I was a little girl when Jimmy Carter was president. While I would never classify him as one of my top 30 presidents, I do remember quite a few things about him.

I remember how his Southerness became fodder for late night TV hosts and other sophisticates who found his honesty and lack of sophistication humorous.

I remember his family. His beloved mother, Lillian, reminded me a lot of my own grandmother. His wife Rosalynn reminded me a lot of my aunts. Her quiet dignity was often taken for granted, but she never gave the nation cause to be embarrassed.

I remember Amy. Oh, how I did not like Amy. And it all stems from her galloping through the family’s walk following the inauguration. She hopped and jumped about. As we were the same age, I found it embarrassing. This was a moment in history and her actions did not reflect that. Looking back now, that was rather unfair. She was a little girl who was pushed into the national spotlight – and whose whole life became a target. I’m sorry Amy.

I remember Carter’s infamous quote about lusting in his heart and his total inability to crack the D.C. code – none of which impressed me much. Perhaps the best memory I have of his presidency is of a press conference he held as he was going out of office. It was around this time – Christmastime. He was talking about the hostages in Iran, and in that moment, even I, as a little girl, could see that he was a broken man. While talking about the hostages he turned to his faith, and to a Christmas carol, to explain how he felt.

It was in that moment that I found him to be the most presidential. And it was that moment that I remember more than anything else about him. In the spirit of Christmas, and because it is as fitting today as it was then, I would like to share that carol. But first a little bit about it.

It was written in 1863 as the Civil War raged in our country. It was written by a father whose son had been injured during war. I’m talking about “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearthstones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

May the spirit of this season of love fill your hearts with joy. 


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