Former President Jimmy Carter teaches during Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Plains, Ga. The Carter Center says Carter has entered home hospice care, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. The foundation created by the 98-year-old former president says that after a series of short hospital stays, Carter “decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention." Credit: Branden Camp / AP

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At the age of 98, Jimmy Carter is the longest lived U.S. president. The announcement this week that he is receiving home hospice care has led to a cascade of reflections about his life and legacy. There should be little doubt that Carter’s impact has stretched well beyond his four years as commander in chief.

“After a series of short hospital stays, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention,” The Carter Center said in a statement on Sunday. “He has the full support of his family and his medical team. The Carter family asks for privacy during this time and is grateful for the concern shown by his many admirers.”

The outpouring from those many admirers has been and continues to be significant.

The four-year Carter administration is sometimes used as a political punchline or unfavorable comparison. This is a small and unfair view of Carter, both as a president and as a man.

The stubborn idea that being compared to Carter is somehow a bad thing misses the mark by miles. The truth is that anyone would be lucky to be placed in the same company as Jimmy Carter, the Navy man, the peanut farmer, the president, the global force for good decades beyond his White House service.

BDN File photo.

We’ll leave it to presidential historians to decide where he ranks among his predecessors and successors in the Oval Office. He certainly faced difficulties in office, struggled with public approval, faced tough questions when he visited Bangor in February of 1978, and ultimately lost badly to Ronald Reagan in 1980. But history is sure to remember him beyond the polls and election results. His years will be measured by greater metrics than those political considerations of decades past.

The benefit of time has already washed away some of the past criticisms. Carter’s warnings about the environment and over-consumption, and his emphasis on alternative energy sources, have unfortunately proven sage-like over the years. Those solar panels on the White House, once treated as a joke and later removed by Reagan, look downright sensible today.

Examples big and small demonstrate his humanity, from the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 2002, to the time in 2017 that he greeted every passenger on his flight from Atlanta to Washington, D.C.

Other stories from Carter’s time before and after the presidency, like when as a young naval officer he helped avert a nuclear disaster in Canada after a power surge and partial meltdown, further underscore what has been a truly remarkable life so frequently defined by service to others.

“I’m perfectly at ease with whatever comes,” he said in 2015 after a cancer diagnosis, as reported by the Associated Press. “I’ve had an exciting, adventurous and gratifying existence.”

That has frequently included trying to improve existence for other people. Through the Carter Center, he and his wife Rosalynn have championed issues like the battle against the parasitic Guinea worm in developing countries. The prevalence of the disease caused by this worm, an often painful infection, has shrunk from millions to 13 known cases last year with the Carter Center’s efforts. Carter has also been a longtime and visible part of Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to build houses for people in need.

Carter has of course spoken and written about the impact of faith in his life. In a 2018 book, he described the “ways my own faith has guided and sustained me, as well as how it has challenged and driven me to seek a closer and better relationship with people and with God.” For years, Carter regularly taught Sunday school at a Baptist church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

These stories and accomplishments, some of which have only become clear over time, often point to the many ways besides political outcomes that a life can be measured — even for a former president.

Any time people request or receive emergency aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), they are turning to a federal agency that  Carter officially started. This is fitting, considering how often Carter has been willing to rush to help others. This impact, not electoral outcomes, will be his enduring legacy.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...