Jimmy Carter has been more of an inspiration as a former president than most men in their presidency ever have.
Deciding to enter hospice care, the 39th President has chosen to live out the final chapter of his life in the manner in which he lived -with dignity, integrity grace, and love.
A true public servant who lives his faith, he is a man who has walked the walk, humbly following in Jesus’ footsteps, even taking up carpentry in the manner of Christ.
Today when the word Christian has been carelessly bandied about by self-serving politicians and so deeply perverted to have lost any real meaning, President Carter is the very definition of a good Christian.
My First President
The very first vote I cast for president was for Jimmy Carter in 1976.
I was 21 and felt a thrill walking into the unfamiliar voting booth in my familiar High school gym that November to pull my first presidential lever for an unknown Democratic Governor from Georgia.
Though mercilessly mocked in the press as “Jimmy Who? he was just the right man for the times.
Looking for an alternative to the corruption of Richard Nixon and the haplessness of Gerald Ford, Carter was anti-establishment.
And he was cool
While we think of him as a straight-laced engineer who only “lusted in his heart,” he had the backing of some of the biggest rockstars who saw something fresh and inspiring in Carter’s political populism.
Rockers and edgy country singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson were among some of his biggest fans. From the moment Carter announced his presidential run, The Allman Brothers, played benefit concerts for him, to raise money for his campaign.
Americans disillusioned with Washington in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, and sick and tired of elected officials who betrayed them, young democrats like myself found a refreshing change in Carter, a former peanut farmer who was seen as an outsider.
President Jimmy Carter
That a self-described Evangelical Christian and improbably dark horse candidate from the deep South won the presidency was a remarkable feat.
The need to be a country of integrity ran deep in a nation that was weary.
When Paul Simon sang “American Tune” at his inauguration in 1977, the words, “I’m all right, I’m just weary to my bones,” he seemed to speak for many disaffected people.
When Aretha Franklin belted out “God Bless America” that cold chilly day in January, she tapped into the hope, buried deep in many Americans at the time, that this country could still reach its promise. Carter understood all of that and was determined to give us hope again.
Known always as Jimmy and never James, his was a stripped-down presidency devoid of pomp.
He did away with the “Hail to the Chief” anthem before public entrances and he spoke to us on television wearing a homey cardigan sweater as though he were Mr. Rogers.
From the start, he was a man of the people. He didn’t seek to put himself on a pedestal above those he was meant to lead. And this meant something at the time. For a people desperate for a new direction, it offered hope that politics could be different.
He was one of the rare leaders who tried to make himself a little less important to benefit the overall health of our democracy.
In the end, the presidency didn’t work out as well as he had hoped.
His presidency may not have lived u to his expectations but his post-presidency soared.
A Man For Humanity
Sometimes called a better former president than president Jimmy Carter is one of the great humanitarians and statespersons of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
There has not been a president who has done more since they left office. Carter has used his position as a platform for promoting social justice, defining a post-presidency that has been radically different from that of those who came before him.
Rather than spending his time giving high-paid speeches or living in seclusion, Carter created the Carter Center, devoted to diplomatic initiatives, eradicating disease, and promoting democracy. Along with his beloved wife Roslyn, he has worked for Habitat for Humanity, building houses for those without economic means. Not only does he support Habitat with words, but he has also helped in some of the building.
On Presidents Day what this one exceptional man did after his presidency is exceptional and worth honoring.
And he is still very cool.
Copyright (©) 2023 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
Sally, maybe the greatest ex-president we have ever had. He did so much for so many. Keith
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We would be hard-pressed to find another so worthy of our deep admiration and inspiration.
I met Jimmy ten years ago when he was touring Habit for Humanities across Canada. Amazing how many people here love him. “President Carter is the very definition of a good Christian and activist.” to paraphrase your words Sally.
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What a privilege it must have been to meet him. He has always been a gem and the contrast between him and this motley crew of self-proclaimed Good Christians and political charlatans we have been inundated with in the past many years is nothing short of startling.