Archive for the ‘Presidents’ Category

President Jimmy Carter talks books, Willie Nelson and decriminalization of marijuana

Friday, July 31st, 2015
by:  John McMurtie

When Jimmy Carter nearly bounds out of a hotel armchair to greet a journalist, it’s refreshing to see that the 90-year-old former president has not been passing the time — like so many of us these days — deep in a smartphone. Instead, he’s holding a book, a murder mystery by P.D. James.

Carter has been an avid reader all his life, and he is certainly no stranger to the written word. He has just published his 29th book, “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety” (Simon & Schuster; 257 pages; $28). It’s a sweeping and often tender overview of his life in which he guides readers through his hardscrabble boyhood in the mostly African American community of Archery, Ga. (where he was raised in a Sears, Roebuck house and worked on the family farm), his time in the Navy (where Harry Truman’s order to end discrimination in the armed forces was “accepted with equanimity” — unlike what he witnessed at home), and, of course, his presidency and remarkably prolific post-presidency as a tireless activist. The book also includes some of his poetry and paintings; he recently finished a 30th book, a self-published collection of his art, which he took up in the Navy.

Carter lives in Plains, Ga., about two miles from Archery. He spoke about his book and current affairs on a one-day visit to San Francisco. His answers have been edited for length.

Read entire article here.


Q: What are you reading now that you like?

A: I just got this when I was in Denver. [Holds up a copy of P.D. James’ novel “A Certain Justice.”] The people at Tattered Cover, which is my favorite bookstore in the nation, when I asked them if they had a recent P.D. James, they gave me a whole stack of P.D. James. I finished another book on the Kindle yesterday. It was a book by a Norwegian writer, an exciting murder mystery called “The Snowman” [by Jo Nesbo].

Before that I read the autobiography of Willie Nelson, who’s my buddy. Willie Nelson used to be a running partner of mine. He was a darn good athlete, by the way. I think he had four letters in high school. He still was an avid runner when I was in the White House. So he would spend the night with me on occasion at the White House, and as he said in his autobiography, he smoked pot on the roof. [Laughs.]


Former President Jimmy Carter once told Rolling Stone magazine that “all the good things I did as president, all the mistakes I made – you can blame half of that on Willie.”

Q: You stayed downstairs?

A: I did, yeah. He concealed his true partner and claimed that he was smoking with one of the servants at the White House, which was not exactly true. [Laughs.] It’s an interesting book. He extolls marijuana throughout the book, that he tried beer and tried whiskey and tried harsher drugs, but he settled on marijuana as the one that was for him.

Q: While we’re on the subject, what do you think of the direction the nation has taken, state by state, at least, as far as marijuana is concerned?

A: Well, I’ve commented on this a lot. In 1979, I made a major speech and I called for the decriminalization of marijuana. And it was well-received. When I was governor, we had a contest among southeastern governors, at least, to see who could have the smallest prison population. And so we decided among ourselves not to put people in prison for the possession of marijuana but to offer treatment for people who had an addiction. So when I was president, we evolved a nationwide policy, and that was one of the premises.

But at that time, we had one person per thousand who was in prison in America. A hundred people per hundred thousand. Now we have 750 people per hundred thousand. We have seven and a half times as many people in prison. And we have eight times as many black women in prison now as we did in 1981, when I left the White House. So that’s been one of the major concerns I’ve had as a non-lawyer, to criticize the American justice system, which is highly biased against black people and poor people. And it still is.

But I think there’s an awakening now of a realization that we too early congratulated ourselves on the end of racial prejudice and white supremacy. And that was a feeling that we had when I was president, that we had pretty much overcome that problem.”

— Jimmy Carter


Willie Nelson and Jimmy Carter: Real American Heroes

Sunday, July 12th, 2015


photo:  Sarah Rogers

Willie Nelson and Jimmy Carter: Our Real American Heroes
by:  Malcolm Jones

For a couple of weeks now, I have been enjoying the easygoing and remarkably addictive pleasure of Django and Jimmy, the new album by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. The title cut celebrates a pair of formative influences, Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers, and I could have stood a few tracks covering the work of those artists (Willie did put Django’s “Nuages” on a recent album and frequently performs it in concert). But this isn’t really a concept album. Instead, it’s just two great musicians having fun. Or should I say, still having fun. Merle is 78. Willie is 82. They could do anything they like—including nothing at all—at this stage of their illustrious careers. But they’ve chosen to make music, writing songs and performing actively. And thank goodness for that.

At the same time, I’ve also been reading the latest Willie Nelson autobiography,It’s a Long Story: My Life (the first version, Willie, appeared in 1988), as well as the autobiography of former President Jimmy Carter, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.

