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Jimmy Carter has cancer

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The news came from NPR: A loved one has cancer.

Former President Jimmy Carter made the announcement from the Carter Center in Atlanta.

He did not mince words. He has cancer and it has spread.

His announcement was candid and truthful.

The cancer first identified in his liver, has “spread to other parts of his body”. He expects to hang around for a while; his travel schedule is only cut back, not canceled. How long will a “while” last? We will just have to wait and see.

In Georgia where I grew up, a “loved one” is a family member, or someone who has joined the family circle.

Jimmy Carter, this nation’s 39th  president, is an adopted “loved one” in our family. He is also a fellow Georgian.

It was my great blessing and privilege to work for him through his two campaigns for the White House. Since he and Rosalynn left the White House, we have stayed “in touch”.

After learning of the cancer, I wrote immediately to inform him it is too early for him to leave the battlefield. And, God willing, he won’t leave anytime soon.

I have been reading stories of his cancer announcement. I have also perused the reviews and interviews from his most recent book tour.

One interview in the Los Angeles Times, was especially well done. Written by the Times‘ Carolyn Kellogg, it was on target, with this headline: “In ‘A Full Life,’ Jimmy Carter at 90 remains a wise truth teller”.

Carter’s book demonstrates his consistent “truth telling”.  It is entitled, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.

Kellogg’s interview lifts up the truth-telling characteristic of Carter’s that is at the center of his life as a man and as a world leader. She writes:

“One challenge of Carter’s presidency was that he spoke the truth, even though during his years in the White House (1976-80), the truth was often bad news. He faced an energy crisis, a capsizing economy, opposition from Congress, and the revolution in Iran than led to American hostages being held captive 444 days.”

Kellogg concludes her interview:

 “In A Full Life, Carter puts the long arc of his story together the way he sees it. The book includes his accomplishments as a negotiator and peacemaker in the humblest way — as a man who was at work on a larger project, something he continues to be. A primer for the generations who don’t know his work and a personal retelling for those who do,  A Full Lifemay herald the reappraisal he deserves.”

In the months and years ahead, as the nation and the world reflect on Carter’s life, “the reappraisal he deserves” should dominate the reflection.

When you travel with a candidate, as I did with Jimmy Carter through two campaigns in Illinois, where I served as his state chair, you come to know him. How well you know him will depend on his openness, his candor and his patience.

From my experience, I can testify that he has an abundance of all three.

Thinking back on our first Illinois campaign together in 1976, one incident stands out. It is not an important incident. But it taught me all I needed to know about this nation’s next president.

Carter was a former governor of Georgia when he launched his 1976 Illinois campaign. I had arranged a campaign stop in the south side of Chicago where the Reverend Jesse Jackson was a dominant political figure.

I had made the very major political mistake of taking Carter to an African-American church without clearing the location with Jackson. A leading political figure in Jackson’s circle, a strong woman with a forceful manner, called me several days before the stop.

She was adamant.  “You cannot go to that church without my approval” was the gist of her message to me. I told her it was too late to make a travel change. I remember her words vividly, and they taught me a political lesson: “You can’t come into our house without first coming through the kitchen”.

I apologized for my ineptness. She remained adamant.

I spoke to Governor Carter. “Call Andy”, was his response, referring to African-American civil activist and political leader, the Rev. Andrew Young, in Atlanta, Carter’s home base.

Carter already knew Chicago politics better than his state chairman.  Young was later a Carter appointee to the United Nations, a congressman and a future mayor of Atlanta.

Andy mollified the strong personalities involved. We stuck to our original plan.

The night Carter spoke at the church, one of our staff members talked to the crowd as it assembled, a crowd not as large as Jesse Jackson would have produced, but adequate.

I was holding Governor Carter “backstage” until he was introduced. Chicago Sun Times political writer Basil Talbot cornered Carter with a  question about our choice of that particular church.

Basil also had another political question about the Illinois campaign, which was just in its early stages.

Carter said nothing. He merely nodded to me to handle the mess I had gotten him into. I said not a word about the “kitchen” I had failed to enter earlier.  I mumbled a few words about campaign plans unfolding.

Carter smiled, and then went out and wowed the crowd.

Incidents like that one either destroy a relationship or solidify it.  I remain thankful to this day for Jesse Jackson, and for his lady advocate. I also remain thankful for Andy Young, Basil Talbot, and above all, for Jimmy Carter, for helping me survive a major stumble.

We survived because Carter knew when to ride behind error-prone associates, and when to stand alone, if needed, to speak the truth when the truth was largely hidden.

