My Extraordinary Day at The Carter Center

In front of the Carter Center and Presidential Library

My time at the Carter Center is one of superlatives. I can’t stop talking about the extraordinary experience.

Over the course of twenty-four hours I met wonderful people, listened to excellent speakers who shared the remarkable accomplishments of the center. I’m grateful and humbled by their work.  The Carter Center continues to make significant and lasting impact on our world in the areas of health and peace.

Speakers: Frank O. Richards, Jr., Aisha Stewart and Dean G. Sienko. At the podium: The Carter Center CEO Ambassador Mary Ann Peters

For a brief time I sat with Ambassador (Retired) Mary Ann Peters, Chief Executive Officer of The Carter Center.  We bonded over the fact that she’s a graduate of Santa Clara University where my oldest son attends. Ambassador Peters is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Women in International Security. She worked for 30 years as a diplomat, holding positions in Dhaka, Canada, Moscow, and Bangladesh to name a few. I could have listened to her speak all day.

Jennie K. Lincoln, the director of The Carter Center’s Latin America and Caribbean Program

I spoke with Jennie Lincoln, one of the Thursday night presenters. Ms. Lincoln is the director of the Carter Center’s Americas Program. She shared a fascinating story of meeting with members of the Colombian guerilla organization known as FARC in a hotel room in Columbia and what that meant for the peace process. I’m astounded at her strength and bravery and grateful for her work. Current efforts include collaborating with Columbia’s presidential advisor on human rights, drafting political reforms, partnering on peace education and helping re-integrate FARC’s child soldiers into Colombian society. Wow! Did I mention the superlatives? You can read more about the center’s work here.

In the areas of health, one of the most significant contributions is the near-eradication of Guinea worm disease.  According to the Cater Center website:

In 1986, the disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, thanks to the work of The Carter Center and its partners — including the countries themselves — the incidence of Guinea worm has been reduced by more than 99.99 percent to 25 cases in 2016.

The Carter Center works to eradicate Guinea worm disease in four remaining endemic countries: South Sudan, Mali, Chad, and Ethiopia.

I wont share details of the specifics of the disease here, as it’s upsetting to many people. If you want to learn more however, you can follow this link.

And finally, the Carters. President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter spoke with us for about an hour. President Carter is exactly as you would imagine in person: soft-spoken, highly intelligent, direct but with a twinkle in his eye. At 92 he continues to run circles around everyone. First Lady Rosalynn Carter was equally bright, gracious and engaged.

Under the leadership of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a long-standing champion for the rights of people with mental illnesses, the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program works to promote awareness about mental health issues, inform public policy, achieve equity for mental health care comparable to other health care, and reduce stigma and discrimination against those with mental illnesses.

As far as I’m concerned, the Carter’s exemplify the gold standard of how we should be in the world.

I’ve never attended an event where I felt more welcomed. Marion Dixon got in touch ahead of time and invited me to join a group for lunch. Barry Nickelsberg, Chief Development Officer, sent me a note asking about plans for Friday evening. From the shuttle bus driver to the welcoming volunteers, everyone made me feel at home.

In a word: magnificent!

About the Carter Center

“A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health world-wide.”

(source: The Carter Center)

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40 thoughts on “My Extraordinary Day at The Carter Center

  1. Congratulations again for being invited to such a dynamic group. It’s really amazing that President and Mrs Carter have continued to persue their goals with such tenacity at their ages. The gardens are gorgeous and I loved what you wore that day! Your slide shows are always so well done, what a nice way to document your conference. Have you got back your photo with the Carters yet? I’m still working on getting rid of this dang cold, it’s a real clingy thang. xox K

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    • Oh no! You still have that darn cold. I’m sorry to hear. I hope you are finally at the tail-end of things. Is it still snowing?
      The Carters are amazing and what the center accomplishes is extraordinary. They are one of 8 finalists for a 100 million dollar MacArthur grant. I hope they win. Thanks for your kind words on my outfits over those two days. And yes, the gardens are stunning. I hope to go back one day. There is so much I didn’t have time to see. I hope you feel better soon.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your Carter Center experience with us! Even from 1,000 miles away I’m buoyed by proxy. 🙂 It was especially inspiring to read the stats on their success combating Guinea worm — by that measure alone, what an enormous positive difference they’ve made in millions of lives! I’m grateful you has this opportunity.

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  3. What a wonderful post Alys 😀 President Carter is a wonderful American and he embodies the true spirit of being a Christian which he proves year after year with his charity work with Habitat for Humanity. A True American hero.

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  4. Thank you for sharing more about this wonderful opportunity you had. What extraordinary people the Carters are! I agree about the guinea worm status – just that alone makes the Centre a powerful contributor to the good of the world. And you have supported the Centre for many, many years which makes you a powerful contributor to the good of the world 🙂 And how amazing that C and Ms Lincoln share the same College – something extra to bond over indeed! I hope you have another opportunity to visit in due course. The gardens look lovely!

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Pauline. The Carter’s are extraordinary people indeed. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the work they do throughout the world. It gives me hope for our planet’s future. It was amazing to learn that Ms. Peters was also a Bronco. That college spirit never dies. The gardens are beautiful and everything was lush and green from all the rain. My time there flew by. xo

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  5. It’s always wonderful when an eagerly-anticipated experience exceeds expectations, and from the sound of it, that’s exactly what happened here. How amazing to be close up to people who are actually making a difference, and from the purest motives. I’m so glad you had such a positive and life-enhancing experience.

