Reflections on Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter

By Drinan, Robert F. | National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

Reflections on Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter


Drinan, Robert F., National Catholic Reporter


The near universal reaction to the naming of former President Carter as a Nobel Laureate was jubilation. At last this religious and dedicated ex-president was being recognized for his extraordinary achievements and aspirations.

Jimmy Carter's new status as a truly global figure will prompt a re-evaluation of his role as a tireless devotee of international human rights and as the most religious president in U.S. history.

In the Democratic primaries of 1976 I worked hard for the late Congressman Mo Udall. In the turbulent early months of 1976 the peanut farmer from Georgia did not win much recognition from liberals in the Northeast. His victory over President Gerald Ford did little to increase the expectations of mainstream Democrats.

But Carter's remarkable record on civil rights and human rights may now be appreciated much more fully.

Carter helped Congress to approve the Equal Rights Amendment as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That meant that two-thirds of both houses sent the amendment to the states for ratification. This could never have happened without the political power of the Carter White House. When Congress extended the 7-year period of ratification by another 30 months, the persuasion of the Carter administration was essential. If Carter had been reelected, his administration might well have raised the ratification states from 35 to the necessary 38.

When Carter proposed that Congress support a constitutional amendment to give the District of Columbia full representation in Congress there were howls of ridicule. This would mean, in essence, that two black Democrats would be added to the U.S. Senate. But the moral power of the Carter White House persuaded two-thirds of both houses to send the measure to the states. …

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