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tv   The Presidency First Ladies in Their Own Words - Rosalynn Carter  CSPAN  April 18, 2022 12:40pm-1:21pm EDT

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rosalynn remained a gracious campaigner. >> people ask how can you stand for your husband to be in politics and everybody know everything you do. i just tell them we were born and raised in georgia. it has a population of 683 and
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everybody has always known everybody i do. jim never had any hint of scandal in his personal or professional life. i really believe he can restore that honesty, integrity, confidence in government that we so sorely need in our country today. i think he'll be a great president. >> that was rosalynn carter. she arrived at the white house after the 1976 campaign with the blue print to go to work. she was a value partner to her husband. she became known as a staunch advocate for those struggling with mental health. you will hear directly from her including footage from c-span video library. first, her work on mental health issues and why they became so important to her. a february 1977 event at the white house after president carter signed an executive order creating a mental health commission which she served as
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active honorary chair, an important early forum. now, listen to her in her own words. >> as you probably know for the past year and a half, a little more, i have campaigned all over the country. my bigraphical sketch had a paragraph said i was interested in mental health. i had a chance to see things happening all over this country that were good. i also saw things happening that i thought needed help. i hope for the establishment of this commission, i know we can give some of that help. we have chance to do great things in our country. i thought until today i was going to be the chairperson. i got a little note from
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somebody that said, according to the office of legal counsel at the department of justice and so forth, prohibit the appointment of a close relative such as wife to a civilian position. a civilian position may be unpaid as well as paid. no problem with your being any nated as honor chairperson. i'm going to be very active honorary chairperson. i'll be spending many hours a week there. i'll be involved in the fact finding process. traveling over the country for hearings in the next six months. i intend to be active. >> he didn't say i was going to
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be president. it's never we never dreamed would happen. i was excited about it. i had campaigned the whole last year before the governor's race for him. it was hard. i learned so much about our state. we had 159 counties. i knew the capital of every county. it's been a big expose and the mental health system been passed. this was '63. this was 1966 when jerry first ran for governor and got beat
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that time. we got in late because our leading democrat candidate had a heart attack. they were moving people out of the hospital. everybody started talking about what would your husband do if he's elected governor of georgia. i learned so much about what was going on. after we lost that election, i worked four years to learn a little bit about mental health and the first month in office, of the mental and emotionally handicapped. i got upset with the president because they covered my mental health work the first few meetings i had. then they never showed up anymore. one of the things i wanted to do
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was bring attention to the issue and how terrible it was and few services there were. i'm thinking getting it out in the public. that's what i did in georgia. i said nobody covers my meetings anymore. she said mental health is not a sexy issue. that i didn't like. i didn't get very much coverage for it. we toured the country. found out what was needed, developed legislation and passed the mental health system's act of 1980. it passed through congress one
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month before jim was involuntarily retired from the white house and incoming president clearly never implemented. >> you're watching american history tv where you're listening to rosalynn carter in her own words. coming up, her role as a political and policy partner to president carter. you'll also hear her assessment of what she believes to be jimmy carter's greatest achievement and her memories of the iranian hostage crisis that consumed her husband through the last months of his presidency. >> i bring you greatings from latin america and the caribbean latin america and the caribbean latin america and the caribbean. it was a good trip. this morning in venezuela, the
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president said to many that our speech opened new paths and entered american relations instead of the fraternalizing that characterized be past. we're ready and eager to develop balance, equal, normal relationships. i find good will and friendship everywhere i went. they love you in the caribbean and in latin america and every head of state that i spoke with, without exception, agreed with me on the importance of cooperating and consulting closely on the issues that concern you and concern us all. human rights, nuclear non-proliferation, economic development, arms control. i think we have made progress in all of these areas. i'm glad to be back home. i'm glad to be with amy and with
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jimmy. i'm going to convey all this information that i have to jimmy. i look forward to consulting with him on a regular basis. >> i think my role was more one of a sounding board for jimmy. he could explain the issues to me and in the process think them through. he knew i was interested in them because i had been all over the country telling people what he was going to do and i wanted to be sure he did it. i could go out into the country side and talk to people. the president can become very isolated. one reason is because they have such huge underwriting is they go out and can't get access to people. also, people tell the president what he wants to hear.
