Almanac

News - November 3, 2010

Hundreds line up for Jimmy Carter

by Richard Hine

Hundreds of people lined up Oct. 26 at Kepler's bookstore in Menlo Park to exchange a quick smile with former president Jimmy Carter and have him sign a copy of his new book, "White House Diary."

At 86, Mr. Carter hasn't slowed down a bit, at least in the book-signing department. The 39th president was dispatching books at a rate of at least a dozen a minute, as the book buyers quickly traipsed by in front of a roped-off area where Mr. Carter sat at a table wide enough so people couldn't reach across for a hand-shake and slow down the process.

Mr. Carter did look up to give many of the buyers his trademark smile, and exchange a few words, including "hi, pretty girls" to some of the many children who showed up with their parents.

Dressed in a blue, open-collar shirt with khaki pants, Mr. Carter looked shorter and less presidential than he does on TV.

At one point, when the books stopped coming, he looked disappointed, but he didn't have long to wait. Later, when there was a longer break in the book feed, he got up and walked over to the press and photo corral (where many book buyers had gathered to take pictures) and made a few remarks.

"Thirty years later, President Obama is dealing with the same issues that I was dealing with -- the Middle East, health care, energy," he said. "Things don't change much."

Someone wanted to know the secret to a successful marriage. He said he wasn't an authority, given that his marriage "only stood the test of 64 years." But his advice: "Don't go to bed angry."

Asked his pick for the Word Series, he said, "I'm pulling for the Giants." (I wonder if he says that in Texas.) "I have to admit that, earlier, I was rooting for the Braves."

"What is the most important issue of the 21st century," asked a reporter who apparently thought he was addressing the Oracle. Mr. Carter took the question seriously, and said he had been talking about this around the world. "The most important issue is the growing chasm between rich people and poor people," he said, to applause from the huddled assembly, who apparently agreed with him.

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