Happy 94th birthday, Mr. President

Today is a special day for one of America’s greatest citizens.

Jimmy Carter, the nation’s 39th president, turns 94 today. He is the second-oldest former president; the honor of oldest belongs to George H.W. Bush, another great American.

I feel the need to say something good about President Carter because of all that he did after he left office in January 1981 and, indeed, what he accomplished during his single term as our head of state.

It’s been said, perhaps so much that’s become cliché, that Jimmy Carter is the nation’s “greatest former president.” He became active with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for poor folks all across the globe; he isn’t swinging a hammer so much these days, but his legacy stands forever in the lives he enriched through his carpentry skills.

He has been called upon by his successors as president to monitor elections around the world, to ensure they are conducted freely and fairly. That work, too, has improved the lives of literally billions of citizens worldwide.

He has written numerous books, chronicling his years in public life, his dedication to public service and his intense and immense faith in God. Indeed, he still teaches Sunday school classes at his church in Plains, Ga.

While he was ridiculed and vilified for his single term in office, I want to remind readers of this blog that the president’s grit and determination produced a lasting peace agreement between two ancient enemies in the Middle East. The agreement has become known as the Camp David Accord. He took Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Primer Minister Menachem Begin to the presidential retreat in rural Maryland to hammer out a treaty that ended state of war between Egypt and Israel.

The 1978 treaty eventually would cost President Sadat his life, as he was murdered by Muslim fanatics while watching a military parade. That, though, is the nature of that part of the world, as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would fall victim to a Zionist extremist after signing his own peace agreement with the Palestinian Liberation Organization leader, Yasser Arafat, in 1995.

Jimmy Carter’s work as president perhaps one day will get the full measure of respect that is due.

Today, though, I just want to join millions of other Americans in wishing this good man a happy birthday and thank him for making this world a better place because he came along to grace it.

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