November 30, 2015

Pat Boone, the greatest celebrity charity fundraiser of all time.

So who are the top ten entertainment-celebrity charity fundraisers of all time?  With dollars raised adjusted for inflation?  And counting only money raised from the private sector, not factoring in money raised by influencing government legislation? And not counting business celebrities such as Bill and Melinda Gates?

This is not an easy question to answer.  Many donations are anonymous. Forbes Magazine wanted to make a list but thought better of it.  Instead they tried to measure how the coattails of a celebrity endorsement benefited their chosen charity.  This gave them a metric on how much of a celebrity’s fame was “given” to the named cause.

This subjective list below comes from 45 years of experience working with six presidents and first ladies and hundreds of charities around the world.


1.) Pat Boone: His years of fundraising for the national Easter Seals telethon, which involved a massive nationwide ground game, brought in millions of dollars.  The ground game is the key here.  Easter Seals involved multiple charities and causes, not just Muscular Dystrophy as in the case of Jerry Lewis.  Thus multiple NGO’s, corporations and donors were involved at the grassroots.  Boone also had a prominent role in co-founding Mercy Corps which alone has distributed $2 billion in food and medicine around the world.  And he has helped found countless other charities.  By any money measurement, Pat Boone is at the top of my list as the number one celebrity charity fundraiser of all time.

2.) Jerry Lewis: His national Labor Day telethons were watched by millions and raised $2.6 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  At one time, the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon dominated every television channel available to American viewers.

3.) Oprah Winfrey: She is just getting started and is likely to some day top this list.  She has probably given more personally to charity than anyone else mentioned here.  By 2010 she had donated $400 million to educational charities, including 400 scholarships to Morehouse College in Atlanta.  Meanwhile, at last count, Oprah’s Angel Network has raised $80 million in private funds.

4.) Danny Thomas: As a poor actor he promised himself that if he ever made it big he would remember the less fortunate.  He made it big and he founded the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

5.) Bob Hope: He may have put in more miles in behalf of charity than any other celebrity, including those listed above who out-raised him.  Between 1941 and 1991 Bob Hope made 57 USO tours for American armed forces.  Hope tried several times to launch his own televised charity effort, and had some success with the project “Fight For Sight” in 1960. Bob Hope never met a charity he didn’t like and never missed the Annual Charity Awards.

6.) Bill Clinton: This former president, as a private citizen, raised more money for charity than all other American presidents combined. And we are not counting government money here.

7.) Lady Diana, Princess of Wales: Yes, former president Bill Clinton actually raised more private money for charity than Lady Diana.  But if her life had not been cut short, who knows what would have happened? At one point, Lady Diana was making more than 300 appearances a year, most of them for charity.

8.) Bono: He has raised millions in private and corporate money and funneled it into the neediest projects. Bono is listed by TIME magazine as one of the most influential persons in the world.

9.) Paul Newman: Along with writer A. E. Hotchner, he co-founded Newman’s Own, a food-beverage company. Newman dedicated all after tax proceeds from the business to charity.  As of this writing it has topped $400 million.

10.)  Angelina Jolie: She is still young enough to eventually out raise them all. Her world travel and selfless appearances for UNHCR have inspired many.

This list above is quite inadequate and establishing a “top ten” is not really very fair.  There is a long list of many others who have changed the world.

Elizabeth Taylor worked for AIDS research. Phyllis Diller worked for many charities in a long public career. The actor, Michael J. Fox has been the visible figure of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Cheryl Ladd and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. were fixtures for ChildHelp USA.

Sean Penn has mixed art, charity and politics in a career that has helped raise thousands of dollars for needy victims. Christopher Reeve, who portrayed Superman onscreen, teamed up with his wife Dana to create The Christopher Reeve Foundation and later co-found The Reeve-Irving Research Center.  William Shatner, Justin Beiber, Ben Affleck, Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Don Imus are just a few of the many others who have given much and have been quick to champion a good cause.

