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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

A Discussion of Deceased Teen Poet and Activist, Mattie Stepaneck

Aired April 26, 2006 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have known kings and queens. We've known presidents and prime ministers. But the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life is Mattie Stepaneck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, former President Jimmy Carter shares personal memories of the remarkable young man he calls his hero, the inspirational poet Mattie Stepaneck who was just a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday when he lost his brave battle with incurable disease two years ago. Mattie's mom Jeni joins us too with more on her son's friendship with America's 39th president.

And, of course, we'll ask President Carter about all the latest news from Iraq and Iran to immigration and more.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Also joining us later will be the famed poet laureate Dr. Maya Angelou. We'll connect in with former President Carter in Atlanta momentarily.

But let's begin with Jeni Stepaneck. She's Mattie's mom, of course, the inspirational speaker and national vice president for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She edited the new book "Just Peace, a Message of Hope." Portions of the proceeds benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. There is the book. What's the concept of this book, Jeni?

JENI STEPANECK, SON, MATTIE, DIED IN JUNE, 2004: This is really conversations about peace. Mattie had put out the poetry books and his heart songs but what mattered most to Mattie was offering the world a message of hope and peace.

And his original plan for this book was that he and Jimmy Carter would be interviewing a series of people around the world, people who need peace, people who seek peace, and people who make peace. And they would come up with conversations for this book.

And, Mattie died before the interviews could get done so instead what we have in this book is all the essays that Mattie wrote, all the conversations that Mattie had and a long series of e-mails across three years between Mattie and President Carter. And, it really came together to just be a very sweet book, a very profound book about peace.

KING: You have the same disease Mattie had right?

J. STEPANECK: Yes.

KING: Except yours is not fatal?

J. STEPANECK: It will cause a shortened lifespan, yes, but it's not -- it's not as devastating as if you're born with it. I had four children before I knew I was going to have a neuromuscular disease. All four of my children have died from the disease because they inherited it at birth before we realized that I had this. So, it will shorten my lifespan but it's not as devastating as if you're born with it.

KING: Mattie lived the longest did he not?

J. STEPANECK: Yes.

KING: When did you realize that he was different?

J. STEPANECK: Probably when he was in preschool. Mattie knew how to read and he had never been taught to read. He had picked up on phonics and was reading chapter books by ages three and four and he was creating poetry. He wasn't handwriting it until he was about four or five years old.

But at age three, he was creating poetry and short stories and prayers. He had a grasp of vocabulary and spirituality and life that just amazed me and that was -- that was pretty clear early on.

KING: How did experts, teachers, others, explain this?

J. STEPANECK: Most people just said Mattie was very smart, very gifted, very deep. He's been called an old soul. He was tested many times, you know, by the academic education system. He was just a very, very bright, gifted, talented child.

KING: President Carter, if I'm not mistaken he said on a television show how much he admired you and then that show I think "Good Morning America" arranged for you to meet is that correct?

CARTER: The most remarkable events of my life. As I said at his funeral and to many other groups, I've known hundreds of thousands of people in my life, including kings and queens and presidents and so forth. Mattie Stepaneck was the most remarkable single human being I have ever known.

There was something special about him. He was touched not only with remarkable intelligence and insight and precociousness but he was touched with an element of humility and devout religious fervor and a commitment to peace that was transforming to everyone he met and to everyone who's ever read one of his poems.

KING: What was it like the first time you met him?

CARTER: Well, I was overwhelmed and I think Mattie was too. He thought I was a Jimmy Carter impersonator as a matter of fact. He kind of doubted that I was there. At first he thought he was dreaming and then he thought I was artificial.

But that quick encounter developed into well a lifetime for him, three years for me, of intimate exchanges of ideas and concerns and grieves and sorrows and hopes and dreams that really changed my life and I hope and believe it was a beneficial impact on Mattie's life as well.

KING: You wrote the foreword for "Just Peace" and the fourth word. What is a fourth word?

