Everything to Gain

The Carters left Washington in January, 1981, to return to rural Georgia to a small house which they had built in 1961. President Carter writes that their first project was to put a floor in the attic for additional storage area, and he compares this event to a story about President Truman: When a journalist asked Truman what was the first thing he did when he returned home, he replied, “I took the grips up to the attic.” The Carters write that it was this readjustment to the mundane realities of civilian life that was both the most difficult and the most absorbing, as they were forced to confront personal and financial problems: Mrs. Carter developed the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and they had to sell their ailing warehouse business. They dealt with these and other problems by acting on three principles: developing good health habits, discovering self-fulfillment in a variety of areas, and helping others.

The emphasis on helping others led directly to the establishment of the Carter Presidential Center, which, as one of its many goals, sponsored a study called “Closing the Gap,” on the difference between what Americans could be doing in the preventive health field and what they are doing. The report provided sound health recommendations for all Americans, focusing on the fact that although life expectancy has increased twenty-five years since 1900, smoking, alcohol abuse, and mental illness cause premature deaths which could be prevented.

In EVERYTHING TO GAIN, the Carters exemplify what the retired population of the United States is capable of doing. Written in an accessible style, with some passages written individually and others together, this book should serve as an inspiration toward social involvement at all ages.