At 9am the orientation began. Jan and another woman advised us fervently. “This is not a meet and greet.” This is Sunday School. Do not stand and clap for President Carter. Do not touch him. Do not tell him how you are related. (I guess that includes me telling him that I lived two doors down from Chip Carter in 2010.) Do not try to shake his hand. He can extend his hand but you cannot extend yours like a little fish in the sea swimming after him. Do not start a conversation.
Jan humored us a little, too. She said her mother in law had dated President Carter so she could call him Jimmy but we were to call him President Carter. She asked her mother in law why she hadn’t married him and her mother in law said she wasn’t impressed. Jan told us where to get good fried chicken and ham after the service and that the Carters ate there regularly but that she didn’t know if they would eat there today. She told us that they are doing well and had walked about half a mile down the highway yesterday. He is 93. We were informed the the CDC said that Carter has done more than any other human alive for World Health. He eradicated that awful guinea worm disease. He is a woodworker. The collection plates were made by Carter from Filipino mahogany. He and Rosalynn work one week a year on a habitat house. They work tirelessly on fair elections all over the world.
The man of the hour walked in quietly with a bolo. Turquoise and silver bolo. Rosalynn which they pronounced Rose-a-lun, did not enter through the over flow room. She must have been sitting in her pew. Carter asked us where we were from and Jan had prepped us on announcing our state only and only if our state had not already not been stated. Some of the nit wits just couldn’t follow her instructions. And Carter said, I already heard Florida. People came from Burma, Okinawa, Afghanistan, India, Delaware, Arizona and far and wide. I did not yell out Georgia. The woman from Delaware scolded me in the bathroom line for not coming before. She said if she lived in Georgia she would come often.
Two anecdotes from Carter-
1. He won the first presidential election partly because he had the vote of the evangelicals. In the second election, Jerry Falwell convinced the evangelicals to vote for Reagan. Then this year, Falwell Junior invited Carter to speak at Liberty U Graduation and he did. he was surprised it went so well. Falwell Junior wants Carter to write a book with him about the commonalities and theology of the divergent groups of moderate and fundamentalist Christians. Carter is considering it. The last time he wrote a book with anyone it almost ended in divorce.
2. He was holding a grudge against a certain columnist at the Washington Post. This man (he whispered George Will) had an advanced copy of his book and before his first debate with presidential candidate Reagan, this man gave the copy to Reagan. Carter held a grudge for a long time. He wrote him a postcard and said that he apologized for holding a grudge and he hoped they could be friends one day. Carter told him he had read his last book that he had bought for 1 dollar at a used book store and that it was a good book. Carter told the overflow room that this columnist now says not to vote for the Republican party so maybe he is a good guy. He had a twinkle in his blue eyes.