18 June, 2024
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Cancer-stricken Jimmy Carter blows out his 99 candles


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Admirers of Jimmy Carter says history will be kind to the former US president, who has reached the venerable age of 99 despite deciding in early 2023 to stop cancer therapy.

A party was held at his presidential library and museum a day ahead of his birth date on Sunday, to ensure it wouldn’t be cancelled by a potential federal government shutdown, now averted, that Congress was working feverishly to avoid.

A few thousand well-wishers wrote birthday cards that will be taken to Carter’s home in Plains.

The thirty-ninth president has been in hospice care with cancer since February, spending time with his wife, Rosalynn, who is 96 and suffering from dementia.

Carter is the longest-lived US president ever while Rosalynn Carter trails only Bess Truman, who died at 97, as the longest-lived first lady.

Attendees on Saturday saw video tributes to Jimmy Carter from celebrities and competed in rounds of trivia that highlighted under-appreciated details about his life and how much the world has changed since he was born in 1924.

For many, the occasion was another step in the evolution of how Carter is remembered.

“Growing up in Texas, our history classes talked about him mostly as a failure, a weak figure, especially militarily and on foreign affairs,” said one.

Marlene Salgado, now a high school history teacher, said that as a student herself, “all I remember learning about him was the ‘malaise speech’ on the energy crisis and the hostages in Iran.”

Changing perceptions

But several recent books and documentaries reassess Carter as more than a failed president who rehabilitated himself as a global humanitarian through his work at The Carter Centre.

Salgado noted that it was Carter who secured the release of American hostages held in Tehran from late 1979 through Inauguration Day 1981.

“Reagan gets the credit from most people,” she said. Indeed, Carter worked for the hostages’ freedom even after Reagan’s Election Day landslide. Carter and his administration secured a deal in the final days of his presidency, but Tehran staged the actual release hours after Reagan was sworn in. Reagan sent Carter to greet the hostages in Europe.

Salgado said she also teaches students about Carter’s negotiations with Israel’s Anwar Sadat and Egypt’s Menachem Begin on the Camp David Accords. She called it “an important piece” of understanding the modern political landscape of the Middle East.

Former Florida political aide Ken Driggs, who voted for Carter, said the former president has been vindicated on many matters that helped lead to his defeat.

“The Panama Canal decision was so unpopular,” he said, referring to Carter’s treaty that ultimately turned over control of the waterway in Central America. “But it was the right thing to do at the time” for stability in a volatile region, “and that’s the accepted reality now.”

Driggs acknowledged that inflation and interest rate spikes were an albatross for Carter, just as they have been for President Joe Biden ahead of his 2024 reelection campaign. But Driggs noted that Carter stayed out of the way as his appointee as Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Voelker, raised rates to combat rising prices.

“History,” Driggs said, “is already starting to be kinder to President Carter than voters were.”

Festivities at the Carter Library & Museum, were to continue Sunday after Congress managed a spending deal to keep the government open. The Carter family planned to celebrate privately in Plains.


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