Since the 45th President of the United States began his campaign to build a wall along the southern border of the country, a lot of people have been paying attention to another wall building US President, Number 39: Jimmy Carter. Memes have circulated of the former president swinging hammers while building homes. When Carter lost his second term in 1980, it was a virtual slaughter. It seemed that he would go down as an insignificant and boring presidency. Boring by the standards of coming in on the heals of Richard Nixon by way of beating Gerald Ford, the only person to ascend to the presidency without being elected and to be succeeded by the Reagan Era. Jimmy Carter could have gone on to simply be a brief and bizarre footnote in American History. Instead, he decided to use his failed reelection to change the world in a way he never did (or maybe never could) as President.
The Carter Center
After losing the reelection to the presidency, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter began to evaluate the next steps they would take in life. Arguably, few would have judged them for writing a memoir and then riding off into the sunset. They had been to the top of the mountain, so to speak. Even a one term president has still been president of the most powerful country in the world. Instead, they chose to move forward with accomplishing all the goals they had hoped to see through during his presidency. The more effective venture of the Carter Center has brought about fundamental and real change.
Though the Carter Center, the former president and first lady have helped promote human rights through the world, negotiate peace talks between warring nations, and eradicating disease and saving countless lives. The work of the Carter Center has brought assistance to over 80 countries around the globe.
Habitat for Humanities
According to their website, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter have devoted one week of their life every single year since 1984 to help build homes for those in need. However, the work didn’t really stop there. Because of their involvement, media attention grew and expansion of programs did as well.
Because of their involvement with the program, they have helped start the Carter Work Project which lead to the building of 100 homes in India and they also participated in a volunteer initiative to promote home rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina in 2008.
Even though President Carter has now devoted his life to non-profit work, he has not completely shied away from political activism and social justice work. Carter has warned, “We've become, now, an oligarchy instead of a democracy. I think that's been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards to the American political system that I've ever seen in my life.”
Many years after his presidency, then president Bill Clinton asked for Carter to assist him with an escalating problem in North Korea. Carter took on the mission and began peace talks with Kim II-sung. He even went so far as to publicly outline the agreements he was discussing with North Korean leaders, without the permission of the Clinton Administration, in hopes that it would spur up action within the United States.
He has been outspoken about many issues, including marriage equality, stating, “I believe he would. I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in Scripture to support that but I believe Jesus would approve of gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief,” Carter said. “I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”
In spite of his sometimes radical views on Christianity, he continues to teach Sunday School on a regularly scheduled basis at his home church. He has maintained attendance at a Baptist Congregation and thousands flock to attend his classes each year. He remains behind after service to allow photos, but not autographs, for anyone who attended his class.
Whenever I’ve shared a meme about President Carter, someone always feels compelled to say, “He wasn’t a good president” and that may be true. But he has turned out to be one of the best presidents we’ve got. To quote the man himself, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something . . . I'm free to choose what that something is, and the something I've chosen is my faith. Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort. My faith demands -- this is not optional -- my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
Nathan Monk’s new book, Charity Means Love, addresses many of our cultural blind spots in how we give. Order your copy today!