Their songs have soothed our fears and their onscreen dramatics have provoked us and entertained us.  But it is their off screen work for people in need that makes them true celebrities to me.

The Young Evangelicals: Their Hearts Belong to Rand Paul

November 11, 2015

While the other GOP presidential candidates are falling all over themselves trying to win the important evangelical leaders of influence, Senator Rand Paul appears to have won the hearts of their youth. What this will mean for the coming Iowa Caucuses, where the Paul campaign has organized the college campuses, remains to be seen.

Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, is one of the most important evangelical leaders in the country. He must keep the peace among the powerful televangelists and thus is meticulously neutral in the 2016 presidential race.  But his son, Isaac Johnson, supports Rand Paul.

David Lane, labeled by the New York Times as “something of a stealth weapon for the right” has brokered meetings with evangelical leaders and most of the Republican candidates from Ted Cruz  and Ben Carson to Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal. But his daughter, Jillian Lane, supports Rand Paul and works as his press secretary.

James Robison, televangelist, who is perhaps the most politically savvy Christian leader in the country, has met all of the Republican candidates and refused to make a commitment.  But his son, James Randall Robison, supports Rand Paul.  And recently co-authored a book with him.

When most people think of the Rand Paul youth vote they think of college campuses and young people concerned with criminal justice reform or marijuana or auditing the Federal Reserve not the immorality of government. For the evangelical youth there are additional issues Rand represents. “We have to be worried about the future of liberty and the loss of morality in this country,” says Justin Machacek, an Emmy Award winning evangelical Christian leader of the Neo Libertarian Movement.  “Make no mistake, there is corruption in the monetary system and crony capitalism throughout, but few candidates are addressing the deeper issue that government is innately immoral. The Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Pastors and church leaders have to be concerned that government is taking our liberty and squeezing out morality along with the Spirit of God.”

Brian Jacobs, a former consultant to the Billy Graham Organization and the man who arranged the important public meeting between George W. Bush and Billy Graham in Florida on the eve of the 2000 election, agrees. “Pure religion is caring for the widows and orphans and how does that square with a monetary system that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer?  What happened to free enterprise and supply and demand? Now it is all about government created monopolies for a select few. It is theft. It has become a moral crisis. And both Republicans and Democrats are involved.  Only Rand Paul offers a solution for this.”

But what about the social issues? What about marriage? Abortion? Jillian Lane says that an older generation of evangelicals are fighting their battles at the Federal level. “If that’s where the battle is waged the evangelicals will lose.  The mainstream media will guarantee that. Senator Paul wants to see us deal with these issues at the State level where we can often win.”

Rand Paul’s new book, Our Presidents and Their Prayers, which he co-authored with James Randall Robison, the son of televangelist, James Robison, quotes Founding Fathers who warned that even the best laws could not make a people good.  “I want you to be free to do just about anything if you don’t hurt anyone,” Paul recently told a television audience. “But I think society and civilization needs structure. There is a theologian by the name of Os Guinness I like who says ‘that liberty requires restraint, but the only restraint consistent with liberty is self-restraint.’

Says Rand Paul, “I am not saying the government should make good people out of you, but I think it makes it a heck of a lot easier for civilization to exist if you have liberty and virtue.”

Meanwhile, the Rand Paul presidential campaign has more than 300 clubs on university campuses across the nation and they include Christian universities as well as secular.  Will it make a difference?  College students are notorious for talking loud and not actually voting,” laughs Sydney Hay, a conservative political consultant who ran the Alan Keyes and Duncan Hunter presidential campaigns.  “The big difference is that this time, those college kids in Iowa will not be gone for Semester Break.  They will be back on campus and they will be able to vote.”

For now, the nation seems transfixed on the Republican front runners in national popularity polls, much as they were on Rudolph Giuliani at this point in 2008 or Herman Cain in 2012.  But the first in the nation presidential contest will be the Iowa Caucuses held next January. National popularity polls won’t necessarily translate into delegates to the Republican National Convention.  Ask president Giuliani or president Cain.  Then, ground game will matter.  Then we will see if Rand Paul’s student army makes a splash.



