Published on March 8th, 2023 | by Randy Weeks0
The View From The Balcony: “Jimmy Carter: A Life Well Lived”
In 1976 I was a junior Church Music major at William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Jimmy Carter was running for President. I proudly displayed my support of Carter with a green bumper sticker (I like green) on my mustard-yellow Datsun station wagon. (Yes, even back then I had class.) It’s the only time in my life that I had a bumper sticker torn off my car. The irony was that Carter was a Southern Baptist and I was at a Southern Baptist college. Go figure.
Carter was running against Gerald Ford who came into the Presidency as a result of Richard Nixon’s resignation. Ford was the only person to become President who was not elected President or Vice President. He was a stabilizing force following what he called “Our long national nightmare.”
Carter won the election and was sworn in as President in 1977. His record as President was, shall I say, less than stellar. It was not all Carter’s fault, though. Politics being politics, it rarely, if ever, is. In the next election cycle Carter was trounced by Ronald Reagan.
Carter could have sailed off into the sunset to live a quiet life in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, but that was not his style. Carter was a hands-on type of guy. He liked getting his hands dirty in the service of others. He became the greatest publicist for Habitat for Humanity, a faith-based organization that helps low-income families build houses domestically and internationally. Carter and his wife Rosalynn were familiar faces on Habitat building sites, not for photo ops, but for the actual work of measuring, sawing, and hammering away. It is estimated that Jimmy Carter personally helped build 4300 homes.
Through The Carter Center at Emory University, Jimmy Carter has led global efforts for peace, health, and social justice. He was instrumental in the Camp David Accords, historically significant political agreements between Egypt and Israel.
- There’s not enough space in this column to list all of Carter’s honors and accolades, but some of them are:
- Nobel Peace Prize recipient, 2002
- Three Grammy® awards
- Pulitzer Prize finalist
- Established the Department of Energy and the Department of Education
Carter also helped negotiate the SALT treaty, significantly limiting the development and use of nuclear weapons. He deregulated the beer industry, opening the door to more home-brewing and micro-brewing. (Carter’s brother Billy became famous for foot-in-mouth disease and for his own brand of beer, known as “Billy Beer.”)
To me, the most significant focus of Carter’s legacy was his commitment to diplomacy and justice. Long after he left the White House, as previously mentioned, Carter put his hand to the plow in building houses for the poor and negotiating peace around the world.
Carter’s personal faith has always been a significant driver for his actions. The official position of the Southern Baptist Convention did not allow women to be pastors or hold high offices in the church. (Women were allowed to cook, teach children, and have missionary groups.) Although Carter came from generations of Southern Baptists, in 2020 he left the SBC because of the lack of equality between men and women in that institution. As a footnote, I followed suit shortly thereafter. The stance of the SBC on equality and exclusivity is, in my opinion, directly in opposition to Jesus’ teachings.
In 1995 I was running in the Napa Valley Marathon to help raise money for the Leukemia Society. My late friend and Associate Pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, Reverend Barbara Oliver, had leukemia and I was running in her honor. I asked more than a few dignitaries to donate on Barbara’s behalf. Trent Lott didn’t give. Thad Cochran didn’t give. But the Carters gave in the form of a personal check, made out and signed by Rosalynn Carter.
By the time this column is published, Jimmy Carter, the longest-living former President may have died. He is one of, if not the greatest former Presidents of the United States. He is a hero of mine, not so much for his work in office, but more for the integrity he has shown in the decades since. And it doesn’t hurt that he loved to hang out with Willie Nelson! I love Jimmy Carter.
…and that’s the view from The Balcony.
But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning…] James 1:22 (Amplified Version)
Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. Though he often falls short, he seeks to be a doer of the word. Randy may be reached at email@example.com.