January 13, 2003

Staff turn out for Nobel ceremony

By Eric Rangus erangus@emory.edu

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the centerpiece of the Carter Center’s buffet, early in the morning on Dec. 10, was a large bin of piping-hot grits. What could be more Georgian?

At 7 a.m., it was a bit early for peanuts, so there probably wasn’t a better dish to celebrate the awarding of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize to the center’s namesake, and perhaps Georgia’s favorite son, Jimmy Carter.

Around 200 people augmented by a bunch of television cameras packed the Carter Center’s Ivan Allen Pavilion to watch a live closed-circuit broadcast of the Nobel ceremony from Oslo, Norway.

While the event’s high attendance was impressive regardless, the fact that the Carter Center employs just 140 people makes it even more so. Carter Center staff came to watch from as far away as the CDC offices in Chamblee, where a handful are based. Attendees also included a variety of friends, family members, a few babies in strollers and even some past members of the Carter administration, such as former chief of staff Hamilton Jordan.

The ceremony may have been an ocean away, but the feeling in the Carter Center was still quite immediate. Whenever Carter appeared on screen, the audience broke into applause, the loudest ovation coming when he finished his 20-minute Nobel laureate lecture (for an excerpt from Carter’s address, go here).

While the former president and current University Distinguished Professor touched on many subjects during his lecture—including a discussion of the Carter Center’s work—the focus, understandably, was on peace in a time of great global turmoil.

“It is clear that global challenges must be met with an emphasis on peace, in harmony with others, with strong alliances and international consensus,” Carter said.

Prior to Carter’s taking the podium, Gunnar Berge, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, addressed the ceremony—and, by extension, those gathered in the Carter Center. Although Berge’s speech was in Norwegian without subtitles, the audience sat silently listening. References to “the Carter Center” and “Georgia,” were easily identifiable, however. One attendee said, while she couldn’t understand Berge’s exact words, the emotions needed no translation. The full, translated texts of both Berge’s and Carter’s speeches are posted on the Carter Center website (www.cartercenter.org).

In addition to the lectures, the audience was treated to a variety of musical performances from Oslo, one of whom was opera singer and Augusta-native Jessye Norman.

Following the hourlong ceremony, just prior to the roll of the end credits, the final shot of Carter was of him walking down the aisle, leaving the ceremony hall. Again, the Carter Center broke out in spontaneous applause.

Carter smiled, waved and shook hands with well-wishers in Oslo. Somehow he probably heard his friends cheering in Atlanta, too.






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