Jimmy Carter has secured a legacy as probably the greatest former president in modern American history. The former chief executive -- whose one term is generally viewed as an almost unmitigated disaster -- has spent his many post-presidential years promoting human rights and building houses for the underprivileged while living modestly in his Plains, Georgia, home. As Carter enters hospice there at age 98, his example of selfless public service should stand as a rebuke to many of today’s self-interested Democratic and Republican politicians, and an inspiration to a nation that lately has too few of them.

When Carter emerged on the national scene in 1976, he seemed an antidote to Watergate-era corruption: an unassuming Georgia governor whose genuine religiosity manifested itself in an embrace of civil rights and honest government. In those times of disillusionment with Washington’s political insiders, his virtual anonymity outside his home state was, to many, a selling point.

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