Happy 90thOctober 01, 2014
I entered this world just in time to experience the last eight days of Jimmy Carter's presidency. I don't remember anything from it, but I'm pretty sure I had life pretty good back. People took care of my every need and everyone talked about my cuteness (of course). Over the years, however, I have grown to admire Carter. As a political junkie, I have had the thrill of meeting Carter on three occasions, and hearing him speak a couple of other times.
Balmer develops a couple of key narratives. First, he documents how Carter's fall came as religious and political leaders exploited issues of race. Sadly, the effort to divide Americans on racial lines worked, and the first president from the Deep South since before the Civil War found himself packing after one term. Although it's disturbing enough to see political leaders use racist rhetoric to gain office, it's particularly angering to see Christian leaders do the same. There are some white conservative Christians who would likely prefer their campaign efforts from the late 1970s and early 1980s not be so exposed.
Second, Balmer details Carter's unique moral vision for the U.S., which unfortunately hasn't been continued by those who followed Carter into the Oval Office. From building Middle East peace to working to reduce nukes to respecting the sovereignty of Latin American nations (especially seen with the transfer of the Panama Canal) to addressing environmental concerns to pursuing diplomacy over war (especially seen in the Iran hostage negotiations) to pushing human rights as a guiding principle, Carter sought to make our nation better. Fortunately, Carter didn't give up after losing reelection and has still advanced these goals through the Carter Center.
Today is Carter's 90th birthday. Two years ago, I joined the crowd at the Clarence Jordan Symposium in singing "happy birthday" to Carter. Today, I wish to again offer him a hearty "happy birthday!" Hopefully he'll be around for more years to keep pushing the work of redemption.