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Carter shows the way for post-presidency

Former president’s life defined by humanitarian record, not his years in office.

Opinion by Asher Miles, Staff Writer

“I’ll never tell a lie. I’ll never make misleading statements. I’ll never betray the confidence that any of you had in me. And I’ll never avoid a controversial issue.”

Forty-two years after the end of his presidency, the 98 year-old former President Jimmy Carter outshines his contemporaries in post-presidential work as he enters hospice.

The one-term president’s reputation was marred by persistent domestic and international turbulence that critics denounced as unsteady leadership. His mismanagement of the Iran hostage crisis plagued the tail end of his presidency coupled with a cavalcade of sweater jokes. After Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in the 1980 election, the Georgia born peanut farmer rolled up his sleeves and went to work: he led the charge in the Guinea Worm Eradication Program and partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build over 40,000 houses in eight countries. All-the-while performing humanitarian aid, his openness with the press continued to stand in stark opposition to his contemporaries.

Many presidents spend their lives after their terms with leisure time. George W. Bush took up painting, Barack Obama ventured into film production and started a podcast. Donald Trump partnered with prank youtube channels, and, if possible, played more golf than when he was in office. In the case of President Carter, however, his retirement has largely focused on humanitarian efforts.

The 39th president and his wife opened the non-for-profit Carter Center in pursuit to find peaceful solutions to international conflict, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. His extensive travel to conduct peace negotiations, monitor elections and further the eradication of infectious diseases juxtapose that of his contemporaries.

Lining his pockets with profit has never been the former Governor of Georgia’s mode of operation. Carter promoted progressive issues well before they became mainstream, even correctly predicting how the United States consumed more oil than we produced.

“When we import oil, we are also importing unemployment,” Carter said in his Crisis of Confidence speech on July 15, 1979.

Symbolically, aspects of the personal identity of Carter’s unorthodox approach have been mirrored by a multitude of contemporary progressive figures. He’s been a centerpiece and role model for dozens of working class contumacious candidates to participate in government.

Millionaire daddies and Ivy League schools were never in the cards for the cardigan loving president. The first in his family to graduate high school, he enlisted for ten years in the Navy researching and developing nuclear projects. When he came back to his 700 people hometown in Georgia, the young Carter was the only white male in his hometown to not join the White Citizens Council, a white supremacist association that took root after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education. The rise of similar councils sparked his interest in politics taking him from the Georgia state senate, to the governorship and eventually to presidency.

Today’s post-presidential careers have been absolutely nothing of the sort compared to Carter.

Now at the end of his life, he quietly awaits his call home, with a legacy enveloped for his love of humanity.


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