Jimmy Carter turned 98 years of age the other day and I missed offering the good man a happy day … not that it really mattered to the nation’s 39th president.
I want to spend a moment or two, though, extolling the virtues of his presidency. It has become all too common over many years to look fondly on the post-presidential years of Carter’s life while dismissing the accomplishments he achieved during his single term in office.
You never will read anything on this blog that vilifies President Carter’s term. Indeed, I happen to believe the longest-living former president deserves far more credit than he has gotten — so far — from historians assessing his presidency.
I want to start with the monumental peace agreement he forged between Israel and Egypt in those arduous Camp David Accords. He persuaded the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to sit down with the late Israelis Prime Minister Menachem Begin to hammer out a permanent peace agreement.
The men shook hands at the White House. The image of Sadat shaking hands with Begin likely was to blame for Sadat’s assassination in 1981.
Carter negotiated the turning over of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians. He led a worldwide protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, resulting in a boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
OK, he suffered mightily when the Iranian terrorists captured our embassy in Tehran and held our hostages captive for 444 days. However, I want to point out that Carter’s team did negotiate their release, albeit occurring on the day Ronald Reagan took office as president.
Furthermore, I refuse to suggest that Jimmy Carter’s presidency was a failed endeavor. The man did experience success while serving this nation. He took his commitment to public service with him when he exited the White House in 1981. Jimmy Carter’s involvement building houses with Habitat for Humanity has become almost legendary as historians assess this good man’s post-presidential life.
He has been a champion for human rights, for electoral integrity. I admire him greatly.
President Carter has dedicated his life to his bride for the 75 years of their marriage, to his devotion to his faith and to his commitment to serving others. I want to salute him as he marks his 98th year on this good Earth.