Former President Jimmy Carter has seen Nashville on television a lot over the last few weeks — and he’s loved it.
With the debut of Ken Burns’ newest documentary, which highlights the uniquely American art form of country music, Carter has confirmed his feelings for Music City.
“Those of you who haven’t seen it have missed the best thing I have seen on television,” Carter said on Sunday as he addressed a packed Ryman Auditorium crowd.
The former president is in Nashville this week along with his wife, Rosalynn, to lead the Carter Work Project — a decades-long humanitarian effort focused on constructing and rehabilitating affordable housing for those in need across the country and around the world.
Former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter speak during the Habitat for Humanity Carter Work Project opening ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Courtney Pedroza / The Tennessean )
The opening ceremonies took place at the Mother Church of country music on Sunday night. And when Carter walked across the stage at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, he joined an elite group.
Only two former presidents — Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft — have graced the Ryman Auditorium stage. That was more than a century ago.
Carter became the third.
The former president has “always” been a lover of country music, he said.
He’s been on stage with Willie Nelson six times. He’s been the subject of films and articles that refer to his legacy as a “rock ‘n’ roll president.” Carter has even won three Grammys.
Former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter speak during the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville opening ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Courtney Pedroza / The Tennessean )
“I think Nashville was very well represented on the ‘Country Music’ special we had recently,” Carter said of the documentary, which features never-before-seen footage and photographs, plus interviews with more than 80 country music artists.
“All the way from the Carter family — I claim kinship with them, though I’m not sure that I am — to Garth and Trisha and beyond, Nashville has been one of the primary focal points for treating everybody the same.
“Black and white, all kinds of races, all kinds of music have been melded here in Nashville in the very wonderful spirit of America and also freedom and democracy.”
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