CARTER: Well that was one of the unique ideas that Mattie had. He said "A foreword was when you wrote something before a book text that people would read. A fourth word is where do we go from here? After you read my book, after you read my poems, after you consider all the exchanges of information concerning me and Jimmy Carter and other famous people, then where do we go?"

And he wanted me to express mine and his views to some degree since we've shared ideas of where does the world go after Mattie Stepaneck passed away, left this world at the age of 13? How can his life and his word and his wisdom make an impact on the future? So that's what a fourth word is where do we go forth from here?

KING: Mr. President, how do you explain him?

CARTER: It's remarkable, Larry. He sent me quite early in our correspondence a couple of videos. One when Mattie was a champion in martial arts. He was incredibly talented physically, although he had to have oxygen coming to him so he could compete with the other children his age and some older. He still came out on top as a champion world class martial arts specialist.

And he also sent me a television program that his mother filmed and she interviewed Mattie imitating me as a peanut farmer and then later as president and different eras of my life.

And I remember one of the embarrassments that Mattie had was when he shifted from being a peanut farmer to a president and forgot to put any shoes on, so he had a great sense of humor and he kind of adopted me as someone I guess that he felt he could admire but also that needed some guidance and he gave me some good guidance.

KING: Jeni, you were with him when he died?

J. STEPANECK: Yes, I was.

KING: You told him to just let go as I remember?

J. STEPANECK: Pretty much. I had -- I did what many mommies would do. Even though he was struggling and suffering I begged him to hang on a little longer hoping that there would be something that would relieve his pain and I finally realized he was holding on because of me. And, I didn't tell him he could die. I said "You can rest. It will be OK." I reassured him that President Carter and I would take this book forth. I reassured him that I would move on and I reassured him that he had done everything he came here to do and he was the best person he could be.

KING: What an extraordinarily brave little kid he was.

J. STEPANECK: Yes. Yes, I hope to be half as brave as him.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back we'll read you some of the things that Mattie wrote to President Carter; later, Maya Angelou.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you look on over there I think you'll find that he's here and he'd like to meet you.

CARTER: Hello.

MATTIE STEPANECK: Hello.

CARTER: One of the great ambitions of my life is to meet Mattie and I'm glad to see you.

M. STEPANECK: I'm glad to see you.

CARTER: And I'm so proud of your poetry book. Mine, I wrote a poetry book a few years ago. It never got on "The New York Times" best- seller list.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: I would say that my final assessment is that Mattie was an angel. Someone said that to him once and he said "No, no." He was very modest. But really in the New Testament language, angel and messenger are the same and there's no doubt that Mattie was an angel of God, a messenger of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Speaking of that, the book is "Just Peace, a Message of Hope." A lot of the book contains the letters between Mattie and President Carter. Here's one and then the president will read one back.

This is from Mattie, December 19th, 2001, written at 9:46 p.m., e- mailed to Jimmy Carter.

"Dear Jimmy, Thank you for answering my letter. It really helped a lot. I sometimes feel a bit ashamed that I get anxious or depressed or angry. I tell other people about finding inner peace and I believe in it but sometimes there are just so many scary things in my life that it's hard to feel it. But I know what I do about my feelings is a choice, so I'll remember my heart song and you, my hero.

There are some storms going on right now, like the sore on the back of my head not healing and getting dangerous and like some financial and legal problems my mom and I are having but things will be OK and I'll keep praying and then I will play after these storms."

And it continues, "I really want you to know what a difference you, President Carter, made in my life. You've been my hero for so many years and you're so real, so real. I can handle things because I k now that you are real. You're not just in a book. You touch people and life and the future and I thank you so much. I will try to touch people in life and the future in some of the ways you do. I love you a lot, Merry Christmas. Thank you for being you, love Mattie."

How do you respond, Mr. President?

