Spending Father’s Day 2017 With Jimmy Carter

June 19, 2017 2 By Michael
Former President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter at 92 years old, doing what he has done since he was 18 years old, teaching Sunday School, June 18, 2017.
(c) 2017 Harold Michael Harvey

I’ve often wanted to spend a Sunday morning discussing the great and eternal spiritual issues of our times with President Jimmy Carter.

Back in the late 1980s my mother and her sorority sisters made the trip by bus from Macon, Georgia down to Plains, Georgia to attend Carter’s Sunday School class.

She was most impressed with the fact that Carter recognized her group during the service and inquired where they were having dinner following the service.

After the service, the sorority sisters boarded their bus for a stop at, Mom’s Kitchen, the only restaurant  in town where visitors could get a good, home cooked Sunday meal.

Shortly after they were seated, President Carter came into the dining room and went from table-to-table shaking hands and greeting members of her group.

“How cool was that,” I thought when she recounted the events of her visit to Plains, Georgia.

So I placed studying the Bible with President Carter on my bucket list. As often happens with items on a bucket list, it got pushed to the bottom of the list.

“What’s the rush,” I thought. The affable Carter would always be with us. Then, a little over a year ago, he announced that he had a cancer growing in his body. Suddenly the mortality of the 39th President and that of my own, came into focus.

Although I had discussed politics with Carter, President Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger during the early days of the Carter Center at conferences that were held at Emory University, I had not been present in a room where he shared his thoughts on God and humankind’s relationship with the Divine.

President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Roslyn Carter poses for a picture with Harold Michael Harvey and Cynthia Harvey at Maranatha Baptist Church, June 18, 2017
Photo Credits: Jill Stuckey

It was time to check this off the bucket list. My wife and I planned a trip to Plains, Georgia for the third Sunday in June this year. At the time we made the arrangements we were not aware that our visit would occur on Father’s Day.

As fate would have it our son was on a work assignment in the northeast and would not be home for Father’s Day, so we shared the day with President Carter, who was honored to have his sons Jack and Chip in Sunday School on this Father’s Day.

The Sunday School lesson centered around the Prophets and their relationship to the Holy Spirit. He likened the role of God as the Father and the prophets as the children. Before tackling his subject, he read a poem that he had written to his father, James Earl Carter, Sr., who transitioned after spending only 29 years in Carter’s life.

After reading the poem, Carter posited that each of us have a part of our father in us. He then asked if anyone disagreed.

No one did, at least no one vocalized any disagreement with Carter’s preposition. I could not disagree or agree as  I do not have any memories of my father and do not know how I am similar or dissimilar than he.

I do know I have much of my mother’s father and her two brothers in me, which suggests while biology may have shaped my appearance, personality can be shaped by the role models who sew into young lives. We all would do well to keep this thought in mind when in the presence of children, whether from our loins or otherwise.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, edited Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.