BOSTON--Former President Jimmy Carter told a crowd gathered at the Boston Public Library yesterday that the social justice movement of the 1960s eliminated much racial discrimination, but that inequalities remain.
"Now we go to the same schools, but we still don't go to the same churches," Carter said. "Now, I think our society is about as segregated as it was 30 years ago."
Carter was greeted with three standing ovations--two before his speech and one afterward--from the full-capacity crowd of about 400. Many of those attending had waited outside the library in the cold for as long as two hours.
Carter patterned most of his speech after his latest book, Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age. The book describes his 1962 campaign for the Georgia Senate, in which he fought vote fraud and anoutdated electoral system that originally declaredhim the loser.
"A number of the voters [who had voted againstme] were dead," Carter said. After numerousappeals, Carter was declared winner of theelection.
Before 1962, each county wielded a fixed numberof votes regardless of population, a practice thatdiscriminated against the more populous, largelyBlack counties. The 1962 ruling passed in manysouthern states weighted each county's votesaccording to its total population.
"The essence of [my book] is that out of theone-man-one-vote ruling and the newlyreconstituted Georgia legislature, there was anend to legal racial segregation," he said.
Carter called the courts' 1962 rulings for theone-man-one-vote principle "a genuine revolution."Today's inequalities, he said, are based more oneconomic class than racial segregation.
The former President said he continues to workfor progress on social justice issues in his"Atlanta Project," based at the Carter Center. "Wehope to bring a melding of the powerful,influential people with the poor."
"I don't believe the hopelessness isjustified," he said in a question and answersession after the speech. "I do not intend to failwith this."
When asked to predict about the incomingClinton administration, Carter expressed optimism."My hope is that he will be successful in bringingback together the Congress and the White House."
But he added that he was unsure whether Clintonwould be able to keep his promise to halve thedeficit during his term.
Carter also discussed President Bush's recentpardons of Secretary of Defense Caspar W.Weinberger '38 and others in the Iran-Contrahearings. "In a struggle to keep my language asmoderate as possible--I thought it was a travestyof justice, an insult to the integrity of theWhite House."
Carter parted with a defense of his ownpresidency. "I think the nation would havebenefited from four more years of my presidency,"he said, to the enthusiastic applause of thecrowd