tv The Presidency First Ladies in Their Own Words - Rosalynn Carter CSPAN August 1, 2022 7:51pm-8:33pm EDT
[applause] >> so i think i would do it all the same. >> thank you for joining us on american history tv for this special look at betty ford, in her own words. next week, rosalynn carter, a long time advocate for the mentally ill, and a forthright political partner to her husband, jimmy carter. american history -- american history tv's first ladies series is also available as a podcast. you can find it wherever you get your podcasts.
her schedule was grueling almost as tough as her husband's yet. threw it. all rosalind remained an earnest >> her schedule was grueling, almost as tough as her husband's, yet through it all rosalynn remained an earnest and gracious campaigner. >> people ask me every day how can you stand for your husband to be in politics? and everyone knows everything you do. i just tell them that we were born and raised as georgia women. it has a population of 683, and everyone has always known everything i did. and jimmy has never had any hint of scandal in his personal life. i really think he can restore that honesty, integrity,
openness, confidence in government, that we so sorely need in our country today. i think he'd be a great president. >> that was rosalynn carter. she arrived at the white house after the 1976 campaign with a blueprint to go to work. she was a valued political partner to her husband e, but found there were many obstacles facing a first lady that wanted to influence public policy. she became known as a staunch advocate for those struggling with their mental health. you will hear directly from her featuring footage from c-span video library. first, her work on mental health issues and why they became so important to her. the february 1977 event at the white house, after president carter signed an executive order creating a mental health commission, which she served as 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 or a little more, i have campaigned all over the country. in my biographical sketch, i had a little paragraph that said that i was interested in mental health. and so, everywhere i went, if people had a good purview, they wanted me to see it. i had a chance to see things happening all over this country that are good. i also had seen things happening that i thought needed help. i hope, with the establishment of this commission, i know that we can give some of that help. we have a chance to do great things in our country. i thought, until today, that i was going to be the chairperson. [laughs] and i got a little -- i got a little note from somebody that says -- [laughs] -- according to the office of legal counsel of the department of justice and so forth, it prohibits a president of --
i civilian position may be unpaid as well as paid, justice is advised that the 20 members of the commission including the chairwoman will be serving in civilian positions. and have no problems with there being an honorary chairperson. i'm going to be a very active honorary chairperson. i intend -- we have office space in the executive office building, which is very close. i will be spending many hours a week there. i will be traveling. i will be involved in the fact finding process, traveling over the country for hearings in the next six months. i intend to be active. >> he could hardly say i'm going to be president. it was just something that was, you know, we never, ever dreamed would happen. but i was excited about it. i had campaigned the whole last year before the governor's race
for him, and it was hard. amy was a baby. i did not like to leave her all the time. but i enjoyed it. i mean, i learned so much about our state. we have 159 candidates. i knew the capital of every county. and issues, in fact, that's how i got involved in mental health issues, running a campaign in virginia. we had a big mental health facility hospital, there had been a big exposé, and the mental health systems act had been passed in, this was, 1963, and it was 1966 when jimmy first ran for governor. got beat, but we got in late because the democratic candidate had a heart attack. they were moving people out of the hospital because, like
12,000 people and they had room for 3000. it was awful. it was happening all over the country. and then moving them out before they had any facilities for them. there were no services in the communities, and everybody started talking to me about, what would your husband do if he's elected governor of georgia? i just learned so much about what was going on. and after we lost that election, i worked for years to learn a little bit about mental health. the first month in office, he appointed the governor's commission to provide services to the mentally and emotionally handicapped. i got upset with the president. -- i got upset with the press as well, because they covered my mental health work, my first few meetings i had, and then they never showed up anymore. one of the things i wanted to do was bring attention to the issue and how terrible it was, and how few services there were. and thinking just getting it
out in the public, that is what i did in georgia, developed a good program in georgia, by the way. but they just didn't come, and so when i was walking in the white house and met this woman who was one of the press people. i said, you know, nobody ever covers my meetings. she said, miss carter, mental health is just not a sexy issue. and that i didn't like, but i never did get very much coverage for it, but we toward the country and developed legislation. we passed the mental health systems act of 1980. it passed through congress one month before jimmy, as he says, was involuntarily retired from the white house. the incoming president put it
on a shelf and never implemented it. it was one of the greatest disappointments of my life. >> you are watching american history tv, where you are listening to rosalynn carter in her own words. coming up, her role as a political and policy partner to president carter -- carter's greatest achievement. and her memories of the iranian hostage crisis, which consumed her husband through the last months of his presidency. i bring you greetings from latin america and the caribbean. it's in grand placer academy a starkey. i've done this for two weeks and i couldn't resist but seriously, it was a good trip. this morning in venezuela president perry said to me that jim is pan american they speech and my visit to latin america had open new pairs in into american relations instead of the paternalism that his characterized the past. we are ready and eager.
