(Bloomberg) -- Former first lady Rosalynn Carter was memorialized as a humanitarian and political force at a unique gathering of all living US first ladies and three presidents, including her husband Jimmy Carter and Joe Biden.
The Tuesday service at Atlanta’s Glenn Memorial Church was part of a three-day tribute celebrating Carter, who passed away Nov. 19 at age 96 after battling dementia. Former President Bill Clinton joined Biden and Carter in the front row.
The Carters’ son, Chip, remembered Rosalynn as “the glue that held our family together” through decades in politics and philanthropy, providing key counsel to her husband in the White House.
“She would often try and often fail to get dad to do what was right politically. When she couldn’t change dad’s mind, she would repeat to herself, ‘a leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they need to go,’” Chip Carter said.
The service marked a rare public appearance for Jimmy Carter, who is in hospice care at the couple’s home. At 99, he is the longest-living president in US history. He was seated in a wheelchair at the front of the church.
Rosalynn Carter was a trailblazer in her own right, helping propel her husband from rural Georgia to the White House and then becoming an active member of his administration, sitting in on Cabinet meetings and advocating for women’s rights and mental health.
After leaving the White House, the Carters earned plaudits for their humanitarian work through their nonprofit center on issues including housing, care-giving and early childhood immunization.
All five living first ladies, from Hillary Clinton to Jill Biden, took in the service from the front row. Melania Trump and Michelle Obama were seated next to each other.
Country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood performed a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Biden has shared a long friendship with Carter that dates back to the outset of their national political careers. In 1976, then-Senator Biden was the first elected official outside Georgia to endorse Carter’s presidential campaign.
They kept a close bond over decades. Three months after entering the White House, the Bidens visited the Carters at their home in Plains, Georgia.
Critics have drawn parallels between Biden’s presidency and Carter’s. Both men struggled to turn around a sour national mood, fueled by inflation and overseas conflicts. The Israel-Hamas war has strengthened those comparisons; a hostage crisis in the Middle East helped tank Carter’s chances of reelection.
Biden is hoping to avoid the same fate as his friend. He’s seeking to ease public worries about his age and the economy by highlighting the dangers posed by a second term in the White House for Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner.
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