President Carter Earns “Statesman” Title
As the impeachment circus rages in Washington, D.C., it’s easy to get discouraged about the state of modern political affairs.
That is, until we consider the presidential-style leadership shown by former President Jimmy Carter.
His example is especially relevant in an era when Americans seem determined to tear each other apart without regard for the negative impact on the nation, as long as our side wins.
That’s why I found the recent news out of Nashville about Carter’s participation in a Habitat for Humanity building project so optimistic.
It was a great reminder that, in the end, it’s servanthood that matters the most, not political victories.
That Carter drove such media attention for the event is most fitting—as a one-term office holder, he obviously had more detractors than admirers when he ran for re-election in 1980.
An Elder Statesman
Whatever shortcomings he had as a president (and I thought he had many), Carter has earned the title of “statesman” in his 38 years since leaving office.
At 95, his keep-going example should inspire anyone, but especially those people I have known who seem to think they are incapable of doing much once they hit their late 50s or early 60s.
In the case of Nashville Habitat, Carter showed up just one day after a bad fall left him with a nasty cut over his eye, requiring 14 stitches.
Walking with the help of a cane, before construction began Carter—who still teaches Sunday school at his home church in Georgia—led devotions for several hundred volunteers.
That’s when he delivered a message that ought to be required reading for every critic of America. Particularly those who seem determined to nitpick every fault of our country while never mentioning there are plenty of good points about its freedoms.
According to an Associated Press story, Carter “spoke about Jesus’ brother James, who taught that ‘if your life is not filled with peace, joy and thanksgiving, it’s your fault.’
“Carter said God gives us life and freedom: ‘With our freedom, every one of us can make a basic decision. . . . ‘What kind of person do I, myself, choose to be?’
“Carter said every person ‘can be a complete success in the eyes of God.’”
Carter: Making Choices
As the president so aptly pointed out, much of life is about choices.
In the case of the Nashville project, his choosing to go became even more significant when he suffered yet another fall at home, just two weeks later.
With his affinity for racial reconciliation and the less fortunate in life, Carter can hardly be accused of being insensitive to the plight of the downtrodden.
Such empathy doesn’t absolve people in difficult circumstances of all responsibility. A hard knock in life isn’t an excuse to drown one’s self in a bottle, sink into a morass of self-pity, or endlessly complain about everyone else’s advantages.
As President Carter put it so well, every person can be a complete success in the eyes of God.
That’s something each of us should remember every time we greet a new day.