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I have to admit, I loved Jimmy Carter when he was President.
I was a young mother, raising a child on my own,
and Jimmy Carter seemed to me to be representative of
everything that was good and right with the world. I have
often heard it said that he was not a very “good” president.
Perhaps. But he has always been a “good” man. And perhaps,
his greatest accomplishments have been achieved
after he served as our 39th President.
In the February issue of The Rotarian, there is a wonderful
article where Senior Staff Writer Diane Schoberg, interviewed
President Carter and he speaks candidly about the
Carter Center, our U.S. election system, what he learned
as President, and what he wishes for us as a nation and as
a world. Here is an excerpt from that interview.
Carter has spent his life fighting for peace: brokering the
1978 peace talks between Egypt and Israel that led to the
Camp David Accords, paving the way for a nuclear pact
between the United States and North Korea in 1994, and
monitoring elections in Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela,
and other places where the ballot box became an alternative
to civil war. During his time in office, from 1977 to 1981,
the United States was not involved in any wars.
Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for
his decades of work resolving international conflicts and
advancing human rights.
For the past 37 years, Carter has been redefining what
it means to be a retired president – and the country’s longest-
lived one at that, having surpassed Herbert Hoover
(who lived 31 years after leaving the White House). During
his presidency, Carter made a commitment to human
rights the cornerstone of his foreign policy; he and his wife,
Rosalynn, continued that emphasis when they founded
the Carter Center in 1982. The center’s programs revolve
around two main themes: peace and health.
“We feel that there’s a human right of people to live in
peace,” he told The Rotarian. “We feel it’s a human right
to have a modicum of health care, to have a decent place
in which to live, to have a chance to have an education, to
have freedom of speech and freedom of religion and the
right to elect your own leaders.”
The center has observed 105 elections, including recent
contests in Liberia, Kenya, the Philippines, Zambia, and
Guyana, and it has worked with the United Nations and
other groups to develop standards for democratic elections.
When democratic avenues fail, the center mediates
armed conflicts. It is currently involved in efforts to resolve
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as conflicts in Sudan
and South Sudan, Syria, and Liberia; it’s also working to
combat the rise in violent religious extremism and Islamophobia
in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.
On other fronts, the Carter Center has formed a task
force on disease eradication. The only one of its kind in the
world, it analyzes data to ascertain which diseases could
be eradicated from the entire world. The center is focusing
on eradicating Guinea worm disease and regionally
eliminating five other diseases: river blindness, trachoma,
schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria.
“I might say if Rotary wasn’t leading that fight to eradicate
polio now, the Carter Center would – it’s the kind of thing
that would be very exciting for us,” Carter says. “We’re very
proud to see the progress that Rotary has had with that.”
Q: Being president of the United States would seem like
the pinnacle of a person’s career, but after you left office,
you went on to become one of the most respected humanitarians
of our time. What did your work as president teach
you? And was there anything that you only learned later?
A: When I was president, I learned about the interrelationships
between countries and the differences between
the people who live on the earth. I learned about problems
like the threat of nuclear destruction, and we had a first
glimpse of global warming at that time. I learned how important
peace was: I was lucky enough to have kept our
country completely at peace while in office – we never
dropped any bombs or launched any missiles or fired any
Since I’ve been out of the White House, I’ve had much
more intimate relationships with individual people than I
ever did when I was president, particularly with people in
foreign countries.
Q: When meeting regular citizens, what has made the
biggest impression on you?
A: We tend to underestimate folks who have an average
income of only one or two dollars a day, who don’t
have good educations or decent homes. We think they’re
inferior to us in some way because they haven’t provided
for their families as we have. When we deal with them on a
personal basis, we soon learn that they’re just as good as
we are, they’re just as intelligent, just as ambitious, just as
hard-working. Their family values are just as good as ours.
We also learn that their perspective on life is different from
ours, often because of the circumstances in which they’ve
been born and raised. But we learn to respect them just as
much as we respect ourselves.
Q: If you could do one thing to make the world a better
place, what would that be?
A: The only time the human race has ever attempted to
bring into reality the finest moral and ethical values of all
the great religions was right after the Second World War,
after 60 million people were killed. We organized the United
Nations to guarantee that disputes would be resolved
as they arose. That hasn’t happened. We still have multiple
wars. Three years later, in 1948, the United Nations adopted
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which
guaranteed people equal rights. Those two things have
been a dream or ideal or vision or aspiration or an inspiration,
but they haven’t been realized. I would mandate that
disputes be resolved peacefully and that the declaration
be implemented. That’s what I pray for, and that’s what I
hope will eventually happen.
Please visit
peace-must-be-fought to read the entire article and
may other
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