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Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday party clashes with looming government shutdown

A looming government shutdown is moving Jimmy Carter’s birthday party to Saturday because a shutdown would close the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum.

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Former President Jimmy Carter sits on the Atlanta Falcons bench before an NFL football game between the Falcons and the San Diego Chargers in 2016.

Former President Jimmy Carter sits on the Atlanta Falcons bench before an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 23, 2016, in Atlanta. Carter will turn 99 on Sunday.

John Bazemore, Associated Press

Former President Jimmy Carter, who has been on hospice care since February, turns 99 on Sunday. His birthday party had to be moved up a day — but not because he’s taken a turn for the worse.

Rather, the former president’s birthday party will be held in his presidential library on Saturday, because the looming government shutdown would mean that the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum would close at midnight on Saturday.

The museum features a full-scale replica of the Oval Office as it appeared during Carter’s 1977-81 presidential term, a walk-through exhibit on the crucial Camp David meetings and a “Day in the Life of the President” presentation on 13-foot screens.

The party on Saturday will feature birthday cake, games, crafts, food trucks and special buttons that read “JC 99.” The museum announced on X that it will also feature a screening of “All the President’s Men” at 1 p.m., the movie that chronicled the Watergate scandal and the series of events that set the stage for Carter’s election to the presidency.

Jimmy Carter’s final chapter

Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, wrote last week that Carter has defied expectations and seven months after entering hospice care, he’s still hanging on.

Maybe it’s the peanut butter ice cream he still enjoys. Or the fact that his first-place Atlanta Braves are cruising toward the playoffs and he wants to see another World Series. Or as many of his loved ones and former advisers suggest, maybe he is just too stubborn to follow anyone else’s timetable.

Jason Carter, the president’s grandson, said in an interview with People magazine that when they checked the former president out of the hospital, they thought he had days left to live. Instead, Carter has been able to experience “a living eulogy, soaking up tributes from around the globe.”

Paige Alexander, the chief executive of the Carter Center, the Carter’s human rights nonprofit organization, says that Carter has gotten “so much joy in seeing his presidency and post-presidency revisited.” “In many ways, that keeps him going,” she said, “along with peanut butter ice cream.”

The Carter Center is creating a large digital mosaic for the the family. The center asked people around the world to send in messages to the president on the Carter Center website or on social media by using the hashtag #JimmyCarter99. The center also created a short video tribute, highlighting many of his accomplishments and thanking him for a life of service.

Former President Bill Clinton is one of many sharing birthday wishes. “Jimmy,” he said, “you only get to be 99 once. It’s been a long, good ride. We thank you for your service, your friendship and for the enduring embodiment of the American dream. Bless you, friend.”

Final wishes

When Carter held a press conference in 2015 to share his cancer diagnosis, a reporter asked him what he wanted out of what seemed then to be the last chapter in his life.

“I’d like for the last Guinea worm to die before I do,” said Carter, with a grin.

The Guinea worm is a parasite that enters the human body through contaminated water. It stays in a person’s stomach and grows for about a year, reaching about three feet in length. Then, the female Guinea worm burrows its way to the outside, causing an intense burning sensation. The infected person often tries to find relief by soaking their affected limb or limbs in the closest water source, where the female Guinea worm releases its larvae into the water and begins the cycle again.

Eradicating that worm seemed impossible. When the Carter Center began its campaign to eliminate the Guinea worm worldwide, there were 3.5 million cases annually, in at least 21 countries in Africa and Asia. As of Sept. 6, the Carter Center reports 2 cases worldwide.

Alexander told The New York Times that what kept the former president going for so long was not the daily news, or the ins and out of politics. “He wasn’t asking about politics or the economy,” Alexander recalled. “He just wanted to know what the Guinea worm count was.”

The president will spend his birthday at home with his family and close friends. And plenty of peanut butter ice cream.

Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy