On August 20, 2015, Former President Jimmy Carter announced to the world that the melanoma that he’d been battling has reached his brain. I was saddened by this news. True, President Carter and I weren’t buddies or friends or even acquaintances. But he was the first US President to whom I’d ever written a letter (complete with a P.S. Tell Amy I said “hi.”) I remembered March 26, 1979, when my mother (a future survivor of metastasized melanoma) ushered me and my siblings into the living room of our home in Fort Bliss, Texas and told us, “Watch this! You are seeing history in the making.” She then explained to us how these two countries (Egypt and Israel) had been at war with each other for years and how President Carter had helped them to write the agreement that they were signing in front of us; how they were promising to make peace from now on.
I guess I didn’t realize what a huge impression this moment had on me. It affected my life in ways I wouldn’t understand until much later. I remembered crying when President Reagan took office in 1980. I could not understand why so many Americans were blaming President Carter for domestic problems like the gasoline shortages and international issues, such as the American hostages taken by Iranian students during an Iranian revolution. I remember the yellow ribbons tied everywhere on post; around trees, light posts, telephone poles, mail boxes. I, too, wanted those Americans to come home. But I didn’t understand why President Carter was being blamed for what other people did. So I started reading the newspapers beyond the comic strips and Ann Landers.
I continued to study current events and didn’t think much about President Carter after that. I finished high school and started taking night classes at the community college near my home. Eventually, I started working for the government; not uncommon for people living in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. It wasn’t until I had gotten married to an Egyptian man in 1994, that I realized exactly how much President Carter’s assistance in the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Accords at Camp David affected my life. I mean, would I have met him if he’d gone to war during his conscript service in the Egyptian military? My husband has a deep respect for President Carter, as do most Egyptians. Peace is a huge deal to a kid who has only known that his country is at war for his first 12-14 years. Of course, being an American, I only had “Oh! I remember watching that on t.v.” to contribute to that conversation. But…I remember it.
President Carter continued what he did best after leaving the White House. He worked on peace initiatives, human rights, and building homes and fighting diseases through the establishment of the Carter Center. Jimmy Carter is a great man. He lives his beliefs every day through service to his fellow humans. He’s filled his 90 years of life with greatness. I am blessed to have been touched, even indirectly, by his leadership, kindness, and deep respect for all human life. I pray that he lives the remainder of his days pain-free and surrounded by those who love him.
“We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes — and we must.” ~Jimmy Carter, Nobel Lecture