The Carter Center was established in 1982 to build hope and fight disease internationally by former President Jimmy Carter. Jason Carter, grandson of President Carter, oversees the work of the Center. He previously served in the Peace Corps in South Africa. Named one of the Most Influential Georgians, Carter practiced law in Georgia to fight for voter rights in the state.
Carter joined The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center virtual programming series to share with the wider community the work of the organization in bringing about hope around the world. The mission of the Carter Center was originally created to be a place for people around the world to come and make peace. As it grew, based on President Jimmy Carter’s strong belief in human rights, one of the key missions of the Center, evolved to alleviate human suffering and to bring hope. Today, the two key areas it operates in are peace and health, which is especially necessary in the current state of the world.
The Center has faith and spiritual factors that serve as driving forces, which are aspects very near and dear to President Jimmy Carter, its founder. “My grandfather wants to do as much as he can with what he has been given. He has an enormous platform as a former President of the United States, as an American, as someone as people look to make a difference in people’s lives. And he wants to use his moments on this earth to do that,” said Carter.
Carter elaborated on the role of democracy and the importance of democratizing power in different countries to bring about hope and change. He also shared a new Center project that analyzes how the media is disseminated to the community to potentially be an empowering or undermining tool. “The key, I think, for handling the media in this day and age, is educating our citizens on how we consume information.” The Center sees this as a huge issue that can inhibit growth and proper education of communities across the world.
When asked about the Carter Center’s work in the mental health space, Carter remarked that this year will be a celebration of his grandmother’s work for mental health, which is treated with the same importance as physical health. “Liberia was set with a civil war for many years, the level of mental health issues was extreme for children and others, and there was only one psychiatrist in the entire country. The Center put a program together, that we are now expanding to other countries, that trained mental health clinicians to have conversations with people to begin the process of healing these communities, both mentally and physically.”
Jason Carter and The Carter Center believe fundamentally in empowering people by giving them the tools to have success over their own lives. With a foundation of faith driving the Center’s inspirational work, it is working internationally to preserve the physical and mental wellbeing of many communities.
The Carter Center is committed to improving the quality of life of people by advancing human rights. Carter shared that promoting civil society is the backbone of the organization and what it aspires to do. He mentioned a major initiative of the Center, which is election observation and the organization’s role in conducting this work in various countries, especially in troubled democracies. “An election, to us,” he said, “is just a report card on the quality of the democracy. The question is – how much access do marginalized people have to the political process?” The mission or the Carter Center is to help the countries to which they are invited ensure the integrity of the political system is upheld for a true democratic experience for locals.
When asked about the four elements that His Highness the Aga Khan delivered at the Athens Democracy Forum in 2015 on the International Day of Democracy, Carter shared that these pillars are very similar to how the Carter Center approaches problems. He touched on the importance of using the system given to people to expand and democratize power in a country. He also shared his views on civil society – “The belief is that at the end of the day, we are all connected… If someone in a faraway city is a victim of race-based crime or police brutality, that they are denied justice, it matters to me in my life.”
Jason Carter recalled that he started his career as an intern at the Carter Center in 1995. Their internship program is a robust opportunity for students from around the world – to date, interns from over 100 countries have participated in the various aspects of the program. There are opportunities for college and post-graduate students at the Center through virtual and Atlanta-based positions. The program has received awards for its hands-on approach to engaging in issues that are crucial to the Center. Interns have previously accompanied Jason Carter to Liberia, and to other countries where the Center is working. Applications for the Carter Center internship programs are available on their website.
Carter concluded by sharing kind words about the Ismaili community – “The Ismaili community has a lot of resources and strength and power and intellect and is one that I believe everyone would benefit from hearing as much from you as we can… I am looking forward to watching the engagement of this community.”
The entire interview with Jason Carter for the “Building Hope and Fighting Disease” conversation can be found here.