Former President Jimmy Carter’s announcement that his cancer has spread to his brain rocked the world, and it also forced a sobering realization upon us all. One of the world’s great peacemakers is, indeed, mortal and, sooner or later, we will be diminished by his eventual passing.
During my on-campus career at Georgia Southwestern State University in the mid-1990s, I had the privilege of meeting President Carter twice. I cannot remember the details of what happened, simply that the former Managing Editor of the Americus Times-Recorder, Rudy Hayes, introduced me to the former President. It was a humbling, electrifying experience for a college student who had, quite by accident, just become Editor of his campus newspaper. President Carter came across as congenial, professional and genuine…a marked contrast not only from other politicians I had met in my life, but from other folks I had simply happened upon in my travels.
He and former Georgia Governor Zell Miller remain the only politicians I have ever met in my life who came across as authentic both on television, radio and in person. It is a rare combination and I count myself as one of those privileged few who were able to not only shake his hand, but enjoy a conversation, however short, with a former President of the United States of America. I salute President Carter’s resilience and courage, and I truly envy the serenity he’s displayed in the face of this final of battles. While many only remember the negative of his single term of office, many of us who know of his personal causes and stories are grateful for what he has given this world, and will continue to give right up to the end.
As a student at Georgia Southwestern, I owe President Carter a debt of gratitude I can’t possibly repay. It was his pen which elevated my soon-to-be alma mater from two to four year status in the mid 1960s. Had it not been for President Carter’s decision to put ink to paper, my educational career would have likely been at a far less affordable and friendly school. Instead, the former President helped to create a college which afforded me some of the best times of my life.
Thank you, Mr. President, for all you have done.