to develop balanced natural normal and equal relationships a fan goodwill 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 jimmy and the concern us all human rights nuclear nonproliferation economic development. arms control. i think we've made progress in all of these areas. i'm glad to be back home. i'm glad to be with amy and with jamie. i'm going to convey all of this information that i have to jamie. in fact. i look forward to consulting closely with him on a regular basis. i think my role was more one. of a sounding board for jimmy could explain the issues to me
and in the process think them through. any new i was interested in them because i had been all over the country telling people what he was going to do. and then i wanted to be sure he did. and and i could go add into the countryside and talked to people presents can become very isolated and one reason is because i have such huge entourages when they go out and they can't really get answers from people, but also people tell a president what he wants to hear. and i could i could get information and about how the energy crisis at that time was hurting people problems of the elderly had one woman. tell me that her house had been taken away because she had paid for it, but her husband had taken a second mortgage on it. and in that state there were no laws. but prevented her husband from losing the house those kinds of
things i could come home and bring to jimmy and then as he struggled with an issue, maybe something i said would help him and i just make a decision. when when the administration began for example you and and he was going through the process of choosing a cabinet. did you weigh in on any of those decisions or did he ask your advice on various individuals? i thought the battle of we had a lot of input from people jimmy would jimmy consulted a lot of people about who would be best with certain positions and then we would have a nato list and then would narrow it down. i told him what i thought about people out, which i always did with issues and so forth. i always told him he always knew how i felt. sometimes you took my advice and sometimes he made the decision. were you? do you think that your voice was one he tended to listen to.
with greater that had greater weight than perhaps some of his 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 someday have i don't know whether on some things that i knew about like mental health and women's issues and problems of the elderly and those kinds of things. he always listened to what i had to say, but there were so many issues that i didn't know about he could talk to me. for instance. we were trying to make latin america nuclear free zone so he talked to me all 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. absolutely.
there's no academic advise him on that. but i knew that he knew what he wanted to do. i knew that we wanted a nuclear free zone and so i when i went to latin america, i could talk to the head of state about it. but as well, our relationship was not one when i said this is what you ought to do. that was never that way. i told him how i felt i told him what i learned when i went out in the countryside. i went to latin america and then he made the decision. we had so few women in congress, but then it's been a long time since jimmy was. president i mean amy was nine years old and last week. she had 27th birthday. been a long time and there were not very many women in congress at that time. and that we were working really hard to elect women all over the country and working really hard to get the equal rights amendment ratified. that was an effort that you joined at the in use in the women's conference, you joined
mrs. ford and mrs. johnson. as a joint effort i the women's conference, but then i knew every single legislator in every single state who was against the equal rights and then and i called everyone of them more than one time. and i think we had two in florida and two in nevada somewhere 11 in one state if we had gotten i think it was maybe 13 maybe 13 more votes. we could have ratified they could write some amendment. we really worked on but then we were able we were able to get the extension through i think that was 1978. we got the extension for ratification. four years and then of course another president came in office and that was all gone. what about the the tendency of the press to sort of pigeonhole
people, i mean there's a was an easily easy character created of hillary clinton and of nancy reagan and have barbara bush of you of all of the first ladies. how much how wide was the gap between the the press perception of you and and who you really were who you 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 the carter family. jim is mother me. and there were haystacks we had on straw hats and there was drove between ideas. from that to being the steel magnolia and but i thought that was pretty good because steel is tough and magnolia southern. and then i was fuzzy.