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i can get information about how the energy crisis was hurting people, the elderly. one woman told me her house had been taken away. she paid for it but her husband had maybe something i said would help him make a decision. >> when the administration began, for example, and he was going through the process of choosing a cabinet, did you weigh in on any of those decisions? did he ask your advice on various individuals? >> i talked about all of them. jimmy consulted a lot of people. then we have a list. then he would narrow it down.
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i told him what i thought about people. he always knew how i felt. he made the decision. >> do you think your voice is one he tended to listen to with greater -- that had greater weight than perhaps some of the other advisors? just because sometimes a spouse is not going to necessarily have the kind of outside agenda that an employee or an appointee might some day have. >> i don't know whether -- on things i knew about like issues and problems with the elderly and those things, he always listened to me. but there were so many issues i didn't know b he would talk to me and we were trying to make latin america a nuclear free
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zone. he would talk to me about the whole issue of i think the brazilians had bought a power plant from the germans and we were trying to prevent that sale going through. didn't make very good friends in germany. but there is no way i can advice him on that. i knew what he wanted to do. i knew he wanted a nuclear free zone. so when i went to latin america, i talked to the heads of state about it. as far as our relationship is not one when i said this is what you ought to do. that was never that way. i told him how i felt and what i learned when i was in the countryside and latin america and then he would make the decision. we had so few women in congress back then. it's been a long time since jimmy was president. i mean, amy was 9 years old. last week she had her 27th
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birthday. been a long time. and there were not very many women in congress back then. and we were working really hard to select women all over the country. working really hard. >> that was an effort you joined at the -- in houston, you joined mrs. ford and mrs. johnson. and the joint effort. that was the women's conference. i knew every legislator that was against equal rights and i called every one of them, more than one time. i think we got maybe 13, 13 more votes, we could have ratified
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the amendment. but we were able to get the extension through. i think that was 1978 we got the extension through for four years and then, of course, another president came in and office and that was all gone. what about the tendency of the press to sort of pigeon hole people? i mean, there's -- was an easy character tour of hillary clinton and nancy reagan and of barbara bush, of you, of all of the first ladies. how wide was the gap between the press perception of you and who you were, who you felt should be conveyed to the press? >> i remember after jimmy was elected there was a whole page cartoon in "the washington post" with an image of jimmy and his
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mother and me and hay stacks. we had on straw hats and there was straw between our teeth. and then i went from that to being steel magnolia. i thut was pretty good. because steel is sufficient and magnolia is southern. then i was fuzzy. i was fuzzy for a while. and then i was most powerful. so i had a full range of images. i didn't think i was any of that. i was proud of because from the south and i hope i was tough. when we came to washington, i knew what i wanted to do. i had worked on mental health problems when he was governor. i was the governor's wife. i had my projects, i had entertained heads of state and entertained georgia legislators and congress people. there was a lot that i had learned.
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and i couldn't wait to get to washington to work on mental health because i had a chance to do it in the whole country. and in the campaign, i had a buy graphical sketch that said i was interested in mental health issues. everywhere i went in the country campaigning, people would show me their mental health facilities. either because they were proud of them but mostly because they needed help. so even before jimmy was inaugurated, after he was elected, i had to gather up the commission and jimmy announced that we were in less than a month. i had been working with equal rights amendment. i wanted to get that ratified. i had worked -- i think maybe my interest in problems of the elderly came in the campaign because when you're campaigning, people in a community will take you where there are crowds of people. and they always take you to a golden age club or home because a lot of people there.