CARTER: Well I responded later on at 11:30 p.m. I notice. "Mattie, last night after my wife Rosalynn came home from Atlanta, we watched your video together." That was the one where he imitated me as a peanut farmer and a president.

"We both laughed and cried together with joy just realizing how great it is to have you as a special friend. When my children and grandchildren arrive here for Christmas in Plains, we will see the video again, all 21 of us.

By the way, tell your mother that she also did a great job as the interviewer. While I'm at home for a few days I'm kind of in charge of a special project in Plains to renovate three buildings on our main street. We only have eight buildings in all.

I used to work in all three of them when I was a little boy to sell hamburgers and ice cream in one and to help my Uncle Buddy in his mercantile store. We will have an antique mall and an inn with seven room, so visitors will have a chance to stay when they visit our town. I hope that some day you'll have a chance to do so. Please stay in touch with me, love Jimmy."

By the way, just a few weeks ago his mother, Jeni, had a chance to come and stay in the inn. Mattie didn't live long enough to come and visit us.

KING: Jeni, what is Mattie's Park?

J. STEPANECK: Mattie's Park, since Mattie died people are looking for ways to take forth his message and there is the Peacemaker bike and there's libraries. The park is 26 acres of land right in our neighborhood, right where I live that's named Mattie J. T. Stepaneck Peacemaker Park.

And it will have playgrounds that are accessible for children that run on legs or roll around in wheel chairs, dog park, ball fields, a concession stand, a lot of meditation areas. And, central to the park is going to be a life size statue of Mattie sitting in his wheelchair with his dog Micah (ph) sitting next to him and they're going to be sitting at a chess table.

And there will be a quote from this book sitting on a plaque and it says "Peace is Possible. It can begin simply over a game of chess and a cup of tea." And people will be welcome to come and play after whatever storm is in their life.

KING: What's the Peacemaker bike?

J. STEPANECK: The peacemaker bike, Lynnco Custom Cycles is working with the firefighters, big, big fundraisers for MDA and they have designed this incredible bike called the Peacemaker and 100 percent of the proceeds are going to go to the MDA Mattie Fund.

It's going on its first tour nationwide. Various people, we have musicians and actors that are signing the bike. It will eventually be auctioned off on eBay this December and then a new bike will replace it next year. It's a five bike series. And they have pins that they're selling to help raise money and awareness.

KING: Mr. President, what impact do you think Mattie had?

CARTER: Well, of course, he had a whole series of poetry books. Most of them were number one on "The New York Times" best-seller list. So, he impacted I would say tens of millions of people directly with his incredible poems that sounded like they were written by a college professor, who was deeply emotional but actually began to be written when he was five or six years old and ended, of course, when he was 13.

I think his numerous appearances on television, his speeches that he made to large groups with my wife Rosalynn concerning mental health, for instance, Mattie could touch people's hearts there. And he also was a leader in the MDA, as you know, and helped raise funds for that.

So, I think the impact of Mattie's life that resonates in me and in Maya Angelou and in you, who met him, will last for a lifetime, so I would say tens of millions of people were benefited and touched in a beneficial way by Mattie Stepaneck.

KING: We'll take a break, come back, take some calls for President Carter and Jeni Stepaneck; later Maya Angelou.

We'll also devote a segment to asking President Carter about some things current. Mattie would have angry if we didn't. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. STEPANECK: When I was six years old I decided to go into the peanut business all by myself. Well, looks like these peanuts are ready. I waited until there were about 50 peanuts on an underground vine.

Then I pulled them up and put them in my wagon and took them home and fresh boiled them. Then I sold them. And then every Saturday I sold about 20 bags for a nickel each. I never went home until each bag had been sold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. STEPANECK: Well, one day I went into the room of my mother, Ms. Lillian Carter. She was lying down on her bed in her room. I propped my feet up on her bed and I said, "Ms. Lillian, dear mommy, I want to run for president of the United States of America."