Would Ben Carson really be the first 7th Day Adventist president?

October 30, 2015

Yes, technically, if Ben Carson wins the American presidency he would be the first, openly admitted, Seventh Day Adventist in the White House. But there have been others that the Adventists could claim as their own and with good reason.  Warren G. Harding comes to mind.  The 29th president’s mother, sisters, brother and many friends were Adventists.  Some of those friends and relatives were appointed to prominent positions of power.

There were widespread rumors – believed among Adventists – that Harding was only publicly a Baptist “for political reasons.”  The embarrassing truth about Harding’s lusty lifestyle would not become widely known until his death and is even still unraveling thanks to recent DNA tests confirming that he was indeed the father of the illegitimate child he always denied.

Our current president, Barack Obama, has Adventist roots. His ancestors trace their spiritual lineage to Adventist missionaries in Africa.  As the 2009 inauguration of Obama was planned in Washington, D.C.  journalists descended on the Obama family in Kenya where they found two, rather evenly divided groups.  Adventists and Muslims.  The international press ignored the Obama Adventists and spent their time pursuing stories on the Islamic side of the family.  Nevertheless, the Obama family roots in this faith are well established.

Now, leading in the polls in Iowa, GOP presidential candidate and neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, is getting a closer look and his religion is becoming bit of an item.  Former Iowa front runner, Donald Trump, made a point to talk about it.  “I’m Presbyterian.  Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh Day Adventist? I don’t know about that.”  Trump’s apparent reckless and politically incorrect comments are usually much more calculated and nuanced than meets the eye.  Here he is trying to make a point to born again Christians in Iowa.  This guy is suspect.  That group is a cult.

Nowadays, the beleaguered Evangelical Movement has no problem with a fellow Christian who calls himself a Seventh Day Adventist.  As we learned at Columbine and Umpqua Community College, Christians are lined up and shot for their faith in this country. The killers don’t ask if you worship on Saturday, as the Seventh Day Adventists believe, or on Sunday, as most other Christians do.

Seventh Day Adventist, George Vandeman, who for years hosted the popular Christian television program, It Is Written, was widely loved and respected.  The show was consistently ranked by the Nielsen Company as one of the top three most watched Christian television programs in America.  Vandeman had a wide following of Catholics and Protestants.

In 1879, Warren G. Harding was at Ohio Central College, a Baptist institution, when his mother and aunt joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church. By some accounts all of his siblings were raised in the new faith.  And while Harding clung to the his independent and more “worldly” lifestyle as a Baptist he was at times drawn to the doctrines and health practices of his mother’s religion of choice.  Once suffering from depression a young Harding visited a sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan.  It was run by the famous Adventist medical doctor, John Harvey Kellogg, who practiced holistic medicine and won fame for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal.

When Harding became president the door to power opened wide to Adventists.  The president brought his own homeopathic doctor, Charles Sawyer, back to Washington.   The presidents’ sister ran a program for unwed mothers.  Her husband, Herber Votaw, a minister in the church, was appointed Director of the Federal Prison System.

Ironically, the Harding administration was one of the most scandal ridden presidencies in history.  While the Adventist publications praised Harding during his time in power, they grew silent when after his death the skeletons began tumbling out of the White House closets.  Harding, who kept a mistress, ran for office touting prohibition. Meanwhile, he privately loved his whiskey, which he served to guests in the White House in spite of the law.

Eventually, the scandals threatened to touch the church itself.  Harding’s brother in law, Herber Votaw was accused of allowing a drug ring to operate freely in the Atlanta Penitentiary.  The charges were unproven and Votaw left public life, returning quietly to work in the Adventist Church.

After Warren G. Harding, gun shy Adventists elders reflected sadly on their church’s brush with power, vowing to remain focused on spiritual matters, while earthly events could take care of themselves.  But now, things have changed.  This is a time when Christians are lined up an shot dead for their faith.  There is a hostile media declaring open warfare on their values.  And finally, there is the emergence of Ben Carson, a quiet, self effacing doctor, now a front-runner for the GOP nomination.  He is not a descendent of Adventists like Obama.  Or a friend of Adventists like Harding.  He is the real thing.

