Earlier today, the Carter Center released a short statement notifying the public that after a series of short hospital stays, and with the support of his family and doctors, former President Jimmy Carter has decided that he would go home and receive hospice care for whatever time he has left. Usually a statement like that means hours or days rather than weeks or months.
For decades it seemed like a trip down to Plains, GA to listen to President Carter teach Sunday School was a rite of passage for Georgia politicos, regardless of which party you subscribed to. I took my family in the summer of 2019. The day happened to be the Carter’s 73rd wedding anniversary. They made it to 76 last July – fitting that it was in ’76 Carter beat Gerald Ford to win the White House. It looks like 77 will have to happen on the other side.
If you went to hear Carter’s Sunday School lesson, and stayed to hear the sermon, the Carters would patiently wait and take photos with everyone who attended. The setting was humble and the church members who welcomed you, including members of the Carter family, made the experience feel like you were home with friends and not with the former Leader of the Free World.
My son, then in the 2nd grade, ran up to Jimmy Carter to proudly proclaim that he’d just learned about him in school. The former President got excited himself, wanting to hear more, a moment captured in the photo below.
There are many political positions I would disagree with Jimmy Carter on, though likely fewer than I would disagree on with many of today’s more Woke Democrats as Carter’s faith, generation, and the region he grew up in have likely made sure he never strayed too far left of center.
There were many people I met in the church parking lot who, like me, had very different political views than Mr. Carter. Some had known him nearly their whole lives, and admired him for the position he held, even if they disagreed with his policies and viewpoints. Our nation used to believe in respecting the office, even if we fundamentally disagreed with the one in it. That era hasn’t seemed to have passed in Plains, GA, at least where the Carters were concerned.
At a time where former elected leaders seem to never want to leave the pomp and circumstance of their office, staying after their presidency in Washington, D.C., or Martha’s Vineyard, or New York City, the Carters returned to Plains, GA, and their simple church with a plain wooden cross handing behind the alter…a cross Jimmy Carter made himself in his wood shop.
Whether Jimmy Carter has hours, days, or even weeks left, his passing will mark the end of an era in Georgia and national politics. He is the last living President to have served in WWII and the only Georgian to ever serve in the highest office in the land. Historians will continue to look back at the legacy of his politics and policies, but for those Georgia politicos, who went through that rite of passage, and made the trip to Plains, GA to hear a former President of the United States teach Sunday School, we will always have an appreciation of the former Leader of the Free World, who made us feel at home, in Plains, GA.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Carters and their friends and family.