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Former President Carter Reflects on His New Book, Recent Trip to Darfur

Former President Jimmy Carter was in the news again this week with his new book, "Beyond the White House," and a recent trip to the Darfur region of Sudan. He discusses his impressions of Darfur and themes in his new book.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Next, two views of the world and its crises, beginning with that of former President Jimmy Carter. He’s the author of a new book, “Beyond the White House.” He spoke with Judy Woodruff yesterday.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    President Carter, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

  • JIMMY CARTER, Former President of the United States:

    Thank you, Judy, I’m delighted to be with you again.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The book, “Beyond the White House,” your latest — what, your 24th book, is that right?

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    Yes, 24th.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Not as controversial as the last one?

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    Well, if it were more controversial, it might sell a few more copies, but, no, it’s not as controversial as the last.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You’re writing about the work in here at the Carter Center, your work since you left the White House, 25 years of working in Panama, Sudan — I’ve made a list here — Bosnia, China, Haiti, North Korea, on issues from guinea worm, river blindness, malaria, fair elections, human rights, nuclear arms control, 70 countries, a long list of issues. How do you decide what to focus on?

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    Well, we have an almost unlimited menu from which to choose, with a lot of requests coming in to monitor this election or that election, or to try to negotiate a peace agreement between these two fighting forces, or to resolve this problem in producing more food grains to eat or to eradicate this disease.

    So we don’t have any problem finding enough things to do; the problem we have is making sure we don’t overload ourselves inadvertently.

    And so we have a very finely-tuned and I think a highly efficient organization, now adequately financed. And with experience — as you pointed out — in more than 70 nations on Earth, 35 of which are in Africa, but the basic premise of the Carter Center is to fill vacuums in the world.

    If the United Nations or the World Health Organization or Unicef or U.S. government or Harvard University is taking care of a problem, we don’t get involved in it. We just kind of go where they are not adequately treating a very important issue.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You do talk in the book about conflict resolution.

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You talk about monitoring elections, fair elections, fighting disease, human rights. I mentioned all that. Do you ever worry you’re spread too thin?

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    No, I don’t. We’re very careful about that, although I might say that the Carter Center has had a policy of not fearing failure. I mean, sometimes we are willing to take a chance on a subject that seems to be doubtful of success, if we think that it might be worthwhile.

    But we limit ourselves. We’ve done, I think, 68 elections so far, every one of them troubled elections. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be there. But we only take on about four or five per year. And we husband our energy and then focus very sharply on a particular problem until we’re assured that it’s been successfully resolved.

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