Jimmy Carter’s phenomenal climb reached its climax last month when the devout Baptist layman from the peanut farmlands of southwest Georgia was sworn into office as America’s thirty-ninth president.

Carter, whose outspokenness about his spiritual rebirth led the way in making the nation’s Bicentennial year also the year of the evangelical, said his inaugural marked “a new beginning, a new dedication within our government, and a new spirit upon us all.”

He reached the top rung of his ladder out of obscurity by taking the oath of allegiance on a Bible given to him by his mother several years ago. It was opened to the sixth chapter of Micah, a well-known portion of which Carter used as the basis for his inaugural address: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Carter read the passage in the King James Version. He said that he also had before him the bulky Bible used by George Washington in the inauguration of the first President in 1789.

The new President did not otherwise invoke the name of God in his address, but his remarks nonetheless reflected a strong moral tone. He sought to communicate a sense of personal humility when he said, “Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.”

Carter urged people to learn, laugh, work, and pray together. “In a spirit of common good,” he said, “we must simply do our best.”

He is only the third Baptist to reach the nation’s highest office despite the fact that Baptists outnumber all other American Protestant denominations. Presidents Warren Harding and Harry Truman also were Baptists.

Reflecting an often stated belief in leadership ...

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