Monday, December 24, 2012

The Tireless Efforts of Jimmy Carter



"I would hope that the nations of the world might say that we had built a lasting peace,    based not on weapons of war but on international policies which reflect our own most    precious values. These are not just my goals, and they will not be my accomplishments,       but the affirmation of our nation’s continuing moral strength and our belief in an     undiminished, ever-expanding American dream."
                        President Jimmy Carter, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1977 [1]

 A few years ago, I came across a YouTube video of President Jimmy Carter speaking to the American people in a televised address, in what has famously become known as the "Malaise" speech. On July 15, 1979, he made the address in order to grab people's attentions when it came to the energy crisis. President Carter said, "Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns, and went on to suggest that consumerism provides people with false happiness. I hadn't been born just yet during his presidency, but from just hearing those honest and straight-forward words that President Carter had made, I wish I had been around to witness first hand his presidency and his rise that led him to receiving a Nobel Peace Prize back in 2002, all because of his tireless humanitarian efforts. Ever since coming across that speech, I've become deeply interested in not only his humanitarian efforts, but the efforts of others who try to make the world a slightly better place than how they left it.

During President Carter's only term as United States President, which was from 1977 to 1981, he used human rights and the goal of nonintervention as his platform for determining the course of U.S. foreign policy during his administration. The president said his reasoning behind wanting to choose human rights was due to the fact that, "we've been through some sordid and embarrassing years… and I felt like it was time for our country to hold a beacon light . . . that would rally our citizens to a cause," and so he sought out a path that would distinguish himself from what Nixon, Ford, and even Kissinger had done.[2]


That fortitude of human rights by helping others in positive ways helped establish peace between Israel and Egypt during the Camp David Accords in 1978. Not only were his efforts effective during his presidency, he has even made great strides following his presidency too.


When looking at what exactly took place during the Camp David Accords in 1978, which was the brokerage of a peace settlement between the conflicting countries of Egypt and Israel, President Carter was able to accomplish something no one else possibly could have. The two countries at been at conflict with each other for over 30 years, which had resulted in several wars and the deaths of countless people. The president felt that peace was achievable and possible, and was thus determined to make it happen, and devoted his time in helping negotiate an agreement of peace between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. That settlement was reached over a period of 13 days in September 1978 by President Carter working well into the night with the two leaders, being the lead negotiator and truly having a key part in the bilateral negotiations. He did not allow them to give up, despite numerous heated disagreements between the two leaders. Even though there were some other pressing matters that weren't addressed nor settled, especially in regards to the issue of the Palestinians, but simply having the agreement in place, it truly made a difference, especially for President Carter at the time.

President Carter's humanitarian efforts have taken him throughout almost all the corners of the world. Following his presidency, President Carter stuck with his deep Christian convictions of helping others and established the Carter Center, which is a non-partisan organization that seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health in areas of the world. The work that Jimmy Carter has done, especially in regards to the efforts made by his non-profit organization, is truly a Christian mission and exhibits many Christian virtues, since he has done many selfless acts in order to help others, especially his continued efforts with the poor, by finding the right paths for them to rise up out of their dilemmas.  His tireless efforts in promoting human rights, eradicating diseases, and spreading democracy has made him a very important figure in today's world.

That deep conviction would be considered "a central reason for his appeal as an international mediator is his Baptist-missionary sensibility and honest broker integrity." Another major feature that President Carter has, is the ability to disarm people with his empathy, lack of pretense, and overly bighearted grant of respect towards all people that he meets.[3] Erwin C. Hargrove, a political scientist, enlightens to the possibly that President Carter transcends his church's orthodoxy, and his faith has inspired him to get himself into the world's struggles. By doing so, President Carter molded his secular political ideology with his religious optimism, considering the firm belief that all things are possibly with God, and that He will always triumph in the end.[4] Just as a true Christian should, when President Carter deals with two opposing groups in order to reach an agreement, he looks past all the atrocities that both sides have dealt upon each other. Instead and very simply, he seeks to prevent further grief in order bring stabilization between the two fractions, as well as to the region, in order to bring healing and forgiveness.


Despite his best efforts internationally and diplomatically during his time as president, Jimmy Carter's major accomplishments came after he lost his reelection campaign in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. Greater accomplishments were made via the Carter Center, which was created just a year after President Carter left the White House. The center is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that he, along with his wife, Rosalynn, founded in 1982, and is in partnership with Emory University. The Carter Center is guided by five principles:
  1. The Center emphasizes action and results. Based on careful research and analysis, it is prepared to take timely action on important and pressing issues.
  2.  The Center does not duplicate the effective efforts of others.
  3. The Center addresses difficult problems and recognizes the possibility of failure    as an acceptable risk.
  4.  The Center is nonpartisan and acts as a neutral in dispute resolution activities.
  5. The Center believes that people can improve their lives when provided with the     necessary skills, knowledge, and access to resources.