J. STEPANECK: What did she say?

M. STEPANECK: She looked at me for a long time and then finally she said "Jimmy, get your feet off my bed."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Mattie Stepaneck, the late Mattie Stepaneck. The book is "Just Peace, a Message of Hope." With us is Jeni Stepaneck and former President Carter. And, any information on Mattie Stepaneck, anything you want to know about contributing to the park, about the book, anything you go mattieonline.com, mattieonline.com.

We're going to take a few calls, Oakhurst, California, hello.

CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: Hi. I would like to say I agree with everyone that Mattie was an angel put here on earth to inspire all of our hearts with peace. What I would like to ask Jeni if she could please explain a little bit more about the disease and the difference between being born with it, why that's worse than acquiring it as she apparently did.

And also, are his letters and e-mails, such as the one, the exchange between he and President Carter that you just read are they available in print for all of us to enjoy?

KING: Well they're in the book.

J. STEPANECK: I'll answer that part first. The book "Just Peace, a Message of Hope" is six essays by Mattie and the whole rest of the book is the e-mail correspondence between Mattie and President Carter across a three-year period.

KING: It's all in the book.

J. STEPANECK: So everything's in the book.

KING: Explain quickly the disease.

J. STEPANECK: Very quickly, the disease, if you're born with the disease, you have a much smaller body, a much more immature immune system. All of your systems are far more fragile, so children who are born with this disease do not live very long. It was miraculous that Mattie lived 14 years. I was diagnosed after having all four children. I was in my 30s, so I will have a shortened lifespan and I'm clearly in a wheelchair because of it but it's not as devastating neurologically for adults.

KING: Quincy, Massachusetts, hello.

CALLER FROM MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Larry. Thank you, President Carter. Jeni, this question is for you. You're such an admirable woman. What gives you the strength to go on after losing four children to this dreaded disease? Thank you.

J. STEPANECK: I get strength from a number of places, partly from my children, who are with God. I have a deep sense of spirituality and I feel that spirit and God in my children through all the people who take my children's lives forward. Even my children that they didn't know when I see something that reminds me of them that's really what I go on my friends and God and remembering my children.

KING: President Carter, how do you explain Jeni's strength?

CARTER: Well, Jeni came to visit us in our home and the inn that I mentioned earlier and she participated in several of our church services. She led the prayer in our church. I think the spiritual foundation of Mattie's life and Jeni's life has tided her over.

And also the fact that she has a great mission now to perform. She has duties on her shoulders of her own and she's inherited a great responsibility. Mattie left very detailed instructions for me and for Jeni and for others on how to carry on his legacy. So, we have our hands full with our own duties and also with those that Mattie gave to us.

KING: Kitchener, Ontario, hello.

CALLER FROM ONTARIO: Hello, thank you very much.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Jeni, you are an inspiration and thank you so much for Mattie. I've collected all the books and I was wondering when the new book will be available in Canada.

J. STEPANECK: I hope it's available now but if not any online place, Amazon, Borders, any place online the book is available now.

KING: And President Carter you've had nothing but hit books lately. Your last book went to number one on "The New York Times." This will probably follow suit. Hooking up with Mattie is a smart deal.

CARTER: Well, the first sentiment that I ever shared with Mattie was his sympathy for me because his poetry book was at the top of "The New York Times" best-seller list and my book unfortunately didn't make "The New York Times" best-seller list until quite late and then it was number ten I think.

But, so Mattie always said, "Well you're just as good a poet, I just had better luck" or something like that. He was very generous. As a matter of fact, if you read any of the books, any of the poems in this book, it's almost inconceivable that a child could have written them.

KING: I agree.

CARTER: The simplicity of them and the profound sentiments expressed are truly extraordinary.

KING: Are there going to be book signings, Jeni?