that was fussy 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. i was from the south. i hope i was tough. i didn't think i was fuzzy when we came to washington. i knew what i wanted to do. i had worked on mental health problems wajima was governor. i had been the governor's wife. i have had my projects. i had entertained ambassadors instead of heads of state had entertained, georgia legislators instead of congress people. there was a lot that i had learned. 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 had a sentence in my biographical sketch saying that i was interested in mental health issues and so everywhere i went in the country campaigning people would show me the mental health facilities. either because they were proud
of them a few we're proud of them because they were good mostly because that needed help. and so even before jim was inaugurated after he was elected i had put together a mental health task force president's commission on mental health jimmy announced that we'd been in the white house less than a month. i've been working on the equal rights amendment. i wanted to get that ratified. and had worked i think maybe my interest in problems of the elderly came in the campaign because when your campaigning people in a community will take you with our crowds of people and they always take you to a golden age club a convalescent home because a lot of people there and most of them they were democrats and they would want me to go visit them and so i came really interested in in those. i worked on immunization. i had a good immunization program in georgia worked on immunization. so and i knew i had an agenda when i got to the white house.
and you what i wanted to do. i was frustrated because i couldn't. always get the kind of publicity. i wanted to about my issues. in fact, i announced my mental health task force. the presence commissioner mental health, excuse me. i have a mental health task for us now at the corazon, but this was the president's commission on mental health. it had a big ceremony invited people from all over the country who interested in mental health the leaders in the field. and i was really excited had great people the best people in the country. the next day i picked up the washington post and not one word. not one word. i was really distressed new york times had a good order. there was not one word. and so then i fussed about it. and people depressed some of the press we would come to came to maybe one or two meetings, but we worked. on those and that task force and that commission and we met long hours and we were and finally
one of the press people said doing. well mrs. carter mental health is just not a sexy issue. well that made me mad. i was really made me mad. so it's frustrated sometimes because they would cover the things that i didn't think was important. and they didn't cover in i didn't want mental health cover, but because it was my project. but the stigma is so bad. and that if people are in the country know that it's an acceptable thing to work on, you know, it could help people out in the country. so i really wanted it to be covered. so they were frustrating tense, but i had things that i wanted to do when i came to the white house you in 1977. the first lady was still traditionally covered by reporters writing for the women's pages and most of the attention was focused on social matters. as kathy said yesterday on the panel, the press was more interested in what i was going to wear then in the projects i intended to take on. they were that point so
interested in my inaugural gown, and they wanted to know why i was only serving wine at state dentist rather than how i expected to improve care for many people with mental illnesses. it was a very traditional and narrow view of the first ladies role and it presented my 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. no one to help with the things that i had planted to do, and i i had pledged in the campaign. have jimmy's start a president's commission on establish a presence commission on mental health? i want to get the equal rights amendment ratified. i want to work on elderly issues. i'd seen so many people in the campaign. i had been i think every senior citizens facility in the country. i had all kinds of plans and
after several weeks of studying we created a brand new office director of projects. can you believe that it took that long to have a director of project. it still exists today and but still in georgia, i think you might remember jimmy cut my staff. about everybody and but but i did rely on volunteers, but i learned one thing very quickly that it's very difficult for people to say no to the first lady of the united states so i could call on experts. so i generally finished my work by five and afternoon. and he would call me about 4:30 and say we're going to jog and a little while we're gonna play tennis or something. so i had to stop planning anything after 4:30 and the afternoon we would just do some take some kind of exercise if it was raining. we'd go down and bowl in the
bowling alley down stairs in the white house and just just have some time together. this is carter as you sit in this office here. is there a moment that you remember in the time that you spent in the white house coming here? um, i remember the first day the first when he was. after the inauguration when hakeem walking in the door, and he was sitting behind the the desk was really. impressive, yes, but and then i was i remember when the panama canal trade is was signed and he called me when they got 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 white house the day of the inauguration of president reagan. i came over several times to tell him he had to come home and get dressed for inauguration because he was working still working on the hostage
situation. it was a lot of momentous occasions in our white house life saint jim is greatest achievement was his human rights policy. um which calls for freedom for people and the rights? that they have around the world and i think that since his presence so 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 these countries into consideration in our relationships with different countries. so i think we are better off in that way. as far as freedom around the world there are lots of people that are not free. and we have a lot of programs with the carter center agriculture and health programs and some of the developing countries of the world. and we see that the people are
not free and there are too many wars. too much suffering i think anything we can do to. help people have a better and for your life we our country should do it and we should do and we try to do it the carter center. it was awful. i look back now. i have memories. just waiting for the press conference and 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 come out and announce it and so and it was just, you know, thinking about and thinking we met with the families all along and thinking about the people who who is family members were there and and what it was doing to jimmy's presidency, and it was awful.
