A Jimmy Carter eulogy? But he's alive. Yes, this is a living eulogy, because why not? OK, we'll call this a tribute.
I love Jimmy Carter. It isn’t just that I hate Ronald Reagan, the man who defeated him in 1980 (of which I remember the election race, and the glorious Not The Nine O’Clock News coverage of it (included on right - "I Believe", and also "Crumbly Candy Bars"). Although I do hate Ronald Reagan, and more of that another time.
And it’s not just because my mother loved him, either, although that’s part of it. A man becomes President of the USA, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, and when he’s asked “What is your proudest achievement?” he replied “My kids still come home.” He was grounded. He was a good man. He is a good man.
When elected, he said “I want to be known as the President who never lied to his people.” Well, nowadays you get people who say “yes, I support human rights, so I’m supporting my new ‘Human Rights Bill’ which just happens to raise taxes for the under-fives and reduces taxes for anyone funding my campaign.” It’s all doubletalk. They aren’t prepared to be honest any more.
Carter’s problem, when it came to the American people, was explaining that if the US was to be based on a sustainable future, they couldn’t necessarily continue living the same way they were. The American people rejected that, instead saying “You know what, I don’t want to have a slight drop in my insane consumerism, but if you could possibly ensure that those other-coloured people [although they said colored, and you could tell, although surely my pale-pink is a colour, isn’t it?] have a staggering drop in their living standards, that might make up for it, right? I mean, what about we really fuck over the minorities? Can we continue living like this then? What about if we destroy the unions and ensure no one ever has job security? What about if we export the jobs and sell off all our assets? Can we carry on living our dream then? Oh, and keep those Mexicans out, apart from my nanny of course.”
Do you know how much money Carter has made on the lecture circuit over the years since he left office? [Incidentally, he left with debts because he’d put his business into independent hands to avoid any conflicts of interest– can you imagine a modern president agreeing to that? Carter did it voluntarily – maybe that’s why]. It’s not that he couldn’t, but he didn’t think it right to enrich himself. He’s made no money at all.
Carter, during his presidency, oversaw the only peace treaty between Israel and one of its neighbours. That deal was about to break down, but Carter, thinking it was over, got several copies of the photo of the three negotiators together (Begin, Sadat, and Carter) and signed one for each of the Israeli Prime-Minister’s grandchildren. When Menachem Begin saw them, he took a moment, and then asked if maybe they should give it one more try. For the sake of his grandchildren. Either a moment of diplomatic genius, or humanitarian kindness. Either way it makes for a great man.
His work ever since has involved talking to all manner of regimes, trying to negotiate peace. Because you don't have to talk to your friends to negotiate. You talk to enemies. As JFK said before, "We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate." He has worked throughout the world trying to bring peace, and has done so for the good of his kids, his country, and the wider world.
Jimmy Carter, James Earl Carter Jr, was, and is, a great man, whose kids still come home.
Sir, I salute you.