When Andrew Young was sworn in as Jimmy Carter's U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1977, he remembers the president handing him a note with his first assignment.
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It was to go to Africa and ask that continent's leaders how America could help them.
“We were asking the world, 'What is it that you expect of us?'” Young said.
Teaching from the 16th chapter of Proverbs, Young joined Carter on Sunday to co-teach the former president’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.
“Andy is the first one I let use my chair,” Carter quipped about the use of his white leather motorized chair in which he sits when he teaches Sunday school at his hometown church.
As has been the custom, when Carter teaches, the tiny church 160 miles south of Atlanta was packed with visitors from all over the world. The addition of Young, a civil rights icon and former mayor of Atlanta, was an added treat.
“I will never forget this moment in my entire life,” said Maranatha pastor Tony Lowden, who had dinner with the two Saturday night. “The hour and a half I spent with these two great men was phenomenal and absolutely incredible.”
With two of Georgia’s most outspoken Democrats sharing the stage, their lesson was atypically apolitical. They touched on political themes as they related to Proverbs, but neither mentioned President Donald Trump or anything specific going on, such as the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Instead, Young taught about how America could become a better nation, based on lessons that Carter promoted during his four years in the White House and nearly 40 years outside of it as a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
“Most of the experiences that I have had with President Carter, between the two of us, have always been spiritual,” Young said. “That meant it wasn’t political. He never asked what the public opinion of something was. He only asked if it was morally right for the country and the world that we live. Does it lead to peace and understanding?”
Re-assuming his chair and returning to the theme of Proverbs, Carter called on the class to adopt a "spiritual attitude" to apply Jesus' teachings to their lives.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if our country was the champion of all countries in promoting peace?” Carter said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if other countries said, 'Why don’t we go to Washington, because they know how to keep the peace?'”
Carter paused as the class laughed at that suggestion.
“For four years,” Young shouted, “we did.”