J. STEPANECK: Yes. While I'm here in Los Angeles, I'm going to be in Northridge on Friday night with Sean Astin (ph) and I'm going to be at the festival of books at UCLA on Saturday and in Santa Barbara on Sunday at noon. If you look at Mattie's website it has the wrong time. It's going to be at 12:00 noon in Santa Barbara.

KING: The website is mattieonline.com. I bet you almost can't stop thinking about him.

J. STEPANECK: No. No, there's not a day.

KING: I mean he had such an impact on everybody's life but you're his mother.

J. STEPANECK: When I think about him I'm not always sad. There's times that I'm very, very sad and I miss him but there's other times that I think of him and I actually laugh because he was a very funny kid. There's times that I think of him and it gives me just whatever it is that I need to move into the next moment when I'm having a difficult time. So, I really like thinking about him.

KING: We're going to take a break and when we come back we'll ask President Carter about some things current.

And then we'll get back to Mattie Stepaneck and "Just Peace."

And Maya Angelou will be joining us.

By the way, on Friday night the entire program will be devoted to United Flight 93. The movie opens Friday.

We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. STEPANECK: To me happiness is traveling, not really me traveling but my heart songs traveling. When the stars in my heart travel out and around the world and the things that I say and in the poems and stories that I write and in the prayers that I feel to God and when the letters and words of those heart songs bring some peace to the countries and people who have war in their lives that is real happiness to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. STEPANECK: My poetry is about all kinds of different things. It began about Jamie (ph) and then it evolved into things like nature, friendships, challenges, hopes. And the big theme is peace. I'm -- talk about peace in many different ways so that everyone likes it, it appeals to all people and so that everyone understands it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Mattie made many appearances on this show. He always wore suspenders. The book is "Just Peace." Before we continue with Jeni Stepaneck and later Maya Angelou, let's ask a couple of things current of the former president of the United States who is always eloquent and on top of the scene. What do you make of these gas prices?

CARTER: Well they're extraordinary. Part of it, of course, is supply and demand. The other part is our country hasn't done enough to conserve energy and we're demanding too much. We ought to have much more efficient vehicles, for instance, and much tighter restraints. I think another thing is there is an extraordinary and unwarranted degree of profit within the oil companies themselves and I think there ought to be some excess profits, tax and certainly an investigation about why sometimes the wholesale price of oil goes up a little bit and gasoline prices skyrocket.

So investigations, conservation, more efficient vehicles, and then accommodate the rest of it, just supply and demand.

KING: Was immigration a big issue in your presidency? And whether or not it was, what do you make of the story today?

CARTER: Of innovation?

KING: Yes, immigration.

CARTER: Oh, immigration. Immigration was not a really big problem when I was there. We had several million undocumented workers in our country. Most of them came to fill jobs that Americans did not want to fill. They came and performed well. They were honest, decent, hard-working people. They paid their taxes, they took care of their families, and we've treated them with respect.

I think that's the situation now. My hope is that the Congress will pass appropriate legislation. I think the bill passed by the House of Representatives is partially racist in nature and overly abusive and won't work. I think what the Senate is trying to do, to combine their more moderate approach with the recommendation of President Bush is what we'd like to see come out of the Congress.

KING: You talking about McCain-Kennedy?

CARTER: Yes. Of course that's been modified a lot within the Senate and I think they've combined it with President Bush's recommendations. But that would be much superior to the House bill which just won't work in any way. It builds a 700-mile wall or fence. It declares that all the 11 or 12 million people who have come in here from Mexico and other places are felons and it puts heavy penalties on employers.

None of those things are going to work. The best thing to do is treat the people that are here with respect and decency. I think the Senate proposal, which obviously is not near passage says anyone who's been here for five years and who performed well, who hold a job that other Americans don't want, that have good health care and have not had any violations of the law, willing to pay a heavy fine.

They would be eligible for consideration to stay here permanently and those who have not been here five years would have to go back and start all over again. Those proposals still in the formative stage, I think are quite reasonable.

KING: And what do you make of the apparently unprecedented former Marine generals and others asking for the secretary of defense to resign?

CARTER: Well first of all, they have a right to speak out. They're American citizens who have retired, like I retired after a long time in the military. I think they have to use their own individual judgment about how strongly they should speak out. I think it is somewhat unprecedented for them to specifically ask for the secretary of defense to resign.

I personally believe that the secretary should have resigned after the torture in prison revelations were made, when he offered the president his resignation. I think personally, it should have been accepted because there's no doubt that he was partially responsible for those abuses.

So I think it's just part of our democracy to have people speak out openly, to have some people criticize them for speaking out and some like me, to maybe condone their right to do so.

KING: And one other thing. What do you make of the shake-up at the White House? You've had them, too.

CARTER: I have. I think the shake-up has come about because of the rapid decrease in the president's popularity. I think the general pressure, not only from the general public but from Republican leaders on the White House to make some changes is appropriate because of the lost popularity in the polls.

Part of it, obviously, is for that reason, perhaps part of it is to change some of the policies in the White House. I think the recent choice apparently of a new press secretary is interesting. He's coming from FOX News, as you know. And several comments that I've heard today while teaching at Emory was, from the students, why should they pay him at the White House?

They've been getting his full support for the White House without pay. Let FOX pay him. I think it's an interesting change and I think a breath of fresh air is probably going to be helpful to President Bush and possibly helpful to the country.

KING: We will now take a break. Maya Angelou will join us and we'll get back to the subject at hand, Mattie Stepaneck, the late Mattie Stepaneck and the book "Just Peace: A Message of Hope." President Carter will remain with us, we'll also be including more of your phone calls. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. STEPANECK: We have, we are a mosaic of gifts to nurture, to offer, to accept. We need to be, just be. Be for a moment, kind and gentle, innocent and trusting. Like children and lambs, never judging or vengeful, like the judging and vengeful. And now, let us pray. Differently yet together, before there is no earth, no life, no chance for peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Remaining with us is Jeni Stepaneck, the mother of the late Mattie Stepaneck. The book is "Just Peace: A Message of Hope," Mattie JT Stepaneck. With Jimmy Carter and Jeni wrote the forward and Jimmy Carter remains with us.

We're now joined from her home in New York by Dr. Maya Angelou, the best selling author, poet, educator and activist, a friend to Mattie Stepaneck and continues to support his message of peace and hope. Dr. Angelou, how good a poet was Mattie?

DR. MAYA ANGELOU, AUTHOR, FRIEND OF TEEN POET MATTIE STEPANECK: That's a little, Larry, like saying how free is this air you're are breathing or how wet is water? He was a poet, and a fine poet. I think the poet really beyond his or her ear for the language agrees to take responsibility for the time he takes up and the space she occupies. And that was Mattie.

KING: Did he surprise you as much as he did when you first met him, President Carter and all the rest who got to meet him.

ANGELOU: He did surprise me. I know he had said he wanted to meet Oprah, President Carter and Maya Angelou. The two of them had fallen, like brick houses, for him and I thought, well, now, just let me see. And within 20 minutes I was also fallen. And my life is richer because there could be a Mattie Stepaneck

KING: Was his thoughts about peace, President Carter, writing about it and all his thoughts about establishing concept, was that realistic?

CARTER: I think so. Every voice that speaks out for peace, Larry, instead of preemptive war or preventative war, in America, will have some impact on the policies of our government, maybe prevent a future war that ought not to ever take place. I think the creation in the rest of the world of an image of Americans who promote and espouse peace fervently is very beneficial for the image of our country. I think, for Mattie, peace was not just the absence of war between countries, but it was an inner sense of security, of acceptance of one's plight with equanimity. It was an ability for two adjacent people to form ties of friendship and understanding for the exhibition of compassion for someone who was in trouble and an expression of love between two friends or a mother and a child, or two siblings.

I think peace was a lot more than just the absence of war for Mattie.

