Jimmy Carter set a fine example for a young Peyton

April 4, 2019

Former President Jimmy Carter, the peanut farmer who became president, turned 94 years and 172 days old last week to become the longest-living president in U.S. history.

George H.W. Bush set the record of oldest living president two years ago, a title he held until his death at the age of 94 years and 171 days last November.

Those in the know say Carter was not a great president. Part of it was his fault, and part of it was just the way things were in the world. But when it comes to being a real person, he was and is one of those.

I’m not sure how and why our son, David Jr., became a Jimmy Carter fan at the age of 6. Maybe he heard his mother and I give him plaudits for who he was and how he appeared to be personable and a perfect fit for the presidency.

Maybe our son watched the news that featured Carter almost every evening during the 1976 campaign. We were happy to tell him about Carter and why he was living proof that anyone could grow up to become president as long as he or she remained a human being and loved this country the way Carter loved it.

David Jr. got so excited he wanted to vote for Carter in the November 1976 general election. We saw no problem letting him “vote” with his mother on Election Day.

But, alas, there was a problem. One of the poll workers had been told no one but the voter was allowed in the voting booth. And she told my wife that 6-year-old David Jr. had to sit outside the voting booth while Susie voted.

Our son was crushed. He cried all the way home.

I wrote a column about his disappointment and two things happened. The late, great West Virginia secretary of state, A. James Manchin, sent him an award naming him “Commodore of the West Virginia Ship of State” with an accompanying letter to me indicating he would make sure the rules were changed admitting kids with their parents to voting booths.

But the most important letter came to our son, signed by Jimmy Carter himself, thanking him for his support. It is now a part of his childhood album.

After he left the presidency, Carter continued to be the kind of man we taught our son to admire. He has never let the Peyton family down. He is still a model American.

But the recent recognition as the oldest living former president got me to thinking: How difficult it would be today to offer Trump to a child as a role model?

“Remember to tell at least one lie a day, son, just like the president. And don’t forget to make fun of the disabled and anyone you consider to be an enemy. And don’t hesitate to stand up in school and tell everyone you are the smartest, richest, and the best athlete in the school. Use any and all four-letter words you have learned from Trump. And if anyone criticizes you, bully them immediately and continue to run them down.”

Tell your kid to keep it up and maybe — just maybe — he’ll grow up to be a president just like Donald Trump.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.