tv Discussion on the Life of Lillian Carter CSPAN July 12, 2015 9:32pm-10:02pm EDT
>> american history tv is featuring c-span's original series "first of ladies." next week we look at francis. this is american history tv on c-span 3. >> coming up next, about the for and to story and -- historian talks about lillian carter. he talks about her work as a peace corps volunteer in india at the age of 68. there is an award named after
her for exceptional peace corps volunteers over the age of 50. this 30 minute event was hosted on mother's day at town hall seattle. >> i want to thank the town hall for having me here today and my dear cousin for helping make this special event happen. and my other cousin for blessing this occasion with his presence. think you. i want to thank all of you for coming out on this fine mother's day. i don't know. you could be with your mother. thank you for spending it with a first mother of the world and whom president carter still calls mama. excuse me. like president carter and all of you, i had a super mom.
she did not live to see this book, but she knew i was writing it. she inspired me to do it. my mother wrote rules that needed breaking. she helped without question whoever needed helping. so to among sharecroppers in georgia during the great depression or in the slums of mumbai in progress 1960's india and anywhere someone was in pain of art or body, there was lillian carter. as president carter wrote, mama lived not to please, but to heal. two different things. to put another way, when a reporter past the presidential campaign, he asked the lady on main street when he should know
about the candidates mother. miss lillian is afraid of no man, said the woman. if you don't like it, she a about ask you why. -- she ain't about to ask you why. within a few minutes of meeting him, lillian told ambassador how she would sit on her front porch is all hypocrites went by on their way to church with a teacup of jack daniels in her hand. [laughter] to make sure they knew it wasn't tea, she had the bottle standing by. i confirmed this with close friends. they would smile and shake their heads. lillian also shared more personal parts of her heart. she told ambassador how her
father had protected his friends in a black community and help them get what they needed nobody else was interested or billing. she told him of how billy would have caused trouble, he invited a man he saw respected in through the front door of the house in the jim crow dark ages. lillian's father and the bishop would sit on the front porch in full view of the town and reading the bible and singing hymns together. a tough act for even the most racist neighbors to disapprove. we could use more that front porch activism these days. but movement most was when the ambassador said miss lillian told me about the navies, the black babies she helped ring
into the world when she nursed. she told me they had mamas and daddies, but they were also mine. they were all my babies. nobody is going to cause them any harm. ambassador said, she was truly one of the great women of our time. as we all know, she mothered one of the great men of our time. i've been invited to picnic supper. we found ourselves discussing women's rights about which i thought i knew a great deal. i'm very proud of a great grandfather who was at the forefront of the suffrage movement. jimmy listen to me. when did women gain the right to
vote? i said, 1920. he said, no they didn't. only white women gain the right to vote in 1920. people don't always think about that. he was right. i hadn't thought about it. to lillian -- when i look in my children, i think, lillian, you should have remained a virgin. [laughter] a story i tell my book is something lillian told jimmy. i wish i were black. i feel like i could find my battles better if i were black. we could fight a battle that is never-ending. many southern whites, this is sounding like a shocking betrayal of the colorcode.
being black had not given them any special powers. my mother said this, too. how i wish i could have been born a black woman. i wish i dug deeper into that statement. it could be seen as an attempt to make amends through solidarity by two what women who both descended rum southerner slaviers. it had something to do -- from southerner slavers. it had something to do -- for her, that joy was ammunition on the fight that lillian carter wanted to take part in. i make it clear in the that i believe jimmy carter's moral
universe is derived solely from his mother and that he inherited her righteous outrage and injustice. always unrestrained, lillian spoke her mind. and truth to the powers that be. she dared them to tell her she was run. she would be fighting those battles along with many of us. black lives matter. this is by a woman in her 50's -- a 60's once climbed the water tower to talk to a young black man threatened to jump to his death. internet is being -- it turned out he was being abused by his
alcoholic father and could see no other way out. how she managed to save his life -- i asked him what he needed. in 1966, lillian saw a need and she responded by joining the peace corps. she left her comfortable life, diamond rings to change other people's lives. she ended up changing her own. in the lives of countless people. her courage, compassion and love the people, hatred of injustice helped great the carter center in atlanta for which he served as consultant in the last few years of her life.
