Having lived through the late 70’s and 80’s and, in very modest ways, participating in those historical times, I saw some of the ups and downs of the Carter Administration up close when I was on the Executive Board of the National Governors Association and when I spent time in D.C. Reading Alter’s book, it was fun to be reminded that, on reflection, there is much more good than bad about President Carter and his record. In fact, today, after first placing Carter in the bottom 1/3rd of Presidents, historians now have him in the top third.
Part of the book covers the Camp David Accords, the 13-day effort in 1978 to bring peace between Israel and Egypt after four major wars starting in 1948, a peace that remains today. During this experience, President Carter’s patience was frequently tested in keeping Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s President Anwar el-Sadat at Camp David and from just leaving and giving up, which was frequently close to happening. After about seven days, Carter decided they needed a break. He chose to take them to Gettysburg and the famous battle ground from the Civil War.
As they were walking around the memorial, Begin, a few feet away from Carter and Sadat, started reciting “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal." He went on to flawlessly complete the entire Gettysburg Address.
My first reaction, after some shock, was how President Lincoln’s words would fit right into the many challenges we face as a country today. Polar opposite positions on everything from dealing with the pandemic, to the economy, infrastructure, immigration, and election reforms, puts Lincoln’s message “a house divided cannot stand” to the test.
My next thought after reading that reflection was how I knew someone who worked for me who could also recite the Gettysburg Address flawlessly. Henry Hollie at Cedar Crest, the Governor’s residence, could at any appropriate opportunity likewise perfectly recite the Gettysburg Address. Henry Hollie was my everything at Cedar Crest. From greeting and taking care of guests, to making sure events came off smoothly, to helping improve my pool game, to making sure I left Cedar Crest to go to work in a freshly pressed suit. My success as Governor can be attributed to incredible staff, a powerful talented cabinet, and maybe most importantly to the thousands of talented civil servants who in the end delivered the goods. Henry Hollie was a valuable part of that team.