“We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles”
State 31: Georgia - March 1, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Marietta, GA well rested and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we toured the CNN World Headquarters, and we could wait not to see what adventures lie head today! Our first task was a 22 mile drive Southeast back to Atlanta to tour the Georgia Statehouse. Constructed in a neoclassical style similar to other capitols we have visited, the Georgia Statehouse is a 4 story structure with an external facade consisting of Indiana limestone. On top of the building is a gold gilded rotunda, and perched atop of the dome at its apex rests a statue of Lady Liberty. Please see the pictures below.
After locating the visitor entrance, we passed through security consisting of metal detectors, and a picture ID check! The security officer informed us the capitol does not offer guided tours, and to make matters worse, there were no self-guided tour booklets available. It looks like we were flying blind on this capitol tour! The Cross Country Couple was not feeling the love from the Georgia Statehouse.
Since I had neither a tour guide or a self-guided tour booklet, the following description is solely based on my observations on the day of my visit as Georgia’s government provided no resources to validate my observations.
We began our visit in the capitol's central room. The interior of the building had clearly undergone a restoration at some point, and accurately depicted a late 19th century design appropriate for the time period of the statehouse's construction. The most noteworthy feature throughout the capitol were the huge oil paintings, each over 6 feet tall, depicting past Governors and other people of importance to Georgian history. We continued our exploration of the Hall of Governors on the 1st floor of the capitol, since the massive scale and quality of the art was extremely impressive. After 20 minutes of meandering, we finally found the portrait of the 76th Governor of Georgia, and 39th President of the United States; Jimmy Carter. However, we will be talking more about him a little later. Please see the pictures below.
Soon thereafter, we found another painting of great interest depicting Civil Rights Activist and Atlanta native Martian Luther King Jr. What at first glance appeared to be a fitting tribute to Georgia’s most famous and influential citizen was ruined by some very subtle and disturbing observations. The Georgia Capitol features a beautiful 6-foot-tall oil painting of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and a stunning marble bust of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens. Both of the aforementioned were located in places of prominence in and around the central room of the statehouse. However, I discovered the significantly smaller 4 foot tall painting of the most famous champion of Civil Rights in American History, Martian Luther King Jr. hung on a wall in a far off dark corner of the capitol. Apparently, King’s painting once hung outside on the Georgia’s Governor’s office, but was moved to its current lonely location to make room for the painting of an outgoing Georgia Governor. How very distasteful, and disrespectful!!! Since there was no tour guide there to explain this one to me, I headed towards the Governor’s office in search of an explanation, but it was blocked off by security due to Legislature being in session! I am beginning to like Georgia less and less as my new home state!
Next, I headed to the House and Senate, but unfortunately pictures were not permitted in either chamber as they were currently in session. We decided to sit in and listen to the Senate, and the following is what we discovered. First and foremost, there was a nauseating amount of ass kissing going on. Whenever one of the Senators got up to speak, each began by thanking 150 different people; “I would like to thank President Trump, The Governor Nathan Deal, the Senate President Casey Cagle, Senator Johnson, Senator Hebron, Senator Gonzalez, all my constituents, my wife Harriet, my 3 children, Sally, George, and little Billy, my 4th grade Civics Teacher Mrs. Smith, and on and on it went. Can someone PLEASE discuss the bill before you!!!
Eventually, we watched the Senate debate a bill authorizing a reduction of Georgia’s income tax rate. The bill was proposed in lieu of the federal tax cuts recently signed in to law. Essentially, the bill before the Georgia Senate would decrease the state income tax rate from 6.00% to 5.75%. The median household income in Georgia is $46,007, which equates to a $184 annual savings per family. Although I give the Senators credit for considering cutting taxes, they were acting as if they had just authored the Declaration of Independence. After listening for over an hour, the BS was getting pretty deep! Some of the Senators were making erroneous statements such as, “Georgians will now be able to buy a home, get a new car, and take a long needed vacation”. If in Georgia I can do all the aforementioned for $184, then Georgia is my new home state, my cross country trip is officially over and this is the last blog post you will ever read from the Cross Country Couple! It was becoming crystal clear all the Senators cared about was being able to advertise they lowered taxes during their next bid for re-election.
However, there was one brave Senator who got up to speak, and openly stated he was going to vote against the tax cut. He stated he had a degree in economics, which really made me interested in what he was going to say. He stated the preliminary figures varied too widely to determine if the proposed tax cuts would have any meaningful impact on the local economy. This Senator continued on by sharing the state government workers pension is grossly underfunded, the state is millions of dollars behind in maintenance on it's roads and highways, and Georgia ranks near the bottom on the list for accesses to healthcare. Although this Senator supports cutting taxes, he wants to do so in a fiscal, smart and significant way. New hospitals being built, and roads being repaired would benefit Georgians better than just cutting everyone a check for $184 dollars. The Senator summed up his position best when he said, “Before you go out shopping, you first pay your bills, and Georgia has many obligations which are far past due”. I really wish I caught this Senator’s name, because not only did he have guts, he made a lot of sense. Knowing there are still a few good leaders in government gives me hope for the future of our country. In case you were wondering, the bill passed in the Senate 40-10, and Georgia income tax decreased by 0.25%. Clearly, politics take precedence over sound fiscal policy in this state, and Lori and I had seen all we needed to see of the Government of Georgia!
