Jimmy Carter

Unbelievable Factoids from The Presidents Club

Who did Republican Gerald Ford ask to give his homily at his funeral?  None other than the man who prevented him from being re-elected in 1976–Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Who did Democrat Bill Clinton call late at night to ask questions regarding foreign policy?  None other the man who resigned in shame after Watergate–Republican Richard Nixon.

Who did the Republican Bush clan refer to as the “Brother of Another Mother”?  Democrat Bill Clinton.

Who did Democrat Harry Truman call “one of my closest friends”?  None other than the man Truman’s predecessor FDR blamed for the Great Depression–Republican Herbert Hoover.

Hard to believe, but true.

To hear the full story behind these unbelievable factoids, you’ll need to read The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (Simon and Schuster, 2012).  Gibbs and Duffy are editors at Time.  The April 23, 2012 edition of the magazine included an excerpt from the book, and guaranteed a trip to the NY Times bestseller list by putting a photo of Obama (44) with his arms around Bush (43), Clinton (42) on the cover (click here).

I mentioned the book in an earlier blog on Missional Presidents and Missional Partnerships, where I give a call to Christians to follow the example of these presidents and work together with Christians from other faith traditions.

The Presidents Club tells a story involving compelling history, fascinating research and bizarre politics.  My only critique is that after describing many powerful cross-party partnerships involving shocking friendships, Gibbs and Duffy could have got on a soap box and delivered a message to the highly politicized world of Washington gridlock in 2012: “Work together to accomplish great things for the nation.”  Bump, Set, but no Spike.

Still a great read.

If you’ve read it, what did you think? 

If you haven’t, why not? 

Voting at age 17

On January 21, 1980 I attended the Iowa caucus in Ames where I lived with my family.  I was a senior in high school, and since my birthday wasn’t until March, I was only 17.  However, since I was going to be old enough to vote in the general election in November, I could attend the caucus. (Iowa is one of 19 states to allow primary/caucus voting in this situation.)  Although, even in those 19 states, only a small minority turn 18 during that window for a presidential election (Iowa’s window was bigger than most states since it comes early), so it felt like a unique opportunity.  I got to “vote” at age 17.

I went to the Democratic caucus, which should have been boring since Jimmy Carter was the incumbent, and typically a sitting president runs unopposed within their own party (like Obama this year).  But in 1980, Carter wasn’t popular so Ted Kennedy was running against him for the Democratic nomination.

It’s not an efficient process.  It took an entire evening.  But it was an opportunity to discuss issues and politics with my neighbors (my parents were at the Republican caucus).  After you’ve done it a few times, it’s easy to take voting for granted, but it’s important and an honor that much of the world doesn’t have.

That night, I joined the delegates for Carter.  Carter beat Kennedy in Iowa and eventually won the nomination, but he lost to Reagan in the national election.

Four years later (1984), Carter was speaking at a prayer breakfast near Stanford where I was a grad student and he invited anyone interested to join him for a run through the hills.  I wasn’t at the breakfast, but one of my housemates was and he grabbed me and said, “Let’s go run with Jimmy!  Let’s go run with Jimmy!”  I ran with Jimmy and shook his hand afterwards.  He’s a great man who’s done a lot to bless a lot of people.

Do you remember the first time you voted?  How old were you?  Who’d you vote for?