See below: Doug Wead on the collapse of the Jeb Bush Campaign.  30 Seconds.


October 8, 2015

Rupert Murdoch doesn’t need me to defend him but I’m going to anyway.

He owns Twentieth Century Fox, World News Corp, The Times, Fox News Channel, Wall Street Journal, (Ha, I am out of breath and don’t need to continue, but you get the point.)  Nevertheless, when he recently tweeted aloud his thoughts about Ben Carson and how sweet it would be to have “a real Black American president” it caused quite an uproar.  All of his rival media buddies, bloodied by his prowess in the marketplace now pounced on a genuine gaffe.  If they can’t beat him in business perhaps they can draw some political blood?

The fact is everybody knows what he meant.  He meant wouldn’t it be nice to have an African American president who actually tried to heal race relations instead of drive a wedge between them?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have our own American Nelson Mandela?  The kind of president we had hoped Barrack Obama would be.  The kind of president the world hoped he would be when they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize before he had even uttered a word or done a deed.

Pundits on the other networks piled on Murdoch, incredulously asking aloud, “Now, what could he possibly mean?  Does he mean that Obama is not really black?  What is his point?”

But we all know his point.  And we know that those pundits know it as well.  So let them laugh, act puzzled, and revel in their pious, moral superiority.  The joke is on them.

Ben Carson is hated and feared by the political police because he is Black and not a bigot.  And well, perhaps, because he is also a Christian.

Let’s face it, there is a new hatred in America, a new bigotry.  It is reflected in the stifling, anti intellectual media language and in the on air segment choices they make.  One network newscast recently refused to allow witnesses from the Roseburg shooting to say that the gunman asked his victims if they were Christian.  Instead, they allowed the quote, “He asked us our religion.”

After the massacre at Umpqua Community College people debated gun laws and the impact on society of violent videogames and our dismal mental health record but no one dared utter a word about the fact that in our current atmosphere Christians are being targeted for murder, simply because of their religion.  That doesn’t fit the narrative but it is an astonishing fact.  And don’t expect it to ever be called a “hate crime.”  That is reserved for the select and approved people in American society who should not be killed.

It is the national media which feeds this new bigotry, which is why they became so alarmed when one of their own, like Rupert Murdoch, insisted on speaking his mind about Ben Carson.

It is remarkable how this trend persists against all logic.  In 2007, CNN aired Cristiane Amanpour ‘s production of “God’s Warriors” which implied that Islamic terrorists were not much different than fundamentalists in Christianity and Judaism.  All three were equally dangerous.   It won the Peabody Award and was accepted as a basic truth about society.

By 9-11, the disparity between deaths at the hands of Muslim terrorists as opposed to Jewish and Christian terrorists had outdated Amanpour’s bogus documentary.  Today, I am told that “God’s Warriors” is shown to much laughter in dorms at Notre Dame, BIOLA and other Christian Universities, but the bigotry behind this media narrative has not changed.

A couple years ago ABC television tried to promote a sitcom called “Good Christian Bitches.”  One can imagine the outcry if the target community had been gay or Islamic? Christian’s are acceptable targets.  Their women are “bitches” and their young people can be ordered to stand up and be killed without comment from journalists.

There is no doubt that the backlash against this controlled speech about race and religion is behind the rise of Donald Trump.  The public is not racist, nor are they anti-Islamic, but they are tired of being treated like children and having insolent demagogues cram stilted propaganda down their throats.

They are suffocating in the smog of political correctness.  Moments of truth, such as Rupert Murdoch’s wistful reflection on Twitter, no matter how painful or rare they may be, are brief glimmers of hope that the Gulags are still a few years off.

Rupert Murdoch for president.  Oh, I know, let me have my fun.  Don’t be a “birther.”

