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Carter 2020: America Wins by Standing for Human Rights

2020—Carter’s vision, if not reëlection campaign.

While Donald Trump and pious toadies like Scott Pruitt make a mockery of Christianity, Rev. Carl Kline of Brookings reminds us what we get from a real Christian President like Jimmy Carter:

The optimism, moral stature and faith of Carter, is a balm in a time when those qualities seem in short supply. He represents the best of what we know as evangelical Christianity. For him, an evangelical is “someone who has faith and tries to put that faith into practice and tries to convince other people to share that faith by setting an example.” His example of service to others is more than evident in his work with Habitat for Humanity, the Carter Center and his institutional relationships with church and academy. He still teaches classes at Emory University and adult Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church [Rev. Carl Kline, “Faith,” Living Nonviolence, 2018.06.29].

Kline draws inspiration, as ought we all, from this May interview with Carter about his latest book (his 47th, which means he has likely written more books than Donald Trump has read). In this interview, Carter repeats a formula for American greatness that he often cites:

…One of the things that America would like to be is a superpower, but there are more elements of being a superpower than just military strength. The United States of America ought to be seen by the rest of the world as a champion of peace, not war, a champion of human rights, a champion of equality, and a champion of generosity to help people in need. Those are the kind of values that need to be emphasized in the future of America, and I hope and pray that this will be the case [Jimmy Carter, interview with Elizabeth Palmer, “Why Jimmy Carter Is Hopeful,” The Christian Century, 2018.05.07].

Also making marriage great: Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter on their wedding day, 72 years ago this Saturday.
Also making marriage great: Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter on their wedding day, 72 years ago this Saturday.

Kline says Carter lived those words as President:

One of the enduring memories of the Carter Presidency for me was his emphasis on human rights. In one of my cynical moments at the time, I bemoaned what I saw as window dressing on human rights in the presence of a friend from Latin America. He was quick to correct me. What I couldn’t see from my vantage point he was able to clearly witness. The emphasis Carter placed on human rights was making a daily difference in his country and the activities of governments in the whole region [Kline, 2018.06.29].

As our country now struggles with its own reckless human rights abuses, Carter’s words also point toward the difference each of us can make. Asked to name a book other than the Bible that he’d like all Americans to read, Carter referred to a great Russian text (likely not among the Russian texts the current occupant of the White House reads):

I’ve had a lot of favorite books in my life. One that I read quite early in life, when I was about ten or 12 years old, was War and Peace. This book is primarily about the 1812 War and how Napoleon invaded Russia and was rejected. But it shows that the course of human events was affected not by powerful people—like the czar of Russia or Napoleon—but by the common ordinary people. I think that’s a lesson that we need to remember. The course of human events, the resolution of our basic questions, and the answering of our different challenges are ultimately dependent on the cumulative influence of ordinary citizens [Carter, in Lind, 2018.05.07].

Let’s accumulate our ordinary influence and restore America’s greatness by championing human rights, equality, and generosity to those in need. Maybe we can’t reëlect Carter, but we can elect decent patriots who follow Carter’s honest, consistent decency and morality.


  1. Rorschach 2018-07-06 09:21

    This reminds me how the Ayatollas in Iran really wanted Reagan/Bush to beat Carter/Mondale and interfered in the 1980 presidential election to make that happen. I’ll leave it to you to speculate why the world’s bad actors seem to prefer Republican presidents.

  2. Rorschach 2018-07-06 09:34

    Presidential trivia. How many first ladies were there named Eleanor? 2

  3. Jenny 2018-07-06 11:25

    Jimmy Carter, our last sincerely decent President. Not cut out for the presidency but a good man.

  4. Debbo 2018-07-06 19:24

    Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, absolutely a truly decent man, had a saying that was the cornerstone of every campaign he ever ran. It’s my favorite all time bumper sticker too.

    “Everybody does better,
    when everybody does better.”

    That’s the secret to a great nation. The Roman Empire was at its height when everybody did better. China is reaching higher than it ever could when it began allowing everybody to do better.

    President Carter is right. Paul Wellstone is right.

    Russia will never be truly great under Putie. pres Child Abuser will never, ever be great.

  5. leslie 2018-07-07 23:51

    Had the courageous Iranian hostage rescue have come off Carter would now be acknowledged his true greatness as a leader and gentle spirit modelling for the world. He accepted responsibility for the military failure as did Pres Johnson. Republican leadership pales bitterly in every aspect.

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