|President Carter, my Ethics of Jesus class, the Interfaith Council of Oxford College/Emory, Chaplain Lyn Pace, me, and some other family (including Rita and Jacob) and friends at the Carter Center, March 17, 2016. |
Photo by Cathy Wooten
At the risk of betraying my age, my first vote was for Jimmy Carter for President in 1976. I never thought I would see him in person, much less meet him, but my position at Emory has given me the chance to do so three times.
I did see President Carter once in 1981. I was working for Quaker State Oil Company in St. Louis, MO, and I took a week's vacation to go to Washington, DC. One day that week I visited the Capitol, and there was a group of people standing in one of the hallways downstairs. I asked several of them what they were standing there for, and none of them knew, but I decided to wait a couple minutes to see what happened. Almost immediately after that, President Carter and Tip O'Neill walked down the stairs nearby. Speaker O'Neill immediately ducked into a room, but President Carter broke into his famous smile and came over to greet us and to shake our hands.
After I came to Emory University in 2000, I learned that President Carter's role as a Distinguished Professor at Emory means that he meets with selected Emory faculty and students several times a year. So back in 2001 I contacted Dr. Steven Hochman, the faculty assistant to President Carter, and he arranged for President Carter to speak and to answer questions for the students, faculty, and staff of Oxford College. We brought over 300 people the 30+ miles to the Carter Center. I got to meet President Carter beforehand, enter the room with him (to a standing ovation that he joked was for me), walk up on the stage with him, and then introduce him to the audience. It was a tremendous thrill and honor.
Several years later we did the same thing. This time President Carter invited me beforehand to visit him in his office at the Carter Center. I got to sit in one of the rocking chairs that President Carter made by hand and chat with him for a few minutes. Once again, that was a tremendous honor.
This past week, President Carter spoke for "me" a third time. Our Chaplain, Lyn Pace, wanted President Carter to meet with the students of the Interfaith Council to speak about the role his faith made in his public decisions (President Carter is a great supporter of the separation of church and state). It was a perfect topic for my Ethics of Jesus class as well, so when I contacted Dr. Hochman, he, with President Carter's approval, graciously once again arranged for us to meet with President Carter.
Instead of 300+ people, we brought around 40 this time, which allowed our students to have a much more in-depth session with him. As our students can attest, President Carter not only is a brilliant man, he is also very gracious, thoughtful, and kind.
It is also hard to believe that he is 91 years old.
We talked for an hour about the Ethics of Jesus, so the current presidential election season only came up in passing.
The students asked great questions, and President Carter gave, as always, impressive answers (he also gave them a bit of a quiz, which they passed).
Yes; I really love my job.