Tuesday, March 7, 2023

President Jimmy Carter


President Carter on the Flight Deck

Hard to believe how much time has sailed by since I was a teen-ager assigned to the pre-commissioning crew of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). The ship and its crew were just getting their sea legs when President Jimmy Carter came out visit. 

Our home port was Norfolk, Virginia, and we'd just been out to sea and had our first liberty port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Carter's visit came a couple of weeks later, on March 17, 1978, when we were 60 miles off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, taking part in a Combined Weapons Training Exercise. 

I only remember two things about that day. The first was eagerly trying to position myself to snap a photo of the president as he watched from the flight deck. The second was watching an F-14 fly right in front of us, not much higher than the flight deck, at supersonic speed. The same jet that I'd only heard roaring in the past, now made no sound whatsoever as we watched it fly closer and closer, finally swooping past us with flaming afterburners, yet still making no more noise than a skulking wildcat. I was totally unprepared for the tremendous sonic BOOM! that blasted us a moment later.

Carter was the first president of my adult life, and even though he got stuck being the boss during a prolonged gas crisis inflicted on us by Arab oil producers for our support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War; the Iranian hostage crisis (and disastrous rescue mission); the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and economic problems inherited from prior administrations, I've always admired him, in part because he'd been a Navy nuclear engineer, which made him a genius in my eyes. But also because he was an environmental and social champion. 

He has also been a compassionate and down-to-earth human being (and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize) who, with his wife Rosalynn, continued to do good things for the world after he left the White House. So many people talk about Reagan in glowing terms (I was especially surprised by President Barack Obama's enthusiasm), but his defeat of Carter in 1980 was a major turning point in the American character. And look where we are now. 

The President and First Lady Aboard the Ike

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