Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: More Honors Due to President Jimmy Carter

If a mangy, whoremongering, frequently bankrupt son of a Ku Klux Klansman can manage to get impeached twice in just one term, then most certainly there must be one person who’s led an exemplary life and deserves honors usually bestowed only once in a given lifetime. There is.

James Earl Carter Jr. is that prince. He should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a second time, or maybe he could receive a “lifetime achievement” award, because he certainly deserves that recognition, and then some.

In 2002 Carter received the coveted Nobel prize: “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” In the 19 years since that award, he has gone on to become the oldest former president of the United States — 96 years — outdistancing George H. W. Bush who lived to be 94; Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, who lived to be 93; and John Adams and Herbert Hoover who lived to be 90.

On July 7, Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary, making them the longest-married presidential couple ever.

I have a soft spot for the entire Carter family. In addition to him and his wife, I came to meet Miss Lillian, the president’s mother, and Billy Carter, his rambunctious younger brother who wanted to get Muammar Qaddafi of Libya to let that country be a launch pad for his brand “Billy Beer,” and his daughter Amy, who turned out to be a wonderfully “normal” daughter.

They were a cheerful bunch.

I met Miss Lillian at a Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend session, when I burst into an elevator at the Washington Hilton Hotel. There she was, all of 4 feet 11, if she was an inch, no Secret Service agents anywhere to be seen, and here I come, 6 foot 2. She did not flinch, and when I stopped short after recognizing her, she warmly invited me to come on in and share the elevator with her.

In 1978, I met Billy, in Tripoli, of all places. I was among a delegation of 80 assembled by former U.S. Sen. William Fulbright, and we were official guests of Col. Qaddafi and the Libyan government. Billy was the personal guest of the foreign minister at the time and kept showing up at our delegation’s events. He was a fun kind of guy.

And then there was Earl Carter, his father. I never met him, but Jimmy said that he was a conventional kind of Georgia peanut farmer in the 1930s, especially regarding race. In his autobiography “Why Not The Best,” Carter wrote that his father was actually kind to the Black hands who helped out on the farm.

Carter recalls that his father permitted the Black workers — after all their chores were completed, of course — to gather out in the family’s backyard to listen to the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling heavyweight boxing championship rematch in 1938 over a radio placed in the kitchen window. That was surely an act of kindness on the part of Old Earl Carter.

Jimmy Carter was always a genuine, down-home, grime-under-the-fingernails kind of peanut farmer and patriot. He was a good soul, I would say. But understand, he may have been innocent, pure of heart like a choir boy, but he occupied the seat of the character in Scripture referred to as “Pharaoh.” America is a land of torment for Black people and that continues no matter who is president.

The president who sits in Pharaoh’s seat must perform many wicked and despicable acts, in the name of the United States of America. It goes with the territory. The fact that Carter was a one-term president speaks highly of him when it comes to the wicked deeds he didn’t perform, or didn’t perform enough of at first, to get reelected.

Jimmy Carter is the absolute best former president ever! With his work around the globe monitoring for free and fair elections, his donning work clothes and helping construct free homes for the needy from Habitat for Humanity, makes him eligible for sainthood, in my book — except for that stint he did as commander in chief.

There must be millions of true-hearted families of “Better Angels” like the Carters in this country, but we rarely get to know them because they don’t rise to extraordinary heights. Meanwhile, most of the ones who rise to lead are so flawed, so imperfect.

Still, pound for pound, inside and outside of office, of the 44 previous presidents, I’ll take #39, Jimmy Carter, as my role model, thank you … all except for that Pharaoh thing.

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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