KING: Maya, go ahead.

ANGELOU: I agree with that. I believe that Mattie went further than we are encouraged to go in the Judeo-Christian Bible. We're asked to be peace makers. Mattie was a peace bringer. He brought it with him. He didn't wait to get there to make it. That takes a lot of courage. Obviously, Mattie Stepaneck had a lot of courage.

KING: Did he die optimistically, Jenny? Would you say?

J. STEPANECK: I would say he did. He was very concerned that he had done enough on this final effort to talk about peace because he wanted to talk about peace as a choice, and how you make the choices and your attitudes and your habits that shape your reality.

He was very concerned about whether he had done enough on this book, on his message, that it would last beyond his life span. He was very optimistic. Mattie died believing fully that peace is possible because peace begins with an attitude, it begins with saying, I'm OK, and it spreads from there. He believed an attitude was a choice so he was very optimistic.

KING: When he was six years old, he wrote on growing up. He wrote, we are growing up, we are many colors of skin, we are many language, we are many ages and sizes, we are many ages and sizes, we are many countries but we are one Earth. We each have one heart, we each have one life. We're growing up together, so we must live as one family. Age six, Dr. Angelou.

ANGELOU: That's Mattie Stepaneck. Now, that's a signature right there. He not only said it but lived it. The very idea that he could be compassionate about people he'd never seen, people who, in fact, whose complexions might differ, people who might call God other names, if they call God at all. His compassion was total. As much more the Israeli as it was for the Palestinian. It really was.

KING: It was. We'll take break and we'll come right back. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360." He will host that program at the top of the hour. Anderson, what's up?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More troubles for the Bush White House. Today Karl Rove, the presidents top political adviser was back in court for the fifth time, testifying before a federal grand jury, still under threat of indictment, still a potential distraction or worse for the White House. We'll talk about the case, the fallout and the possibility that Mr. Rove's recent job change could mean the administration is bracing for an indictment.

Also tonight, allegations of a satanic killing on holy ground, a nun murdered, a priest suspected. What does the evidence say. Some new developments in court today and new testimony on what DNA testing reveals coming up at the top of the hour.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. "AC 360" at the top of the hour for two full hours. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPANECK: I believe that if we choose to make peace an attitude and want it, and we make it something that truly matters inside of our hearts and then if we choose to make peace a habit, not just think it but to live it, and share it. And if we choose to make peace a reality and spread it throughout the world and get involved and understand what's going on, we will have peace.

KING: You're going to have to do away with hate.

STEPANECK: We have to choose to get rid of the hate and bring in the peace.

KING: It is a choice.

STEPANECK: It is a choice. A big choice you have to be devoted to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: For any information about Mattie Stepaneck, any projects, any contributions, information about the book, just go to mattieonline.com. We're back with Jimmy Carter, Jeni Stepaneck and Dr. Maya Angelou. And we go to Kennewick, Washington. Hello.

CALLER: Oh, Larry, this is such an honor. Maya, Jeni, President Carter, thank you so much for being on this planet with the rest of us who are so concerned about this disease. There is so much of us who are still wanting to be diagnosed who need to be diagnosed, who have these incredible neuromuscular conditions. Can you suggest to us who and where we can go for to be cared for for this type of disease?

KING: Jeni?

J. STEPANECK: You go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and there are clinics all over the United States, in Canada and other countries. And a neurologist diagnoses you and from there, MDA becomes your family.

KING: Was Mattie, in your opinion, well cared for?

J. STEPANECK: Mattie had the best care. Mattie died in spite of the finest care from MDA, from his, medical doctors, from everybody he ever met.

KING: Chattanooga, Tennessee, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Mattie was a true American hero, just like all the guests on the show tonight. My question is would President Carter compare and contrast the oil crisis of today with the oil crisis during his administration? Thank you.

KING: Mr. President.

CARTER: Compare what, Larry?