a light in an often dark world. it is because he had a wonderful mother. a wonderful mother can give to the world. through one of her own. late lillian wrote -- lillian wrote a beautiful letter that has become quite famous. i think of where im and what i'm doing and why. my life lost its meaning and direction. for the first time, i lost my will to live.
so far away from the people and material things, i would discover what life is really about. it is the most precious gift of all. each one of you would dare to do the things and reach for the goals in your own lives that have meaning for you as individuals. there is much as you can for everybody. don't worry if you don't please everyone. i would like to read to you what lillian geared to do during her two years in india. this was a rather tame use of
time because she would have rather been involved in a day-to-day hand down nursing -- hands on nursing for which he was trained. this is how lillian carter resolved that dilemma. the righteous prayer of a mother . most of the frustrations lillian expensed was because of her and set a second work experience. some came from the doubts of what she was doing.
she was receiving word letters from home. she had been too truthful that the condition she lived in every day. death. disease. lack of adequate food. walking miles in the heat with her bare feet. her children were alarmed. she had come to india for reasons that were not as p are as she believed. -- pure as she believed. my worries are not personal but of such huge proportions it takes more than just me to overcome them. as the decisive action and
outreach critical mass, lillian needed a place where she could discreetly unburden her soul. perhaps she found it. they were keeping her room a constant supply of fresh flowers . he also cut the women stocked with fresh vegetables and improving a diet. in turn, lillian was teaching the daughter to read. that little girl now runs a university in mumbai, by the way. perhaps he told the lillian about the rose garden a pundit on a hill near her apartment house.
-- planted on a hill near her apartment house. she would sit hidden among the rocks and talk to jesus, as she told him, just as if he were in the room. i would never have come over here if you hadn't brought me. you will have to do something. something she wanted done through divine intervention. to work as a full time nurse in the clinics. i knew nothing about the new medicines, she admitted. and never forgot how to take temperature or give injections. nursing was her calling. it is tied to her heart and her compassion. even in her darkest hours, she never had any doubt that god is looking at me. when she wrote her children come it was to have an session turned
to for her deciding answer. come on, god. this is your problem. the answer came toward the end of june. from now on, your work is at the clinic. lillian captured her bliss in 60 simple words -- i have never been so happy. -- six simple words -- i have never been so happy. all kinds of medicines. even a triangular clock to put overheads with lice. it was supposed to be used when outside the clinic. little did he relates that lillian would extent outside.
to walk -- lillian had to walk to reach the apartment. along the way, she would meet children. maybe they had lumps or something or sore legs. i would meet women would beg me to do something. she always carried a first aid kit with her. lillian fennell a lot of her time between the clinic and home fixing people up right there -- spent a lot of her time between the clinic and home fixing people will up right there in the road. as a peace corps volunteer lillian shouldn't have been doing anything for anybody except employees. she knew the clinic were only for those who were. as a hell became known request
from people increased and soon exceeded what jews able to do with her first aid supplies. she -- what she was able to do with her first aid supplies. she ran out. she arranged a meeting. lillian asked him point-blank for money and for permission to give medical aid to the poor outside the walls of the complex. he thought i was crazy, she recalled. no one had that much money, he told her. frustrated, lillian began to cry. i cannot stand this any longer. she might have to tender her resignation. she could not help them. he asked her to reconsider. he relented to a certain degree. he told me if i could get him to
see more people and if we could get more medicine and if i could stand by the gate in only let people through who needed the help, then he would permit it. it was only half the battle of course. lillian laid the charm on it. they left it, she said. oh my. i think all men do. [laughter] -- they loved it, she said. oh my. i think all men do. [laughter] she hoped he would allow her to come back to be treated solely to him. he knew better, pointing out there were former against medical distillates in the u.s. than in india -- far more better medical facilities in the u.s. than in india.
