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ronald reagan

via Sol America

Jimmy Carter of Plains, Georgia

Jimmy Carter was way ahead of the rest of America when he put solar panels on the White House. On June 20, 1979, he made a proud proclamation:

In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy…. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.

The 32-panel system was designed to heat water throughout the presidential residence.




"President Carter saw [solar] as a really valid energy resource, and he understood it. I mean, it is a domestic resource and it is huge," Fred Morse, director of Carter's solar energy program, told Scientific American.

"President Carter saw [solar] as a really valid energy resource, and he understood it. I mean, it is a domestic resource and it is huge," Fred Morse, director of Carter's solar energy program, told Scientific American.

"It was the symbolism of the president wanting to bring solar energy immediately into his administration," he continued. Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan, who was no fan of alternative energy took the panels down form the White House when he took office a few years later.

via Popular Science / Twitter

Carter was right about two things he said in that dedication. First, his panels are currently on display at The Smithsonian Institute, the Carter Library, and the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China.

Second, renewable energy has become one of the most important American endeavors of the new millennium.

There's no doubt that President Carter was way ahead of his time.

Carter has always been a man of action, evidenced by his hands-on approach to building homes with Habitat for Humanity. So in 2017, he leased ten acres of land near his home in Plains, Georgia, to be used as a solar farm with 3,852 panels.

The 94-year-old Carter still lives in his hometown of Plains with his wife in a two-bedroom home that's assessed at about $167,000.

Three years after going live, Carter's solar farm now provides 50% of the small town's electricity needs, generating 1.3 MW of power per year. That's the equivalent of burning about 3,600 tons of coal.

via SolAmerica

The system is state-of-the-art with panels that turn towards the sun throughout the day so they generate the maximum amount of power.

"Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change," Carter said in a SolAmerica press release. "I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue."

"There remains a great deal of untapped potential in renewable energy in Georgia and elsewhere in the U.S. We believe distributed solar projects like the Plains project will play a big role in fueling the energy needs of generations to come," SolAmerica executive vice president George Mori said in a statement.

This story originally appeared on 02.18.20

Ronald Reagan's legacy is polarizing, to say the least.

The 40th U.S. president was a staunch conservative who, among many things, slashed taxes for the wealthy, lured evangelicals to the Republican party, bulked up military spending, and did, well .... pretty much nothing in response to the AIDS crisis ravaging many U.S. cities. His presidency, for better or worse, changed America.

All the same, Reagan operated within the bounds of presidential norms and loved his country dearly, as his daughter Patti Davis argued in a new op-ed in The Washington Post.


And that made him wildly different from his modern-day conservative counterparts.

Patti Davis speaks at her father's funeral in 2004. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

"People often ask me what he would say if he [my father] were here now," Davis wrote, rebuking Trump without mentioning him by name at all in the piece. "Sometimes I'm a bit glib in response, pointing out that he'd be 107 years old. Other times, I simply say he'd be pretty horrified at where we've come to."

In her essay, "Mourning America," Davis laid out four important things she believes her father would say to Americans if he were alive today.

1. Reagan would warn us against authoritarianism.

Davis argued that "we the people" must stop any president from blurring the lines between democracy and dictatorship:

"I think [Reagan] would remind us that America began as a dream in the minds of men who dared to envision a land that was free of tyranny, with a government designed and structured so that no one branch of government could dominate the others."

Historians have argued that Trump — who's attacked "so-called" judges and challenged Congressional rules meant to uphold legislative fairness — presents the kind of authoritarian behavior our Founding Fathers warned against.

2. Reagan would be "heartbroken" by a Congress that has no backbone.

Protecting a president that'll sign "whatever [Congressional Republicans] put in front of him," the GOP has excused, dismissed, or conveniently looked away as Trump tramples the Constitution and shatters political norms — from the president's threats to end the Russia investigation to the web of global conflicts of interest Trump's presidency poses to national security.

As Davis wrote:

"[Reagan] would be appalled and heartbroken at a Congress that refuses to stand up to a president who not only seems ignorant of the Constitution but who also attempts at every turn to dismantle and mock our system of checks and balances."