Carter’s courageous truthfulness is interwoven with his stubbornness and his determination to see a larger picture as it unfolds. When he sees the truth, he follows it, regardless of the consequences.

We all saw that later in his achievements against heavy opposition during his White House years, and throughout the remarkable career he has had as a truth-teller and problem-solver in troubled regions of the world.

Cover of "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"

Cover of “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”

It was Carter’s truth-telling in his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which forced the Israel-Palestine issue into the light of the world’s attention.

Without that book, which cost him dearly in the circles of power in the nation he led for four years, the truth of Palestinian occupation might still be struggling to gain a hearing in the court of world opinion.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to play a small part in getting Carter safely through the Illinois political shoals. So many others took him the rest of the way to the White House.

Carter’s struggle is not over, which it is why it is far too early for Jimmy Carter to leave this earthly battlefield. The pending freedom of both Israelis and Palestinians from the bondage of conflict, owes a great deal to this man.

There is work yet to be done, sir.

This post first appeared on James M. Wall’s website Wallwritings

About James M. Wall

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine.

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22 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    August 14, 2015, 10:41 am

    It is sad to think of Jimmy Carter with cancer, but we all must die, and he has had a good and full life, and especially a life valuable to others.

    No other former president that I can think of has stood up to the Powers That Be, has “spoken truth to power” where that truth was a hard truth which, in being spoken, accused so many other politicians of corruption and a disregard for human rights, international law, etc.,

    Cancer is a personal tragedy of a sort (but only of a sort, for we must all die and must die of something), but consider that natural disasters (earthquakes including “BIG ONEs”: see: affect enormous numbers of people and man-made disasters even more (ranging from global warming’s anticipated disasters to today’s disasters in Gaza and elsewhere).

  2. Kay24
    August 14, 2015, 11:21 am

    Sad news. I hope this wonderful man lives the rest of his days pain free, and surrounded by love from those around him. He is a beloved ex President, who has tirelessly worked for the underprivileged and who was brave enough to name Israel as an occupier and an apartheid nation. He has done so much to bring focus to a topic others dare not address in the US.

    My best wishes to Jimmy Carter and his family. Our thoughts are with you.

    • Citizen
      August 15, 2015, 12:47 pm

      Carter worked hard for Egypt-Israel peace; was the 1st & only POTUS/former POTUS to come out against Israeli apartheid; worked tirelessly to help the poor, e.g., habitat for humanity. The thank you from the DNC was he was not invited to their convention. I’m still amazed by this. What have other former POTUS’s done? The war monger Bush Jr paints really crappy paintings and chops wood. I hope the peanut farmer goes down in the company of his loved ones, and without pain. God bless him.

  3. JLewisDickerson
    August 14, 2015, 12:31 pm

    “The CIA/Likud Sinking of Jimmy Carter”, by Robert Parry, Consortium News , 06/24/11

    [EXCERPTS] . . . As the Official Story of the 1980 October Surprise case crumbles – with new revelations that key evidence was hidden from investigators of a congressional task force and that internal doubts were suppressed – history must finally confront the troubling impression that remains: that disgruntled elements of the CIA and Israel’s Likud hardliners teamed up to remove a U.S. president from office. . .
    . . . Too many powerful interests do not want the American people to accept even the possibility that U.S. intelligence operatives and a longtime ally could intervene to oust a president who had impinged on what those two groups considered their vital interests. . .
    . . . It is far easier to assure the American people that no such thing could occur, that Israel’s Likud – whatever its differences with Washington over Middle East peace policies – would never seek to subvert a U.S. president. . .
    . . . But the evidence points in that direction, and there are some points that are not in dispute. For instance, there is no doubt that CIA Old Boys and Likudniks had strong motives for seeking President Jimmy Carter’s defeat in 1980.
    Inside the CIA . . .
    . . . As for Israel, Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious over Carter’s high-handed actions at Camp David in 1978 forcing Israel to trade the occupied Sinai to Egypt for a peace deal. Begin feared that Carter would use his second term to bully Israel into accepting a Palestinian state on West Bank lands that Likud considered part of Israel’s divinely granted territory. . .
    . . . However, Begin recognized that the scheme required Carter winning a second term in 1980
    when, [Former Mossad and Foreign Ministry official David] Kimche wrote, “he would be free to compel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his and Egyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewish lobby. . .
    . . . Yet, while motive is an important element in solving a mystery, it does not constitute proof by itself. What must be examined is whether there is evidence that the motive was acted upon, whether Menachem Begin’s government and disgruntled CIA officers covertly assisted the Reagan-Bush campaign in contacting Iranian officials to thwart Carter’s hostage negotiations.
    On that point the evidence is strong though perhaps not ironclad.
    Still, a well-supported narrative does exist describing how the October Surprise scheme may have gone down with the help of CIA personnel, Begin’s government, some right-wing intelligence figures in Europe, and a handful of other powerbrokers in the United States. . .


