Andy Young once again inspired family, friends and community leaders at a recent screening of his latest documentary, “Carter: An Intimate Look at the 38th Presidency.”
The portrait of Carter’s presidency, and Young’s role in it, captured the significance of Jimmy Carter’s one four-year term from 1977-1980, when he was defeated for re-election by Ronald Reagan.
Young, who talked about the making of the documentary following the screening, said he’d been working on it for several years and that he was inspired to do it following the deaths of close Carter lieutenants Jody Powell and Hamilton Jordan.
“This was an amazing group of people,” Young said about the cadre of mostly Southerners who worked to get Carter elected and served in his administration.
When Carter ran for president in1976, Young was a member of Congress, representing Atlanta’s 5th District (now represented by John Lewis). Young said he was not a close friend of Carter’s at the time, but was convinced that “he was the right person for the time.”
He said he campaigned for Carter in 41 states while campaigning for fellow members of Congress. “They (other members of the Congressional Black Caucus) had one question for me about Jimmy Carter: ‘Was he for real?’,” Young said during a discussion after the screening at Georgia Public Broadcasting. “Being a member of Congress was the best place to run a national campaign.”
Once Carter won the election, among other significant measures, he asked Young to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, the position currently held by Susan Rice. Young said he initially deferred. He said he told Carter that Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas, also a constitutional lawyer, was better qualified.
Carter said that sending a lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr. to the United Nations would send a signal to the world that no other appointment could do, and insisted that Young was the best choice.
“During the entire three years I was ambassador,” Young said, “President Carter never told me to cool it.”
As has been well-documented, Young resigned his position following an unauthorized meeting with a Palestinian official. “Everything I did was controversial,” Young said about that era. He said it may well have cost him the opportunity to be named Secretary of State to replace Cyrus Vance, who was planning to step down due to health reasons.
Nonetheless, Young’s departure put him on the road to being elected mayor of Atlanta, and becoming a key figure in winning the 1996 Olympic Games for Atlanta.
“As soon as I left (the U.N. position), I took a trade delegation to 11 African countries,” Young said. It was the support of the African nations that put Atlanta over the top when it was time to vote for the 1996 Olympic City.
Young also said that Jimmy Carter’s record of not dropping a bomb or killing anyone during his time as president also set the tone for Carter’s post presidency as a champion of civil and human rights around the world.
He noted that economic development and education is the key to realizing a peaceful planet. He said Carter’s signing of the Middle East Peace Accords as president still stands as a testament to the emerging democracies, however, rocky.
“All economics is global and all politics is local,” Young said. “All we want to do is help people be educated and have decent jobs and opportunity.”
This love letter to Jimmy Carter and his presidency is part of the nationally-syndicated Andrew Young Presents series of specials for television. In Atlanta, the documentaries air on WSB-TV. Airdates have not yet been set.