Both Nelson and Carter have indeed led long, full lives, and both clearly believe those lives are far from over. Carter ends his book talking about spending more time on his painting and woodworking—things he can do, he says, when he slows down and can no longer build houses for Habitat for Humanity, or go skiing, or broker another peace agreement. Willie ends a little more poetically, noting that even coming home is the beginning of another journey.

(I know it looks awkward to call one man by his first name and the other by his last, but it just feels dead wrong to call Willie anything but Willie, and never mind that I don’t know him any better than you do. And calling Jimmy Carter Jimmy sounds presumptuous, if not disrespectful. So from here on it’s Willie and Carter, and consistency be damned.)

If time has slowed either of these gentlemen, it would be hard to say how. Each man is clearly up and at it every day. Upon leaving the presidency in 1981, Carter quickly founded the Carter Center in Atlanta, which was initially a forum for crisis mediation around the globe before becoming one of the foremost NGOs in the fight against diseases in the Third World. As he writes, “I was not interested in just building a museum or storing my White House records and memorabilia; I wanted a place where we could work.” He has also been a highly visible volunteer with Habitat, and written countless books on subjects including public policy, his childhood, women’s rights, and nature, as well as books of poetry and even fiction: The Hornet’s Nest, about the American Revolution, is the only novel ever written by a president, and it’s not half bad. Typically, after people asked him repeatedly if he ever just kicked back and had fun, he wrote a book about that (downhill skiing, mountain climbing, birdwatching, and fly fishing).

Hard work is a constant theme in Carter’s life, whether it be farming, political campaigning, or mediating some international dispute. The child who took shorthand in school is father to the man who undertook a speed reading course when he reached the White House. But work, in Carter’s life, is never separated from learning something new, and learning is never separated from purpose. Perhaps this comes from the way he grew up. In the Depression-era South, if you wanted food, you grew it. If you wanted furniture, you built it. Self-sufficiency was not an ideal, it was simple reality.

A Southern boy like Carter, Willie grew up in rural Texas doing his share of farm work, too. In his case, of course, music was a much bigger part of life right from the start (his grandmother, who raised him and his sister, Bobbie, was the town’s music teacher). But here again, the principle of self-sufficiency held sway: if you wanted music, you made it yourself.

So, while Willie may be everybody’s favorite poster boy for kicking back, don’t be fooled. In his golden years, the man who early in life almost singlehandedly upended the Nashville sound (countrypolitan strings and woowoo choruses) has become legal marijuana’s most visible and eloquent proponent and the driving force behind Farm Aid—the annual concert that raises money to help the nation’s family farms—all while pursuing a recording and performing career that makes me tired just reading about it. Since turning 80, he writes, he’s “written a couple of dozen new songs, recorded five new albums, and performed over three hundred live concerts.” He left out the part about writing a new memoir.No surprise, Willie’s book is the more entertaining of the two, although Carter gets points for writing his all by himself (Willie had a ghostwriter). But both are worth anyone’s time, because both are such clear expressions of the men who wrote them. Willie is a loquacious storyteller with a disarming knack for self-effacement. Carter is more clipped, more reserved—the truth of the matter often lies in things he doesn’t say, perhaps because that’s the way he was raised (when his father was upset about something or disagreed with something someone said, he would silently get up and leave the room). When Carter is fond of someone, e.g., Jerry Ford or George H.W. Bush, he says so wholeheartedly. Of his more strained relationships with, say, the Clinton or Obama White Houses, he maintains a discreet if not icy silence.He is more forthcoming, and more than once, about his sexist attitudes as a husband over the years, when he would unilaterally decide to, say, run for state senate without consulting his wife. Crossing Rosalynn Carter, one gathers, is not something you do unthinkingly, at least not more than once.

The conventional wisdom denigrates Carter’s presidency and extols the man, but no one ever asks the obvious question: if a decent, hardworking, intelligent man can be great but can’t be a great president, isn’t there something wrong with the way we think about the presidency?

As for Willie, he may have led a messier life (four marriages, trouble with the IRS), but he’s the man who gave us “Crazy,” “Night Life,” and “Funny How Times Slips Away,” tunes that still remind us just how subtly artful—and how moving—good country songs can be.

At a time when genuine American heroes are hard to find, I’d say Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson are as close as it gets and better than most. Neither man is falsely modest, but neither is full of himself. Both are still full of wonder—at the world and at what they’ve done in it. As Willie muses about his songwriting, “When songs fall from the sky … all I can do is catch them before they land. They are mysterious gifts [that] strip me bare and leave me amazed … Did I really write these songs, or am I just a channel chosen by the Holy Spirit to express these feelings?”