Please see additional pictures below of our visit to the Georgia Statehouse
After departing the Georgia State House, we drove 158 miles South through rural roads and pecan groves to the tiny town of Plains to visit the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Person" for Georgia; Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter is a two term Georgia State Senator, 76th Governor of Georgia, 39th President of the United States, and 2002 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Carter was born in the rural Georgian town of Plains with a population of 776 to a family of peanut farmers. After graduating high school, Carter was accepted into Annapolis Naval Academy, and received his commission upon graduation in 1946. After serving in a variety of posts, tragedy struck in 1953 when Carter's father passed away. Carter resigned his commission, and returned to Plains to take over the family peanut farming business.
At his father's funeral, many people approached Carter and shared all of the wonderful things his father had done for them. These expressions of his father’s kindness made Carter ask himself a difficult question, “When I die what positive impact will people say I had?” Thus began Jimmy Carter’s career in politics. He was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1963, Governor of Georgia in 1970, and despite being politically unknown outside of his home state, he defeated incumbent Gerald Ford, to become the 39th President of the United States.
A few of Carter’s presidential accomplishments include; establishing the Department of Energy, and the Department of Education, pardoning all Vietnam War draft dodgers, Camp David Accords; mediating a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and Panama Canal Treaties, which returned control of the Panama Canal back to Panama. Carter's presidential action for which he was widely criticized include: The Iran Hostage crisis where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days, the 1979 energy crisis created oil shortages doubling the price of gas, and escalating the Cold War, by threatening to use force to defend national interests in the Middle East after Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, and boycotting the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
After losing his bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Jimmy Carter established the Carter Center in 1982 to advance human rights worldwide, elevate human suffering, improve quality of life in over 80 countries, mediate conflicts between states including a 2004 visit to North Korea, investigating human rights abuse around the world, conducting peace negotiations with heads of state, overseeing democratic elections in developing nations to ensure legitimate results, preventing and treating diseases such as malaria, eradicating diseases such as the Guinea Worm and became the figure head for the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity helping to construct simple, and affordable homes for people both in America, and throughout the world. In 2002, President Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the Carter Center's work.
The Jimmy Carter National Historical Site in Plains, Georgia consists of 4 separate sites associated with our 39th President: Boyhood Farm, Railroad Depot, former High School, and current private residence. We began our tour by visiting Carter’s former high school, which now serves as the visitor center and museum. The former school features a classroom, principal's office, and auditorium restored to appear as when Carter was a student. Of particular interest was a short movie featuring residents of Plains sharing their memories of Jimmy Carter over the years. Please see the pictures below.
After departing Carter’s former high school, we drove 3 miles across town to his boyhood farm house where Carter lived until he left for college in 1941. The farm has been restored to its 1938 appearance. When I entered Jimmy Carter's childhood farm home, Lori took the opportunity to play a practical joke on me, because she knows I scare very easily. I entered Jimmy Carter’s childhood bedroom first, and Lori waited just outside of the door of the room. Just as I was halfway through reading the display at the foot of the bed, I hear a loud booming voice come from nowhere “I AM JIMMY CARTER AND WELCOME TO MY CHILDHOOD BEDROOM”. I screamed like a little girl, and jumped 3 feet in the air! I turned toward the doorway of the room expecting to see our 39th President, but the only person there was Lori laughing hysterically. Apparently, there is a prerecorded message from Carter activated by a pushing a button. That was not very nice of her! Carter’s boyhood farm was expertly restored including: mules and chickens running about, an outhouse, a windmill, a general store, crops growing in the field, farm house with period appropriate furnishings, and the most unusual shower head consisting of a jerry rigged metal pail with holes drilled into the bottom. Please the pictures below.
After departing Carter's boyhood home, we drove 5 miles back across Plains to the town’s train depot where Carter headquartered his 1976 presidential campaign. The Train Depot was chosen by Carter as it was the only public meeting space in the town with a bathroom. Today the depot serves as a museum to Carter's successful bid for presidency. The room was filled with political advertisements, and even included a looping movie showing Carters political commercials and speeches from the campaign shown on a 1970’s television. As we left the depot we decided to stop by and take a quick photo of Jimmy Carters peanut. You can definitely tell this town is proud of their Peanut Farmer turned President! Please see the pictures below.
Jimmy Carter purchased his home in Plains in 1961 where he has lived ever since, and during his presidency, it served as his Summer White House. Since the house is the Carter’s current residence, it is not open to the public, and the property is protected by the Secret Service. It has long been on my bucket list to meet, shake hands, and have a photo taken with a former US president. However, walking up to the front door and ringing the doorbell of Carter’s home would have resulted in an unpleasant encounter with the Secret Service. It certainly would have been an honor and privilege to have personally have met Jimmy Carter.
While I am not a big fan of politicians, Jimmy Carter is more than just the sum of his successful bids for elected offices. His humble beginning in the small town of Plains as peanut farmer to being elected President of the United States breathes new life into the belief of the American Dream! Although many historians rank Jimmy Carter as a below average president, there is one fact few can dispute. In almost 40 years since leaving the oval office, no former President in American history has done more for the collective good of mankind than Jimmy Carter. Although currently in his 90’s, Carter continues to play an active role in the humanitarian agency bearing his name, and still stays true to his roots. He still teaches Sunday school and attends Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains as he has done for most of his life. Occasionally, Carter can even be seen riding his bike down Main Street of the tiny Georgia town he still calls home even after all these years.
After departing Plains, GA, we drove 38 miles South to Albany where we found a Walmart to spend our last night in Georgia.