Happy 70th Anniversary Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter
by Tai Anderson, July 6, 2016
I didn’t grow up liking President Jimmy Carter. You’d think that everyone in Georgia would be raised to be proud of the only President from our home state. However, all I honestly knew of President Carter growing up was that he was a one-term President who was a former peanut farmer. Every adult who ever talked to me about President Carter expressed disdain for his presidency as an abject failure.
As a teenager, I had an amazing AP U.S. History teacher that ignited in me a passion for America’s story. My favorite books were David McCullough’s recounting of our history, full of detail and intrigue. I developed a love for Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Truman, J.F.K., Abraham Lincoln, and of course the always amicable Ronald Reagan. After all, he was the President of my youth. He comforted our nation after the most disturbing public event of my early childhood, the Challenger disaster. However, I never really studied about President Carter. He only got a sentence in my history book.
In 2002, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy Carter Work Project in Durban, South Africa. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I wasn’t just part of the 100 home build providing affordable shelter for deserving South Africans, I worked directly on a home from start to finish with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. We worked together. We sweated together. We ate our meals together. We were a team, and the Carters were our leaders.
Though by far the oldest member of our team at nearly 80, President Carter easily worked as hard or harder than any of us. There was no job beneath him. He was the first on the job site and the last to leave. I have some incredible memories from our time together, but I’ll never forget the surreal moment he asked me to join him to hang the awning on every home in the project.
"Tai, will you grab my toolbox and come with me?"
“Yes sir, Mr. President.”
“Great, and if you lose my tools, I’ll kill you.”
That’s right people. I haven’t just met a U.S. President, I’ve had my life threatened by a U.S. President!
All of that background is simply to convey that I don’t really have a political opinion about President Carter. I don’t know him that way. I think of him more as a great man, a humanitarian, a hard worker, a really fine carpenter, and most of all, the kind of person that all of us should aspire to be; a leader worth following. There are numerous issues with which I know we profoundly disagree. However, you’ll never find me saying anything disparaging about President Carter. Why? Because I know the man, and he is a man of character.
July 7, 2017 is Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s 70th wedding Anniversary. Having spent a solid measure of time with them in really close proximity, I can tell you the following with certainty: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are a great American love story equal to John and Abigail Adams. They haven't left a library of correspondence to one another because they rarely leave one another's side. They sharpen one another. They serve side by side. They love one another. They are a team. While conservative politicians have grandstanded about family values my whole adult life, the Carters have quietly and liberally loved one another, building a legacy to which every marriage should aspire.
I’ve written a lot in the past weeks about my frustration with both of the Presidential nominees this year. I don’t see servant leaders. I see selfish, divisive politicians. I see politicians playing to our fears. However, when you go to a couple’s anniversary party, you let them have the last word. In that spirit, here is a recent quote from President Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, congratulations on another anniversary. Thank you for loving each other, and loving all of us along the way. Thank you for the incredible integrity, servant leadership, and legacy that you have built in your life together. My humble way of expressing my appreciation for you is to do my part to be the kind of leader you described. I will strive not to pre-judge my fellow inhabitants of this planet, regardless of religion, sex, age, race, national origin, or sexual identity. I will strive to move others from fear to faith and make the world a better place in the small, measurable ways I can.