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  6. What an amazing organisation. “Waging peace” is wonderful. As you said, with everything else that is going on in the world it is good to know that there are people who do such practical things to promote peace and health. More power to them, and to you too, for being such a staunch supporter. Interesting to note too that many of the people you feature are women. Is that chance or does the organisation actively promote the involvement of women?

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    • Anne, that’s a good question. Each of the panels (health and peace) had three speakers, two men and a woman. The CEO is a woman and so is the director of the America’s. Locally, they employ 200 people, and from what I observed, it was fairly balanced. It’s exciting to see women in these positions. We continue to be underrepresented in the world, and that has to change. The Center has several programs that specifically address women’s issues; here is a blurb from their website:

      Mobilizing Faith for Women and Girls Initiative

      Recognizing the powerful influence of religious leaders around the world, the Mobilizing Faith for Women and Girls Initiative focuses on the policies and practices of the world’s religious institutions and traditional and customary belief systems, with the objective of achieving more equitable treatment for women and girls. Many harmful practices are perpetuated because of discriminatory interpretations of religious texts and teachings. The initiative creates opportunities to advance justice-based interpretations of such texts and to develop curricula and training materials that underscore human rights and gender equality for use by religious and traditional leaders. To learn more, visit the Forum on Women, Religion, Violence & Power.

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  7. I’ve had quite an education coming to your blog. I think this has been one of the highlights. I have gone through life so unaware of so many things instead focusing on basic survival that I missed so much of what goes on behind the scenes. Thank you so much for sharing all of this experience with us. I’ve admired the Carters for many years but only knew a little about what they do in their philanthropic works. Now I have a better understand on what they are really doing. It’s people like you who will help make the changes we need in the world. I love your phrase, “the goodness of it all.” Your slide show was phenomenal!

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    • Marlene, you always say the nicest things. The work of the Carter Center flies under the radar a lot of the time, pushed out of the headlines by a lot of the dribble we’ve come to know and despise. There are so many people working quietly to get things done and to make a real impact in the world. Imagine if all of our former presidents dedicated their lives to this kind of work? I’m sorry you spent so many years focusing on survival. How lucky are those two children of yours having you there for them through thick and thin? Healthy mothering is a gift to the world. It was Jimmy Carter’s mother that had such an early impact on him, along with other great women in his life. I’m glad you enjoyed the slideshow. I had an amazing time.

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      • Mr. Carter always gave his mother lots of recognition. I liked him for that. He came into office while we were struggling to eat regularly on my husbands salary from PBS. He loved his work but the pay was not sustaining us while living in Memphis. Some things just never seem to change and now they are cutting the funding to PBS and the arts. 😦 I am just sick about what’s happening. Thanks for sharing so much good news. Hugs.

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        • Marlene, how interesting to learn that your former husband worked for PBS. My mom was a hug supporter of our local KQED and I followed in her footsteps. She would be horrified to know what 45 is trying to do. It makes me sad and angry. It’s one of the few places that reports in-depth, measured news IMO. My dad’s salary as a horticulturist was stretched thin, too, but things were more affordable in Canada at that time. My parents bought a lot at the end of a field and a “kit house”, and paid $17,ooo for the whole deal. Mom worked part time as we got older and of course had to work full time to support us after he died. I learn more and more about you with each post. I love that!

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          • Did I miss something here? “what 45 is trying to do. We learn more about each other all the time. I love that too. My first husband worked for PBS for 8 years after getting his FCC license once he left the military. Many lean years. The money didn’t make him happier when he made it. No surprise there.

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            • No, sorry if I wasn’t clear. I was just referring back to his plans to cut the arts and humanities along with National Public Radio, Planned Parenthood, national monuments, and everything else we’ve worked so hard to move forward. California is not taking any of this lying down, needless to say, but how exhausting to be fighting these battles. I had a client a few years back who lived in a multi-million dollar home, surrounded by wealth. She had no friends and was a miserable, unhappy woman. Money makes many things *easier* but it most definitely does not make you happier.

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              • You are so right about money and happiness. My daughter and I were having this conversation at lunch today. Attitude is everything. Happiness is a choice. I wouldn’t mind extra money to travel and take classes or pay people for work I can no longer do but the invisibility of that particular money doesn’t change the level of my happiness. Maybe the moron will get tired of this job and fire himself.

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  8. Pingback: How Many Bloggers Can You Fit In a Phone Booth? – Gardening Nirvana

  9. Gee, Alys–did you have fun?? HA–it’s so nice to read this and experience the excitement and enthusiasm you felt! What an amazing opportunity. I am a long-time fan of Carter’s, from the time he was president, and my admiration has only grown in the years since–talk about making a difference in the world!

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    • Ha! I’m surprised they didn’t have to peal me off the roof. Everything about it was extraordinary (I guess I already said that). Tee-hee. I’m with you: Carter sets the bar very high for using your care and influence to make a huge difference in the world. I’m interested to see with the Obama’s do as time unfolds. Let’s make a date to meet at their library when it opens…a few years down the line but we can dream and plan and hope in the meantime. I need to keep that hope afloat.

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  10. What a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing this with us. I didn’t know much about the Carters and certainly was not aware of the work of their foundation. How wonderful that they still have so much to give to the world – they clearly care very deeply.

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    • It was a wonderful experience. Thank you for reading and commenting. President Carter is a man of great character who puts his heart into action. Rosalynn Carter is the same. Together they’ve created an amazing organization that will survive and thrive beyond their years. What a legacy.

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