Jimmy Carter @ Changing Hands and Obama in Mesa — talk about Presidents’ Day week

As part of his promotional book tour, former President Jimmy Carter came to Changing Hands Bookstore Friday. Carter’s newest book, “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land,” expounds on his push for peace and draws from his experience being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Former President Jimmy Carter addresses the audience.

Former President Jimmy Carter addresses the audience.

Carter has visited Changing Hands before. In fact, when he dropped by two years ago to promote “Peace Not Apartheid,” his presence drew quite the crowd — not all of whom were parsimonious with the president. Many protesters assembled to send a message to the president and the myriad press members assembled to cover the event.

This time around, the signings went smoothly — almost too smoothly as the president offered little time to those who came out to see him.  From behind black, queuing tape, the president delivered a short address promoting his book and praising President Obama’s efforts at negotiations. He noted that the first printed copy of his book was presented to Obama, drawing a look-at-the-kitten-esque “aww” from the crowd. ‘How can the most powerful men in the world talking about the most entrenched conflict in human history be cute?’ I jotted in my notes. Carter then turned to the truly gigantic line of people waiting for a appropriately placed book signature.

While Carter signed book after book in an assembly line manner, occasionally glancing up and smiling at people as the passed by to follow their book to the end of the line, I wandered off.

I approached a sign-toting group assembled in along McClintock Drive, in front of the store. There, I met Na’im Robinson. Robinson and his group weren’t traditional protesters; they were more like (pro)testers, assembled to show their support for Carter and his message.

Few people heard the president before he commenced signing.

Few people heard the president before he commenced signing.

As a member of the Muslim community in Gilbert, Robinson took pains to explain the importance of mutual peace. During his explanation, a nearby man holding another sign turned and said, “Hey, I’m Jewish.”

“See!” Robinson exclaimed, firmly shaking the man’s hand and patting him on the back. “We can come together.”

Current President Obama also landed in the Valley Tuesday afternoon. He plans to promote the stimulus he just signed, speaking at Dobson High School in Mesa.  Mesa has been hit particularly hard by the housing crisis by relying on contruction for the majority of its economy.

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