What better way to celebrate President’s Day than to visit a former President and First Lady of the United States! President and Mrs. Carter were on hand at the historic Plains High School to answer questions previously provided by students from across the state of Georgia. He has done this program for the last several years to celebrate President’s Day. Aidan and I were so excited to be attending this event and getting a chance to meet a former President! We also have the utmost respect for President Jimmy Carter and the peacemaker that he is.
Historic Plains High School is the President’s former high school and also the official Visitors Center of the Jimmy Carter National Parks in Plains, Georgia. The program was scheduled to start at 11 a.m. and the doors opened at 9 a.m. All visitors have to go through the secret service line. There were no guarantees that there would be seating in the auditorium where Mr. Carter would be speaking, so we decided to leave early to guarantee a spot in the room where it happens.
The drive to Plains, Georgia is 3 1/2 hours so we left Gainesville, Florida at about 5:30 a.m. and arrived right on time at 9 a.m. When we arrived there were only about 5 cars in front of us as we drove up the drive to park. We had to wait in line to go through the secret service checkpoint and then were led inside the building - to wait in another line before entering the auditorium. We were excited when we realized that we were going to be able to be seated inside the auditorium. By the time the doors to the auditorium opened for seating - there was a big line of people that wrapped around the corner - and many of those people were not going to be seated inside the auditorium. There was an overflow room on the second floor to hear Mr. Carter speak.
The room was already halfway filled with special guests and the proud parents of the Georgia students who were chosen to ask Mr. and Mrs. Carter questions as part of the program. The program started promptly at 11 a.m. with the park ranger asking everyone to rise as President and Mrs. Carter entered the auditorium and made their way to the stage - where there was a table and chairs for them to sit and address the questions of the students.
The program lasted about an hour as about 10 kids addressed the President and Mrs. Carter and asked a variety of questions from, What Makes a Great Leader, to what are your proudest accomplishments of your presidency. You can watch a rebroadcast of the event here.
After the program, Mr. Carter stayed to sign books. Each person was limited to only two so as to keep the line going. As Aidan made his way to the stage to get his book, Faith, signed - I was lucky to be able to be at the right place to record the event. Totally worth the drive.
After the program, Aidan and I headed to the historic district of Plains, Georgia which is only 2 blocks from the Visitors Center. We had lunch at the Buffalo Cafe. It’s a lovely little restaurant that offers a variety of sandwiches and very good cheeseburgers! Here’s a tip - there are a few tables in the front of the cafe where you place your order - but there is a whole dining room filled with seating in the back patio - we had no idea! We did get a nice seat in the front though. After lunch we strolled along to see the other stores. Aidan really enjoyed the Memorabilia store that has tons of political memorabilia dating as far back as the Lincoln administration. There are stickers, buttons, books, and a few very silly novelty items. Next door is a lovely shop that sells the best peanut butter icecream!
Litterly within a peanut’s throw is the Plains Depot. This is the site of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign headquarters. The main reason it was chosen was it was the only building with a bathroom on the first floor! Inside there are educational exhibits about the campaign.
Across those railroad tracks is Billy Carter’s Service Station. This was the site of Billy Carter’s business from 1972-1984 and this was also the place where the press hung out during the campaign. Inside is a little exhibit featuring more Carter memorabilia - and a very nice bathroom if you are in need!
There is much more to see in Plains, Georgia including a visit to Jimmy Carter’s boyhood farm. Aidan and I are planning on coming back at the end of April to attend President Carter’s Sunday School service at his church - Maranatha Baptist Church. We will be staying at the Historic Plains Inn and will be visiting all the other places we missed on this trip.
Maranatha Baptist Church - Check their schedule to see when President Carter will be teaching
Plains, Georgia Welcome Site - a great resource of local information
Carter Center - The Carter Center is a nongovernmental organization that helps improve life by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy and human rights; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.
The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia