Happy Birthday President Jimmy Carter

Today one of the most virtuous politicians of our lifetime celebrates a birthday.

President Jimmy Carter turned 97 years old and remains a national symbol of integrity.

Carter was the first candidate I was able to cast a ballot for as president. His personal honor, love of human rights, and working to ensure functioning governments exist worldwide is a true statement of his character.  Over the decades I have known that when it came to my first vote I had the opportunity to stand in support of a most impressive fellow citizen.

One of the books I have loved since published in 1995 is Character Above All.  I have posted about that book several times over the past 15 years on this blog.  The book is a series of essays about why character is central when it comes to presidents sitting in the Oval Office.  From FDR to George Bush (41) the writers, who are specialized with their topic, give readers examples of why character must be the prime qualification for high public office.

Hendrick Hertzberg wrote the article on Carter and there is a condensed version online.  This is a nugget from that shorter version.

Though Carter didn’t have a political ideology, he did have what I would call a moral ideology–and on this he was faultless. He knew the difference between right and wrong. This may sound like faint praise–after all, doesn’t everybody know the difference between right and wrong?–but it isn’t. It is very high praise…..

Carter’s moral ideology–his ability to tell right from wrong–would have made him a great President for a time of moral crisis. If the overriding problem facing America in the late seventies had been racial segregation, for instance, or the Vietnam War, Carter would have known how to rise to the occasion because he knew how to do what was right–even when the political cost was high.

Carter was elected in the backwash of a moral crisis, but the biggest problems he faced as President, especially in the domestic arena, were not primarily moral problems. They were primarily managerial, technical problems, involving tremendous vested interests and offering few political rewards. There was no right or wrong way to solve these problems; just effective ways and ineffective ways.

Over the past years we have seen what happens when the moral compass and shared values are missing from the top leadership in the nation. We have found them again with President Joe Biden, a decent man of convictions and empathy.

For me, there is a sincere pleasure that Carter was a man of depth, courage, and morally driven character that I was able to vote for in 1980. 

Happy Birthday, Jimmy!