About two weeks ago, when I was grading the secondary-source integration assignment for my morning English composition classes, I came across a quote from former President Jimmy Carter that one of my students used. It was a 2015 quote from Carter expressing his support for historically black colleges and universities. As I reviewed my student's paper, I shared that I have always admired Carter's humble beginnings from Plains, Georgia, to the Oval Office, and I remain in awe of his ongoing humanitarian service throughout the U.S. and around the world while in his 90s. My student responded, "Wow, I didn't know that he was president." To which I chuckled, "This was well before your time."
I have actually been thinking a lot about Carter since 2015 when the nation learned that he had cancer spots in his brain. In his 2018 book, "Faith: A Journey for All," Carter wrote that upon his diagnosis, he and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, believed he only had a few weeks to live, and they began preparing for his funeral services. I remember prayers going up around the country and the rejoicing that followed when Carter revealed that an experimental treatment enhanced his autoimmune system, which has been sustaining him. As Carter is currently hospitalized and recovering from a procedure performed to relieve pressure on his brain due to recent falls, he no doubt remains at the top of many prayer lists.
Reading "Faith: A Journey for All" left me more in admiration of Carter's presidential legacy and how prayer has played a major role in his life. In the book, Carter shares personal failures and achievements in politics, and he candidly discusses how these circumstances strengthened his belief in God and affected those close to him. He describes losing his 1980 presidential reelection bid to Ronald Reagan as devastating. This was the first election that I paid attention to as a child, and I remember learning what political terms like "landslide" and "popular vote" meant in the sixth grade. Although we did not have the 24-hour news cycle that we do now, from watching the evening news on CBS and ABC, I noticed that Carter was often criticized for being unsteady on foreign policy. I recall being intrigued about the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and wondering why Carter stood firmly on his boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Having no awareness of the nuances of politics as a middle schooler, I couldn't understand how the president of the United States could be perceived as weak. As I became older, I learned that Carter did succeed in using diplomatic means to free the hostages in Iran despite the tragedy of Operation Eagle Claw, which is viewed as a primary reason he did not win a second term.
Carter did not write extensively about the Iran hostage crisis in "Faith," but he did discuss how he utilized prayer in one of the most significant accomplishments of his administration: the 1978 Camp David Accords. Carter shares: "There were a number of times as president when I prayed that I would be able to succeed in reaching one of my political goals, and subsequently had serious doubts about my ability to do so. One of my most vivid memories of this kind was toward the end of my negotiations with President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin at Camp David." The breakthrough of the Camp David Accords happened on the final day: It appeared that all attempts of brokering a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel had failed, but at literally the last minute, Begin called Carter to accept the terms of the agreement.
The fact that Carter is a praying man has been beautifully shown through the grace and humility of his public service as a politician and, later, as a philanthropist. I am praying for what I like to call a "Hezekiah blessing" for Carter, an extension of years similar to what God granted Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:6 for his obedience. Carter's faith and obedience to God have resulted in blessings of thousands, from building Habitat for Humanity homes in Georgia to working to eradicate worm disease in Guinea. Although he's 95, I don't think he's tired yet.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.