Men of faith, men of action, contemplative men who believe in getting things done and helping the downtrodden wherever and however they can—if I had to instruct kids coming along about where to look for heroes, I’d start with these books, which in their very different ways are like roadmaps for rich, useful lives.

And if an extraterrestrial were to approach me and ask, what does America have to show for itself, I wouldn’t hesitate. Ray Charles might be dead, I’d say, but Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson still walk the planet. And if you think can do better than that, then let me introduce you to Dolly Parton.

Willie Nelson and President Carter

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Willie Nelson is joined on stage by former President Jimmy Carter, who played harmonica on “Georgia on My Mind,” at Chastain Park Amphitheater on July 27, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. The two are longtime friends. President and Mrs. Carter and daughter Amy visited Willie on his bus, before the show.

Willie Nelson and BB King, Chastain Park, Georgia (July 27, 2008)

Friday, May 15th, 2015


On July 27, 2008, Willie Nelson and B.B. King performed at Atlanta, Georgia’s Chastain Park Amphiteater.  Among the thousands of fans — President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter.

This day in Willie Nelson History: Democratic National Convention (7/29/04)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

On July 29, 2004, Willie Nelson performed “Living in the Promiseland”, on the night presidential candidate John Kerry accepts the nomination at the Democratic National Convention” at Boston’s Fleet Center.  Carole King and Mavis Staples also performed.

This day in Willie Nelson History: President Jimmy Carter joins Willie Nelson on stage in Georgia (7/27/2008)

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

On July 27, 2008,  Jimmy Carter joined Willie Nelson and Family on stage and played harmonica on “Georgia On My Mind” during a concert at Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta.

“Five different times I’ve been on the stage with Willie Nelson,” Carter said. “He always calls me up on his final number, which is usually ‘Amazing Grace,’ and we sing a duet together. He’s very careful to turn the microphone completely away from my voice.” – Jimmy Carter


Former President Jimmy Carter once told Rolling Stone magazine that “all the good things I did as president, all the mistakes I made – you can blame half of that on Willie.”



This day in Willie Nelson History: “CMT Homecoming with Jimmy Carter in Plains” (9/9/04)

Monday, September 9th, 2013

On September 9, 2004 Willie Nelson performed a concert in Plains, Georgia, for an upcoming TV special, “CMT Homecoming: Jimmy Carter In Plains”

The concert was filmed in September, for a special airing in December 2004, when CMT featured a special homecoming event, with the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, for an intimate look at the small town that he still calls home and where he spends the holidays with wife Rosalynn, his children and grandchildren – Plains, Ga.

In this one-hour documentary, CMT Homecoming: President Carter In Plains, President Carter welcomes his longtime friend, country legend Willie Nelson, to Plains for the reunion.  Nelson joins President Carter for a tour of his childhood home, his boyhood haunts, and the town that holds a special place in President Carter’s heart. The two friends swap stories of what it was like growing up in small towns and reminisce about their friendship that has lasted decade.

In honor of Plains, Nelson performs for everyone in the town, and the fans get a surprise when President and Mrs. Carter join Nelson on stage.

Thanks to Alice from Georgia for sending pictures.

Willie Nelson @ the White House

Saturday, August 10th, 2013


Willie Nelson, Kennedy Honors (1998)

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Willie Nelson with Johnny Rodriguez, in “Bad Day on a Strange Horse”

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Willie Nelson and President Obama

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Willie Nelson, and Senator Obama, Farm Aid, Chicago

“For the women, I think Obama is the guy.   I really think [women’s health care] is a big issue, and that’s the one that I think Obama is on the right side of history. I think that will have a big influence on the election. I’ll probably vote for him.”

“He’s really shown what a president is supposed to do with all the problems with weather that we’re having on the East Coast,” Willie explained, giving more props to President Obama. “He’s acting very presidential. Nice to see him and Governor Christie coming together, and showing us what it’s like when two people originally on opposite sides come together for the good of the country.”

Willie Nelson honored at John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts (12/6/1998)

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012


Willie Nelson and President Jimmy Carter

Monday, September 10th, 2012

by:  Dan Merica

Washington (CNN) – Former President Jimmy Carter once told Rolling Stone magazine that “all the good things I did as president, all the mistakes I made – you can blame half of that on Willie.”

The Willie that Carter is referring to is none other than Willie Nelson, the famed “outlaw” country singer known for his unique sound and his affinity for marijuana. Although Carter was known as a buttoned-up president – during the 1976 campaign, he regularly highlighted his Southern Baptist roots and his role as a Sunday school teacher – the former governor of Georgia was also known to escape the pressures of the presidency by listening to Willie Nelson.

