Last night I drove through the monsoon up to my old stomping ground, Georgia Southern University, to hear former President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter speak.
“An Evening with the Carters: A Conversation with the Former President and First Lady”
Oh. My. Goodness. What an incredibly encouraging evening. Did you know that President Carter is 88 years of age? And going stronger than ever! (I’m just … “39” yet had to detour through Wendy’s drive-thru and grab a #1 with cheese just to get enough energy to calm my rain-soaked nerves and waddle into the Hanner Gym in some measure of consciousness.)
I loved how the Carters were both entertaining and issues-specific on point. They divided the evening into segments of their life journey–with the President talking about their early years before the White House, followed by Mrs. Carter discussing their years in Washington. They then took turns sharing about their work with The Carter Center in Atlanta, dealing with many issues which other organizations don’t touch (eradication of tropical diseases, for example). The packed house interrupted the talk with applause at least a dozen times–and deservedly so. President Carter kept emphasizing the dire need for a return to non-partisan cooperation in our political world, as well as the responsiblity that each of us has to hold our politicians responsible for the decisions they make and the laws they pass.
They seemed SO real, SO logical, SO much in touch with the possibility of changing the world into a better, healthier place.
The coolest part of the evening: how this couple, who have been married over 60 years, kept deferring to one another. Their respect and love for each other came though so very clearly. (“Asking Rosalynn to marry me was the best decision I ever made.”) (“I grieved when Jimmy wasn’t re-elected. I know he would have been a better president than the one who won.”)
I sat next to this friendly, talkative couple, Leon and Morrie Shelkoff. Morrie is a school teacher, and Leon ran Leon’s Menswear in the Statesboro Mall for thirty years. They exuded happiness–look at those smiles!
I drove back down I-16 to Savannah with buoyed spirits and a joyful respect for compassionate leadership.
(P.S. I met then-Governor Carter at a Governor’s Honors Luncheon way back when I was in high school. Even as a teenager, I had great admiration for the man.)