Mr. Jimmy and Me

Earlier this month I attended a dinner party with President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.

Prof. Steve Steve and Pres. Jimmy Carter
Pres. Jimmy Carter meets Prof. Steve Steve

We had chicken and dumplings—the Carters’ favorite—Cornish hens, field peas, sweet potato pies, and banana pudding. There was also slaw, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and cantaloupes. In addition, white wine was served with dinner. Regrettably, the chef was not informed of my dietary requirements, and I was unable to have my usual dinner of bamboo and Australian beer.

During dinner, President Carter and I discovered that we had a lot in common. We are both widely traveled and our opinions are sought on some of the most pressing issues of the day. He was the 39th president of the United States, and I’ve met the 39th president of the United States. He was a nuclear engineer in the US Navy; I was an unclear imagineer at Old Navy. He wears a bolo tie, and I wear a bow tie.

Pres. Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” And I have been nominated five times (only twice by myself) for a Nobel Prize for my research in Creatoinformatics at the University of Ediacara.

Of course, whenever I’m in the room the topic of evolution always comes up (or where to find good beer—A: Athens, GA). Pres. Carter referred us to some current statements of his on evolution and science education. He is a deeply religious man with a background in physics and nuclear engineering, and sees no conflict between his faith and the products of science:

I don’t have a doubt about my faith in God as the ultimate creator of the universe—and so I’ve never had the problem that some have had. I find no incompatibility between the existence of a supreme creator and discoveries that human beings have made through our own intelligence, that God’s given us. I think that God, the creator, has given human beings an ability, maybe even a responsibility or obligation, to learn all that we can about our own existence. source

Fittingly, on the morning after the dinner party, I attended church with Pres. Carter, who teaches Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA. (All are welcome.) That day the lesson was about the Christ’s Plan of Salvation. I’ll quote the lesson outline from the bulletin:

All of us are sinners (Romans 3:23) and must be punished (Rom. 6:23). God came to earth as a man to take our punishment, dying on the cross (Rom. 5:8) but rising from the grave to show the total defeat of evil (Luke 24:34). We can be saved only by faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). We receive this miracle through God’s love (John 3:16) as we make our choice to follow Him.

It was an amazing trip and a once in a lifetime opportunity, but sadly I had to move on and could not stick around Plains, GA for long.