Staff Bid Farewell to Director

Jay Hakes, Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum, will be stepping down at the end of July after serving in the position for thirteen years.

Jay Hakes, Director of the Jimmy Carter Library, at the Library & Museum's Rose Garden

Dr. Jay Hakes, Director of the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum, at the on-site Rose Garden

A press release sent out in May details Hakes’ departure and career in government. Hakes’ departure from the Library and Museum marks the wrap-up of a long public service career. Per the release, he has served as “…Deputy Executive Secretary and Executive Secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior under President Carter and later as Special Assistant, Executive Office of the President. Beginning in 1981, Hakes headed the Florida Department of Energy. He became Governor Bob Graham’s chief of staff and when Graham was elected to the U.S. Senate, Hakes ran his Florida offices.”

Additional excerpts from the release are as follows:

[…] “As Director, Hakes developed a close working relationship between the Carter Library and the adjoining, non-profit Carter Center. He oversaw the $10 million redesign of the Carter Presidential Museum, which has won seven major awards for its films and interactive exhibits. […]

‘Jay has been a leader for the presidential library system,’ said David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. ‘He is the most senior director of the thirteen presidential libraries and has been a key player in our strategic planning to make presidential documents widely available. I will miss his judgment and counsel.’

Prior to becoming the Director of the Carter Library in 2000, Hakes was the Administrator of the Energy Information Administration at the Department of Energy, a post he held for seven years. […] It was that background in energy that led to Hakes’ selection in 2010 as policy and research director for President Obama’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Taking a seven month leave from the Carter Library, Hakes worked on analysis of the role of offshore exploration and development and the potential for restoring the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Hakes is the author of the 2008 book ‘A Declaration of Energy Independence: How Freedom from Foreign Oil Can Improve National Security, Our Economy, and the Environment,’ and is currently writing a new book on energy issues.” […]

I wanted to ask Dr. Hakes a few personal questions prior to his departure and have included his responses. He is known for his expertise in energy issues and his leadership role within the Presidential Library system–but did you also know that he is known for his expertise in navigating the “restaurant scene” in several cities?

Staff at the Library & Museum and your acquaintances frequently go to you for restaurant recommendations. You’re known amongst those close to you as having an “expertise” in the Atlanta, Washington, D.C. (and other areas, I’m sure!) food scenes. Which restaurants or types of cuisine are your favorites?

Over the years, I have eaten at more than 150 restaurants in each of three American cities: New Orleans, Washington, and Atlanta.  It has been fun to live in Atlanta during the rise of the farm-to-table movement, which provides fresh local food that is both highly tasty and nutritious. In this genre, Restaurant Eugene, Empire State South, and Wisteria are Atlanta favorites. When in Washington, I’m a big fan of Blue Duck Tavern in the Hyatt Hotel on the corner of M St. NW and 24th.

I love Indian food and try to get in visits to Bombay Club and Heritage India when in DC. Indian favorites in Atlanta include Panahar and Bhojanic. A new favorite in Midtown is Cafe Agora, which is Turkish and very convenient for us to pick up some dishes we can eat at home.  I’m eager to try dinner at the new Tunisian restaurant CousCous on the east side of Piedmont Park.

Where would I go if I could only eat out once a year?  Either Restaurant August or Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.

Of all of the special Library & Museum visitors that you have had the chance to meet, who has been the most surprising? Unexpected? (I’m sure meeting Conan O’Brien was a treat!)

It was a special thrill to provide a tour of the museum to Lady Bird Johnson during what I believe was her last trip outside of Texas. She could no longer speak at that point, but had an intense interest in history and wanted to read all the labels. From TV news, I’ve given tours to NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Cokie Roberts. The great authors Salmon Rushdie and Alice Walker have toured. From the world of government, we’ve had Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Attorney-General Ed Meese. Other celebrities have included Norman Lear, Bill Gates Sr., former CNN CEO Tom Johnson, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. (I forgot we had his picture on the wall, but he spied it.) This year, I gave tours to basketball legends Bill Walton and Lucius Allen, as well as TV comic Conan O’Brien. Both Walton and O’Brien were history majors in college and very knowledgeable about the subject. In a follow up email, Walton said his visit was a life-transforming experience. Of course, walking through the museum with President and Mrs. Carter is always a terrific experience.

Your background in energy is quite substantial and those around you know to go to you with any questions related to the field. Staff knows you to be an avid reader, as well. If pressed to recommend a non-energy book, however, what would you suggest? What are you currently reading? Or, what book (fiction and/or non-fiction) could you re-read again and again?

There are two “classics” that I have found very helpful in life and work and think more people should read. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), along with his later works, provides the best guide to ethics that I know of. Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline:The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990) is excellent on the subject of improving the complex organizations that both enhance and frustrate modern life.

My current reading includes the not yet classics. For history, I am a big fan of Ron Chernow, but there are many good historians out there. I have read extensively over the years in the fields of health and nutrition. I have recently finished Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live (2011), which proposes some pretty dramatic changes in diet for most people, but would provide major health improvements if implemented. Right now, I am slogging my way through Kelly Starrett’s very thick Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance (2013).

Of course, my favorite reading at night is the many thousands of pages of documents I’ve collected at presidential libraries and other archives around the country. (This is actually true.) So much of modern history is based on mythology, and these documents (including the Nixon tapes) provide the best way to get to the truth.

What’s your first memory of working with the Library & Museum?

My first day of work at the Carter Library, I was given a scrapbook with pictures and bios of all the employees. I thought that was a very kind thing to do and made me feel very welcome.

Fondest memory?

The day we reopened the renovated museum (October 1, 2009), I realized we had nailed it and that our work effort would become a model for many museums to be built in the following years.

What do you wish people knew about the Library & Museum that they might not already know?

I would guess that most people don’t know we are digitizing the documents that crossed President Carter’s desk. These are the most important ones and he often annotated them. Making them available on the web will constitute a quantum leap for helping historians understand those four years.

Thank you, Jay, for sharing some insights about yourself and best of luck in your future endeavors!  Your work and leadership here have been appreciated and the staff certainly will miss your presence here at the Library & Museum!

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