A happy birthday greeting to President Carter at 97
Today we join many around the world for Statesman extraordinary Jimmy Carter, and shall we also say an African Chieftaincy holder, Happy birthday cheers at 97.
That his birth date coincides with Nigeria’s may indeed not be a mere coincidence. He was reached out to Nigeria and Nigeria’s causes in many ways.
He remains the oldest living President and has outlived every occupant of the Oval office. With the advantage of a long time since leaving office, his legendary legacies had grown bigger around the world.
Historians tend to be wise. They rarely rush to write narratives and judgement of history until time and events have long settled. We lend wisdom from this statutory argument. We were a small group clustered around North America about a generation ago. We were then also looking at selfless minds, both individuals and institutions are beginning to address some of the many health challenges of the African continent. Looking back in time with the benefit of hindsight and the luxury of patience, we appreciate President Carter and his Carter Center more today on his impact in many ways. Space may not permit full narratives in this congratulation message to an eminent global citizen but the good memories of his moral support will remain dear in our hearts for a long time.
Early in the summer of 1994 came a mail with an “unusual” address from “1 Copen Hill, Atlanta, Ga 30307” and striking to us then was no postage stamp. It has at the usual right side postage column preprinted on the envelope “Jimmy Carter Postage and fees paid.”
What a “conundrum”? Perhaps it was another learning experience we never knew. It is one of the executive privileges bestowed on former Presidents when they leave the venerated highest office in the land to have their names as mailing postage. 1 Copen Hill is the Carter Center and Presidential Museum and his office as ex-President. To us, it was a honor and the envelope a keepsake or memorabilia for children and grandchildren. That was the beginning of greater things to come.
The formal inauguration followed in 1995 was at the “hometown” of Mickey Mouse aka “the happiest place on earth”. Disneyland Anaheim was the debut of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, ANPA. It was another homecoming at the tenth anniversary which Mickey got the opportunity again to relax and enjoy evening Owambe music after hours following the day’s long plenary.
A short fast forward was 1997 which will remain monumental in our annals. We will remember Nancy, his chief scheduling officer who we contacted to have President Carter be our keynote speaker at the AGM in Chicago. His many busy travel schedules outside the country precluded him but we were assigned two eminent public health physicians from the Global 2000, the health programs division of the Carter Center. It was initially Bill Foege and later Don Hopkins. It was smooth operations from our conference committee as other eminent invited guests of some Nigerian senior physicians are people they know very well and worked with in the past.
Our local host committee on the ground in Chicago worked out with the programme committee. They will remain part of history: Chicago residents Deen Olowopopo (late), Sola Olopade, Funmi Olopade, Rita Oganwu, Vincent Oganwu, Kehinde Ganiyu. Latter hosted us in his home of the evenings to fine Nigerian cuisine including stockfish aka oporoko. Our Nigerian Chief Jimmy Carter would have enjoyed our egusi and pounded yam. Back to the serious matter, there was “Healthcare Issues in Africa” at a time HIV/AIDS was ravaging the continent. The meeting had the luxury and experience of superb speakers including very eminent Nigerian senior physicians who have all passed…
There are stories, anecdotes or gist as we say in simple language that space will not allow here. We join many today on this auspicious occasion to salute an extraordinarily courageous and humble human being, who has served humanity all his life and wish him more years.
As Peter (not the Apostle) the hero of Hugh Walpole once said: “It is not life that matters, it’s the courage that you bring into it”. We wish him continued good health in a land that has arguably the best Healthcare capabilities in the world. He has survived few recent falls and subdural hematoma that come with old age. Yet, he’s been back to work sooner at Habitat for Humanity projects, Baptist Sunday School teaching every Sunday at his Plains, Ga. hometown. We’re proud one of us on the Neurosurgery service have attended to him at Emory U. Hospital, our own shy and reserved gentleman Nelson Oyesiku. As he clocks 100 the Lord willing in three years, he would be among the living centennials who enjoy a special rare American privilege: congratulatory letter from an incumbent President to anyone in the land that attains age 100. A testimony to longevity and perhaps also good healthcare and long life expectancy.
We the ordinary folks appreciate his many moral support and his Global 2000 project that has impacted many lives around the world especially in developing countries. This will remain one of his many legacies. A grateful group particularly at the early years of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas that I feel honored to be part of say to our “Oga Jimmy” thank you Sir. The last time I remember he was in Nigeria was the anniversary of his Global 200 Eradication of Guinea worm and River blindness (Drancontiasis) in Abuja circa 2013 with “our own Jimmy Carter “- elder Statesman Yakubu Gowon who is also into such humanitarian causes. Anyone who was at our Chicago 1997 plenary would remember Donald Hopkins presentation on Two success stories- the eradication of Guinea Worm and River blindness Accord; not the Camp David Accord with his ever handsome face. Good memories never fade. The measure of one’s life on this earth can be seen in how many lives are touched by an individual’s action and vision. Very few men or women have touched many lives around the world as Jimmy Carter. The world is a better place today due to his vision and good works.
This piece cannot end without thanking a colleague, friend and neighbor, Iheanacho Emeruwa (and wife Meg) for all the hard work that made ANPA possible. His office suite where I shared space in my early years of practice is in a small town of Riverside, midway between L.A. and San Diego. “6180 Brockton Avenue, Riverside” will remain the historic birthplace of ANPA.
Again, Happy Birthday President Carter. 97 hearty cheers today!!! We write this piece as a grateful group to you to say Thank you and sincere Congratulations to you as “Rank xerox” of global peace, wellbeing and health; esteemed African Chief in Nigeria and Ghana, Nobel Peace prize winner; #39 at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; “Carpenter-in-Chief” for Habitat for Humanity, Quintessential Sunday school teacher to this day; extraordinary Global citizen and indeed a good man.