Last Friday Jimmy Carter came to Arizona.  About 6 months ago I got a very nice note from him, thanking me for the autographed copy of my book.  So I figured I would return the sentiment in person by getting an autographed copy of his latest book. 

The amazing Changing Hands Bookstore where I got my start as an author was the site for this event.  Every month or so someone special is there, signing their latest tome.  I had to park across the street in an almost full shopping center lot, walk past a dozen or so highly observant swat team members and cross the street under the watchful eyes of the armed sentries on the roof of the bookstore complex  in order to take my place in single file line of at least 1500 people. 

The event was to have started at 6:00pm but it was 6:15 and the line was still stationary and growing.  I contemplated giving up.  How could I possibly get to Jimmy in any reasonable amount of time?  How could he possibly actually sign well over a thousand books?  Word spread through the crowd that you wouldn’t be allowed to shake his hand and that there would be no persoanlization only a signature.  Just as I was about to walk away, I saw the folks 500 people ahead of me take a step forward.  Then another and another and within five minutes I too was moving.  I would stay.  This had become an event to experience.

As we moved rather briskly toward the front door of the book store, someone asked, “how old is he?”
My recollection was that he was in his 50s when he left office in 1980 which would make him “In his 80s?”
No, that can’t be right.  He’s way too active for an 80 something, isn’t he?

In just 30 minutes, I arrived at the face of Jimmy Carter.  One assistant to his left opened each book and set it before him.  Then Jimmy would indeed ACTUALLY sign it.  Another Assistant to his right, picked up the book and handed it to the next person in line. I paused before him, even though you weren’t supposed to and said, “Thank You Jimmy!”.  He glanced up for a second, looked right at me and smiled that Jimma Carta smile, then got back to signing books.

Jimmy Carter is 84 years old.  Years ago I read what I believe was his first post Presidential book, Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life .  I found it quite inspirational and quite pragmatic.  I look at what this man has accomplished after essentially being run out of Washington and forced to return to his modest homestead in Plains, Georgia with little more than his Presidential pension and a peanut business in shambles.  I am essentally the same age as he was when it all came tumbling down around him.

I hope that I can smile a Jimma Carta smile 30 years hence.  And that I will have given at least a few someones sufficient reason to look at me and say “Thank You B.L.”