it was awful. but and i would go out. i would go out and campaign. i had found out earlier that that i could when a president goes out. he's so surrounded. but people he speaks to them. he says hello and selfless, but they don't get close enough to people to have conversations, you know, just normally like you would otherwise about what the hopes and dreams are what they thought about what i was doing or what jimmy was doing anything that could help them. i had learned that early when she was during his presidency. and but i would go out and everybody would say tell the press that to do something and tell him to he's got to do something. i would come home and i would say why don't you do so. and he said what do you want me to do? you want me to mind the harbors which a lot of people were talking about. he said and then have them bring out one prisoner every day and hang in public. well, maybe that not the best
thing to do. and but you know. i wanted it over. and of course he did too everybody did i mean the people in the country every night on? new tvs programs started and and nobody got over it at all. i mean could get over it. i just think about it because it was that every day ever every night. it was awful. you're watching american history tv where you're listening to rosalyn 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 today former first lady roselyn carter. we're all familiar with ms. carter's tireless. advocacy alongside her husband president carter. on behalf of human rights and conflict resolution around the world she is also a dedicated advocate for caregivers and mental health issues here at home.
mrs. carter as president of the rosalind carter institute for caregiving at georgia southwestern state university where she leads the institutes efforts to promote the well-being of family caregivers throughout our country. she is an inspiration for many and a legend in her own, right? i'm very pleased to be here this afternoon to speak about caregiving an issue. that is 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 very small town and all the neighbors rallied around but i still vividly remember going to my secret hiding place. the outdoor privia if you can believe that to cry. that's why i could be alone. i was the oldest child. and i felt the burden of needing to help care for my father and my three younger siblings yet. i was afraid and 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 few years of his life. he was bedridden and totally depended on her our family members neighbors and friends for all his needs. my story is not unique. but today the informal support networks that with so much a part of my life in a small town neighbors extended family the church and not there for millions of americans families are fractured and dispersed women. the traditional caregivers are now an integral part of the workforce advances in medical science means we are living much longer yet resources to enable us to live independently our soily blacking we face a national crisis in caregiving especially if i elderly citizens most fail elderly and disabled
people live at home today about 90% of the care. they need is provided by unpaid informal caregivers. most often family members providing tasks that only skilled nurses perform just a decade ago and with minimal preparation and training many of these caregivers of frail and elderly elderly themself and find the burdens of caregiving overwhelming. as we close our look at rosalyn carter here on american 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 husbands jimmy carter and gerald ford and she'll talk about her legacy. very forward 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 forty 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 the marthogram dance company and performed in carnegie hall. she was a leader in the fight for women's rights. and she had come to georgia with the michigan art train a project taking six cause filled with great art to rural communities across the country. jimmy was governor and we invited beta 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. of course, i didn't tell her then that my husband was thinking about running for president. the next time i met betty was that the white house shortly
after the 1976 election. it might have been a very awkward moment. i know from personal experience. that it was a difficult time for her yet. she was just betty. is gracious as always? as i assume their responsibilities of first lady i had an excellent role model and a tough act to follow. betty broke new ground and speaking out on women's issues how public disclosure of her own battle with breast cancer lifted the veil of secrecy from this terrible disease. she used the influence of the office of first lady to promote early detection and millions of women are in her debt today. and she was never afraid to speak the truth. even about the most sensitive subjects including her own struggles with alcohol and painkillers. she got some criticisms. i thought she was wonderful.
