Here’s the kind of story that makes you go “Wow!” in a feel-good way–and God knows we need something to feel good about.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary today.*
This is all the more Wow-worthy because Jimmy Carter, 91 years old and sharp as a tack, is a walking miracle. Even the former President himself thought he had maybe two weeks left when cancer was discovered in his liver and brain last year.
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I voted for Jimmy Carter all those years ago because, like everybody else at the time, I was suffering a political hangover from paranoid Richard Nixon and his steely, bloodless minions Haldeman (Nixon’s Chief of Staff and Ehrlichman (the counsel and advisor).
I don’t think people who came of age after the Watergate years can fathom how dark the mood of the country was in the wake of the double-whammy of Vietnam and Watergate.
Gerald Ford was a much-respected Congressman when he took over the Presidency, and the very decent and genuine Carter was his equal in terms of decency and down-to-earthness.
But Ford’s sin was pardoning Nixon in a time when nobody in the country was in the mood for letting Nixon off the hook.
Smilin’ Jimmy Carter, complete with his eccentric mother and crazy redneck brother and the whole down-home Carter clan, was like a national breath of fresh air.
Smilin’ Jimmy also a record of accomplishment that wouldn’t quit.
He was a salt-of-the-earth family farmer at a time when family farmers (remember them?) were the most admired of Americans.
Furthermore, Jimmy Carter of the big open grin was a graduate of the Naval Academy who had done time as a Navy officer. And in running for President one always has instant credibility being a popular governor, which Carter was.
To top it all off, he was a born-again Christian and longtime Sunday School teacher–an evangelical who wore God’s grace with quiet integrity.
Of course, we all know the rest of the story. As a President, he was a micro-managing, detail-oriented disaster–a desperate scrambler rather than an inspiring leader.
To hear the President of the United States inform you that you’re suffering from a “national malaise” without offering a prescription for relief and an encouraging word is like having a counselor hear your story of woe only to tell you, “Man, it sucks to be you.”
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In fairness, Jimmy’s determined efforts to bring the leaders of Egypt and Israel together in a peace pact was a huge accomplishment in the context of the times. Too bad it’s the sort of accomplishment that the average American voter could care less about.
Whatever admiration Americans have for Carter and the First Lady Rosaylnn has grown exponentially through the years since that night they famously danced together down on the farm after being defeated by the peppy visionary Ronald Reagan.
They got up the morning after defeat, prayed, and worked on the week’s Sunday school lesson.
Personally, I admire Carter all the more for his courageous and very unpopular opinions on conflicts in the Middle East as much as I admire him for his devout faith and deeds and commitment to God, country and his sweetheart of 70 amazing years.
Long may they live.