President Jimmy Carter is a man that many admire – and after celebrating his 95th birthday, he says he never expected to live this long.
Saying it with a laugh, the former president spoke with People about his life and longevity. During his interview, he was taking a break from helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity in Nashville. An event to which he and his wife Rosalynn Carter are no stranger. For nearly 4 decades, the admirable couple has been leading an annual build for the philanthropic organization, raising and fixing over 4,000 homes.
This incredible, selfless partnership between the Carters and Habitat turned from a hobby into a lifelong mission. In fact, it’s what eventually formed the Carter Work Project.
“We knew that we had undertaken a very enjoyable hobby on the side,” he told People. “We stayed busy doing other things” — including Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomatic work — “but we devoted 36 years to Habitat.”
In 2019 alone, the Carter family helped build 21 houses in Nashville – helping expand a neighborhood that Habitat for Humanity started 10 years ago.
“One of the things Jesus taught was: If you have any talents, try to utilize them for the benefit of others,” said President Carter.. “That’s what Rose and I have both tried to do.”
Mr. Carter and his wife arrived in Tennessee just hours after he took a tumble in his home in Georgia which required 14 stitches and left him with a black eye. However, as his track record has shown, nothing will stop the former president from his Habitat work.
“I had a number one priority and that was to come to Nashville to build houses,” Carter told a crowd, rallying them to begin building for Habitat. Mrs. Carter, 92, standing next to him, said: “I look forward to this week all year long.”
Jimmy Carter is the oldest living president in American history and has survived his parents and siblings by decades.
In 2015, Carter was diagnosed with cancer, which is what killed his family – however, even that didn’t seem to phase him.
“I just thought I had a few weeks left, but I was surprisingly at ease,” Carter said at the time. “I’ve had a full life, I have thousands of friends … so I was surprisingly at ease, much more so than my wife was.”
It was only months before he had beat cancer, and, of course, back building houses with his supportive wife. This is why his tenacity after his latest health scare comes as almost no surprise.
“It’s hard to live until you’re 95 years old,” he told People. “I think the best explanation for that is to marry the best spouse: someone who will take care of you and engage and do things to challenge you and keep you alive and interested in life.”
Mr. Carter and his wife have been married since 1946 and share hobbies such as bird watching, skiing, and tennis.
As the couple has gotten older, they try their best to lay low and stay out of the spotlight. However, they both don’t have any plans of stopping their philanthropic public life.
“Now when we have a quiet moment, like a birthday or something, we like to stay at home, just by ourselves, and enjoy a quiet day in our own house without any visitors and with minimum phone calls and emails coming in,” he says.
As for future plans? The Carters plan on traveling to the Dominican Republic with Habitat in 2020.
“I think both mine and Rose’s minds are almost as good as they used to be, we just have limited capability on stamina and strength,” he said. “But we still try to stay busy and do a good job at what we do.”
Watch more on their latest work with Habitat in the video below. And Happy Birthday, Mr. Carter! Thank you for all that you do!
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H/T: Little Things