Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter fielded student questions at his 26th annual town hall meeting Wednesday.
The first question at Wednesday night’s Carter Town Hall was a softball — a freshman asking if the former president would appear on his high school radio show.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said yes and thanked the student for the question, then went on to discuss more serious topics, like racial issues, ending the Iraq War and his greatest regrets from his presidency.
The 26th annual Carter Town Hall began with an appearance by Emory’s unofficial mascot, Lord James W. Dooley, who welcomed Carter and his wife to Emory once again.
University President James W. Wagner then introduced Carter, describing him as “competent and compassionate.”
After a standing ovation, Carter took the podium.
“It’s kind of frightening and unexpected to answer Emory students’ questions,” he said.
The following series of questions touched on both serious and lighter issues. As in previous years, Carter answered questions about the war in Iraq and the upcoming presidential elections.
“We shouldn’t have been in war, but now that we are, we must extricate ourselves as soon as possible,” he said. “The United States needs to whisk off combat zones and withdraw the thousands of troops from Iraq.”
Another audience member questioned the former president on whether or not Iran posed a serious threat to Israel’s security.
Carter said Iran would not “commit suicide” by attacking Israel, and that the distance between the two countries mitigated the danger.
The former president has recently been in hot water on the topic of Israel, facing a firestorm of criticism for the perceived anti-Israel bias of his most recent book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.
Carter also spoke about differences from past presidential campaigns and the current one.
“Before, we didn’t have any money to campaign, we didn’t need it,” he said.
“Also, we referred to our opponent as ‘our distinguished opponent,’ we didn’t negatively advertise against him.”
When asked about Sen. Barack Obama’s chances in the upcoming presidential primaries, Carter described the senator as an eloquent and attractive candidate, but said it’s too early to endorse anyone. He also emphasized how much he hopes that a Democratic president takes up office in the 2008 election.
Later on, Carter was asked about his favorite room in the White House.
“The bedroom,” Carter said, as the audience laughed and applauded. He added that he also liked the Treaty Room and the decorations in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Carter was later asked what his biggest fear was. He denied he had any personal fears, only concerns. He eventually admitted he is concerned about how the reputation of the United States is being tarnished.
Asked to name the greatest achievement during his presidency, Carter said he kept the nation united, and even when the United States faced “terrible challenges” during the Cold War, he was never forced to drop a bomb.
In response to another question, Carter said the “most startling secret” he had to keep while in the White House was the development of technology behind stealth airplanes and how they cannot be detected by radar.
The town hall ended with an off-beat question about UFOs and Playboy magazine.
Amid the audience’s laughter, Carter described the encounter with a UFO that he had mentioned in an interview with Playboy magazine. He said the UFO had a disk-like shape and changed colors, going from red to blue to white.
“I don’t think it is possible for any extraterrestrials to demonstrate themselves to me anytime soon,” Carter joked.