His life of service provides an inspiring model for what an ex-president can do
Steven, a fitting tribute to a man who never wavered in his beliefs and never deviated from what he saw as his mission to help others. Also, intellectually, he may easily have been the smartest man to ever occupy the Presidency. Erudite in history, literature. A nuclear engineer. Naval officer. Self sacrificing (who would lower themselves into a reactor core?? ). And truth teller. All these make Jimmy Carter a role model for the ages.
But unfortunately for us, these traits are not prized in politicians. Carter’s “malaise” speech I remember was the final nail, even though he spoke truth to power. The question is what happened to us as a nation? How did we go from JFK’s “ask what you can do for your country” in less than 2 decades to hedonism and narcissism of the late 70s and the Bed Time for Bonzo B movie actor as president?
Carter set the bar for Middle East peace that has still not been achieved by any US President since. Carter’s vision for breaking the the cycle of petroleum dependence has not happened, but renewable energy is in ascendancy. Carter received blame for Iran, but this fate was set up by the CIA in the 50’s and it is not like things have gotten any better in US-Iran relations.
As a nation, we probably did not deserve Jimmy Carter, but we received him all the same. We needed him. We needed his truth then and now, but we as a nation refused to listen. Shame on us. I am personally grateful all the same for the example of how we all should act and serve among our fellow citizens.
I cast my first vote for President at age 19 for Jimmy Carter. He had visited my Mississippi university when I was a freshman there and when he had just begun his seemingly quixotic run for President. But I was moved by his sincerity and decency then and remain so to this day. This is a wonderful essay today on President Carter. I'm especially glad you included excerpts from the so called "malaise" speech. He was right to warn us as we can clearly see today. I wish him and family peace and ease during this time.
Carter set and still sets an example for the world of how to serve and age with dignity. As a Habitat leader, I can tell you that his passion was real and infectious. I did not much agree with his politics - or his religious zeal - when I was younger but have come to respect and admire all he stands for. May he and his family find peace in these last days.
I remember his presidency well and I always valued h is honesty, decency and love for others. I also remember that Carter and Secretary of State Muskie had negotiated all the terms to free the hostages, but that Reagan took credit for it when they were released on Inauguration Day.
Carter was a true Christian and that rarest of humans, an honest and earnest politician.
Our country could benefit from more politicians like him. I pray for the peace and comfort of his beloved wife and family.
Carter was never quite understood. He was truly an altruistic person who believed the basis of public service was to help his fellow man, not gain personal benefit. Where has the country gone wrong? It started soon after Reagan became President as shown by you noting his glee in removing the solar panels from the White House. In my opinion, this began the slide towards far right extremism and the final turning of many Republicans to the beginnings of the MAGA culture, i.e., the Know-Nothings. Carter was an effort by many towards something they wanted - honesty, integrity and a belief in our way of life, and although he was a very religious man, he was at the same time ecumenical and supported our country's diversity, but the movement of wealth to a few powerful oligarchs (I know we are not in Russia, but isn't this who many of the less than 1% are, for the lack of a better term (the Koch Brothers, the faceless power pacts fed by the 1% to keep their wealth and increase it while snubbing their noses at the rest of us), and the ignorant 30% who would believe anything espoused by silver tongued grifters, constantly feeding their ability to spout lies and conspiracy theories ad nauseum. Plays right into what I believe your arguments may be forthcoming concerning Fox News and its leadership in supporting the MAGA lies. How will Fox ever be able to extricate itself from this malaise? Probably more lies and/or just ignoring the whole thing, but let's give homage to a former President who will not be soon forgotten for his commitment to public service as it should be and which, by the way, is exercised by many who have committed their lives to public service in its many forms without a desire to profit from it, but to serve.
A favorite story of him: Years ago, running late for an interview, he and Rosalynn showed up with some kind of fast food to eat in time before the start. After the interview was done they started to clean up the trash. Someone said oh just leave that we have someone who'll clean up, and Carter said No, we'll do it.
Thank you Mr. Beschloss for this wonderful tribute to an inspiring human being!
What a role model for us all.
Thank you Steven for these well deserved words, for this kind, brilliant and genuinely authentic man.
My first vote.
President Carter is the perfect example of a life well spent. So glad you took the time to expound upon his amazing contributions to humanity. Plenty of time tomorrow to expose more fox 🦊 & GOP lies!
If only we had listened to him and turned adjusted our thermostats to conserve energy and started adopting solar panels. Imagine how much better of we and the Earth would be now.
People got bored with the God loving, sweater wearing, peanut farming, mission failing, solar paneling Billy brother. They wanted the razzmatazz of Hollywood good looks, a promised shiny city, always smiling, Nancy adoring (forerunner of Pence), Gorbachev chiding, Palm Springs golfing Gipper who promised a morning in America and wealth from a trickle.
Look what they got !!!!!
When I read of Carter's religious devotion, I always think of my father who, like Carter, taught a men's Bible Class for years and years.
Through his good works, he showed those who listened, how to be a human being.
Though pundits panned his presidency, and the press mocked him for wearing sweaters and telling us to turn down the thermostat, Jimmy Carter never wavered from doing what he felt was right for the country. He was way ahead of his time on climate change, and, as it turns out, prophetic about the state of American society. As Paul says, we probably didn’t deserve him. What an inspiring life of service!
Steven well written, illuminating the type of behavior that we all should aspire to. How we motivate our country to think and act in ways that promote the common good NOW, requires a leader with vision, courage and determination whose legacy will be a beacon for future leaders. Someone with a little bit of Carter, JFJ, MLK, Lincoln and FDR is needed now. Do you know of any such person today?
May we move forward to follow his example.
Beautiful, Steven Beschloss. So glad you devoted this piece to President Jimmy Carter instead of the lies of "state tv". As Michelle Obama said: "When they go low, we go high". Of the many Carter quotes in your writing, I select this one: “Like other Habitat volunteers, I have learned that our greatest blessings come when we are able to improve the lives of others, and this is especially true when those others are desperately poor or in need.” What higher calling can we pursue than to serve those in need. This is a tenet of all faith traditions. Unfortunately, President Carter didn't have the best political acumen, as you said. However, I certainly would want to be remembered as someone who served the most marginalized among us, than to be remembered as a skilled politician. If more Presidents would devote their years after the White House to the good of others, as President Jimmy Carter did, America would be a better place. Amen.