Tag Archives: Jimmy Carter

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter was an anomaly. An unwavering born-again Christian from the Bible Belt, he forged a presidency along liberal paths.

His administration produced a national healthcare plan, which he described in his book. “Our plan protected all Americans from catastrophic illness costs; extended comprehensive health coverage to all low-income citizens; gave total coverage to all mothers and babies for prenatal, delivery, postnatal, and infant care; promoted competition and cost containment and provided a clear framework for phasing in a universal, comprehensive national health plan.”

Senator Ted Kennedy opposed it, wanting another plan of his own approved. As Carter says, thirty years would pass before another plan was approved with “just partial implementation.”

If Carter had been from any part of the country except the deep South, would his presidency have been more successful? He writes: “Some of the most influential analysts never anticipated my election, and others could not accept having a governor from the Deep South in office.”

Particularly amazing (and tragic) is comparison of the political campaigning of that era with the present one.

Carter and his Republican opponent in the presidential campaign, Gerald Ford (whom Carter highly praises), chose not to raise campaign funds from corporate or private donors. Both used funds collected from the income tax form allowing $1 dollar to be donated to campaigns (now $3). According to Carter (writing in 2016), this fund has not been used since 2004.

It’s hard to imagine the differences from the political campaigns of today, which have become contests mostly between wealthy American donors.

As president, Carter was a serious reader as was his family. He commented,“All of us are avid readers, and it was during the weekends that I had a chance to catch up on back reading .”

Carter also exercised every afternoon by running from five to seven miles.

He mentions the efforts he put in to prepare for summit meetings, studying briefing books on political and economic matters and about the leaders he would be meeting.

Easy to note the contrasts between Carter and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

American Idol Politics

 

Americans tend to judge their leaders like they judge contestants on American Idol—spur of the moment. I thought about this when I read an article in Parade Magazine (November 2, 2013) about former President Jimmy Carter.

Carter left office in disgrace, haunted in the last year of his Presidency by Islamist students’ seizure of the U.S. embassy in Iran and the taking of hostages. Forgotten was his work with Egypt and Israel, leading to Egypt’s diplomatic recognition of Israel, the first by an Arab nation.

Today, Carter is one of the most respected of living presidents. According to the interview, Carter is enjoying the longest post-presidency in history and one of the most productive.

He began the Carter Center, which “wages peace” through various initiatives, many of them dealing with the eradication of diseases that so plague poorer nations. He won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” He is often called on by world leaders for his opinion. He teaches once a month at Emory University in Atlanta. He writes books. His wife, Rosalynn, is involved in mental health issues. Their marriage has lasted sixty-seven years.

You can do worse than that. May all our presidents be this successful.