Photo by Carlos Schiebeck/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Reagan would point out the critical value of a free press.

Trump blasts "fake news" on a near-daily basis, once called the free press "the enemy of the American people" and, according to journalist Lesley Stahl, even admitted that he relentlessly attacks news outlets so that the American public won't believe negative stories about his administration.

Davis believed her father would be appalled:

"[Reagan] would point to one of the pillars of our freedom — a free press — which sets us apart from dictatorships and countries ruled by despots. He didn't always like the press — no president does — but the idea of relentlessly attacking the media as the enemy would never have occurred to him. And if someone else had done so, he wouldn't have tolerated it."

4. Reagan would defend immigrants against cruelty.

Trump's misleading attacks on immigrants — both documented and undocumented — are unprecedented in modern U.S. history.

Many immigrants are living in a constant state of fear in the face of deportation. Hate crimes against people of color have surged in the era of Trump. And teachers report that bullying against minority students has spiked in their classrooms under a president who routinely led chants of "build the wall!" at his campaign rallies.

As Davis wrote:

"[Reagan] would ask us to think about the Statue of Liberty and the light she holds for immigrants coming to America for a better life. Immigrants like his ancestors, who persevered despite prejudice and signs that read 'No Irish or dogs allowed.' There is a difference between immigration laws and cruelty. He believed in laws; he hated cruelty."

Reagan was no angel.

His agenda hurt women, the poor, people of color, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups. Maybe Reagan's and Trump's conservatism are more in sync than some would like to believe.

But it's telling that Reagan's own daughter trusts that her father would join every living U.S. president in thinking our current commander in chief is dangerous and abnormal for our democracy.

If you see only one Oscar-nominated film this year, make it "13th."

Directed by Ava DuVernay, the stirring documentary explores America's long history of overpolicing and imprisoning black and brown people since the passing of the 13th Amendment. DuVernay sat down with scholars, educators, elected leaders, authors, and activists to tell this troubling but necessary story.

DuVernay (left) interviews scholar and activist Angela Davis for "13th." Image via Netflix.


While these issues are difficult, we need to talk about them and, better yet, do something about them. "13th" truly couldn't have come at a better time.

Here are 13 lessons everyone should learn from this from powerful must-see film.

1. The 13th Amendment had so much promise ... almost.

Section 1 of the 13th Amendment reads:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The clause, "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,"was included so farmers and landowners could essentially continue a form of slavery to support their businesses — so long as the black men and women were deemed criminals. There's no such thing as a throwaway clause in the Constitution. This is an intentional legal loophole.

A political cartoon from 1865 featuring President Lincoln and an amended U.S. constitution. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

2. The legal loophole in the 13th Amendment led to mass arrests and incarceration during the late 19th century.

It was the United States' first prison boom.

Black people were arrested en masse for petty crimes, like loitering or vagrancy, and incarcerated. Once labeled criminals, landowners and farmers could "lease" convicts from the state in exchange for full control of their lives.

These convicts were leased to harvest timber. Photo circa 1915, via World Digital Library/State Library and Archives of Florida.

3. While black men filled prisons, popular culture stoked fears.

Black men were portrayed in films as menacing, evil, and in relentless pursuit of white women.

In the 1915 film, "Birth of a Nation," which is essentially three hours of racist propaganda masking as a historical film, a white woman throws herself off a rocky cliff to save herself from being assaulted by a black man. Critics raved, drowning out mounting protests.

As a result of the popular film, membership in the Ku Klux Klan boomed.

Still image from "Birth of a Nation," (1915). Image via "Birth of a Nation"/Wikimedia Commons.

4. As the KKK grew, black people were terrorized and murdered.

Lynchings were used to reinforce white supremacy while traumatizing and terrorizing black people. There was a disgusting entertainment aspect to it, as mobs of white people — including elected officials and community leaders — gathered to watch victims get beaten, shot, and tortured. Picture postcards were made of the swinging, mutilated bodies.

More than 4,000 lynchings occurred between 1877 and 1950 across Texas and the American South.

A large crowd watches the lynching of 18-year-old Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas. Photo via Library of Congress.

