My dad was bemused when I said I was celebrating my wedding anniversary by going to see Jimmy Carter in conversation with Jon Snow. Yes, the ex-American president, yes he’s still alive and no, he’s not in peanut farming anymore. The buck’s in cotton. How lucky was I! I was sooo excited when I heard he was coming to town and expected my americaphile husband to be as well. But he hemmed and haughed over my anniversary date suggestion. Then a couple of nights later we watched a TV programme about Obama’s capture of Bin Laden. With surveillance they were fifty percent sure they had the right man in the Abbottabad compound but someone had to make that call. The CIA agent said Barak Obama had the fate of 300 m Americans in his hands. I looked at my husband and we knew in that moment (of the documentary) that we had to see Carter, another individual who had carried such a hefty mandate. I booked right there and then – missing the climax of the programme, though of course I knew the outcome.
So on 5 October we reminisced over our wedding day nine years ago. But mostly we looked forward to our appointment with President Carter at 7pm.
He didn’t disappoint. What an amazing evening. Jon Snow wearing his signature colour bar tie welcomed us all to what would undoubtably be a very special evening. He seemed a little nervous. He admitted to feeling more at ease in a TV studio than a huge auditorium like the Royal Festival Hall. Then Carter took the stage. Though ‘senior’ he is displayed a mind as sharp as a President’s. He spoke eloquently about his time in the White House, America today, Peace hopes for Israel and the great work of the Carter foundation especially with respect to the lot of Africans and the successes they are having in eradicating the Guinea worm, a blight of many of the poor. The audience shot questions at him that he answered without a flinch or filter. A great account of any man, but especially given his age – 87 last week.
As if the evening couldn’t get any better, Peter Gabriel came on stage wheeling in a blue globe-shaped birthday cake with one candle (truth be told – it looked like a bomb with a smoking fuse!) and singing happy birthday. We all joined in, then gave him a standing ovation. What a night. What a man. What a city.