American politics are becoming an embarrassment, Jimmy Carter says

Published: Thursday, Oct. 28 2010 2:00 p.m. MDT

And while Danesh hasn't started reading "White House Diary" yet — "my mom has been hogging it" — he still knows a lot about Carter. "I know he was the 39th president and was very strong about the environment," he said. "His first day in the White House he turned down the furnace 10 degrees! I'm pretty excited to meet him."

Carter's visit turned into a learning experience for other Utah students as well. Lori and Marc Pehkonen home-school their children, Jack and Eliza, and bought four copies of Carter's book so they could all meet him.

"It's like a field trip with the president," Marc Pehkonen said. "Meeting a former president doesn't happen very often."

Clayton Middle School students Jerek and Jurnee Clark came with their mom, Ann. "They get extra credit for book signings," Ann Clark said. "And this is one of the better events to come to."

Angel Hayes of Salt Lake City was the lucky person to land first in line. She was living in Torrey, Wayne County, when she learned Carter was coming to Utah. One phone call later, and she had one of the first 20 books sold.

Hayes was only 13 when Carter became president, but that was when she started to follow politics. Hayes didn't know she would end up first in line — otherwise she would have brought he second- and fourth-graders to meet "a man of integrity and commitment.

"He is one of the most inspirational people in my lifetime," Hayes said.

Carole Bendekovich, also of Salt Lake City, was second in line. Carter is the first president she remembers. "He's an amazing humanitarian," she said. "It's a great opportunity to meet him."

Gwyn Galloway, Shannon Skiles and Barbara Braedon rearranged their schedules to meet the former president. Skiles actually took a vacation day from work so she could wait in line.

"He's a good man," Skiles said. "I love Habitat for Humanity and I'm impressed with all he's done after the presidency."

"I think he's gotten a bum rap," Galloway said of Carter's critics. "He's a normal man like everyone else."

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com

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