VMI remembers Jimmy Carter’s visit to Post

LEXINGTON, Va. – VMI Associate Chaplain John Casper remembers the day former President Jimmy Carter came to Post and being a part of providing the proper reception for a president.

“Yeah, so as you as you can see here, you know, there’s President Carter coming in, and there are the cadets on this side and then there are cadets over on this side as well. And this is me right here,” Casper said, smiling and pointing to a photo from that day.

It was 2001 when former President Jimmy Carter came to VMI – a place where he made lasting memories.

“Humility, compassion, service, forgiveness, love, and those characteristics are available to any person,” Carter advised the assembled cadets, faculty, and staff from the podium.

“I mean, as soon as he walked into the archway, you can kind of just feel the air get very thick, you know, and there is this sense of this is the President of the United States is walking into barracks right now,” Casper said.

Keith Gibson, executive director of the VMI Museum System had three touches with Carter in his life. Once was when he was visiting Carter’s home in Plains, Georgia, where he happened into the small crowd at a pick-up softball game with Carter on the mound pitching.

“And he turns back around, and he sees me standing there as the only target of his interest and he begins to walk towards me and he extends his hand and introduces himself as Jimmy Carter,” recalled Gibson.

Gibson also served in the Honor Guard the day Carter was inaugurated.

“And then you see the guest of honor the president as you pass by, and just a fleeting moment it all happens,” Gibson said.

And Gibson was also there when Carter spoke at VMI in 2001 as the first recipient of the Jonathan Myrick Daniels Award.

Daniels, a VMI valedictorian and seminary student literally stepped in front of a bullet meant for a woman named Ruby Sales, a demonstrator in Alabama.

“His delivery was thoughtful, slow, and meaningful and a way that a wise elder would bring their experience their advice to a younger audience. I thought it was just right for the Corps of Cadets,” he said.

“But in hindsight, just realizing, wow, you know, I was feet away and got to meet a former president in the United States and not everybody can say that,” Casper said.

Not only do these former cadets remember the experience, but the message, which was so in sync with what one might expect from a president who will be remembered most as a humanitarian.

Carter closed his speech that day, not with his own words, but those of the man for whom the award was named.

“I wish you new worlds and division to see them. I wish you the decency and nobility of which you’re capable. Those words were spoken by the valedictorian of VMI In 1961, his name was Jonathan Daniels,” Carter said.

About the Author:

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.