Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 10, 1999
Former president values autumn years
The Virtues of Aging., by Jimmy Carter, Ballentine Books: New York. 1998.146 pp.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Special to the WCR
"I was just 56 years old when I was involuntarily retired from my position in the White House. . . . What was I going to do with the next 25 years?"
Jimmy Carter writes The Virtues of Aging with a poignancy for persons of all ages in this the United Nations' International Year of the Older Persons.
What happens when the job or the career ends? Almost 20 years later, Carter writes about how he and Rosalynn took charge of their lives at that watershed time.
During a recent interview Barbara Walters asked: "Mr President, you have had a number of exciting and challenging careers. What have been your best years?"
"Now is the best time of all," he answered with absolute certainty. This book is Carter's expanded attempt to explain why.
Many know of the Carters' involvement in Habitat for Humanity and Sunday school classes in Plains, Ga. Some are aware of the Carter Centre in Atlanta, which promotes democracy, human rights, disease prevention, etc.
These post-presidential initiatives are the result of a serious struggle with core values.
The heart of the process for Carter became the Pauline statement: "If I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." From love grows patience, kindness, truthfulness, hope, endurance and generosity.
These key elements have matured with time. They are not the preserve of former pres-idents."How much wealth, fame, intelligence, education or prestige do people require?" he asks. These virtues can be cultivated by anyone. The senior years offer a special opportunity to do so.
Virtues contains practical counsel on resource planning, asset management and disposition, volunteerism, continuing education, travel, fitness, diet, sexuality, family relationships and dealing with death.
Pragmatic suggestions are seasoned with captivating insights.
Making more money or accumulating more things does not provide more satisfaction. Focus on relationships and experiences. Consider life as expanding, not contracting.
Physical and mental activities strengthen each other. We need models and stories reflecting moral excellence. Simple things are best. As long as you live, strive for something exceptional.
This is vintage Carter, in the autumn years.
(Rev. Dr. Wayne Holst is a lecturer at the University of Calgary. He was a Lutheran pastor, missionary and Church executive for 25 years.)