Inside the government plans to shutdown the direct sales industry: Vemma is only the begining

September 10, 2015

The Arizona direct sales company Vemma was recently hit by the FTC and virtually shut down without a judge, jury or trial.  The income of thousands, including single mothers, housewives, young businessmen, retirees and disable veterans has been instantly blocked by the government agency.  Nobody will be paid, no matter what they have sold or how many years they have worked.

Ominously, among the reasons the FTC gave for its action, are methods that are employed by almost all other Direct Sales companies.  If Vemma is unable to survive, it could spell the end of a vibrant industry that involves 18 million Americans, 74% of them women.  It may be the last loophole allowing an ordinary person the opportunity to earn extraordinary amounts of money.

What is behind this action?


Shortly after the re-election of Barack Obama a former law enforcement – corporate security specialist called me with some interesting information.  A friend in the Justice Department was asking him for details on Multi Level Marketing companies in Utah.  They were talking names, income, the nature of their compensation plans and any questionable claims about their products.  They would welcome any gossip about lifestyle too.  Mistresses?  Lavish meals?  “Ahh, gonna take out a source of Republican money huh?” my friend joked.

It is no big secret that most entrepreneurs, including the kind who get into MLM’s, tend to be Republicans.  Just as people who believe that government has the solutions for society, tend to get jobs in government.

Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway one of the nation’s most successful MLM’s, was a major donors to both the Reagan and Bush presidential campaigns.  Frank VanderSloot, of Melaleuca, was the finance chairman and a $5 million fundraiser for Mitt Romney.

I have been an eyewitness to the political power of these companies and their sprawling networks of independence entrepreneurs.  In 1984, when Ronald Reagan announced his re-election, he did so at an MLM event at the Atlanta Georgia Dome.  Distributors came to the Dome for a weekend of seminars and forfeited the platform to the Reagan Campaign during the afternoon.  In another city at yet another event, I spoke just before Reagan to an audience of 10,000 MLM builders.

During the election campaign of George H.W. Bush I would often get a call from campaign manager, Lee Atwater.  “I need 500 people with signs cheering for Bush outside of Butler aviation in Raleigh Durham.”  Atwater would give me five photo ops with Bush at the foot of the airplane and in return the five MLM leaders would guarantee the crowd as requested.  In 1987, George W. Bush, working his dad’s campaign,  spoke at an MLM event I arranged, helping to funnel distributors into campaign workers.  It is not unlike what the unions do for the Democrats.

I have also been one of the pack who got the message from the top of the network.  In 2008 I was building a network in XanGo when word came down to make a $1,000 donation to Mitt Romney.  I complied.

It was only a matter of time before Obama would shut down this industry, which is a vibrant part of the economy of every other major western nation and flourishes in Russia.

There are many complaints about MLM.  The odds of success are not high, although probably a lot higher than a career in journalism or professional sports or Hollywood or – for that matter – the FTC.  The difference is MLM will take anybody and most other opportunities won’t.

In recent years the culture of MLM has diversified.  Shaklee, for example, the MLM vitamin giant, is owned by a Democrat billionaire who is a friend of Oprah Winfrey.  It will probably be the last one taken down and may even be permitted by the Obama administration to live out its retirement, as long as it remains quiet.

The danger for other MLM’s is the nature of the attack on Vemma.  They have been hit hard on “auto-ship” a policy that has products automatically shipped to a distributor unless he or she opts out in advance.  That, the FTC, contends, makes it a pyramid scheme.  Most former members of the Book of the Month Club or the Literary Guild are familiar with auto-ship.  If you signed up you got a book every month.  You could opt out but if you didn’t you had to pay for the book or send it back.  In our new “victim society” the FTC has determined that this is illegal.

It was also wrong, they say, that Vemma prospected college students.  Universities are now places where beer pong is a sport, abortions are choice, date rape is so rampant that universities refuse to publicly publish the numbers but selling vitamins to your roommate is now a crime.

