Jimmy Carter looks at his last goodbye | International

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Not everyone reaches the age of 99. Many fewer attend their own response. Jimmy Carter, the oldest president in the history of the United States, will blow out 99 candles this Sunday. The announcement last February that he was giving up further medical treatments to let himself be carried away by palliative care has allowed him the rare privilege of appearing in these seven months as a mute witness to the preparations for the ceremony with which posterity plans to remember him.

With the statement that Carter was retiring from public life at his home in Plains (in the State of Georgia) to await the outcome with his 96-year-old wife Rosalynn, the world, including his family and friends, called it quits. fact that would be a matter of days, or weeks. The newspapers rushed to prepare the obituaries and sent reporters to cover a story that did not occur. But the former Democratic president (1977-1981) once again defied expectations and went against Francis Scott Fitzgerald — “There are no second acts in American lives” — as he did when leaving the White House. Then, defeated by the Republican Ronald Reagan, after a single and somewhat frustrating mandate, he began a brilliant post-presidency, marked by the search for conflict resolution and the eradication of diseases such as the Guinea worm, which led him to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

“Some analysts have suggested that Carter used the White House as a springboard, eager to become a venerable statesman,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in his classic The Unfinished Presidency (The unfinished presidency, 1998). “It is more accurate to say that after losing badly to Reagan, he continued to work on the agenda and policies that he believed in, because he believed in them whether he was in office or not. The fact that he persisted so hard is testament to his refusal to throw in the towel. He can be many things, but someone who gives up is not one of them, so his presidency will remain unfinished as long as he is alive.”

“Lesson in dignity”

Paige Alexander, director of the foundation in Atlanta that bears the politician's name, recently recalled in New York, at the presentation of an award for the couple's humanitarian work, that when “this year they decided to share their health problems with the public , they did it as always: with total honesty. “They gave another lesson in dignity and grace.” There were precedents, such as when Carter announced in 2015 that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer of uncertain prognosis that he later remitted. He also emerged unscathed from the operation in 2019 to release hemorrhagic pressure in his head after suffering several falls. Last May, Rosalynn Carter made it public that she suffered from dementia.

“In our last conversations, your first question [de Jimmy Carter] "It wasn't about politics, economics or the prospects of his beloved baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, but about progress against Guinea worm disease," added Alexander, who last weekend told The New York Times that two things are helping him get ahead: “the peanut butter ice cream and the many tributes he is receiving in these months.” The brilliant season that the Braves, the intractable leaders of the Eastern Conference, are having, may also contribute.

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The Carter Center has asked citizens around the world to send photos and comments to congratulate the former president on his birthday. More than 14,000, including celebrities like Jane Fonda and Larry David, have done it. With them they have made a huge digital mosaic to celebrate the big day, which was not Sunday, the birthday, but Saturday. The change of date was another collateral damage of the refusal of the radical wing of the Republican Party to approve the spending items to avoid the imminent closure of the Government, which was avoided on the edge at the end of the day. It turns out that the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum is owned by the National Archives and Records Administration, so it depends on Washington. The feared stoppage threatened the suspension of certain non-essential public services. Celebrating the longevity of a former Democratic president was one of them.

This Saturday, the north face of the White House dawned with the ephemeral sculpture of a cake with 39 candles to honor the thirty-ninth president. In Atlanta, the advance celebration included 99-cent museum admission in honor of the honoree's birthday, contests, restaurant vans and a screening of All the president's mena film by Alan J. Pakula released in April 1976, in the midst of the campaign that brought Carter to the White House. It makes sense: the film tells the journalistic investigation that led to the end of Richard Nixon due to Watergate case. Nixon was succeeded by Gerald Ford, Carter's rival in his first presidential election.

Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office in 1978. HUM Images (HUM Images/Universal Images Group)

He had been governor of Georgia and senator for that southern state. He arrived in Washington as a outsider who promised to restore confidence in politics after the traumas of the Vietnam War and Watergate. He sealed the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt, and at home he made advances in civil rights. Good intentions crashed into the oil crisis and the Iranian hostage crisis, and rampant inflation that he did not know how to manage and that affected the working class above all.

When he gave his most famous speech in 1979, which he titled A crisis of confidence, but it ended up being known as the “speech of unrest”, perhaps he did not know that the one in whom his compatriots had lost faith was himself. And so it was that, in the 1980 elections, the United States turned the page and ran into the arms of Reagan's budding neoliberal revolution. Joe Biden's rivals often draw on that short term to draw parallels with the current Administration, hoping that history will repeat itself.

In time, Carter and Ford (in whose remarkable memoirs, A Time to Heal, he wonders “what would have happened if he had not pardoned Nixon”) ended up forging a strong friendship. The longing for a time when two political rivals could end well in the United States also explains why Carter is enjoying so many tributes during these months. “Many Americans appreciate the altruism he demonstrated after losing to Reagan,” Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin, author of the most comprehensive history of the Democratic Party, explained in an email this Friday. “Plus, he and his wife have never seemed to care about getting rich or getting rich. They are true Christians, you could say!”

Both continue to live in the house they moved to in 1961 in Plains, a town of 700 inhabitants dedicated to peanuts, the cultivation of which Carter's family was dedicated to. years ago, Washington Post He calculated that the house cost less than the Secret Service cars parked at his door to ensure the safety of the former president. The couple was last seen last Saturday. They appeared by surprise at the town's XXV Peanut Fair, aboard a 1946 Ford, a gift from country singer Garth Brooks to congratulate them on their 75 years of marriage.

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