President Carter

I’m sure we all know by now that former President Jimmy Carter is accepting hospice care, rather than continuing to seek treatment for various health issues. Carter is 98 years old; he was elected President over 46 years ago, and he left office over 42 years ago. Carter’s presidency did not go smoothly, but his post-Presidency has been amazing to behold as he has tirelessly championed democracy and other humanitarian causes for decades since leaving office. I expect the historical verdict on Jimmy Carter will likely remain some variant of “Not a great President, but a great man nonetheless.”

Jimmy Carter is the first political figure of whom I was genuinely aware, although admittedly with a very immature understanding of anything at all. I remember hearing about him from my kindergarten teacher and thinking “A peanut farmer wants to be President! Cool!” I had no idea what a “President” was; I vaguely recall asking one of my parents that very question, and getting a response that “He’s the boss for the whole country.” I pictured someone like my school’s principal, going all over the country telling people what to do.

President Carter also angered me as a young sci-fi geek when he chose the evening of ABC’s broadcast of the premiere episode of Battlestar Galactica for the signing of the Camp David Accords. I mean, when you’re a kid sitting down to watch a highly-hyped teevee show with explodey-spaceshippy goodness, nothing throws you into a state of infuriation quite like the screen going dark and suddenly the words “ABC NEWS SPECIAL REPORT” coming on. I’ve made my peace with this more recently, though. (“Harumph,” though, says my inner 7-year-old.)

All was forgiven, though, just a couple of weeks later. At this time we were living for a year in Elkins, WV, and the town’s annual festival, the Mountain State Forest Festival, was coming right up, in early October. That year we learned that President Carter himself was coming to Elkins to walk in the parade. We were in the stands along the main street that day, and finally, after what felt like hours (it might have actually been hours), the parade began, and suddenly, there he was: the President of the United States himself, walking in the street and waving, beaming that famous smile of his. Then he climbed into his limousine and I thought “That’s it?” But up he popped from the sun roof, waving some more. Not long after he was gone. I actually found the President’s briefing book from that day–apparently he gave a campaign speech that morning for one of WV’s senators, before driving in the parade–and by late afternoon, he was back at Camp David. I also found these two photos from that day:

Looking at this, I can’t believe how close those spectators were allowed to get to the President!

Not sure if the guy in the tan overcoat is a Secret Service guy or not; he kind of looks like Hamilton Jordan, President Carter’s White House Chief of Staff.

To this day, President Carter remains the only US President I have ever actually seen. The closest I’ve come since? A campaign rally in Erie for Michael Dukakis in 1988, and a couple of times when Presidents Bush the Younger and Obama flew into Buffalo, and I saw Air Force One from the parking lot of The Store.

Anyway, best wishes to President Carter as he begins this journey with as much grace as he seems to have pursued all of his previous journeys.


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2 Responses to President Carter

  1. Roger says:

    Ultimately, I’ll have to write about Jimmy Carter.

  2. Jason says:

    Funny, I too was outraged and traumatized by the Battlestar Galactica incident. 😀

    Given where I grew up and live, I’ve heard a lot of smack about Carter, even today decades after his presidency, usually lame-ass toxic-male stuff about him being too big a wuss to get the American hostages back from Iran. It always infuriates me. I wish America had followed Carter’s path more than Reagan’s. The world in general would be better off today.

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