i told them how beautiful his wife was. what a cute daughter he had. after a while, he was beaming. then she dropped the bombshell. the doctor hit the ceiling, she recalled. lillian's flattery and her assurances that her help with ease the additional workload softened the blow. the nurse and doctor came to an agreement. for any woman or child that presented themselves at the gate, lillian would be called to determine the seriousness of their condition and authorize their admittance. opening the clinic dates had -- gates had its downsides. billion had little money in india -- lillian had little money in india. she had very little left for anything else i was not allowed to take money from her family.
according to a jimmy carter told me, his mother cashed a personal check to purchase more drugs. she wrote to jimmy leading that he persuade drug companies to send her any surplus medicine and in the samples they had which he did. during her increasingly sleepless nights, she came up with what you called the craziest scheme you ever heard of. i was learning to steal for this people. she confessed in an interview decade later we had to drug salesman who sold american drugs . it was about 10 miles from us. every monday morning one of the other came to one came on a monday. i told him he longtail of how much we helped the poor.
if you would give me some samples, i would write to both of them but wonderful work you are doing. he gave me the samples he had for that day. when the man from lilly paid a call, she listed the prestige of her son. she left it vague. they were quite good friends. i sit had cabinets full of medicines, she recalled. -- i soon had cabinets full of medicines, she recalled. adding the patience to the daily q and the scamming jugs when to give her transfer them added more long hours to her lengthy days. she was never happier then when fully engaged in solving a
problem of other people. when the doctor sent her and a nurse to examine the eyes of all 5000 workers, lillian was over the moon. it wasn't just because she could test her medical skills in a far bigger way that you had before or that this is more proof that the doctor's trust in her was growing, it was a significant milestone. when he described her as an efficient nurse, movement and send it to another person like an everyday affirmation was for lillian and occasion for which voter family will stand out as a pillar of fire. she took her job seriously. the best part of treating the workers, sheiks point, is being able to meet and interact arsenal he -- personally. there are hundreds, she said,
who had never before had any contact with an educated or a kind, understanding soul. she wanted to make sure the men had healthy eyes. she also want to be that kind and understanding soul. thank you. [applause] if anyone has any questions i'll see if i can answer. microphones are over here off to the side of the stage. anybody? there is another when there. -- another one there. >> hello. my name is mark. they differ coming all this way. i believe i heard in the last week or two that jimmy carter
had decided to leave the baptist church? i think i heard that. i know it is a difficult topic to bring up. is that something that was difficult for him to do with him being a long-term member that he may be got from her? >> thank you for that. i believe the specific issue at hand was that his impression cooperated by numerous pieces of evidence that organized religion has grown a great burden and danger to women around the world
because of certain practices and attitudes oppressing women and damaging women in the name of male dominance. that is wrong. as far as i understand it, that is the basis of -- this is written at length in one of his recent books. women around the world are still not in a good place. i grew up in the home of a feminist who is railing forever against what she perceived to be instances of domination of some oppression. i agreed with my mother. i still see it.
i don't like it. i call it out. i think this is the president carter was saying. to the degree of having a mother who fought for herself and is involved in that decision to leave the church -- i think you are correct. it it might influence --it did have quite an influence. lillian was not a garden-variety feminist. she felt a woman should strive to be an individual and not so much join a crowd or group or interest group, but be herself and do what she wanted because she always did. a word about president carter's father earl, who has traditionally been seen as
somewhat less -- not quite as progressive as his wife. to some people, she said this in her peace corps years. this was a man who shortly after they married in the 1920's encouraged his wife to finish her nursing degree and go out and work. this was in plains georgia, a tiny, beautiful little town. if you have not been there, i encourage you to go see it. this was not something a lot of women were doing. they were at home taking care of kids, taking care of their responsibilities of the farm and household. he was saying go and continue your work because if something happens, you have that to fall back on. how many men today are comfortable saying that to their wives? i think some of his father --
his father i think was more progressive than we hear, certainly than is the stereotype of the georgia farmer. good question. thank you. anybody else? already -- all right. i hope you will pick up a copy of the book. i will be happy to sign it. my cousin, reverend mckinney, gave me a special pen i'm going to use to sign with so you too can partake. [laughter] thank you very much. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on cspan3.