Georgia Magazine - March 2021 - 37
osalynn Carter, the wife of former Georgia
THE CARTER CENTER
Gov. and U.S. President Jimmy Carter, is the only woman
to hold the title of first lady of both Georgia and the nation.
Since becoming the state's first lady in 1971 and the
nation's in 1977, Rosalynn Carter has leveraged her role to
accomplish much. Over the last half-century, she has brought
attention to mental health, built houses with Habitat for
Humanity, advocated for early childhood immunization and
promoted human rights, among other initiatives.
As Georgia's first lady, Carter began her 50-year focus
on mental health. In the 1970s, she served with the National
Association of Mental Health and has continued work to remove
the stigma associated with mental illness.
" That is her most significant legacy, " says Steven Hochman,
assistant to the former president and director of research at the
Carter Center in Atlanta. " She focused on reducing stigma and
discrimination against people with mental illness. The Carter
Center's program for mental health works around the world.
And in the United States, she has been very active in fighting for
... insurance to pay for mental health care the same way it pays
for any disease. That has moved ahead successfully in Congress,
and she gets a lot of credit for inspiring that. "
In 1987, she spearheaded the foundation of the Rosalynn
Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI) at her alma mater, Georgia
Southwestern State University in Americus. The institute
Above: Former first lady Rosalynn
Carter observes at a Southern
Sudanese polling station in January
2011. The Carter Center deployed
more than 100 observers across
Sudan and to overseas voting
locations to assess the referendum
process and monitor polling,
counting and tabulation.
Right: Rosalynn Carter and former
President Jimmy Carter receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom
from President Bill Clinton, left, at a ceremony in August 1999 at the
Carter Center in Atlanta.
advocates for the unpaid family caregiver by providing coaching and support. Last year, it expanded nationally to support the
more than 53 million unpaid American caregivers.
" [Carter] is a woman who has dedicated her entire life and
used every platform at her disposal to advocate for the people
who need it most and give [a] voice to those who are too often
overlooked, " says Jennifer Olsen, RCI's CEO. " Rosalynn Carter
was 12 years old when she had her first caregiving experience.
Now more than 80 years later, she is still fighting for better
services and support for caregivers. What we're advocating for at
[the] RCI, informed by Mrs. Carter's leadership and vision, is a
new, comprehensive approach to improve caregiver health and
well-being-one that recognizes caregiving as a social determinant of health. "
While her advocacy for caregivers and those with mental
illness has been at the forefront of her work, Carter has served
her state and country in myriad ways. During her husband's
presidency, she kept her own office in the East Wing of the White
House and attended Cabinet meetings, the first in her position
to do so. She served as an envoy to Latin America and led a
delegation to Thailand to help Laotian and Cambodian refugees.
After leaving the White House in 1981, the Carters
returned to Plains. The next year, they founded the Carter
Center, which works to protect human rights and to alleviate
suffering throughout the world by resolving conflicts, improving health and promoting freedom and democracy. While their
work took them around the world, the Carters stayed true to
their hometown, Hochman says.
" They have worked to make Plains a community that will
survive and thrive after they're gone, " he says, noting that
Rosalynn Carter led the renovation of the Plains Historic Inn and
serves as a deacon at Maranatha Baptist Church. " She hasn't
deserted Plains or Georgia to work on national and international
affairs. She does it all.
" There's a responsibility she learned when growing up
in Plains-to take care of her family-that she expanded and
expanded. I admire her so much. "
Both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have remained in relative
isolation for most of the last year because of COVID-19 concerns, " but they still care, and they're still
working, " Hochman says.
Linda Buchanan, president of nearby
Andrew College in Cuthbert, sums up the
thoughts of many who have met Rosalynn
Carter or admired her from afar.
" The impression she etched on me in the
precious times I've been in her presence is
that her public persona is so in sync with the
woman you talk with over a plate of barbecue in Plains, " Buchanan says. " She is smart,
authentic, astute and quietly passionate. She is
the epitome of servant leadership, and our
nation is so fortunate to have her wisdom and contributions. "
Jackie Kennedy is a freelance writer from LaGrange.
THE CARTER CENTER
Georgia Magazine - March 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - March 2021
Georgia Magazine - March 2021 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - March 2021 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - March 2021 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - March 2021 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - March 2021 - 4
Georgia Magazine - March 2021 - 5
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