President Carter is dying, and though you’d think that would be incredibly important here in Georgia, it’s not necessarily front page news for everyone.  Jimmy Carter united the counties of Georgia back in 1976.  For the first time, every county voted for a Democratic candidate.  Georgia had been a red state.  When Nixon ran in the election prior, every county was red.  Even though President Carter was not re-elected in 1980, Georgia still held true to their leader with only a handful of counties voting for Ronald Reagan.  Walter Mondale, the democratic candidate in 1984, didn’t even secure the county where Carter was born, and Georgia returned to what it was.  Georgia’s electoral map in 1984 looks very similar to its map in 2012.  President Carter gave a glimmer of hope for many people decades ago.  As governor of Georgia, he valued civil rights.  He pushed for equal funding in schools, regardless of county wealth.  Children with intellectual disabilities mattered to Carter and he made sure that was known by helping to provide centers for them to attend for education and care.  To put this in perspective, federally mandated access to education for children with special needs wasn’t required until 1975.  In addition to recognizing that children are worth Georgia’s money, Carter increased funding and access to education to those incarcerated in his state.  The KKK did not like Carter, because his actions had weight.  He added black employees to the rolls in the state capitol, in more than just the socially accepted service work, and added portraits of black people important to Georgia’s history.  As president, children continued to matter to Carter and he expanded Head Start.  Not only did the children of citizens matter, he increased funding so that children of migrant workers would have education through Head Start as well.  The United States Department of Education exists because of Jimmy Carter.  I think that Carter had some simple, but profound, ideas about what he wanted for himself and people as governor and president.  In general, if it helped more people have access to more resources, he wanted to try and make it happen.  Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly how politics works and despite all of his successes, Carter didn’t bond well with others on the federal level.  Politicians expect to be catered to, tit for tat, I gave you this, you give me that.  Carter wasn’t truly a politician in the traditional sense, but a farmer, a sailor, a husband, a father, and a Georgian at heart.  Beyond these things, he was a Christian, but he didn’t believe his faith was one he should require of anyone else but himself.  If his faith in God and how it impacted how he chose to live seemed like it might have been a platform to get votes, one only needs to look at what he did and said after he was out of the spotlight.  He didn’t approve of Bill Clinton’s infidelity or Obama’s use of drones and the risk of harming civilians.  He didn’t like how Trump handled protests, but he also didn’t think the media spoke fairly about Trump.  Jimmy Carter tried to be fair in his thinking and what he said.  He didn’t think every democrat everywhere was the best and right person for a job, nor did he think that a republican should automatically be discredited and dismissed.  He felt that people were people and people should be held accountable for their words and actions.  Even if a person’s choices unsettled him, like Clinton’s affairs, Carter was careful not to let his personal opinions influence the good work he could do with that person, as evidenced by his and Clinton’s project for social justice. Carter’s belief in social justice as an extension of his faith was large enough that he left the church his family belonged to, that he was raised in, because of its choices to further suppress women and treat them as spiritually inferior in their houses of worship and in their homes.  He didn’t think Jesus would be upset about gay marriage, nor did he think that access to assault rifles was an unalienable right.  I think Carter’s nearing death isn’t the news it should be here because Jimmy Carter’s life makes it very obvious that Georgia just wanted to send a Georgian to the White House, not that its people believed in the causes dear to Carter.  For the short time he was in office, Georgia looked like it cared about something other than itself.  Disenfranchised citizens had hope that maybe those with more privilege really did believe that things should change and would act in ways to promote those changes.  Georgia didn’t continue Carter’s work, though Carter himself did outside of office.  People live in houses that he helped build through Habitat for Humanity and children like mine know that peanut farmers can do great things.  True to his character, I doubt it bothers President Carter very much that some people don’t remember him or don’t remember him fondly.  He knows his name, who belongs to him, and who he himself belongs to.  I imagine it’s very hard to hold onto your deepest self in the world of politics.  In the case of Mr. Carter, I believe he would tell my sons to remember that the opinions of others do not dictate who you are, what you’re capable of, or who you can love.  In church this morning, we recognized his service to our state and to our country and we prayed for his comfort and peace as he leaves this place for the one he has waited so long to see.  We prayed for him as we would any other Christian sibling and their family, and this is very likely just as Mr. Jimmy would have wanted it. 


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