Randall Balmer

Commentator

Randall Balmer is chair of the Religion Department at Dartmouth College. His most recent book is "Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter."

Balmer: Carter At 90

Sep 29, 2015

Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, turns 91 years old tomorrow.

Anyone who visits Plains, in southwest Georgia, and especially the Carter farmstead three miles down the road in Archery, cannot fail to be impressed by the simplicity of Carter’s background. The Carter farmhouse lacked indoor plumbing during Jimmy Carter’s childhood, and it wasn’t until Carter was 14 years old that Franklin Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Agency brought the wonders of electricity to Archery.

Balmer: Solar Siting

Sep 14, 2015

In 1979, during one of the nation’s energy crises prompted by the Arab Oil Embargo, President Jimmy Carter ordered the installation of 32 solar panels on the roof of the White House. Energy derived directly from the sun was still a novel concept in the 1970s, and Carter sought to lead by example. At the time, he predicted the panels would “either be a curiosity, a museum piece, (or) an example of a road not taken...”

Last month I returned to rural southern Minnesota where my family lived from 1957 until 1963. This is farm country, with rich, loamy soil. Climb on top of a telephone book and you can see into the next county. The nearest town is twenty miles distant.

Forty years ago this month, Jimmy Carter, then governor of Georgia, delivered an extemporary address that established his credentials as a liberal and fearless politician who was willing to tell the truth, even to powerful interests.

In what one journalist in attendance described as “a bastard of a speech,” Carter expressed his solidarity with those on the margins and upstaged the keynote speaker, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, then considered the frontrunner for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination.

It’s official. Vermont is the least religious state in the nation. According to a recent Gallup Poll, only 22 percent of Vermonters attend religious worship at least once a week; New Hampshire is the second least religious state at 24 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, nine of the ten most religious states are in the Deep South, where, as Bill Moyers once said about his native east Texas, there are more Baptists than people.