A New President, a Torn Nation and a Russian Dissident – the Old is New Again

President – elect Jimmy Carter takes calls from world leaders and works on his inaugural speech late into the night of January 19, 1977 with National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski at his side. ©1977 Ken Hawkins/Ken HawkinsPictures.com

Forty four years ago tonight, another president-elect sat at the expansive desk in the upstairs library at Blair House, putting the finishing touches on his inaugural speech.

He was quiet and reflective as he occasionally looked across to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The man was Jimmy Carter and he – like Joe Biden – was seeking to find words to heal a broken nation.

At Carter’s side was Zbigniew Brzezinski, his Polish-born National Security Advisor, who assisted Carter in drafting the speech.

At a moment that evening, Brzezinski suggested – and Carter added – phrasing that became the core of the incoming administration’s foreign policy. It was aimed at bolstering the cause of Soviet dissidents with language that stressed that the new administration would anchor it’s foreign policy on human rights and the observance of international law and arms limitations.

Today, there’s a prominent Russian dissident – Alexei Navalny – who needs America.

Perhaps that same scenario is playing out again this evening on January 19th, 2021, with president-elect Biden working at the same Blair House desk and adding words not only to address a torn nation, but also to tell us about America’s support of democracy worldwide.

On January 19th, 1977, the lights burned late into the Washington night as Carter and Brzezinski worked, their efforts punctuated as they took calls of congratulations and support from world leaders.

I feel privileged to have witnessed that moment in 1977.

Godspeed, Joe Biden.

From: “Jimmy Carter – Photographs 1970-2010” by Ken Hawkins with foreword by Carter Deputy White House Press Secretary Rex Granum, ISBN 978-0-692-75339-2 Available at www.CarterBook.com

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