and are honesty gave hope to others every single day. by her example also helped me recover from jimmy's loss in 1980. having embraced the cause of better treatment for men and women recovering from alcoholism and chemical dependence. she worked tirelessly as former first lady to establish the biddeford 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 latest. we found that our interest in addictive diseases and mental health came together in many ways and that we could be a stronger force if we worked as partners. and we did for many years. sometimes uh-huh traveling to
washington to lobby for our causes. especially parity for mental health and substance use disorders in 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 mater is happy as it made me talked about it. but when we go 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 better wrote me a note that i still treasure in which she expressed her admiration for women who had the courage of that convictions and did what others were too timid to attempt? is it that this the most appropriate description of betty? someone who was willing to do things a bit differently than they'd 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 now to speak publicly about personal struggles with alcohol addiction. she was the tallest 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 leaving the white house. i think betty and i had a similar relationship. and when closing i just want to add that betty and i shed 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 varied forms.
however for children michael jack stephen and susan is unbounded and her grandchildren were a source of constant pleasure. we got together later in life. we talked about our hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren and also our great grandchildren. do you hear who mourn the loss of your mother? your grandmother and great-grandmother today? jimmy and i extend our most sincere sympathies and won't you to know of the deep love and respect we have for this extraordinary woman. it was my privilege to know her. russell and 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 leg is a continues more than just fresh lady because carlos son has been an integral part of our lives. i would think and i'm not always waging peace fighting disease and building hope. and i hope that i have contributed something to mental health. issues and help improve a little bit people the lives of people living with mentally illnesses, but i also hope i mean i have had great. opportunities for so long now. and to go to africa and one of those guys who have programs in seven or something countries we go to africa. two three times a year and to go to those villages and that things are coming to fruition. we've been working on all these years like we've almost
eradicated guinea worm. i mean to go to a village. no longer anywhere, it is a celebration. i mean one of the good things about the protestant is we don't give money to the government. we send people in to teach. the help people in that country how to do something and we work with the people in the villages. with and and the health department does too and we work with them and they do the work. i mean to just to go to a village and explain to them about anywhere if you can get the chief to prove that's what you have to do. but if they see that i hear 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 or almost gone. and the hope it gives to them that it most the time. it's the first thing they have ever seen that was successful.
and it's just so wonderful just to see the hope of life. it's something good is happening. yeah, they made 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 but and i think i have learned that you can do anything you want to they used to ask me if i thought the first lady ought to be paid. 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's such a great. soapbox. i mean, it's just such a great opportunity. so i would i would advise any first lady to do what she wanted to do if she doesn't want and another thing i learn is you're gonna be criticized no matter matter what you do i could have
stayed there white has port t had receptions and i would have been criticized. as much as i was criticized outside, but what i did, but and i got a lot of criticism. but you learn to live with it as i said earlier. i mean just live with you expected and you live with it and never let it influence me. but i would just tell her also just to enjoy it and do what she wanted to do and and the process i know she'll that i and another first lady well have things that she wants to do because women have changed in this time. you know, what women do now it's changed for what they did when i grew up. i could be a secretary. school teacher librarian a few things but but now women most women will active. so i just do what you want to do and don't worry about the criticism.
thank you for joining us on american history tv for this special. look at rosalyn carter in 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 towards success and who humanized the devastating impact of alzheimer's disease with her care for the former president and his final years american history tvs first lady series is also available as a podcast you can find it