Book Reviews

Book Review – Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President by Jimmy Carter

The American dream endures. We must once again have faith in our country—and in one another. . . . Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our nation, for we know that if we despise our own government we have no future.

Jimmy Carter

The first election I can remember following was when I was in the fifth grade. I was ten years old and our class followed the election news and discussed it in class. It was 1976, and listening to Jimmy Carter talk, I felt a connection. For the next four years, I was still very aware, and many of the events he recounts in his memoir of his time in office are very familiar to me, although I don’t recall a lot of the specifics from all those years ago.

Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President was written in the two years following his election loss to Ronald Reagan. It is taken from the daily diary he kept during his Presidency. Every night he would try to record his thoughts and observations about what was going on. The end result here is a complex look at what life was like during the four years of his tenure. He had many victories during this time and did a lot to change the country for the better. In light of recent information that Republicans paid off those who took the hostages in Iran in 1979 (something I had heard for years but never had someone go on record about it), it makes it even sadder the direction our country took after Ronald Reagan was elected.

Our commitment to human rights must be absolute, our laws fair, our national beauty preserved; the powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be enhanced.

Jimmy Carter

His position on the political spectrum pretty much mirrors mine: socially progressive and more fiscally conservative. He was determined to balance the budget ad worked hard to get the country on track to have a balanced budget by 1982. Unfortunately, all of that hard work was erased following his election loss. He was determined to lead the world to a state of peace and worked hard towards that end. He forged friendships among international leaders.

There were many criticisms of his Presidency, but all these years later it’s apparent that he was right about a good many things. He details his negotiations to turn the Panama Canal over to Panama itself. At the time, there was a lot of unrest in Panama over American occupancy. The situation would have devolved into a fight with the Panamanian people over the Canal and possibly would have led to its closure or even destruction. An example of American Colonialism, the right thing to do was to give it back to Panama. Carter details his negotiations that gave the U.S. the right to protect the Canal strategically as well as a priority using it for U.S. Warships during a crisis.

As the Democratic party has become less able to reward or punish its members, the rewards and punishments offered by special interests have increased in importance. By virtue of their wealth and freedom from regulation, some lobbies can threaten to or actually unleash almost unlimited television and direct-mail assaults on uncooperative legislators. At the same time, they can legally reward those who do their bidding. The lobbies are a growing menace to our democratic system of government. For instance, the weapons manufacturers now play a dominant role in this process, working with their natural allies in the Pentagon. The resulting purchase of unnecessary military equipment is undoubtedly the most wasteful element in American government.

Jimmy Carter

Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President is not a sequential remembrance of his time in office. Instead, he covers various subjects and what happened in that area over the course of his Presidency. There were a lot of things he saw the dangers of back then, especially outside influences on American politics. Unfortunately, the country chose to go in a different direction and we are worse off because of it. However, the book works well in this regard. I am sure his days in office were chaotic with things happening simultaneously that needed to be dealt with. The way the book is structured, it makes it easier to appreciate his work on individual issues.

Carter was not only instrumental in the Mid-East peace talks and Camp David Accords, but he also tried to get the Soviets to work towards not only slowing nuclear proliferation but also disassembling some of the weapons both countries already had. Unfortunately, everything he was working on toward this end was for aught after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Carter may have been a man of peace, but he wasn’t opposed to being tough and making some tough calls with the Soviets.

His program (known as Kemp-Roth) was based on the beguiling supposition that enormous tax cuts, primarily for corporations and very rich people, would give them more money to create jobs and would actually result in increased federal tax revenues, which could then be used for more weapons, and so forth. This ridiculous theory had been rejected with some scorn by both Democrats and Republicans when put forward by a few congressional candidates in 1978, but Reagan was a more persuasive salesman than those who had previously failed. He claimed that even with greatly increased spending as well as much less revenue from taxes, he could nevertheless balance the budget more quickly than we—and on a permanent basis! This combination of proposals defied economic logic, but public-opinion polls indicated that a substantial portion of the American people believed these promises. Their conviction did not concern me so much at the time; the big problem was that congressional leaders began to feel the political heat. 

Jimmy Carter

Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President was not an entertaining read. It was an educational read. There was so much misinformation about his presidency and Carter as a person. Again and again during the book he details how his faith and prayers helped him find the direction he needed, yet so many Christians have vilified him. Carter shows himself to be the epitome of what a Christian President should be, yet he was rejected by those same Christians.

Carter was also the President who created the Department of Energy, seeing energy security as a huge part of national security. He dealt with issues from OPEC as well as other countries where it seemed American interests lay.

“In the past we’ve controlled others’ lives; now OPEC controls ours.”

Jimmy Carter

I do recommend the book. I think it’s important to understand what he was up against as well as what he accomplished, and not just how the media portrayed it during his tenure. If you want a more complete understanding of what happened during the years 1976-1980, this goes a long way toward unraveling what took place and how we ended up where we are now. It’s not the easiest read, but there’s a lot people can learn from his perspective and memories of that time.

On the way in from the airport to the political rally there were groups of Klansmen, wearing their white sheets and waving “Reagan for President” signs.

Jimmy Carter

I have always admired Carter, and after reading Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President I felt that even more. His faith has made him a tireless worker for the betterment of our world, and it was that same faith that drove him as President. He has much more of a moral compass than any of his successors, with the possible exception of President Obama.

4 replies »

    • I couldn’t believe I missed that many posts! I’m glad I caught up – it’s so much fun reading about Bronco. Yes, I found this to be very interesting. I decided to start it when he went into hospice because I wanted to get to know him better from his own words.

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