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‘A diplomat, a pro-democracy crusader, and an anti-poverty home builder’

Experts available to comment on former President Carter’s legacy

EVANSTON, Ill. — “The post-presidency of Jimmy Carter is unique in many ways. Largely unwritten are accounts of the cutting-edge programs created at the Carter Center,” said Richard Joseph, political science professor emeritus at Northwestern University.

Professors from history, journalism and political science offer political, historical and personal assessments of Jimmy Carter.

An unknown outsider

Said historian Michael Allen: “His presidency will be remembered by most as a disappointment. It is his post-presidential career as a diplomat, a pro-democracy crusader, and anti-poverty home builder, along with his personal decency and public morality, that Americans will recall more fondly.

“Jimmy Carter was a good man but, an ineffective president who faced the difficult task of leading a nation that was uncertain what it wanted in a president and which direction it wanted to go. In the wake of Watergate and the Vietnam War, Americans elected him because he was an unknown outsider uncorrupted by Washington's power politics. Then they blamed him when those very attributes left him unable to steer the nation and world through the material and spiritual challenges that plagued his presidency. Compared to his immediate predecessors and successors, he did little harm. But he arguably did too little good, thus further eroding faith in democratic self-governance in ways that would have lasting, largely negative consequences.”

Allen is an associate professor of history. His research interests focus on U.S. political and diplomatic history. He is the author of “Until the Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War.” His current work-in-progress, “New Politics: The Imperial Presidency, The Pragmatic Left, and the Problem of Democratic Power, 1933-1981,” treats evolving left-liberal relations to presidential power in the postwar era. He can be reached at

African governance and the Carter Center

Emeritus political science professor Richard Joseph was appointed by former president Jimmy Carter to launch and direct the African Governance Program at the Carter Center at Emory University.

Said Joseph: “My work on Africa coincided with Carter’s interest in making the continent a key focus of his emerging center. After preliminary exchanges, he asked me what I considered to be the most significant challenge in Africa. I responded, ‘governance.’ What did I understand by governance, he asked. I described the failure to build and maintain institutions that were effective and accountable. ‘Why not come and do that work here?’ he asked.

“Under my direction from 1988 to 1994, support for transitions to democratic systems and conflict resolution exercises, along with numerous consultations with scholars and policy practitioners, took place during a period of major global transformations.

“The post-presidency of Jimmy Carter is unique in many ways. Largely unwritten are accounts of the cutting-edge programs created at the Carter Center. Persons with profound knowledge of this important phase of his life and work need to share it with others, especially regarding endemic warfare, political repression, curable diseases and poverty. While these challenges persist, so also does the significance of direct engagement demonstrated by Jimmy Carter and his associates at the Carter Center.”

Joseph is emeritus professor of political science at Northwestern, and a former fellow of the Carter Center and Asa G. Candler Professor of Political Science at Emory University. His research focuses on African politics, democratization, political economy and international security. He can be reached by contacting Stephanie Kulke at or 847-491-4819.

Calling out global election fraud

Storer H. Rowley teaches journalism at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern.

Said Rowley: “My most enduring memory of Jimmy Carter was his important work as an election observer in Panama (and other countries) who strongly and publicly held strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega to account for trying to steal an election for his hand-picked candidate. I was a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune covering the presidential elections in May 1989, and the former president was heading an independent election monitoring delegation examining the polling places and the conduct of the election. After the government claimed Noriega’s hand-picked candidate was declared the winner, despite overwhelming evidence that the opposition had won, a visibly angry Carter denounced the Noriega regime. ‘The government has taken the elections by fraud,’ Carter told the media. ‘What it is, is a robbing of the people of Panama of their legitimate rights. I hope there will be a worldwide outcry of condemnation against a dictator who has stolen the election from his own people.’

“Carter meant business, and he was there to stand up for democracy and voters’ rights, as he did around the world in a post-presidency filled with that kind of service to the world, whether it was building houses for the poor at home or roaming the globe to try to stamp out disease. 

“He was a role model for leadership, honesty, service and more — and the first American president to make human rights a strong and central mission of American diplomacy. I think history will treat him more kindly than he has often been, and you are already seeing the American political establishment reassess his achievements, impact and importance.”  

Rowley spent 30 years at the Chicago Tribune covering the White House and the Pentagon, and as a foreign correspondent based in Mexico, Toronto and Jerusalem and is currently a contributing writer to Washington Monthly. Rowley has interviewed Carter about his books and his work on Mideast Peace, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He can be reached at or by calling Stephanie Kulke at 847-491-4819.