Live. Learn. Teach. I just spent a weekend with a man who embodies this philosophy and I am humbled and inspired. James Earl Carter’s mother was asked if he was an extraordinary child during the 1940s and she answered that he was a completely ordinary boy. This boy grew up to be a remarkable dreamer, a lifelong learner and a teacher for a classroom filled with the citizens of the world.
Jimmy Carter is an inspiration in my life. He was raised on a farm and became the 39th president of the most powerful nation on Earth (from peanut farm to the nation’s capitol is quite a motivating story). Today, at the age of 86, President Carter (his title is President, not Mr., even after he leaves the office) continues to strive to meet the potential that he knows God gave him.
President Carter quips that he was forced into “involuntary retirement” in 1980 (Reagan beat him in the election). And then his extraordinary service to our country and the world really began. For the last 25+ years, the Carter Center has immunized over 35 million sufferers of guinea worm disease, malaria, trachoma, and river blindness. His health and peace initiatives benefit over 70 nations on Earth. Partnering with local communities, he serves the poorest people in the most neglected areas of the world.
Once a year in April, the Carter Center invites its supporters to join them in a briefing and a trip to Plains, Georgia, the Carters’ hometown. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year! When the Carters left the White House, they could have lived in any exciting city in our beautiful nation, and they decided to come home to Plains and live amidst their town of 635 citizens. President Carter states tongue-in-cheek, “Rosa and I haven’t gone very far in life…we still live about a couple of miles from where each of us were born.”
During the weekend, the Carters brief us on the work they are currently undertaking. President Carter and his dedicated staff deepen our understanding of the process of eradicating some of the most terrible diseases on Earth. Mrs. Rosalyn Carter shares her experiences developing policies to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues. They also host us during some of their favorite meals (with fried chicken, corn bread, macaroni and cheese, and amazing pecan pie), invite us to church where Jimmy Carter is the only president to teach Sunday School regularly while in office and even today, and even block off Main Street so they can lead us in square dancing where they out-dance every guest in attendance. This is hospitality indicative of the true spirit of the south. I leave spiritually fed and inspired to do more to serve and teach others.
Jimmy Carter travels the world; he engages in discussion with queens, sheikhs, and paupers. He has stayed in castles and straw huts. He has played with the rich and famous and he has played with dirt-covered children in African fields. He has influenced world leaders and he has served disease-ridden villagers. He teaches us the true meaning of service through his actions, his demeanor, and his sincerity.
He was a young boy who chose to dream and strive to be more than ordinary.
It’s not about politics. It’s about people. Live. Learn. And share your learning- teach others. I urge you to visit www.CarterCenter.org. The Carters are our American heroes. They are living history of the great story of the United States of America.