October 11, 2023

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter

No finer man has ever served                                                                                                                

Last week, we celebrated the 99th birthday of the nation’s oldest living President, Jimmy Carter. This is by itself astounding, not just due to the advanced age, but October marks the 8th month since he elected to forgo any further medical treatment and to enter hospice care.  He will spend his final days in the same home since 1961, where he plans to be buried, together with his 96 year old wife of 77 years, Rosalynn, a lifelong advocate for mental health who now battles dementia.

Similar to reports of weeks to live in 2015 when he was diagnosed with terminal skin, liver and brain cancer, reports at the time of his hospice decision suggested that he may only have days remaining. Just as he lived a remarkable life that has brought so much to the world, he is exiting his time with us in equally ground-breaking fashion that leaves behind many lessons. Surely, many will now regard the decision for hospice care and any associated stigma in a whole new light.

President Carter won’t make any list of best American Presidents. One can debate his competence as our leader vs the degree to which he was the victim of circumstances during a volatile period of economic and global strife. However, the case can be made that the achievements of his Presidency are overlooked and underappreciated.  From deregulating industries such as energy, communications, finance, airlines and even beer, to the Camp David Accords advancing peace in the Middle East, the SALT II Treaty for nuclear disarmament, the Panama Canal Treaty, US-China relations, to advancing education and environmental protection by establishing the Departments of Education and Energy, and his foresight confronting climate change while installing solar panels on the White House.  I’ll let the historians speak to this case. 

Instead, I’d like to focus not on President Carter, but on Jimmy Carter, the man. While he governed as a progressive, his personal profile and life would constitute the epitome of conservative values. He was born in a small town in the deep south, a peanut farmer as well as a small business owner who saved the family business, a nuclear submarine commander and graduate of the US Naval Academy where he played football, and a life-long deacon of his church and Sunday school teacher.

He was also a leading champion for human rights, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a charter member of the Elders, he dedicated himself to building Habitat for Humanity homes for the poor, he spearheaded the eradication of the horrific Guinea worm, was repeatedly trusted to serve as election observer and conflict mediator in many of the world’s most intractable disputes and he won three Grammy’s. He lived under the public eye his entire life without a whiff of significant personal scandal or controversy. Hollywood couldn’t manufacture a more all-American bio.

I don’t know how much longer we will be blessed with the presence of Jimmy Carter and the example he set for us, but while he may rarely be celebrated for his time as President, he achieved the pinnacle of the list for the finest man to ever occupy the oval office. I look forward to honoring his 100th birthday.

Scott Wu

S. Wu Signature