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and most of the time they were democrats. and they would want me to go visit them. i was really interested in those. i worked on immunization. i had a good immunization program in georgia. so i knew why -- i had an agenda when i got to the white house. i knew what i wanted to do. i always -- i was frustrated because i couldn't always get the kind of publicity wanted to about my issues. in fact, i announced my mental health task force, the president's commission on mental health and we had a big ceremony, invited people from all over the country that were interested in mental health. and i was really excited. i had great people. the best people. the next day i got "the washington post" and not one word. not one word. i was really distressed. "new york times" had a good
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article. but there was not one in the "washington post." so then i fussed about it. the people, the press would come to one or two meetings. but we worked on those -- on that task force, that information. and we met long hours and we worked. finally onest press people said to me, well mrs. carter, mental health is not a sexy issue. twhal made me mad. that really made me mad. i was frustrated sometimes because they would comment on things i didn't think was important and they didn't cover -- you know, i didn't want mental health covered because it was my project. but the stigma is so bad and the people out in the country know that it's an acceptable thing to work on, it could help people out in the country. so i really wanted it to be covered. that was frustrated. i had things i wanted to do when i came to washington. >> the first lady was still
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traditionally covered by reporters writing for women's pages. and most of the information was on social matters. as kathy said yesterday on the panel, the press is more interested in what i was going to wear than in the projects i intended to take on. they were so interested in my inaugural gown. and they wanted to knowy was only serving wine at state dinners rather than having expecteded to improve care for mental people with illnesses. it was a very traditional and narrow view of first laidy. it presented mid staff with a lot of problems. i remember when we first met to review the organization of the first lady's office, there were four secretaries. social, press, appointments and personal. know twoun help with the things i planned to do. i had pledged in the campaign to have jimmy start a commission on
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establishing president's commission on mental health. i saw so many people in the campaign. i had been to i think every senior citizens facility in the country. i had all kinds of plans. after several weeks of studying, planning, we created a brand new office, director of projects. can you believe that it took that long to have a director of projects? it still exists today, but still in georgia, you may remember jimmy cut my staff. [ laughter ] but i did rely on volunteers but i learned one thing quickly, it's difficult for people to say no to the first lady of the united states so i could call on experts. >> i usually finished my work by
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5:00 in the afternoon. >> and he would call me, we got to talk a while or play tennis so i had to stop planning anything after 4:30, we would take some exercise, if it was raining, go bowl in the bowling alley down stairs in the white house and have some time together. >> mrs. carter as you sit in the white house here, is there a moment you remember in the time you spent in the white house coming here? >> i remember the first day when he was, after the inauguration when i came walking in the door and he was sitting behind the day it was -- >> impressive? >> it was impressive, yes. but then, i remember when the panama canal treaty was signed and he called me at the last vote and i came running over to the oval office. that was special, but i was in and out. the last day that we were in the
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white house, the day of the inauguration of president reagan i came over several times telling him to get dressed for the inauguration because he was still working on the hostage situation. there were a lot of momentous occasions in our white house life. i think jimmy's greatest achievement was his human rights policy which calls for freedom for people and the rights that they have around the world, and i think that since his presidency, that human rights policy has continued. and so, i think as far as that concerned, we're better off. because our country changed the way we conduct our foreign policy, we take human rights in
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this country into consideration, and our relationships with different countries. so i think we are better off in that way. as far as freedom around the world, lots of people that are not free, and we have a lot of problems with the court of agriculture, health problems in some of the developing countries of the world and we see the people are not free, there are too many wars, too much suffering. i think anything we can do to help people have a better and freer life, we, our country should do it and we do and try to do. it was awful. i rook back now at many memories, just waiting for the press conference in iran to say what happened that day, because we had no idea what was going on and the only way we knew what was going on was when they would
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come out and announce it. and it was just thinking about we met with the families all along and thinking of the people whose family members were there and what it was doing to jimmy's presidency, and it was awful. it was awful. but, and i would go out and campaign. i had found out earlier that i could, when a president goes out, he's so surrounded that people, he speaks to them, says hello and stuff but doesn't get close enough to people to have conversations, normally like he would otherwise, about what their hopes and dreams were, what they talk about, what i was doing or what jimmy was doing or anything that could help them. i had learned that early when jimmy was, during his presidency, but i would go out
