Jimmy Carter is a multifaceted gentleman. By day he practiced his trade of peanut farming or, alternatively, presidency. By night he gazed upon the stars, wondering who or what was gazing back, and wishing he could be pen pals with whoever roamed the cosmos far above. This fascination was rooted in an extraterrestrial sighting Jimmy experienced outside a Georgia restaurant in 1969. He described the spectacle as “the darndest thing” he had ever seen, and that man had seen some darnded things – this was not an incident he took lightly. In fact, the 39th president of the United States vowed on his campaign trail that if elected, he would share all of the country’s deepest darkest alien secrets with the public. He did get elected, probably on that claim alone, and in practice he did the country an even bigger solid: he sent the aliens a thoughtful, well worded love letter on behalf of the human race. Via Slate:
In the summer of 1977, he penned a three-paragraph letter to accompany the Voyager spacecraft. Today, that letter is traveling beyond our Solar System at speeds of eleven miles a second. It is the first letter in history to reach extrasolar space.
Carter was not the only human to send a message on Voyager—the “Golden Record” stowed onboard contained greetings in languages ranging from Sumerian to Welsh, as well as short speeches from UN delegates interwoven with whale sounds.
That’s right, whale sounds. I can only assume the logic behind the whale sounds overdub was “that sounds badass and aliens will appreciate how balls to the wall badass this is.” Carter’s letter, however, is a bit less pseudo-supernatural. In fact, it is profoundly human. Although the assumption that the aliens would have an understanding of written English shows maybe some slight hubris, the letter reads as a hopeful statement of humankind’s inevitable arc for peace, unity, and understanding.