 And on September 13, 1980, the president’s love for the music of the “redheaded stranger” was fulfilled when Nelson played for Carter at the White House. The night was certainly a unique one. Not only did first lady Rosalynn Carter sing a cover of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” with Nelson, but the country star claims that after the concert he smoked marijuana on the White House roof.

In a joint interview with Entertainment Weekly, Nelson and Carter laughed about the subject: Carter: I would guess that Willie and my sons knew a lot more about that than I did. That was one of the things that Willie and I never did discuss much. But I don’t think there’s much doubt that there was—

Nelson: Actually, short-term memory — I don’t remember a lot that happened then.

Carter: Yeah, my memory’s kind of short on that subject, too.

The Carter-Nelson relationship was not just a passing one. Nelson joined Carter on the campaign trail in 1976 – even though during that campaign Carter had called for tough penalties on marijuana usage. In the same Entertainment Weekly interview, Carter credited Nelson with helping him win the election. “I think that was one of the reasons I won, because I did align myself with characters like these, who were admired by hundreds of millions around the world,” Carter said. “I think as much as any performer who has ever lived, Willie has had an intimate and natural relationship with working people.”

It seems Nelson appreciated thoughts like that. In the Country Music Channel documentary “Jimmy Carter in Plains,” Nelson says that Carter is “my favorite president.” Close friends to this day, Carter has joined Nelson on stage a number of times since the White House performance in 1980.

When Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, Willie Nelson was there to serenade him with “Georgia on My Mind.” Most recently, on June 16, 2012, Carter joined Nelson on stage at a concert in Atlanta, where the duo sang “Amazing Grace” for the crowd.  According to reporting by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and video from the performance, Carter even put on an iconic red bandana like Nelson’s.

Dear President Elect Barack Obama, from Willie Nelson

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Barack Obama spoke at Farm Aid 2005 in Tinley Park, Illinois about the importance of family farmers. He also introduced Chicago’s own Wilco, who played “Airline to Heaven.”

Dear President-elect Barack Obama,

As President of Farm Aid, I’d like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly congratulate you on your historic victory. I’d also like to offer you every resource that Farm Aid has available to assist you in creating a new farm and food policy that supports a sustainable family farm system of agriculture.

I started Farm Aid in 1985 when family farmers were being forced off their land as a result of federal policy that paved the way for industrial agriculture. This shift replaced independent family farmers with factory farms that have wreaked havoc on our communities, our environment and our public health. 

There is broad agreement that our farm and food system needs to be drastically reworked. The good news is that the work of building an alternative to the industrial food system is well underway and Farm Aid is proud to have been a leader in this work, something we call the Good Food Movement. The Good Food Movement has grown and thrived almost entirely without the support of the federal government. However, now is the right moment for the leadership of our country to take a role in this important movement. In fact the future of our economy, our environment and our health demand it.

Our family farmers are a national resource with incredible potential to be the protagonists in solving the challenges we currently face. Family farmers are on the cutting edge of thriving local food systems and economies, alternative energy production and environmental stewardship. Family farmers are marketing the fruits of their labor close-to-home at farm stands, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), helping local money to circulate in local communities where it can do the most good. Family farmers are growing green energy and harnessing the power of the sun and wind. They are transitioning to sustainable production methods to grow food that is good for our health and our planet. These steps are strengthening our local economies, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, protecting our natural resources and increasing our national security.

As the national organization working on behalf of family farmers for the last 23 years, Farm Aid has helped family farmers stay on the land, organized communities to fight factory farms in their own backyards, and educated eaters about the choices they can make to guarantee healthy, fresh food from family farms. Over our history, we have grown, partnered with, and sustained a network of more than four hundred grassroots farm and food organizations across the nation. As you begin to implement programs to support a family farm system of agriculture, Farm Aid and our vast resource network is here to work with you.

Now is the time for our country to recognize and call on family farmers’ ingenuity, strength and value to our past and our future. We can have strong local economies, green energy, a clean environment, healthy citizens and good food—all of these start with family farmers. I look forward to working with you to make this vision of a family farm system of agriculture a reality.

Stay Strong and Positive,

Willie Nelson signature

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson and President Jimmy Carter

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

photo:  Aimee and Spalding Nix

Atlantic Journal Constitution
by Jennifer Brell

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, joined Willie Nelsono n stage at Chastain Park Amphitheatre Friday night for “Amazing Grace.”

The former president even put on a bandana for the impromptu performance. His most recent book, “NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter,” draws on his many years as a Sunday School teacher at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains.

The crowd loved every minute of the former president’s visit to the stage but really roared their appreciation when Mrs. Carter walked out. What a nice moment for Atlanta.

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>