5. The murder of Emmett Till kickstarted the Civil Rights movement.

14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally beaten and murdered by a group of white men for allegedly whistling at and flirting with a white woman in 1955. (The woman recently admitted she fabricated at least part of her testimony.) Photos from his open casket funeral and the face of Till's weeping mother sent shockwaves around the country, galvanizing black people and their allies in the fight for equality.

6. But then the War on Drugs started an unrelenting wave of mass incarceration.

Crime started to increase in the early 1960s, and many in power quickly blamed the uptick on the end of segregation. Before long, the word "crime" was a stand-in for the word "race."

Nixon appealed to southern Democrats with thinly-veiled racism and promises to clean up the streets. His rhetorical "War on Drugs" became very real in the 1980s under President Reagan, who threw money, resources, and the full weight of the executive branch behind the issue. A wide swath of an entire generation was essentially removed from the narrative.

President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy wave to supporters in November 1984. Photo by Don Rypka/AFP/Getty Images.

7. The numbers are astonishing. Full stop.

In 1970, there were 196,429 sentenced prisoners in state and federal prisons. In 1980, there were 329,821 people in state and federal prisons, and by 1990, that number more than doubled to 771,243.

Today, the American criminal justice system holds 2.3 million people. This is not normal. It is not OK.

8. Republicans are not solely to blame for this crisis. President Clinton did his part too.

In the wake of President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, appearing "soft on crime" wasn't an option for President Bill Clinton. In 1994, he signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. It expanded the list of death penalty eligible offenses and included a "three strikes" provision, which meant mandatory life sentences for people convicted of their third felony. It also funded new prisons and provided the budget for 100,000 police officers.

President Bill Clinton. Photo by Paul Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

9. Sadly, there's a lot of money to be made off mass incarceration.

Private correctional facilities made a reported $629 million in profits in 2014, and that's just scratching the surface. From the corporations building and maintaining prison facilities, to the food vendors, health care providers, and equipment and textile manufacturers who keep them running, many companies have a lot to gain from maintaining the status quo.

An inmate stands with handcuffs in San Quentin State Prison. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

10. As mass incarceration starts to get a bad rap, the winds are shifting — and not necessarily for the better.

As mass incarceration and America's prison problem take center stage, legislators and businesses are looking for new ways to redefine the narrative while still making money. What does that look like? For starters, monetizing bail, probation, parole, and house arrest.

Photo by iStock.

11. We can't forget the people and families caught in the struggle.

In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder was arrested for a robbery he insisted he did not commit. Browder was thrown into an adult correctional facility where he would spend nearly three years awaiting trial and almost two years in solitary confinement. In 2013, the district attorney dismissed the case against Browder, and he went home a free — but forever changed — young man.

After many attempts, Browder died by suicide in May 2015.

Browder's story is far too common. Many poor people, especially poor people of color, are locked up for years either awaiting trial or because they cannot afford bail.

ABC News' Juju Chang, Venida Browder, mother of Kalief Browder, and civil rights attorney Paul V. Prestia discuss Kalief Browder's life and death. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

12. American prisons are intended to punish, but former felons continue to suffer after they have served their time.

Former felons are stripped of voting rights, have difficulty securing employment, applying for aid, and finding housing.

"Ban the box" campaigns that seek to end asking about felony convictions on job and aid applications are popping up across the country, and for many, these initiatives can't come soon enough.

Outreach materials at a press conference for a Ban the Box Petition Delivery to The White House in 2015. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for ColorOfChange.org.

13. As President Trump settles into office, many are worried about his next moves — and rightfully so.

He repeatedly refers to parts of Chicago as lawless, dangerous, and worse than parts of the war-torn Middle East. He's threatened the city with federal intervention to get the "carnage" under control. His repeated calls to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants tend to include gross mischaracterizations of immigrants as gang members, rapists, or drug dealers.

His "law and order" catchphrase is the same dog whistle Nixon used to kickstart the War on Drugs. His comments about Chicago and other inner cities are stoking fears and playing to the imaginations of his base, much like the horrifying scenes in "Birth of a Nation."

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

These facts are alarming, but here's what you can do about it.

