CSU students visit former President Jimmy Carter and his wife for Presidents Day

The auditorium of his alma mater was packed with students, teachers, journalists, and members of the Secret Service


Photo by Cole Trahan

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former President Jimmy Carter

On Monday, Feb. 18, beginning around 11 a.m., former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter answered visiting students’ questions and shared their thoughts on various issues. The event was hosted in the auditorium of the Carters’ alma mater, Plains High School, located in the small town of Plains, Georgia. Over 200 students of varying grade levels filled the room, including more than 30 CSU students and professors. The Dean’s Office of CSU’s College of Letters and Sciences funded CSU’s fourth annual trip to the yearly event. The bulk of CSU’s attendees were history and political science students whom the trip was mainly intended for.

Discussions included topics such as the quality of the American education system, foreign policy, the issue of children attending schools without vaccines, leadership traits, and problems with the American voting system. Mr. Carter stated that the greatest problems in our election system are the unnecessary obstacles that prevent people from voting, especially if they’re black, old, or poor. He stated that he would like for the U.S. to have universal, automatic voter registration that starts at age 18.

CSU student Kyndall Cason stated, “While serving as Governor of Georgia, you appointed more women and minorities to your own staff, to major state policy boards and agencies, and to the judiciary than all of your predecessors combined.” Cason noted that Mr. Carter had continued this practice in his role as a U.S. president. She asked him, “In 2018, women and minority candidates broke records for winning seats in U.S. House and U.S. Senate. What are your thoughts on this?”

Mr. Carter responded that the presence of women and minorities in government was very important and that he was proud to have been able to appoint as many as he could. He stated that he hired more women for judiciary and senior positions than all of his predecessors combined. He then paraphrased Galatians 3:28, expressing that there was “no difference in God’s eyes between Jew and gentile, slave and master, man and woman.”

When asked what makes a good leader, Mr. Carter answered that leaders should be honest with themselves and others and that they should stick to their principles. “I think having a reputation of telling the truth, while that’s good, you also need to be able to tell the truth to yourself,” he said.

Mr. Carter said that some of his proudest accomplishments were making peace between Egypt and Israel, giving back the Panama Canal to the Panamanian people, and increasing the focus of foreign policy on human rights.

Mrs. Carter talked about her work with the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, which was established in her honor in 1987 at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia. She said that the RCI, which supports professional and nonprofessional caregivers, originally focused on Alzheimer’s, but it has since expanded to meet a wider range of needs. Its main focuses are now chronic illnesses, disabilities, and problems related to aging. The program now also has a telephone program. Mrs. Carter highlighted the stigma surrounding mental illness, stating that it’s “still so bad.”

After the question and answer session, attendees with books were allowed to go on stage and have them autographed by the Carters, during and after which CSU students ate lunch and explored the area.