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and everybody would say tell the president to do something and tell him to he's got to do something. i would come home and say why don't you do something? and he said what do you want me to do? you want me to mind the harbors? which is a lot of people were talking about, he said, and then have them bring out one person everyday and hang them in public? well maybe that was not the best thing to do. but it would, you know, i wanted it over and of course, he did too. everybody did, i mean the people in the country, every night a new tv program started and nobody got over it at all, i mean could get over it. i just think about it because with the everyday, every night. it was awful. >> you're watching american history tv where you're listening to roselyn carter in her own words. you'll hear her congressional testimony from 2011 as a former first lady, still advocating for her special causes. >> we're honored to have with us
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today, former first lady roselyn carter. we're all familiar with ms. carter's tireless advocacy alongside had her husband, president carter. she is a advocate for care workers and mental health issues at home, president of the roselyn care center for caring at jefferson whether she leads the institutes effort to promote the bell-being of family care takers throughout the country. she is an invasion for many and a legend in her own right. >> i'm very pleased to be here this afternoon to speak about care giving, an issue very important to me. it's been part of my life since i was 12 years old and my father was diagnosed with leukemia at age 44, we lived in a small town, but i still vividly remember going to my secret hiding place, the outdoor privy
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to cry, if i was alone. i felt the need to care for my father and younger siblings but i didn't always feel like being strong but my mother depended on me. less than a year after my father died my mother's mother died and my grandfather came to live with us. he was 70 and lived to be 95. my mother cared for him at home until he died. i helped as much as i could but i was married and living away much of the time. during the last three years of his life he was bedridden and totally dependent on her, family members, neighbors and friends for all his needs. my story is not unique but today, the works that were so much a part of my life in our small town, neighbors, the church, are not there you for millions of americans. families are dispersed, advances in medical science means we're
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much longer yet resources enable us to live independently are sorely lacking. we face a national crisis in care giving especially for elderly citizens. most elderly and disabled people live at home today, about 90% of the care they need given by unpaid informal care givers, most often family members, providing tasks that only skilled nurses performed just a decade ago and with minimal preparation and training. maybe of these caregivers are frail and elderly themselves and find the burdens of caregiving overwhelming. >> as we close our look at roselyn carter here on america history tv, you'll hear her account of the partnership and friendship she forged with her immediate predecessor, betty ford. a close relationship that mirrored the one between their
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husbands, jimmy carter and gerald ford, and she'll talk about her legacy. >> betty ford was my friend and i'm honored to be here today to help celebrate the life of this truly remarkable woman. i never imagined when we first met 40 years ago that we would develop such a close, personal friendship. at that time, betty was the wife of the vice-president of the united states. she had danced with a dance company and performed in carnegie hall. she was a leader in the fight for womens rights, and she had come to georgia with a michigan art train, a project taking great art to rural communities across the country. jimmy was governor and we invited betty to stay at the governor's mansion. i was nervous. she was the most distinguished guest we had ever had, but when she arrived she was so warm and friendly that she immediately put me at ease and we had a good time together.
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of course, i didn't tell her then that my husband was thinking about running for president. the next time i met betty was at the white house shortly after the 1976 election. it might have been a very awkward moment. i know from personal experience, but it was a difficult time for her. yet, she was just betty, as gracious as always. as i assumed the responsibilities of first lady, i had an excellent role model and a tough act to follow. betty broke new ground in speaking out on womens issues. her public disclosure of her own battle with breast cancer lifted the veil of secrecy with this terrible disease. she used the influence of office of first lady to promote early detection and millions of women in her debt today. and she was never afraid to speak the truth, even about the
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most sensitive subjects including her own struggles with alcohol and painkillers. she got some criticisms. i thought she was wonderful and her honestly gave to others every single day. by her example also helped me recover in 1980, having embraced the cause of men and women recovering from alcoholism and chemical-dependence she worked tirelessly as former first lady to establish the betty ford center and showed me that there is life after the white house and it can be a very full life. in 1984 we both participated in a panel at the ford presidential library on the role of first ladies. we found our interest in addictive diseases and mental health came together in many ways and a that we could be a stronger force if we worked as partners and we did, for many years. sometimes, turning to washington to lobby for our causes, especially for mental health and
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substance use disorder and see all health insurance plans. and i am so glad she lived to see this happen. we didn't get everything we wanted but we got a good start. i know that made her as happy as it made me. we talked about it. but when we got to washington, she would round up the republicans. i would round up the democrats, and i think we were fairly effective, most of the time. after the 1984 conference, betty wrote me a note i still treasure in which she expressed admiration for women who had the courage and did what others were too timid to attempt.
