Former President Jimmy Carter turned 99 on Sunday, but because of the threat of a federal government shutdown, his fans began celebrating his birthday a day early.
The official birthday bash for the longest-living U.S. president in history had been rescheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday instead of Sunday, which is when the federal funding that helps keep the lights burning at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta was in danger of running out, museum officials said. Congress voted Saturday evening to pass a stopgap measure to avert a shutdown just hours before the deadline.
“We want to make sure we are celebrating regardless of what Congress does,” Tony Clark, the museum’s public affairs director, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ahead of the 39th president’s birthday.
So on the day Carter turned 99, the only event scheduled on the museum’s site is a naturalization ceremony and an invitation to “come celebrate 99 new American citizens!”
President Joe Biden sent birthday wishes to Carter in a video posted to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “President Jimmy Carter, you remain the spirit and the heart of the American people,” he wrote in the post.
Festivities also took place Saturday in Carter’s hometown, Plains, Georgia, home to Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, which includes the former president’s boyhood farm and school.
“Jimmy Carter’s dedication to public service, unwavering commitment to human rights, and tireless efforts to make the world a better place continue to inspire us all,” the park said in a birthday message posted to Facebook on Sunday.
It remained to be seen where Carter himself would be blowing out the candles.
Last Saturday, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, 96, were spotted in Plains riding in a black SUV at the Plains Peanut Festival.
That was a rare public sighting of the former president, who entered hospice care at his home seven months ago following a series of health crises, including a bout with melanoma that spread to his brain and liver.
Carter said he was going to stop further medical intervention and spend his final days at home with his wife, who was diagnosed in May with dementia.
His grandson Jason Carter, who heads the Carter Center’s Board of Trustees, said in September that the couple were “coming to the end.”
“He’s been in hospice now for several months, but they are happy,” he told USA Today. “They are together. They are at home. They’re in love, and I don’t think anyone gets more than that. I mean, it’s a perfect situation for this time in their lives.”
Carter served one term in the White House, from 1977 to 1981, during which he presided over the Camp David Accords that ended years of conflict between Israel and Egypt, made human rights integral to U.S. foreign policy and took a hard line against the Soviet Union.
After losing his bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan, Carter established the Carter Center to promote and expand human rights, an effort that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. He also helped turn Habitat for Humanity into a worldwide force for good.