June 3, 2008

Carter Visit

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          Mary and I spent the last two weeks in Wales. When I arrived I found a new baby llama (female that is largely white with a brown tail) born since while I was away. This time of year is always physically demanding. The grass and hedges are growing at a ferocious rate, weeds have come up all over the farm yard and the drive way, and the general detritus of winter needs to be cleaned away. This spring matters were made worse by the additional need to clean and rehabilitate the house after a construction project during the last year involving the wood panelling of our main living room. The project included the installation of a large screen high definition television giving us an even bigger selection of television channels than we have in Washington. 

                            It is also a beautiful time in Wales. Pink and red rhododendrons were in full bloom. Around the lake yellow irises and blue bells were in flower. Birds were nesting everywhere and a pair of Canada geese had flown in and produced five goslings. The man came from the trout hatchery to restock the lake with 300 rainbow trout.

                            After a week of intense activity President Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn and daughter Amy came for a twenty-four hour stay. He had spent the previous two days at the annual Hay-on-Wye book festival (which I am told is the largest such event in the world). He had spoken to capacity audiences and had been very warmly received. He is deeply admired in the UK as one American leader who is profoundly committed to peace and resolving international conflict. This was widely reflected in both the very positive newspaper articles and the TV interviews during his visit.

                           Sadly after a week of magnificent sunshine it rained during much of the time they were with us. But, after an hour sitting by a warm fire, we made the most of the situation going on a long tour of the farm clad in rain gear and wellington boots trailed by the secret service who seemed much less prepared for the weather. In the afternoon we went into the little town of Tregaron (population 3,000) to visit the local church where there was a floral exhibit honoring different female figures in the Bible. We went from there to the local pub to drink cider. President Carter was approached by a woman who had heard him speak to a packed football stadium in Newcastle in 1977. Carter had been advised to open his speech with a boisterous “Away the lads!!” a chant for the local team. He received thunderous applause. Thirty years on this was the only thing from the speech that either of them could recall.

                         In the evening we had dinner at the Harbormaster Hotel in Aberaeron, a picturesque fishing village on the sea. Another diner passed a message through the secret service to President Carter saying that he desperately needed to speak to him. It turned out that what he really wanted was just to shake his hand and get him to sign his menu. The man turned out to be Elfyn Llwyd the leader of the Welsh Nationalist Party (Plaid Cwmru) in the parliament in Westminster, so the conversation with him was of some interest to Carter.

                       Unlike the two previous occasions when the Carters visited us in Wales we had structured things this time to be purely relaxation. We did, however, have time to talk to him about the highly successful role he had played in the Nepalese elections, his visits to Gaza and Syria, and Egypt, and his role with the group of so-called “Elders,” the sad death of Hamilton Jordan, and his view of the US presidential elections (as of this writing he had not formally indicated his vote as a superdelegate, but his optimism about the possibility of an Obama presidency was clear.) Because of their mutual interest in the Palestinian situation he and Mary talked about this topic at length.

                                   What impressed me most as he heads towards his 84th birthday was his continuing energy and mental acuity, his deep dedication to the causes in which he believes was, and the vigor with which he clearly intends to continue pursuing them. 


Peter Bourne


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© Peter G. Bourne - 2008