    • JLewisDickerson
      August 14, 2015, 12:39 pm

      “New Israeli Government Will Support Settlements”, By Geoffrey Aronson, Al-Monitor, 4/05/13

      [EXCERPT] . . . It is not for nothing that it has long been said that “the Likud will announce 10 settlements and build one while the Labor Party will announce one and build 10.” Leaders from the heart of the Labor Zionist movement — the same one that transformed 78% of Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state — were the principal architects of Israel’s post-1967 settlement policies in the occupied territories and employed all the instruments of Israel’s national power and authority to place the territorial future of the “liberated territories” beyond Palestinian reach.
      Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, and Ariel Sharon epitomized the leadership of this national effort. They were unabashed supporters of Greater Israel. Recently released protocols of discussions held between US President Jimmy Carter and an Israeli delegation led by PM Menachem Begin in March 1979 recorded Sharon telling Carter, “I don’t see any possibility whatsoever to draw any geographical line which can divide [the] Jewish population and Arab population, because we live here together. Believe me, Mr. President, when I use this figure of one million, saying that in 20 to 30 years I hope that one million Jews will live there, Mr. President, I can assure you, they will live there. There’s nothing to do about it. They will live there, and if we said that we believe that in Jerusalem, what we call the Greater Jerusalem, it is a crucial problem for us, to have one million Jews, they will live there, and they will live in what we call the area of Gush Etzion, in Tekoa, in Ma’ale Adumim. They will live there. There is nothing [you can] do about it.” . . .


  4. Qualtrough
    August 14, 2015, 1:20 pm

    Sad, a great man. It’s all been downhill since Reagan.

  5. annie
    August 14, 2015, 1:36 pm

    i love Jimmy Carter . he’s a wonderful courageous man. what sad news. i’m glad he’s still here with us today.

    i wrote him once. he wrote me back and signed it. i saved it of course and happened upon it last week. i thought to myself, as i often have — a wonderful wonderful man.

    • AngelaJerusalem
      August 15, 2015, 12:08 pm

      Oh yes, Annie. Amazing, wonderful wonderful man. I (too) have his signature (a signed copy of his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which he refers to the film The Iron Wall, which I had left for him in DVD at The Carter Centre after screening it to all present in 2006 when I had been in Birmingham Alabama at the Presbyterian GA calling for MRTI). I was then invited by The Carter Centre to attend a ceremony in Ramallah honouring him for his work for peace. In front of a bank of about 20 TV cameras, including Reuters, he spoke of his love for Palestine going back generations, echoed in his sons’ and grandchildren’s similar love. Hearing this, I was totally knocked out by his honesty, vision and courage. It was always obvious he had deliberately made himself a sacrificial lamb to get the political messages across (apartheid, and so on)… and take the heat, to forge the way forward. So brave. It was great to see him, therefore, on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show a few months ago, and see him cherished there. Or indeed to read a recent op-ed apologising to him for under-estimating him, and labelling him weak when he’s one of the strongest… so I certainly hope Obama goes to see him while we still have him… after Carter has spoken of being somewhat persona non grata at the White House because of this issue…

  6. JusticeForPalestine
    August 14, 2015, 2:52 pm

    I once happened to attend a Capitol Hill event at which (then-) former President Carter and (future-) Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had been invited to speak upon the opening of some new foreign policy think tank.

    The Senate hearing room was packed in all directions with Hill staff waiting for one reason and one reason only: to hear Carter speak. Albright was unknown to most people back then, and nobody cared about the opening of that think tank per se.

    Thus, it seemed kind of poignant to me when, upon Albright’s starting to speak, Carter quite noticeably stood up, picked up his chair, turned it toward Albright, and then sat down again facing her, obviously so that he could listen to her more easily. There he was, the ex-President of the United States, sitting sideways in the center of the podium, purposefully using himself as a kind of mirror to deflect all of the attention that an ex-President naturally claims to focus everyone who was watching on someone else whom he considered important. Then, because he was listening to Albright, so did everyone else.

