Thursday, October 28, 2010

Memoirs From The Most Neglected And Visionary Of Presidents: Keeping Faith By Jimmy Carter

The Good: Insightful, Instructive, Visionary, Well-written
The Bad: Like the Carter Administration, often bogged down with details
The Basics: Four years of peace and negotiation are captured in Jimmy Carter's memorable memoirs, Keeping Faith.

Especially during the political chaos invoked during the administration of George W. Bush, the appreciation of former President Jimmy Carter has been growing. While few appreciated the magnitude of what Carter attempted to do as President, it has become impossible to deny that following his Presidency, he has been one of the most influential private citizens on the face of the planet. Through the Carter Foundation, Carter helps to bring peace and stability to the most chaotic areas of the world while supporting human rights, democracy and education worldwide.

Keeping Faith is the memoirs of Jimmy Carter from his time as President. In just under six hundred pages, Carter explores the most significant actions and incidents of his presidency. Here are highly personal explorations of the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union for the SALT II treaty, the Panama Canal turnover, and the Camp David Accords. Carter explores how he normalized relations with China and sought to restore the dignity of the presidency following the Watergate Scandal. Keeping Faith is a series of explorations of America as a foreign power depending on diplomacy and how that pacifistic notion is challenged by terrorists, as in the Iranian hostage incident.

Keeping Faith is an important political document and more than a simple historical aid. Jimmy Carter, who actually wrote his own memoirs (some former presidents have used ghostwriters), infuses his voice throughout the work. Carter explores the intimate and personal relationships between himself and all of the major world players in the events he describes. So, for example, instead of the simple textbook analysis of Begin and Sadat throughout the Camp David peace process, Carter explores deeply the personalities of each man and their historical burdens coming into the process. Carter gives distinct and personal accounts for each of them, what they said when and how their very different personalities made and threatened the peace process.

Carter describes his successes and failures in very plain terms. He illustrates how hard he had to fight with his political opponents as well as people within his own party to attempt to reform the way America did business both in the country and abroad. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of Keeping Faith is Carter's prophetic nature. Published first in 1982, Carter predicts that the policies Ronald Reagan espoused would be dangerous to the nation, especially to the economy. Despite the popularity of Reagan, it's hard to deny that his economic policies that benefited the rich and big business were bad for both the poor and middle class of the nation. Carter ends the book by mentioning the bafflement of his team about how Reagan could even be elected. Now, years later, Carter and his team are vindicated by the truths that have since been revealed.

Moreover, the nature of the Iranian Hostage Crisis illustrates how spectacularly the administration of George W. Bush has botched international relations today. Written long before "coalition" became a dime catch phrase, Keeping Faith illustrates clearly how effectively building strong consensus between members of the international community may bring about peace and other desired goals (like getting the hostages freed). Carter's determination to keep peace runs throughout Keeping Faith and serves as a poignant reminder that when the United States works with other countries and keeps its eye on the actual source of its problems, the world will rally with us to overcome those obstacles.

Keeping Faith includes several candid photos, which in the newer University of Arkansas editions include very helpful captions, which are peppered through the book to provide a decent resource for historians who did not live through the Carter Administration. Keeping Faith is a book that explores four years of the United States at peace working hard to strengthen itself after devastating wars and political scandals that cost the faith of many americans. And Jimmy Carter has excellent analysis - especially so close to many of the events - and phenomenal diction (probably the result of his ridiculously high I.Q.).

So, like Jimmy Carter or not, his memoirs are a good read that becomes even more relevant during the current political season when Americans hope for peace and standing in the world.

For other books of essays and philosophies, please check out my reviews of:
Marcus Aurelius - Meditations
Mark Twain - Letters From The Earth
W.E.B. DuBois - The Souls Of Black Folk


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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