Under his leadership with the Carter Center, and with the help of a coalition of various federal, private and
international organizations, President Carter has made an effort getting rid of many diseases that mainly strike the impoverished. The Carter Center has truly made a difference by being able to reduce and nearly eradicate Guinea worm disease by 99%, in which cases have gone from 3.5 million per year in 1986 to only 1,060 in 2011, in the very poorest regions of Africa, most notably in South Sudan.[5] These statistics mean that the disease could be only the second disease to be completely eradicated. The disease is an infection caused by a parasite, which feeds off of another in order to and is commonly spread through drinking water that contains larvae, the immature forms of Guinea worm and ends up penetrating the digestive tract and infects people, up to a year later. Generally, the majority of the worms come out of the legs and feet, and occasionally ends up leaving those infected with permanent damage to the joints infected and the joints even becoming locked.[6]
 

What former President Jimmy Carter and his organization has simply done to reduce the disease from spreading, has been distributing cloth water filters to villagers and educating them about how not to spread the infection. The Carter Center has also used the larvicide Abate in some cases, which is able to control the fleas found in the drinking water. The World Health Organization reports that there were only 521 cases of guinea worm disease as of September 2012, as compared to 1,006 cases during the previous year.  Also, it has been found in only four countries, as compared to being found in 20 countries as far back as 1990.[7]

It's interesting to note that the former president argues that when we think of human rights, it's more political and mainly geared towards peoples' civil rights. But, how we must think of it, is the human right to live and not suffer, and be free of disease that can most easily be taken care of. Not only is President Carter's non-profit organization helping eradicate guinea worm, he has also made it his mission to take on river blindness, elephantiasis, trachoma and schistosomiasis as well. This project is not the only one. President Carter has also vigorously taken part in various elections throughout the world, monitoring nearly 100 elections in 37 countries since he first started his organization. While in office, Carter was a unyielding supporter of democracy throughout the Latin American region, and was able to stand up to the various  military tyrants that populated the region.
That mission continues and he has made sure that he's there to help evaluate the electoral proceedings and report any findings once the votes have been tabulated. Most importantly, President Carter has been able to successfully mediate various crises that have taken place in Haiti and North Korea, as well as throughout the Middle East region that could have turned into much bigger and deadlier conflicts. [8] Along with the Carter Center, the president has also helped pass on more effective farming techniques that have aided more than eight million farmers in 15 African nations. Those techniques has doubled or tripled the grain production there. Other various actions that the Carter Center has taken initiative in, include:
  • Helping to establish a village-based health care delivery system in thousands of communities in Africa that now have trained health care personnel and volunteers to distribute drugs and provide health education.
  • Strengthening international standards for human rights and the voices of individuals defending those rights in their communities worldwide.
  • Pioneering new public health approaches to preventing or controlling devastating neglected diseases in Africa and Latin America.
  • Advancing efforts to improve mental health care and diminish the stigma against people with mental illnesses.[9]


Looking at President Carter's Christian virtues, one cannot argue that it would be humility and the determination of helping others. Even though President Carter didn't officially promote his Christian beliefs while in the White House, his actions proved otherwise. President Carter has stated:

            "We worship the Prince of Peace, and one of the key elements of my life as President in    challenging times was to keep our country peaceful. I was able to deal with challenges           without launching a missile or dropping a bomb. My commitment to peace was an aspect         of my Christian faith. Also, basic human rights are obviously compatible with the    teachings of Jesus Christ, and I made human rights a foundation of foreign policy."[10]


Because of President Carter's strong Christian fortitude, he has tirelessly been working around the world to make it a slightly more peaceful place than how he found it, even long after serving in public office. Through his selfless actions, President Carter has made people realize that there are still injustices taking place in the poorest of regions still and doing the most simplest of things, such as placing a cloth over drinking water or setting up mosquito nets for those that need it, can treat those injustices. He has made sure that people not only deserve the freedom of living a just life, but also, a life filled with the freedom of democracy. President Jimmy Carter's actions truly deserve special credit, considering he has lived a truly moral and selfless Christian life. Most importantly, he reminds us that there are better alternatives to conflict, stating once that "we’ve fought fire with fire, never thinking that fire is better quenched with water."[11]


* 1.) Carter, Jimmy. Inaugural Address of President Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter Library & Museum. http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/documents/speeches/inaugadd.phtml. Jan. 20, 1977.
 
* 2.) http://www.presidentprofiles.com/Kennedy-Bush/Jimmy-Carter-Human-rights.html

* 3 & 4.) 
Brinkley, Douglas. Jimmy Carter's Modest Quest for Global Peace. Foreign Affairs. Issue 6. Nov/Dec 1995.

* 5.)
Nelson, Roxanne. The Last Worm. Scientific American. July 2012, Vol. 306, Issue 7.
* 6.) Center for Disease Control. Parasites - Dracunculiasis (also known as Guinea Worm Disease). http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/guineaworm/gen_info/faqs.html.

* 7.) World Health Organization. Dracunculiasis. http://www.who.int/dracunculiasis/en/. November 5, 2012

* 8 & 9.)
The Carter Center. Major Accomplishments: Overview. http://www.cartercenter.org/about/accomplishments/index.html. 2012.

* 10.)
Pulliam Bailey, Sarah. Q&A: Jimmy Carter on his Faith-Filled Presidency. Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/januaryweb-only/interview-jimmy-carter.html. January 9, 2012.


*11.)
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=727
 
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