Well. I didn’t meet him exactly. But I was in the same room as him and former first lady Rosalynn Carter on at least four or five different occasions, the reason being that I was working at The Carter Center.
I didn’t realize that The Carter Center (located in Atlanta, Georgia) was anything more than a presidential library and museum. I always drove past it and saw the signs on Freedom Parkway and thought, oh, how nice. They built a monument to the president here. And that was it. Or so I thought. But it turns out that The Carter Center has initiatives all over the globe and is this HUGE, big deal, and I didn’t even know they were battling neglected tropical diseases in developing nations where contaminated, compromised water supplies are a bleak reality of the daily fight for survival.
Actually, I was temping at The Carter Center, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that I worked there, and I got to attend a few events with the Carters.
The first day I saw him, I was in total awe. His countenance reminded me of my father’s – old, weathered, warm, wise.
I’d been told in advance by a girl in my office that the Carters visit The Carter Center regularly, and that you can always tell when they’re there by the very conspicuous presence of secret service agents flanking them, wearing the requisite dark suits and ear pieces.
After that day, I got very excited every time I saw an elderly Anglo gentleman with silvery, white hair in the hallway or one of the large, open areas. I’d always do a double take, but upon closer inspection, it was never the president. Then suddenly, on a day when I wasn’t thinking about it – I was just walking through the café on my way to a Toastmasters meeting – I caught my first glimpse of the president. He was standing in line at the café. In The Carter Center. As in, he was standing in line in the café at the center he founded, which is named after him. And he’s 92 years old.
So, of course I did my version of announcing this rare, magnificent sighting via social media, which for me is really just sending a text message to about 10 family members.
Here’s what I wrote:
I just saw President Jimmy Carter here at The Carter Center!! OMG! WTF! He walked into TCC café, and I walked in for my 2nd Toastmasters meeting (Cheers, Dad!), which, today, was held in the café, behind a partition but still within the general space.
He was frigging STANDING IN LINE to get his lunch, behind other employees and Carter Center guests! No royal treatment for this President.
OMG! I once saw Obama drive by in his motorcade, smiling and waving at onlookers, but this (today) was surreal. The man is 92 years old and full of pep!
The Secret Service agents were around him, watching the entrance and keeping him safe. I didn’t DARE take a photo, but I saw my program director and completely geeked out. Like, my jaw literally dropped, and I felt so honored to be in President Carter’s presence.
Once I sat down in my Toastmasters meeting, President Carter again walked by the table where I was sitting, carrying his own lunch tray! He went into the next room to have lunch with a group, and a Secret Service agent sat outside the door and observed our entire Toastmasters meeting!
The best part of the story is that I went to Toastmasters in honor of Dad’s participation in the group. And now (because of Dad, indirectly), I have this day I’ll never forget – the day I saw President Carter in The Carter Center café.
And so that’s the story of how I met the president, only I didn’t really meet him. But the next week I saw him at a holiday luncheon and he walked by me and when I looked up, he was smiling at me, broadly, and beaming, like bright rays of sun.