I have a crush on Jimmy Carter
Facebook has, for me, become the ultimate matchmaking service.
I’ve been a member since 2004, when I was a junior at Boston University and some kids across the Charles River at Harvard (well, one in particular) opened “Thefacebook” to other Boston-area colleges. I’ve logged into my “social utility” profile almost every day since, to reconnect with long-lost preschool friends, to scout pictures of my ex’s fiancée, to join a group of like-minded Vedic meditators, and to—from time to particularly impassioned time—fill out that little “What’s on your mind”? box with a word-emoticon combo conveying a feeling I deem worth broadcasting.
All the while, Jimmy Carter was out there, going from a farmer in Plains, Georgia to the President of the United States (1977-1981) during a woeful era of unemployment that he helped better. In 2002, Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize for, as his WhiteHouse.gov page declares, “work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”
Facebook introduced me to Jimmy Carter two days ago. A friend of a friend posted an essay Carter wrote in the Australian newspaper The Age in 2009 declaring that he was leaving his beloved Southern Baptist church for equality. It was “an unavoidable decision,” he wrote, “when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be ‘subservient’ to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.”
Of course, I knew who Carter was before two days ago, but I admit, I didn’t know much about the 39th president’s ideals or politics until this six-year-old article that someone decided to resurface on a social network sent me down a full-on Jimmy Carter rabbit hole. I’ve now read his A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, as well as his new book A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, which is out this week.
My own re-posting of that Age article received 21 shares, which is a relatively hefty number for a personal profile, especially for an outdated article. A childhood friend, who is now the dean of an all-girls prep school in Maryland and a mother of two, wrote this to accompany her sharing of the article: “Thank you, Mr. President. I’m so thankful that when my four-year-old self wanted to grow up to be a priest, my parents made the difficult choice to leave their church and become Episcopalian so my dream could be possible. Although I’m not a priest, I’m happy I had the choice and that my daughters will too.” Carter is a hot ticket.
In case you didn’t catch the title of Carter’s new book above, a reminder: it’s A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety. Jimmy Carter is NINETY years old and a hot ticket. Jimmy Carter is NINETY years old and publishing 238 pages on race, inequality, and his own upbringing, among other topics. Here are seven more things about Carter, NINETY years old, that make him crush worthy:
*He and his wife, Rosalynn, currently live in the single-story home in Plains, Georgia, where Carter grew up. He built it 1961 when he was picking peanuts for a living, and the house still does the job of shelter just fine.
*In 1982, Carter and his wife founded The Carter Center, a nonprofit that aims mainly to fight six preventable diseases in resource-limited countries: Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria in Hispaniola.
*He penned his first children’s book in 1995, at the age of 71. Titled The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, it’s a fairy tale that underscores the rewards of friendship. His daughter, Amy Carter, provided the illustrations.
*He’s a member of a group called The Elders, a group of elder statesmen formerly led by Nelson Mandela. They include Ela Bhatt, Kofi Annan, and Desmond Tutu, and they are, as Carter puts it, “deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.” Currently, that means addressing climate change, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inequalities for women, and political reform in Myanmar.
*Two days ago, in an interview with HuffPost Live’s Marc Lamont Hill, Carter said he believes Jesus would approve of same-sex marriage, and so does he. “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,” he said.
* In that same interview, he admitted that he has personally struggled with the idea of abortion (not particularly crushworthy, for this writer), but that he can separate that from what the powers that be determine what’s in the country’s best interest (admirable). “I have a hard time believing that Jesus would approve abortions unless it was because of rape or incest or if the mother’s life was in danger. So I’ve had that struggle. But my oath of office was to obey the Constitution and the laws of this country as interpreted by the Supreme Court, so I went along with that.”
*In the second-to-last chapter of A Full Life, titled “Problems Still Pending,” Carter outlines some of the major issues still facing the world, from drugs to intelligence agencies to nuclear war. He introduces the chapter this way: “Some of the major issues I had to address while in the White House have continued to confront my successors, because I failed in my efforts to resolve them, because later presidents had different priorities or yielded to political pressures that I resisted, or because circumstances have changed with the passage of time.” It’s as if he’s underscoring what he believes are the most pertinent issues for presidents and people—for us—to tackle.
Jimmy, it’s so nice to meet you.