2nd October 2023 – (Hong Kong) Former President Jimmy Carter deviated from his usual routine on Sunday to celebrate his 99th birthday with his wife, Rosalynn, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in Plains, Georgia. The family gathering took place in the same modest home where the Carters resided before Jimmy’s political career took off in 1962 when he was elected to the Georgia Senate. The occasion provided an opportunity for Carter’s family to honour his enduring personal legacy.
Grandson Jason Carter, who chairs the board at The Carter Center, which his grandparents founded in 1982 after leaving the White House, expressed his admiration for his grandparents’ humble nature. Despite their global recognition and numerous accomplishments, the Carters have always remained grounded and true to their South Georgia roots. They continue to live in Plains, a small village with a population of only 600 people, where they were born.
In Atlanta, The Carter Center hosted a naturalisation ceremony to coincide with the former president’s birthday. Ninety-nine new American citizens, representing 45 different countries, took the oath of allegiance. This event held particular significance as it celebrated Carter’s lifelong dedication to humanitarian causes and his commitment to fostering peace and democracy globally.
Jimmy Carter’s recent display of resilience has been remarkable, considering his age and health challenges. In February, the Carters announced that he would no longer undergo medical treatments and had entered home hospice care following multiple hospitalisations. Despite these obstacles, Carter has defied expectations, having overcome cancer at the age of 90 and learned to walk again after hip replacement surgery at 94.
Numerous world leaders and pop culture figures have extended their good wishes to Carter on his 99th birthday. Donna Brazile, a former Democratic national chairperson and presidential campaign manager, described Carter as an unwavering advocate for the betterment of society and an embodiment of strength and integrity. Others, such as musician Peter Gabriel and the Indigo Girls, honoured him with renditions of “Happy Birthday” at various events.
The Carter Library & Museum and the adjacent Carter Center in Atlanta organized a series of celebratory events throughout the weekend, including the naturalisation ceremony. The museum even offered 99-cent admission on Saturday. However, the commemoration almost faced cancellation due to a potential government shutdown, which was averted when Congress reached an agreement at the start of the federal fiscal year, coinciding with Carter’s birthday.
Jason Carter emphasised the significance of reassessing his grandfather’s presidency. Although Carter’s term faced challenges such as inflation, fuel shortages, and the Iran hostage crisis, historians now recognize his diplomatic efforts, environmental concerns, and focus on efficient government. Carter’s longevity provides a unique perspective on how the world has changed while acknowledging ongoing political and societal struggles.
The Carter Center’s work in eradicating diseases and promoting democracy reflects Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s personal experiences growing up in the impoverished rural South during the Great Depression. Their advocacy for global democracy has expanded to include monitoring and tracking U.S. elections, reflecting their concern for the state of democracy in their own country.
President Joe Biden, who endorsed Carter’s campaign as a young senator in 1976, has a close friendship with the former president. Biden honoured Carter by displaying a wooden birthday cake on the White House front lawn. Carter’s life has spanned significant moments in American history, including the passage of immigration restrictions when he was born and the ongoing immigration policy debates today.
Despite the progress made, Carter’s lifetime has also witnessed enduring challenges. He was born into a Jim Crow era of racial segregation, yet he broke barriers by appointing Black Americans to top government positions as governor and president. Today, while Carter continues to watch online church services, he witnesses both progress and setbacks, with Georgia’s first Black U.S. senator preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church while some white lawmakers in the region seek to curtail Black voters’ rights.
Jason Carter emphasized the importance of recognizing the impact his grandfather has had on individuals and society as a whole. He highlighted the value of respecting others on a personal level and striving to help them, suggesting that Jimmy Carter’s incredible life, long marriage, and global interactions are a testament to the fulfilment one can find through such values.