Monday, November 16, 2009

A Man Among Men

I am here today to tell you that I love Jimmy Carter. Yes, I am talking about the 39th President of the U.S. of A. I have been an ardent admirer of J.C. for many years, but after watching the documentary Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains last night, I love him even more.

Several weeks ago, I read about this documentary here and if you bother to link over, you will see my comment there. To start, I live in Georgia, and I remember well when Carter was elected President. I remember feeling proud that someone from my home state was holding such an important position in the world.

But I also remember people making fun of the "peanut farmer from Plains"--mocking his accent, calling him a hillbilly and worse. I remember how people tore him down after him left office, saying what an ineffectual President he had been. And while I am not here to make any political statements per se, I will say that Jimmy Carter deserves much more respect than he received. Respect I didn't even know he deserved until after last night. Respect in retrospect.

First, did you know Carter was studying to be a nuclear physicist? I know. After college, Carter joined the U.S. Navy and planned to make it his career. His ultimate goal was to become Chief of Naval Operations, and he decided to train as an engineering officer with a specialty in nuclear power. Impressive, right?

However, when Carter's father died, he resigned his commission and returned home to take over the family's farming business. You may remember Carter's deep devotion to his mother, Lillian--he is a family man to his core. In fact, during the movie last night, he was recounting a story about his mother to his peers and he welled up with tears. He said even today he still gets emotional talking about her. That? Is a good man.

The movie also showed Carter's deep commitment to Christianity. He has served as a Sunday School teacher throughout his life and a deacon in his church. Carter tells his book editor in the movie that he and Roslyn, his wife of more than 60 years, read the Bible every night before going to bed. If he is traveling, they choose a passage and read, knowing they are reading the same thing, even separated by distance. And, oh yeah, they read the Bible in Spanish. Seriously.

In the years after his presidency, Carter has been more active than probably any other President in history. After leaving office, he founded The Carter Center in Atlanta in 1982, a non-governmental, non-profit organization that works to advance human rights and eradicate disease. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, resolve conflicts and monitor elections. He also is a key figure in Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that builds homes for the needy around the world, and he actually helps BUILD the houses.

While I was a student at Emory in the late 80s, I had the great honor of President Carter lecturing in my classes not once, but twice. Those lectures turned my fondness for a former President from Georgia into pure love. A love that has been sustained. I even interviewed for a job at The Carter Center once, several years ago. You can only imagine how disappointed I was when I was not chosen.

In his spare time, Carter has written 21 books, including a book of poetry, paints and fly fishes. And travels to Europe to pick up Nobel Peace prizes. In fact, the number of humanitarian awards Carter has won are astounding, but the most amazing fact (again, learned last night) is he won a GRAMMY. Yes. In 2007. For Best Spoken Word Album (because he also provides the voice for all his books on tape).

Another thing I learned last night is that Carter was warning of the U.S.'s dependency on oil in the late 70s. He established the Department of Energy, and a national energy policy that included conservation and new technology. He encouraged citizens to use less energy. He dropped our oil use in half while he was in office. Now it is almost triple what is was then. It makes me wonder if, instead of creating gas-guzzling SUVs and oil-burning McMansions, we had all been following Carter's lead on energy, where we would be now, almost 35 years later. Much better off, I am thinking.

I could go on for days, I am sure, but all I really wanted to say is "Jimmy Carter rocks." He "walks the walk," using his influence, and under the influence of his deep faith, for good works. He has seen the things that are wrong with this world and he steps forward to try and right them, regardless of the fallout. He has tirelessly worked to make his 85 years on this Earth count. He deserves a tremendous amount of respect, regardless of his politics, for the legacy he will leave behind. Most of all, his example makes me want to be a better person. Check out the movie if you can. It's a wonderful portrait of a man among men.

PS, Any Secret Service folks who come upon this post while monitoring, I promise I am not a "crazy", okay??


Elisabeth said...

Have you been to the Carter Center? Scott & I did that on afternoon on our "lets be tourists in our own city" jaunts. It was very interesting and enlightening. I can't say I'm a big fan of him politically - it can be argued that he started our housing debacle by providing incentives to banks who gave mortgages to folks who couldn't afford them, but his heart was in the right place - he wanted more folks to be homeowners. We'll have to add this to our TBW'd pile.

bunny said...

I HAVE been to the Carter Center several times, but not as a "tourist"--it was for events, my interview...I think you sum J.C up nicely...he may have made mistakes, but his heart was in the right place.

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

One of my favorite Presidents.
I sure don't say THAT around any of my in-laws!