo a 350-mile death march to avoid the progress of liberating allied forces. from tragedy to triumph, he and her husband proudly started the gerda and kurt klein foundation to promote tolerance, respect, and empowerment of students throughout the world. by sharing her stories and encouraging others to see themselves in one another, gerda klein has helped to advance
understanding among all people. [applause] the honorable john r. lewis. from his activism in the civil rights movement to his nearly 25 years in the house of representatives, john r. lewis has dedicated his life to shattering barriers and fighting injustice. the son of sharecroppers from alabama, he rose with courage, fortitude, and purpose to organize the first student sit- ins and the freedom rides. the and the speaker at the 1963
march on washington, a fearless advocate and a distinguished member of congress, john lewis has earned our lasting gratitude for a lifetime dedicated to the pursuit of equality and justice for all. [applause] elizabeth little, expect -- accepting on behalf of her husband, dr. thomas emmett little. dr. thomas emmett little was an optometrist who devoted his life and skills to those in need.
starting in the 1970's, dr. little and his wife lived largely in afghanistan in order to provide vision care for the people of that nation. even as they dedicated their lives to healing others, dr. little and nine of his team members were murdered in afghanistan in that region in 2010. our nation mourns the loss of these humanitarians who paid the ultimate price in pursuit of their ideals, and we look to dr. little's example of generosity and goodwill so we can better know the meaning of sacrifice and the necessity of peace. yo-yo ma.
recognized as one of the world's greatest musicians, yo-yo ma's talents know no boundaries of john roberts culture. since performing at the white house for president kennedy at the age of seven, he is recorded more than 75 albums, won more than a dozen grammy awards, and established themselves as one of our nation's most acclaimed and respected artists. his music has bound us together and captured our imagination, and united states proudly honors this prolific cellist and ambassador for the arts. [applause] sylvia mendez.
sylvia mendez was thrust to the forefront of the civil rights movement when she was just a child. denied entry to the westminster school because for mexican heritage, she sought justice and her subsequent legal case, mendez v. westminster, effectively ended segregation as a matter of law in california. the arguments in that case catalyzed the desegregation of our schools and prevailed in the landmark case brown v. board of education, forever changing our nation. today, sylvia mendez continues to share her remarkable story and advocate for excellence and equality of -- in classrooms across america. [applause]