(Donations to defend the industry should go to the Direct Sellers Defense Fund, Morrie Aaron:


Donald Trump? Sorry history says, “Not gonna happen.”

August 24, 2015

At the moment he is soaring in the stratosphere and I hate to be a kill-joy but if history is any barometer, Donald Trump will soon be falling back down to earth.

First, no businessman has ever been elected president.  And there is a very good reason. People in power have always made the laws that govern business purposely gray, not black or white.  From the emergence of the guilds in the Middle Ages, to modern day regulators on Wall Street, rulers have expected their merchants to break the law so that they will have power over them and keep them at their mercy.

Ask the IRS to fill out your tax return for you and they will laugh.  They aren’t paid to help you get it right, they are paid to catch you when you get it wrong.

The odds that the Donald has made legal mistakes in his many deals and bankruptcies is almost certain.  The odds that he has run into the Mafia, while operating in New York and Atlantic City, is also quite likely.  And before he becomes president, we are going to meet those people.  We will know their names.  And the people who trusted him and invested in his projects and lost money? We will get to meet them as well.

Second, all presidents held prior elective office or were prominent generals who served for years in government.

Why?  Because this is how candidates are vetted, they run for Congress or the Statehouse.  They serve under the watchful eye of a superior in government.   Remember businessman Herman Cain?  The year before the last presidential election he captured the headlines much like Trump.  According to Pew Research  Cain earned more press coverage than any other GOP contender.  His rally in South Carolina was the largest political event of the GOP primary season.  But before he could move into the White House we began to hear allegations of sexual harassment from women who had worked with him and his numbers fell.

The unproven allegations against Herman Cain were not nearly as bad as the stories we could confirm about other prominent political figures but those stories had been out on the table for a long time.  We don’t like surprises.  We like time to think things over.  The examination of Donald Trump has not even begun.  The American people can be forgiving.  They once elected a man who openly admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock. But before any of us get to vote we will want to know every wife, every girlfriend and we will want to hear their stories in detail.

Third.  Finally, there are those pesky polls.

Oh, you thought the polls were good?  Yes, he is leading among Republican voters.  But those same polls show a very disturbing problem.  He loses to Hillary Clinton in Ohio and Pennsylvania and only beats her in Florida.  And he loses to vice president Joe Biden in all three states.

Now here is the kicker.  Donald Trump ridiculed Rand Paul’s poll numbers among the GOP but Rand Paul consistently, for months now, has been beating Hillary Clinton in those same battleground states including Pennsylvania.  And now, other GOP candidates have joined Rand Paul in beating Hillary in Ohio as well.  Trump calls Jeb Bush boring but “boring Bush” is beating Hillary Clinton in all three swing states and Trump is not.

What does it mean?  It means that the Democrats know their real challenger and it is not Donald Trump.  They have taken out national ads against Rand Paul.  They have made no secret that they would love for Trump to win the GOP nomination and if he can offend a few more general election constituencies on his way to the GOP coronation, well, all the better.

There is one thing still in the Donald’s favor.  He claims that his most qualifying trait for chief executive is his ability to negotiate with an opponent, in this case the Chinese or the Mexicans or Iran.  His bestselling book is entitled “The Art of the Deal.”

In fact, this is the one common denominator of all American presidents.  They honed their skills in adversarial positions against a live opponent.  We have never had an artist president, a Vaclav Havel.  Our presidents have all been tested in combat.  25 presidents were lawyers, including Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.  12 presidents were war time generals.  They have argued in court or run for office or fought on the battlefield against an opponent.

Could it happen?  Could businessman Donald Trump actually win?  Well, yes, that’s what makes history so compelling.  But the odds are long.  And remember, this time he is negotiating for your vote.  Be careful and remember, he calls it the art of the deal.


Jimmy Carter: He never told a lie

August 20, 2015

Jimmy Carter held a press conference today, announcing details on his growing battle with cancer.

“I will never lie to you,” Jimmy Carter said back in 1976.  And so far, he never has.

