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