KING: The oil crisis today to with the crisis when you were president. That was a shortage, right?

CARTER: Yes, that was a shortage that was caused by the war between Iraq and Iran. And all the oil from Iran and Iraq was cut off for the entire world. So oil prices went up dramatically then. We were able to accommodate it and I think our country now is very strong and economically capable. We still pay, in this country, not much more than half what they pay in Europe or in Japan, so Americans are resilient, tough, competent, we can survive this.

KING: Whittier, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello, thank you, Larry. I'd like to first extend my gratitude to all of you for all that you do and have been doing to continue Mattie's dream, to bring love and peace to this world.

And Mr. Carter, for all that you do, first of all for the humanitarian efforts you've been doing ever since you were president. President Carter, my question is what should we be doing as the nation now, as a nation to continue the work that Mattie had, not just as individuals, but as a nation? How do we bring more peace to the world?

CARTER: I think the best thing we can do is to let the public officials know that the Americans believe that our country is strong enough and secure enough to address any sort of international crisis or challenge in a peaceful way. That the best way is not to resort to military violence and attacks on others.

For instance, the war in Iraq, which we now need to resolve successfully, was an unjust and unfair and unnecessary war to begin with. I think had the American people spoken out strongly enough to resolve those issues peacefully, we would have been a lot better off in many ways.

So I think to express our own commitment, that America should use this tremendous strength for peaceful purposes, not only for our own country, but for other nations is the best way we can do it. And that means that every American who believes in peace, who might like me might worship the prince of peace, might make that view and that preference clear.

KING: Dr. Angelou, do you have a thought?

ANGELOU: Yes. I totally agree with President Carter. I agree that we should let our public officials know. I think we should let ourselves know, that is to say, say so and be that in the House and at the job.

So that you might be able to sway somebody else who is sort of sitting on the fence. I think that if you really love peace and want it, then you are peaceful and peaceable.

And you show it in everything you do, or try to show it in everything you do. And before you know it, there'll be four people who like the idea of peace and then 40 and then 400. And then 4,000 means more to a senator and a congress person than one person.

KING: Well said. We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments in our salute to the late Mattie Stepaneck. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPANECK: A new hope. I need a hope, a new hope. A hope that reaches for the stars and that does not end in violence or war. A hope that makes peace on our earth, and that does not create evil in the world, a hope that finds cures for all diseases, and that does not make people hurt in their bodies, in their hearts. Most of all, in their spirits. I need a hope, a new hope, a hope that inspires me to live, and to make all these things happen, so that the whole world can have a new hope, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We have less than a minute. Mr. President, what's Mattie's legacy?

CARTER: I think a champion of peace and human rights and courage, tenacity, utilizing the talent that God gave him, to the utmost, having a maximum impact on many people on earth. I think it will be a permanent lasting legacy.

KING: I find myself, I know Maya would agree and I know his mother agrees, thinking about him all the time. You don't go very long without thinking about Mattie Stepaneck and the lives he touched and I can speak for everyone with us tonight, we will never, never forget him.

Before we go, we want to mention a very personal, a very poignant book by Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. It's titled "Remembering Garrett: One Family's Battle with a Child's Depression." Senator Smith and his wife adopted Garrett as a newborn and unfortunately, Garrett struggled with learning disabilities and depression throughout his life. Sadly, he committed suicide at age 22. This is a from the heart book. Yes, it's about a tragedy. But it's also about faith and hope. Again, the book is "Remembering Garrett: One Family's Battle with a Child's Depression" by United States Senator Gordon Smith.

Tomorrow night, a group of people who really shouldn't be here. In fact, the title is "I Shouldn't Be Alive." These people faced incredible dangers and managed to survive. And Friday night, people that did not survive, a look at the flight of United 93, the movie opens. We'll devote an hour to it on Friday evening. Right now we switch gears, go to New York. Standing by is Anderson Cooper, the host of "A.C. 360." Anderson, what's up?

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