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Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.), thirty-ninth president of the United States, served as president from January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981. Given on January 14, 1981, his farewell speech highlighted the importance of protecting and promoting human rights around the world, which had been a cornerstone of the Carter administration’s foreign policy efforts. This is an excerpt of the speech. The full text is available here.
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As the oldest living US president has opted to spend his remaining time at home, laudatory responses come from leaders around the world.
Tributes continue to be made to the former US president Jimmy Carter, after the announcement that the 98-year-old has entered hospice care at his home in Plains, Georgia, instead of receiving “additional” medical treatment.
Raphael Warnock, the Democratic Georgia senator, said: “Across life’s seasons, President Jimmy Carter, a man of great faith, has walked with God. In this tender time of transitioning, God is surely walking with him.”
The oldest living president has opted to spend his “remaining time” at home, a statement by his Carter Center said on Saturday.
The former peanut farmer, Georgia governor and 39th president from 1977 to 1981 has been in ill health for several years, suffering falls and skin cancer melanoma which spread to his liver and brain.
“I, obviously, prayed about it,” he said in 2019, about his cancer diagnosis four years before. “I didn’t ask God to let me live, but I just asked God to give me a proper attitude toward death. And I found that I was absolutely and completely at ease with death. It didn’t really matter to me whether I died or lived.”
The Carter Center did not provide details of recent hospitalisations. Jason Carter, the former president’s grandson, also referred to Rosalynn Carter, 95, when he said in a tweet: “I saw both of my grandparents yesterday. They are at peace and – as always – their home is full of love.”
At the Carter Center in Atlanta on Sunday, and at Carter’s church in Plains, well-wishers came to pay tribute.
At Maranatha Baptist church, where Carter taught Sunday school for decades, his niece gave an emotional address.
“I just want to read one of Uncle Jimmy’s quotes,” Kim Fuller said, adding: “Oh, this is going to be really hard.”
She referenced this quote from Carter: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. I’m free to choose that something … my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I can, whenever I can, for as long as I can.”
Fuller said: “Maybe if we think about it, maybe it’s time to pass the baton. Who picks it up, I have no clue. I don’t know. Because this baton’s going to be a really big one.”
In Atlanta, people made the trip to the Carter Center on a spring-like day.
“I brought my sons down here today to pay respect for President Carter and teach them a little bit about how great a humanitarian he was, especially in the later stages of his life,” said James Culbertson, who drove from Calhoun, Georgia.
The presidential library was closed for President’s Day weekend but people could walk past the fountains and through the gardens.
In the political world, tributes were largely free of partisan coloring, attesting to Carter’s oft-quoted commitment to decency.
“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices,” Carter said in 2002, in his lecture accompanying the Nobel peace prize, which was awarded for working to end conflicts, campaigning for human rights and working for social welfare.
Maria Shriver, the niece of former president John F Kennedy, said Carter “moves humanity forward every single day”.
“He is such an inspiration,” she said, saying Carter “devoted his whole life to public service”.
Craig Shirley, a biographer of the Republican who beat Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan, cited the Israel-Egypt Camp David accords as one of Carter’s lasting achievements.
“While bedeviled by myriad problems during his years in office, Carter has had one of the greatest second acts in American history,” Shirley also told Fox News.
In a 2018 profile, the Washington Post said Carter was “the un-celebrity president”, who eschewed the profitable speech and corporate boardroom circuit. Carter told the Post he didn’t want to “capitalise financially on being in the White House”.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it … it just never had been my ambition to be rich,” he said.
Beyond his presidential pension, Carter’s post-White House income came from writing books on topics ranging from his life and career to faith, Middle East peace, women’s rights, ageing, fishing and woodworking.
He did not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, but four months later Biden visited him at home in Georgia. On Saturday the White House said Biden was in touch with the family.
Carter’s single term as president, between Gerald Ford and Reagan, was in some ways predicated on a need for political and social stability after the Watergate scandal and defeat in Vietnam.
“If I ever lie to you, if I ever make a misleading statement, don’t vote for me,” Carter said during a campaign that saw him rise from a relatively unknown southern governor to win the Oval Office in a close race. If he lied, he said, he “would not deserve to be your president”.
He was supported by southern rock musicians, including the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels, who campaigned and played benefits for a politician who as Georgia governor in 1971 declared “the time for racial discrimination is over”.
His grandson said that last October, when he turned 98 and was celebrated with a parade in his hometown, Carter was “still 100% with it, even though daily life things are a lot harder now”. Jason Carter cited Rosalynn Carter as a source of strength.
Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer organization Carter joined in 1984 that builds homes across the US and the world, said: “We pray for his comfort and for their peace, and that the Carter family experiences the joy of their relationships with each other and with God in this time.”
Another tribute came from the US Secret Service, which has protected Carter for close to half a century.
“Rest easy Mr President,” wrote spokesman Anthony Gugliemi on social media. “We will be forever by your side.”
Article first published in The Guardian, February 19, 2023. Included in Vox Populi with permission.
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Thank you for sharing this post. I really enjoyed it.
Thanks, Joanna! I think that Jimmy Carter was our most moral president.
I have a feeling that – had Reagan not made the deal about the American hostages in Iran – we may have had a second Carter term, and the world today probably would be a better place. Why do the baddies always seem to win (except in most Hollywood movies, of course)?
I couldn’t agree more, Rose Mary.