By Julissa Catalan
Former President Jimmy Carter gave an inspirational speech this Tuesday during a 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Act in Austin, Texas.
The event, held at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in honor of the president who signed in the Civil Rights Act into law, marks the anniversary of the 1964 legislation that banned racial discrimination, as well as discrimination against women.
Carterwho was the first of four living presidents to speak at the eventsaid, “too many people are at ease” in regards to the rise of unemployed Blacks, which reached 12 percent in February, compared with 5.8 percent for whites.
“We’re pretty much dormant now,” Carter said. “We accept self-congratulations about the wonderful 50th anniversary which is wonderful but we feel like Lyndon Johnson did it and we don’t have to do anything anymore.”
He also referenced the U.S. schools, and issues surrounding segregation within them.
Carter, who grew up in Georgia, spoke about the influence Black culture had and recalled the start of a decline in racial discrimination after he was elected governor of Georgia in 1970.
But some 40 years later, Carter believes these racial and gender inequalities are still present and persistent.
The former president also referenced the gender wage gapappropriately so, the day after National Equal Pay Dayand also vocalized his support for gay marriage.
The 39th president then went on to discuss campaign contributions and noted it was a partial reason for the new era of gridlock in Washington.
“What happens is that the political environment is flooded with money since the Supreme Court made that stupid decision,” Carter said, about the high court’s Citizens United ruling back in 2010.
“A lot of that money that pours into the campaigns is spent on negative commercials. … So by the time the election’s over, you have a polarized Texas or polarized Georgia, red and blue states. Then, when people get to Washington, they don’t trust each other,” he said.
Later on, the summit was interrupted during a discussion about immigration reform, which was led by former Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Democratic San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
“The stupidest thing we can do economically is make them leave. We don’t have anybody to replace them,” Barbour said, referring to the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. “So the impracticality of sending them home should be obvious to everyone.”
A woman who introduced herself as a DREAMer, declares that Castrowho serves as a top surrogate to President Obamashould urge him to stop deportation. Though he did not directly acknowledge the woman, Castro did say he laments the families being deported over petty crimes like traffic stops.
“My hope is that his administration will go about it in a different way. I’m not comfortable with the number of deportations,” he said.
The three-day summit played host to four of the five living U.S. presidents: Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and President Obama. Former President George H.W. Bush was the only living president who was not in attendance, though he did surprise President Obama by greeting him on the tarmac during a stopover in Houston.
Clinton gave a speech on Wednesday, while President Obama gave the keynote address Thursday, and George W. Bush was the event’s final speaker.