VOA correspondent Kane Farabaugh has reported on the life and legacy of former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter for nearly 20 years. After attending the former first lady’s funeral, journalist Farabaugh prepared the following material as a personal reflection on former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, nicknamed the “Iron Magnolia,” who helped redefine the role of first lady. seen inside and outside the White House.
Behind Rosalynn Carter’s warm smile and Southern accent lay the determination and competitive spirit that helped her husband Jimmy Carter win the White House in 1976.
Former White House communications director Jerry Rafshoon recalls Jimmy Carter’s initial reaction after learning poll results in the final days before the 1980 election predicted he would lose to Ronald Reagan.
“He only said one thing… don’t tell Rosalynn. I want to tell him myself. And that was it,” says Mr. Rafshoon.
Apparently, she was more upset than he was.
“It took me a while to get over it. Because I thought, and I still think, that if he had been re-elected, things would be different in the country today,” said Mrs. Carter.
In an interview in 2104, I recognized her iron strength.
“He is often described as ‘the most brilliant former president,'” I told him during the interview.
“Yes, and I don’t like that. He was a great president. People are getting it now,” she said.
But during a personal visit to her hometown of Plains in 2017, I spotted the magnolia, too, as Rosalynn Carter, at age 90, spent a sunny afternoon teaching me how to fish in the small lake in front of the house. of her.
I had never used a fishing rod, but the former first lady, who taught herself at an early age, patiently instructed me on each move.
An old saying goes that: “If you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day.” If you teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.” Rosalynn Carter practiced this principle throughout her life.
“She grew up as part of the Methodist stream and attended services with her husband in Plains Baptist churches. The Methodist motto, ‘Do as much as you can, for as many people as you can, and for as long as you can,’ is something they practiced throughout their lives,” says Jonathan Alter, author of books.
While fighting against the stigma of mental illness, for the elimination of tropical diseases, or when monitoring elections in other countries, the “iron magnolia” never stopped trying to make the world a better place, even in the 90s.
“It’s exciting to see that something you’ve done helps other people. You don’t want to stop,” she said.
Rosalynn Carter also always made people feel welcome, inviting friends over for coffee on Sunday afternoons at Plains, or taking pictures every Sunday with the thousands of visitors to her church, including my family.
She always found time to stay with us, especially my three sons, during visits to the Plains. Although I worried that we would burden her busy schedule, she never made us feel redundant. He never stopped smiling and never showed signs of fatigue.
“I can’t stop and I don’t even feel old,” she said.
“There is no need for an obituary for my grandmother. Her life was a ministry,” said Jason Carter, president of the Carter Center.
Sitting with the many people gathered at Emory University’s Glenn Memorial Chapel to pay their respects to Rosalynn Carter was a bittersweet yet bittersweet experience as we held back tears amid laughter at the memories of her ingenuity and determination, while her nephew Jason Carter noted her many causes and achievements, including efforts to save the rare species of monarch butterfly.
“Rosalynn Carter’s Butterfly Trails are located in 3,000 gardens, from Mexico to Canada, to help monarch butterflies on their journeys,” said Mr. Carter.
One of these trails is found today along the streets of Plains, Georgia. Magnolias, real or made of steel, are conspicuously missing among the flowers.
As the hearse carried her casket through the streets of the city she called home for nearly a century, the realization that Plains has lost an icon and that the world has lost an activist for so many important causes adds to the grief that my family and I feel the loss of a friend.
But Rosalynn Carter’s life and legacy lives on in the healthier world she dedicated her life to improving. She also lives in fond memories of the time she spent with me and my family, especially that afternoon on the little lake in front of her house, when she shared with me the joy of fishing in the place she loved… and near which she rest in peace.