Use your privilege for good. Pass the mic to voices that may go unheard. Help others register to vote. Support Ban the Box initiatives and organizations that help people with criminal records land on their feet.

Ask to see the numbers. Plenty of police data is publicly available. Check out the numbers in your community. Look at the demographics of people being stopped, arrested, or convicted. Numbers don't lie. Hold your leaders accountable and make them answer for racial disparities.

Stay active in schools. Overpolicing and the criminalization of black people doesn't begin and end with police officers. Black children are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white children. Ask tough questions of your child's teachers and administrators. Attend school board meetings.

Photo by iStock.

This is no ordinary crisis and it will require extraordinary solutions.

Watch the film, do your part. Let's get to work.

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5 quotes from presidential farewell speeches show the power of a strong good-bye.

Ahead of President Obama's final speech, a look back at some important lessons.

On Sunday, Jan. 10, President Barack Obama will travel to Chicago to deliver his farewell address to the nation.

The farewell address is a tradition dating all the way back to George Washington himself. The address has historically provided outgoing presidents with an opportunity to publicly reflect on their successes and failures, as well as to share a bit of unique wisdom with both their successor and with the general public as a whole.

"Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger," wrote President Obama on the White House website. "That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding — our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better."


One of the most interesting aspects of the farewell address is how, as a concept, it's such a contradiction in terms of the president's power and influence.

Usually delivered just days before a successor is set to take office, the farewell address comes at what is arguably the low point in any president's administration in terms of actual policy influence — and yet, these addresses have typically been imbued with such candidness that they become powerful in a whole new way.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

1. George W. Bush shared a message of compassion and understanding for immigrants.

"In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger," Bush warned.

While much of President Bush's speech focused heavily on the importance of national defense and vigilance about preventing future terrorist attacks, at one point during the address, he focused on the very concept of what it means to be American:

Photo by Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, Pool.

2. Bill Clinton urged future generations to embrace equality "in our hearts and in our laws."

"As we become ever more diverse, we must work harder to unite around our common values and our common humanity," implored Clinton in his speech.

During his administration, President Clinton's record on equality was somewhat mixed. As the president who signed both the Defense of Marriage Act (which preemptively blocked same-sex marriages) and the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (which prohibited gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from serving openly in the armed forces) into law, his farewell address hinted at a bit of regret when it came to social equity:

Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Ronald Reagan used his address to remind the country why city walls must have doors that are open to everyone.

"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it," Reagan said in his speech. "In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity."

"And if there had to be city walls," he said, "the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."

Reagan's address mostly centered on his successes in office, focusing on economic gains and the U.S.'s role in ending the Cold War, but also included a word of advice for when the going gets tough or problems seem overwhelming

Photo by J. David Ake/AFP/Getty Images.

4. Jimmy Carter played up the importance of defending the human rights of all people in the success of America.

"Those who hunger for freedom, who thirst for human dignity, and who suffer for the sake of justice, they are the patriots of this cause," said Carter during his address.

His anti-isolationist message touched on the U.S.'s role in ensuring that people around the world are treated with dignity, respect, and basic human rights. Carter urged Americans to be a force for good in the world, extending far beyond geographic borders.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

5. George Washington warned us of the dangers of partisanship, a message that remains incredibly relevant.

"I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations," wrote Washington. "Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally."

Despite having been delivered more than 220 years ago, Washington's address is perhaps the most prescient for 2017 and beyond. Political parties can serve as coalitions for individuals with similar goals. As President Washington warned, however, they can also lead to despotism. Now, in 2017, as the country's 45th president is about to be inaugurated, it seems our attachment to these political parties has done just that: empowered a despot.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Party allegiances today have even chipped away at the very concept of facts. Should a Democrat say the sky is blue, expect that a Republican will be there to dispute the assertion, and vice versa. It often feels as though the parties are no longer working toward common interests and solutions, but rather, a very dangerous game of one-upmanship, the most obvious example being the rush for Congress and the PEOTUS to repeal President Obama's landmark health care bill, which could boot up to 30 million people off their health insurance.

President Washington warned us. It's not too late to listen to what he — and our other past presidents — had to say.