In too many political circles, Jimmy Carter serves as a presidential punch line — as in, "If [insert name of first-term president here] isn't careful, he'll be another Jimmy Carter." That this sentiment persists is somewhat puzzling because in hindsight many of his most visible actions as president — installing solar panels on the White House, warning of American overreliance on oil and encouraging conservation — ought to bring him acclaim.
What has brought Carter widespread praise are his actions after his presidency as a peacemaker and human rights advocate. Since he first disclosed his cancer diagnosis last week and shared more details Thursday, readers have written The Times praising the 39th president's life's work and poise in facing his mortality. Here are some of their letters.
Carleton Cronin of West Hollywood compares Carter's post-presidency with those of others:
Citizen Carter, our much-maligned former everyman president who has spent the last 30 years or so helping people less fortunate than he instead of extorting large speaking fees, is facing the prospect of death in a manner characteristic of his genuine outlook on life.
His long life is very much worth celebrating and emulating. Although he is reluctant to say goodbye, he is ready to do so with a full heart and very few regrets.
Fallbrook resident Mike Reardon praises Carter's character and demeanor:
I watched Carter describing his cancer diagnosis. It struck me what a gracious man he is. Many think he was inadequate as a president, but we have never had a more gracious, kind man in that job.
Carter seemed to be at real peace with his condition. I hope that I can be as positive as he is when I am 90 years old.
Gary Carter of Walhalla, S.C., predicts a reputation rehabilitation for Carter:
Within 100 years (maybe much less), Carter will be celebrated as the equivalent of a Protestant saint. History will recognize his genuine accomplishment of delicately balancing the imperatives of faith with public policy.
In time, we will realize that the tenor of our present partisan dialogue is simply a symptom of a passing affliction of hyperpolarized acrimony. Events will surely arise that will cause many more of us to behave like adults.
In time, many more of us also will honor real human progress rather than ingrained biases and cherished political ideologies.
JoAnn Lee Frank of Clearwater, Fla., hopes Carter's indefatigability will serve him now:
Bravo to Carter, who has risen to the occasion upon learning of his cancer diagnosis. This remarkable humanitarian and legend in his own time has devoted his life to serving others.
There is no stopping Carter, as he's facing the fight of his life. Let us hope that the radiation treatment will buy him some time.