FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER
visited Cuba in May, he spoke at the University of
Havana about his vision of a Cuba fully integrated into
a democratic hemisphere, participating in a free trade area
of the Americas, and with our citizens traveling without restraint
to visit each other.
urged the United States Congress to ease the four-decade-long
economic embargo with the island nation. But he also encouraged
Cubans to embrace the ideals of a democracy. It is based
on some simple premises, he said. All citizens are
born with the right to choose their own leaders; to define their
own destiny; to speak freely; to organize political parties,
trade unions, and non-governmental groups; and to have fair
and open trials.
along with his wife, Rosalynn, and associates from the fields
of medicine, public health, politics, science, and academia,
have worked ceaselessly to promote not only democracy, but also
peace, health, and improved living conditions around the globe
since establishing the Carter
Center, in partnership with Emory University, in Atlanta
thought it would be a little adjunct to the [presidential] library,
a small replication of Camp David, where we could act as a mediator,
Carter said at the centers twentieth anniversary luncheon
in March. Now, more than half our work is in health care
and agriculture. It has far exceeded anything Rosalynn and I
ever imagined it could be.
admits that his time in the White House lends clout when he
visits other world leaders. Ive been president of
a great country, he says. I usually dont have
a problem getting an appointment.
turn, the Carter Center, adjacent to the Carter Presidential
Library and Museum on Freedom Parkway near downtown Atlanta,
often plays host to foreign dignitaries and international conference
centers mission of waging peace, fighting disease,
and building hope is supported by grants from governments,
foundations, and individuals worldwide and is carried out by
150 full-time staff, including former ambassadors and seasoned
academics, and more than a hundred interns, on an annual budget
of $35 million.
not traveling the world, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who serve
as chair and vice chair of the centers board of trustees
respectively, divide their time between their home in Plains,
Georgia, and their residence at the Carter Center. They take
pride in seeing tangible evidence of the centers programs.
our visits in Africa, well drive past field after field
of corn, and each field has a sign that says Global 2000,
Rosalynn Carter said. Of course, those were put up for
us, but they were nice to see.
efforts focus on increasing self-sufficiency, such as the Sasakawa-Global
2000 program that worked with ministries of agriculture in twelve
nations to help four million small-scale farmers in Africa double
and triple their yields of maize, corn, wheat, and other grains.
Improved growing methods have resulted in a 500 percent increase
in wheat production in five years in the Sudan and have allowed
Ethiopia to export maize for the first time to drought-stricken
center also battles tropical diseases in Third World countries
and has almost eradicated the painful, parasitic Guinea worm.
Through an international coalition, 98 percent of all
Guinea worm cases have been eliminated, but serious challenges
remain, Carter says. Most remaining cases exist in the
Sudan, where health workers struggle to distribute water filters
and educate villagers despite an ongoing civil war.
River Blindness program, along with Merck pharmaceuticals, has
provided 35 million free treatments of preventative Mectizan
tablets to people in Africa and Latin America at risk for onchocerciasis,
a disease spread by the bite of black flies no bigger than Georgia
gnats, and trachoma, a blinding disease also spread by flies.
Efforts to combat schistosomiasis (snail fever),
in which parasites invade the bladder, and lymphatic filariasis
(elephantiasis), which causes dramatic swelling
of a victims arms, legs, and genitals, are expanding,
especially in Nigeria.
the center assists in negotiations between warring factions,
monitors elections, safeguards human rights, and protects and
encourages emerging democracies. In Haiti, Carter helped negotiate
the return of the countrys first democratically elected
president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1994. The centers
Americas Program seeks ways to deepen relationships between
North America and other countries in the Western hemisphere,
such as Cuba, and the Democracy Program strives to ensure representational
leadership and a free and fair vote for all. Workers have observed
about three dozen elections in more than twenty countries, from
the rural village of Zhujiaqiao, China, to the Cherokee Nation
in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Building hope is what people all
around the world will tell you when you ask them what an election
means, says Chuck Costello, director of the Democracy
Carter has led efforts to bring awareness to the epidemic of
depression and other mental illnesses through mental health
journalism fellowships, a task force that works to reduce stigma
and discrimination against the mentally ill, and an annual symposium
on mental health policy. The Rosalynn Carter Endowed Chair in
Mental Health was established in 1998 at Emorys Rollins
School of Public Health. Our message is that mental illnesses
are treatable, that treatment is cost-effective, and that failure
to treat needlessly and tragically wastes lives, she says.
the Centers victories, Jimmy Carter says non-governmental
organizations cant shoulder these burdens alone. Our
country gives one one-thousandth of our gross national product
to humanitarian aidthe lowest percentage of any industrialized
nation, he says. We need to do more.M.J.L.
find out more about the Carter Center, go to www.cartercenter.org.
more about the Rollins School of Public Healths recent
trip to Cuba.