Tag Archives: integrity

The Presidency Doesn’t Have to be about Wealth and Power

Once upon a time, America’s presidents were about serving the country with dignity and honesty. Only a handful, until recent years, found the White House a stepping stone to great wealth after leaving office. None, until now, found it a means to greater wealth while in office. But let’s not dwell on Trump; we get enough of him on the news every day and more than enough here.

Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the 1976 election for US President. Ford couldn’t overcome having pardoned Richard Nixon (take note, Mike Pence). Carter was a  one-term president as well, troubled by a fuel shortage (with long lines at gas pumps), an extended hostage crisis in Iran and other problems. He was far from America’s best president and Ronald Reagan beat him handily in the 1980 election. But Carter didn’t lie, cheat or steal while in office. Nor has he done so since.

It’s hard to argue with what he’s done since AND what he hasn’t done.  Carter finally yielded the management of the humanitarian Carter Center founded by him and his wife Roslyn to his grandson several years ago. (I’ve been a contributor for some decades). At 94, after recovering from brain surgery, Jimmy is still swinging a hammer, building homes as a member of Habitat for Humanity. For more about The Carter Center, check out their website

Carter is pictured at his house after teaching his 800th Sunday school lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church since leaving the White House. Every other Sunday morning, he teaches at Maranatha, on the edge of town, and people line up the night before to get a seat. The painting at right was done by Carter. Photo by Matt McClain for the Post

As a recent Washington Post article details, he didn’t seek wealth or power after the White House. He lives a simple life and contributes to society—not feathering his own nest. Here’s some excerpts from the WAPO feature. I encourage you to read the entire article; it will brighten your day. 🙂

The Democratic former president decided not to join corporate boards or give speeches for big money because, he says, he didn’t want to “capitalize financially on being in the White House.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that Gerald Ford, Carter’s predecessor and close friend, was the first to fully take advantage of those high-paid post-presidential opportunities, but that “Carter did the opposite.”

The article highlights how much money successive presidents have raked in, contrasting that with Carter. What is life like when money is not a major objective? Here’s another excerpt.

Carter is the only president in the modern era to return full-time to the house he lived in before he entered politics — a two-bedroom rancher assessed at $167,000, less than the value of the armored Secret Service vehicles parked outside.

Ex-presidents often fly on private jets, sometimes lent by wealthy friends, but the Carters fly commercial. Stuckey says that on a recent flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, Carter walked up and down the aisle greeting other passengers and taking selfies.

Carter did succeed at some things while in office, such as brokering a peace deal between Egypt and Israel, which garnered him a Nobel Peace Prize (somewhat belatedly) in 2002.  He also worked to normalize relations with China, following on the steps taken by former President Nixon. I will dare the wrath of the Post with a little more excerpted text.

Carter’s gait is a little unsteady these days, three years after a diagnosis of melanoma on his liver and brain. At a 2015 news conference to announce his illness, he seemed to be bidding a stoic farewell, saying he was “perfectly at ease with whatever comes.”

But now, after radiation and chemotherapy, Carter says he is cancer-free.

Clearly, Carter is not living on burgers, fries and diet sodas. The article describes his dinner at at a neighbor’s house and the half-mile walk home. As noted above, he’s still healthy and strong enough to swing a hammer. I’m a Buddhist, not a Christian, but I must salute the way Jimmy Carter lives as Jesus taught.