About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this virtual book talk with Jonathan Alter, author of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, December 15, at 6:30 p.m., a special Bill of Rights Day program will look at “The Bill of Rights at the Schoolhouse Gate.” The National Archives and its partner iCivics will present a panel discussion examining the application of the Bill of Rights in schools.

And on Thursday, December 17, at 1 p.m., we will welcome Alison M. Parker to discuss her latest book, Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell. Born into slavery during the Civil War, Mary Church Terrell would become one of the most prominent activists of her time, with a career bridging the late 19th century to the civil rights movement of the 1950s.

I hope you can join us for these two programs later this month.

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“Carter has been orphaned by biographers. He can boast of no Boswell, no library of must-read studies like those that exist for Reagan, Nixon, Johnson or Kennedy,” writes David Greenberg in his New York Times review of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life. With this new biography Jonathan Alter has set out to change that. Greenberg calls Alter’s new work an “important, fair-minded, highly readable contribution to this literature.”

Writing for NPR, Michael Schaub calls His Very Best “a fascinating book . . . Alter tells Carter's life story beautifully and with admirable fairness—he treats Carter as a real person, as flawed as anyone else, and not as a saint.”

And Glenn Altschuler’s review in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune declares “Alter’s scrupulously researched and judicious book depicts Carter as a man with a first-class intelligence and a second-class temperament”

A significant portion of that “scrupulous research” was done in the records preserved in the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, which is one of the 14 Presidential Libraries run by the National Archives and Records Administration.

These libraries are an unparalleled resource for studying the lives and actions of our Presidents from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama. It is gratifying to see the stories held in these records brought to light in a highly regarded biography like His Very Best.

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Jonathan Alter is an award-winning historian, columnist, and documentary filmmaker. An MSNBC political analyst and former senior editor at Newsweek, he is the author of three New York Times bestsellers: The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies; The Promise: President Obama, Year One; and The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope. Alter currently hosts a radio show on SIRIUS channel 102 called Alter Family Politics.

Joining Jonathan Alter in conversation tonight is Michael Beschloss, an award-winning historian, bestselling author, and Emmy winner. His newest book is Presidents of War, which tells the story of the American Presidents who have waged our major wars. He is on the Board of Directors of the National Archives Foundation, a trustee of the White House Historical Association, and former trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Now let’s turn to Jonathan Alter and Michael Beschloss. Thank you for joining us tonight.