    In all of the years since the day of that think tank opening, I have often thought of that Carter-turning-his-chair moment as a perfect of metaphor for Carter’s life. Notwithstanding the fact that Carter served only one term in the White House, I think, Carter has distinguished himself far more than any other President in my lifetime with his ineluctable commitment to using every last ounce of his power as President and ex-President to focus all of our attention — not on himself — but on “smaller” people and issues which he seems to believe are more important even than a U.S. President.

    Thank you President Carter for focusing the world on voting rights, fair elections, disease, poverty, women’s rights and Palestinian rights, among many other things, with all of your power for all of these years.

    Good bless you.

  7. RoHa
    August 14, 2015, 4:37 pm

    Only president who went from the presidency to better and greater things.

    My respect may not be worth much, but it isn’t easy to get. Carter is one of the very few politicians I do respect.

    • just
      August 14, 2015, 5:41 pm

      +1000, RoHa!

      President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter are both a credit to humanity.

      • Citizen
        August 15, 2015, 1:10 pm

        Yes, they are.

  8. JWalters
    August 14, 2015, 8:31 pm

    Early in Carter’s presidency the oil embargo hit and gas prices shot up. There was talk of a “windfall profits” tax on the oil companies. Carter said, “I don’t care exactly what Congress does, as long as they don’t let the oil companies rip off the American public”.

    I thought, “America is in good hands”.

  9. Kathleen
    August 14, 2015, 9:46 pm

    President Jimmy Carter is one of the most remarkable people to ever grace this planet. He has set the bar of compassion in action so high that one can barely see it.

    If folks do not know about THE ELDERS website where he and his amazing colleagues share their massive amount of humanitarian work around the planet.

    Prayers for him and his family

    So many around the world love him…I sure do!

  10. ziusudra
    August 15, 2015, 6:36 am

    Pres. J. Carter,
    He had a good life & longevity.
    He official service time & energy was given with substance.
    He pursued in serving privately with substance.
    He did more than his share.
    PS Empires as Rome, Papacy and America have had many leaders.
    None were perfect; he did well in his time.

  11. HarryLaw
    August 15, 2015, 7:42 am
  12. amigo
    August 15, 2015, 2:19 pm

    We are often asked , where is Palestine,s Nelson Mandela or Ghandi??>

    Let,s start asking , where is Israel,s Jimmy Carter.

    And yes , Jimmy Carter is streets ahead of most if not all other US Presidents who mostly “Cashed in ” on their presidency for their own financial gain.

  13. Citizen
    August 15, 2015, 5:57 pm

    Cancer-stricken Jimmy Carter Blames Netanyahu for ‘Zero Chance’ of Two-State Solution

  14. Donald
    August 16, 2015, 12:24 pm

    Carter’s Presidency was considered a failure at the time, but in large part that was because there was a conservative backlash against honesty and self-criticism after the Vietnam War. People didn’t want to hear about the need to get serious about energy conservation, for instance, and many wanted to wave the flag and talk about how great we were and how evil our enemies were and so on. It was the moment for a feel good self-deceived BS artist like Reagan.

    Carter is certainly the greatest ex-President in history–he did more good as an ex-President than most people, certainly more than most Presidents while in office. (SInce a great many of them do more harm than good that’s a low bar, but the post-presidential Carter comes out looking good by any standard.)

  15. Kathleen
    August 16, 2015, 4:38 pm

    Have had the great fortune to ask Former President Jimmy Carter direct question four times over the last few decades. My last question for him was on the Diane Rehm show this summer when he was a guest. I ask him about the hopeful deal with Iran towards the end of the program. Kathleen from Columbus Ohio. Pulled my car over to get the call through



    REHMAnd you’re listening to “”The Diane Rehm Show.” And to Kathleen, in Columbus, Ohio. You’re on the air.

    KATHLEENThank you. And like the others, President Carter, I just have deep respect and, quite honestly, love for you and all of your incredible work and examples for us all. So thank you. And I’d like to ask you about nonproliferation. And in regard to President Obama’s approach with Iran and the P5+1. And do you think that has been an constructive approach? And do you — would you support — or do you think there should be more pressure on Pakistan, India and Israel to sign the nonproliferation treaty, sir?

    CARTERWell, the answer to your last question is yes. I certainly do. And those are the countries that don’t comply with a nonproliferation treaty. As you know, Iran is a member of a nonproliferation treaty group. But I — and I personally hope and pray that within the next two or three days we’ll see success between the United States and Iran in forming an agreement. And I have complete confidence that if John Kerry signs an agreement it would be both enforceable and good for our country and for Iran”.

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