June 7, 2017

Jimmy Carter’s deep roots keep him standing tall at 92

                  When stormy gusts swoop through a forest, the trees with the strongest roots have the best odds of remaining upright.  It’s the same way with people.  I believe the 39th president of the United States is a fine example.  During his four years in the White House, Jimmy Carter was pummeled with crisis after crisis.  And four decades later, the 92-year-old is standing taller by the day.
                  Why’s that?
                  I believe the answer is in his upbringing, which was rooted in his beliefs in God, fellow man and himself.  Regardless of how you view his politics, I consider him the most engaged-in-making-the-world-better past president in history.
                  Visit the Carter Center in Atlanta.  Reflect on its altruistic mission and accomplishments.  Visit his Sunday school class. Watch him swing a Habitat for Humanity hammer.  Pay attention to the news.  President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are always somewhere trying to help someone. 
                 And there’s no way Coastal Georgia can ever thank him enough for his priceless contact with the world’s richest man, Bill Gates.  President Carter appealed to Gates, the largest shareholder in Republic Services Inc., asking him to intervene and not allow toxic coal ash to be dumped in our fragile ecosystem.  I believe his friend listened.  Time will tell whether the no-coal-ash commitment endures.
In the meantime, I’ve pulled off my shelves a stack of Jimmy Carter books to reread.  I’ve just finished one of my favorites: AN OUTDOOR JOURNAL Adventures and Reflection, published in 1988.  The book is filled with stories of how his roots are also embedded in nature.  When reading the “Fishing with Daddy” chapter, I smiled. 
Here’s why: “A few miles north of the Okefenokee was the small village of Hortense, not far from where the Little Satilla River joins the Big Satilla.  This was one of my father’s favorite fishing spots.
… On two occasions he took me with him, when I was ten or twelve years old.”
                  You need to read his account of fishing in the stream not far from Broadhurst.  And about a half-century later, after he had left Washington, President Carter went back to Hortense to see whether he could find family members of his Little Satilla River host and guide, Joe Strickland. 
When he found Jessie, Joe’s daughter, she said, “I told a lot of people while you were in the White House the President had fished with my daddy.”  President Carter replied, “When I was in the White House, I told several people the same thing about yours. Many of the most highly publicized events of my presidency are not nearly as memorable or significant in my life as fishing with my daddy and yours when I was a boy.  Certainly, almost none of them was as enjoyable!”
I laughed when he recounted the Little Satilla going-away present Jessie gave him back in the 1930s.  The pretty barefoot girl handed Jimmy Carter a foot-long baby alligator which he quickly named Mickey Mouse.  That might have been fortuitous training in preparation for the two-legged gators which he’d encounter in his political career.
When I finished AN OUTDOOR JOURNAL this time, I jotted President Carter a twofold thank-you note.  Again, I expressed gratitude for his continued engagement in our environmental issue.  Also, I thanked him for making shopping for Father’s Day 2017 presents easy. 
              The three young fathers in our family are each getting a copy of his “Adventures and Reflections.”  Alan, Tom and Eric are doing the same as Earl Carter did for young Jimmy.  They are nurturing the roots of our eight grandchildren, with heavy doses of exposing them to the wonders of God’s handiwork—the outdoors.