The dignity, humility and integrity of Jimmy Carter is best illustrated by what he hasn’t done.

Unlike presidents who followed him he has not made millions off of interviews or speeches.  Or taken speaking engagements from companies who needed influence.  He hasn’t used his Foundation to trade influence for money.  He hasn’t taken bribes in return for influencing policies for friends.

Unlike many of the most recent presidents he hasn’t used the courts to block researchers or writers from accessing his presidential papers.  He has been accessible.  He simply has nothing to hide. I interviewed him the year after he left office.

Unlike the last three Democrat presidents who preceded him, he did not have sex with young subordinates on his own White House staff.

What is striking is that there has not even been a single charge of impropriety.  One can disagree with his political views but one cannot find anything wrong with his character.

Jimmy Carter followed Richard Nixon into the White House.  Nixon, who was caught in a lie over the Watergate Scandal, created what was called the Imperial Presidency.  His new White House Secret Service uniforms looked like Prussian police officers.  By contrast, President Jimmy Carter insisted on carrying his own bags when he got off Air Force One.

Secret Service uniforms at the Nixon White House.

Secret Service uniforms at the Nixon White House.

It is said that Jimmy Carter redefined the post presidency.  Most early presidents were careful to retire and stay out of the limelight.  There were exceptions. Ulysses Grant got involved in tawdry business deals with his sons and probably would have gone to prison if he had not been a former president.

In more recent times, Coolidge, Truman, Eisenhower, all kept the tradition that held, former presidents were seldom seen and never heard.

Carter changed all of that.  Determined to be useful, he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and helped build houses for the needy. There he was, the former president, on a rooftop, pounding nails in the sun.  The media couldn’t resist.  He showed energy and compassion and his Carter Foundation impacted the world.

Jimmy Carter’s political rise was a Cinderella story.  He was a candidate for president who showed up in Iowa the year before with a 2% recognition factor.  That doesn’t mean that 2% of the state supported him, it means only 2% even knew who he was.  But by the summer of 1975, right where we are now in the presidential cycle, Jimmy Carter stunned the nation by winning the important Iowa presidential summer straw poll.  It thrust him into the nation’s limelight where he has remained ever since.

It is hard to explain the euphoria that accompanied the Carter election as president.  He was a Democrat who publicly identified himself as a “born again” Christian.  Which put border states into play and reshuffled the electoral college numbers as Republican evangelicals crossed over to support him.  It forever changed the strategic map of American politics.

His family was a hoot.

Lillian Carter, the president’s mother, was a huge personality, well ahead of her time.  Outspoken and courageous in her political views, Lillian was a Southerner who spent her life exposing racism.  A world traveler, a nurse, a former Peace Corps volunteer to India, she became a delightful bon vivant of the Carter First Family.

His sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, was a well dressed, good looking, faith healer.

His brother, Billy Carter, was the personification of the old Southern country boy.  When Carter won the Iowa Caucus reporters descended on his tiny gas station in Plains, Georgia where Billy held court with a beer can in his hand.  “My sister is a faith healer,” Billy said. “My brother thinks he’s going to be president.  I’m the only sane one in the bunch.”

It was an exciting and compelling time of hope.  America was coming out of Watergate and corruption.  There was hope that this president could restore integrity to the White House.  He did that. But the economy sagged, Islamic terrorists seized power in Iran and the Soviet Union threatened the end of the world.  American turned to Ronald Reagan.

The Soviet threat is gone now, but the economy still struggles as American finds its new place in a post industrial era and unfortunately, the corruption is back.  The IRS, the Veterans Administration and other agencies are tainted.  The front runners for both parties include a Republican who openly brags that “I buy politicians and they do what the hell I tell them to” and a Democrat who is trying to survive charges that she offered her power for sale to even foreign buyers.

Jimmy Carter’s press conference today was a reminder that at least once, in recent American history, someone held power without corruption.

Jimmy Carter and Doug Wead, 1979.

Jimmy Carter and Doug Wead, 1979.


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