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isn't this the most appropriate description of betty? someone who was willing to do things a bit differently than they've been done before? someone who had the courage and grace to fight fear, stigma, and prejudice wherever she encountered it and today it's almost impossible to imagine a time when people were afraid to reveal they had cancer, or to speak publicly about personal struggles with alcohol addiction. she was a tireless advocate for those struggling. some struggling alone, ashamed to seek help. it was a privilege to work with her to bring addiction and mental health problems into the light. historians have said that our husbands, jimmy and jerry developed a closer relationship than any other presidents after
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leaving the white house. i think betty and i had a relationship and i would share betty and i shared another passion, our husbands and our families. her partnership with jerry both public and private, helped heal the nation and strengthen the family unit in its many forms. her love of her children, michael, steven, and susan was unbounded and her grandchildren were a source of constant pleasure. when we got together later in life we talked about our hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren and also our great grandchildren. to you here who mourn the loss of your mother, grandmother and great grandmother today, jimmy and i extend our deepest most
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sincere sympathies and want you to know the love and respect we have for this extraordinary woman. it was my privilege to know her. >> roselyn carter you've had 33 years post presidency, the longest in history now and you and president carter have been very active. what do you think your legacy, first of all, as first lady is? or what would you like it to be? >> well i hope my legacy continues more than just first lady. because carter, always been integral part of our life, fighting disease, bringing hope, i hope i have contributed some to mental health issue and see helped improve a little bit, the lives of people living with mental illnesses, but i also hope, i mean i have had great opportunities for so long now and to go to africa, had programs in 77 other countries,
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we'd go to africa two or three times a year and to go to those villages and now things are coming to fruition, we've been working on all these years, like almost eradicated guinea worm, to go to a village where there is no longer guinea worm, it is a celebration. one of the good things is we don't give money to the government. we send people in to teach, to help people in that country how to do something. and we work the people in the villages and the health department does too and we work with them. and they do the work. i mean just to go to a village and explain to them about guinea worm, if you can get the achieve to approve, that's what you have
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to do but if they see or hear about it from another country, they're so happy you're there. but just to see, to go back when it's gone from a village, almost gone, and the hope it gives to them. many of the time it's the first time they have ever seen that was successful and it's just so wonderful to see the hope on their faces. that something good is happening. didn't mean to get emotional. >> what's your advice to future first ladies or first husbands? >> well, in the first place, i would say enjoy it which is what ladybird told me. i think i have learned you can do anything you want to. used to ask me what the first lady ought to be paid, well if you get paid, then i have to do what first lady is supposed to do but you can do anything you want to and it is such a great
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soap box, i mean such a great opportunity. so i would advise any first lady to do what she wanted to do. if she doesn't -- and another thing i learn is you're going to be criticized no matter what you do. i could have stayed at the white house, poured tea, had receptions and i would have been criticized, as much as i was criticized outside, for what i did. and i got a lot of criticism. but you learn to live with it as i said earlier, just live with it, expect it, never let it influence me. but i would just tell her just to enjoy it and do what she wanted to do and the process, i know another first lady will have things she wants to do
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because women have changed in this time, you know, what women do now has changed from what they did when i grew up. i could be a secretary, schoolteacher, librarian, a few things, but now women most women are more active so just do what you want to do and don't worry about the criticisms. >> thank you for joining us on american history tv for this special look at roselyn carter and her own words. next week, nancy reagan, the former hollywood actress and first lady of california who deployed her keen political instincts in the white house to guide ronald reagan's presidency toward success. and who humanized the devastating impact of alzheimers disease with her care for the former president in his final years. american history tv's first lady series is also available as a podcast. you can find it wherever you get your podcasts. all this month, watch the top 21 winning videos from our
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student cam video documentary competition. every morning before c-span's "washington journal," we'll air a student cam winners whose documentary told us how the federal government impacted their lives and you can watch all the student cam documentaries any time online, at >> there are a lot of places to get political information. but only at c-span do you get it straight from the source. no matter where you're from or where you stand on the issues, c-span is america's network. unfiltered, unbiassed, word for word. if it happens here, or here, or here, or anywhere that matters, america is watching on c-span. powered by cable.


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