I’m in fifth grade. That must make it about 1979. It was my first experience of a landslide loss. We’re holding mock presidential elections in class. Carter, the incumbernt, versus Reagan. There’s a cardboard box on a shelf at the fron to the room that we put our ballots in, and my desk faces it and is pretty close.
The teacher counts the ballots. Earl Dawson. Can’t say enough good things about this fearsome, slant-shouldered guy. He announces that the class elected Reagan in a landslide. I don’t remember being hurt or betrayed or being slighted. But I remember losing.
Carter won the Presidency in 1975 in a closely fought election. He succeeded Ford with a pledge of ‘truth in government’. That may have meant something for people who were watching the news during the Watergate scandal, but I was nine years old. I didn’t know anything about that. But for some reason, I likes Carter.
That affection has persisted. I watched him work after his Presidency. Work as an election monitor, officiating fairness. Work on houses for the poor for Habitate for Humanity. Work for gender equity by walking away from the Southern Baptist Conference. I largely missed the work that won him the Nobel Peace Prize, but I observed the subsequent work that showed he deserved it. I’m nobody compared to President Carter, but I hope that I am expressing through my life the compassion, creativity, and purpose that Carter has through his.
This year, President Carter is 90 years old. This week, we learned that he has a cancer. Cancer is a heavy burden to bear, and the cancer pathway only leads to one outcome. (Heck, the ‘life’ pathway leads to the same outcome.) President Carter deserves his privacy as he wrestles with this, but I know that he’ll be open with this battle. And I’m eager to watch how he approaches this challenge. His brothers and father were taken by cancer, and their experience will inform how he approaches this challenge.
Will President Carter seek curative medicide or pallative medicine? How much? How will he frame this chapter of his life for the public? I will watch from afar, looking for suggestions for how I should live out my last days.