A Look Back at Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s speech at Grand Rapids Community College

The more I thought about the Carter’s presentation, the more respect I gained for the couple. If I am able to deliver a speech at the age of 90, like former President Jimmy Carter did, I will consider myself a very lucky man.


All around the world, women do not share the same basic rights as men. Jimmy Carter came to Grand Rapids Community College on September 22, 2014 to share his experience and knowledge of women’s rights violations around the world with the people of Grand Rapids.


As I was driving to this event, I noticed a mixture of people gathering to go to this event. I saw older men dressed in suits, middle-aged women going with friends, and many younger people, most likely students from the college. When I sat down in the stadium of the Ford Fieldhouse, I could definitely tell that this event got the attention of the older people of Grand Rapids. I made a glance at the bleachers on the right side of the stadium, and noticed bleachers full of people with gray and white hair. I sat on the left side of the stadium where the GRCC student seating was, which was where the majority of the younger people I saw outside were also seated.


Jimmy Carter was introduced as a man who has helped almost eradicate guinea worm disease, helped establish and strengthen democracies around the world, and who has fought for human rights in many African countries. This definitely struck my interest as to what we were going to hear from the speaker, and I believe it did with those around me as well.


Jimmy started out by talking about Gerald R. Ford and how he was one of his personal friends to relate to the demographic and the area he was in. He then introduced his organization, the Carter Center. He said, to the Carter Center, the most valuable human rights are to live in peace, have a home, and have good health care.


Jimmy also said that the treatment of women is also a very large interest of the Carter Center. This is because while helping grow food in many countries that don’t have large farms and crops, they noticed that women were treated very badly in these countries. As they have done more research on the subject, they have found that in some countries, baby girls are strangled at birth or aborted. I personally found this an interesting topic because this was a discussion in my ethics class. Eskimos would kill baby girls if there was no food and no families around to take them. They kept the boys since they would be hunters and would likely die while hunting. This kept the population between men and women in the Eskimo communities roughly equal and low enough for them to survive on the resources that they had. Now that the Eskimos no longer have a problem with a lack of food, they no longer practice what we see as a barbaric practice and violation of women’s rights.


Another violation of women’s rights that he covered was the mutilation of their genitals that occurs in many Muslim and African countries. Jimmy said that 90% of women in Egypt have had this done to them. Jimmy also talked about women being killed because they were raped. These issues brought shock to the people sitting around me.
Jimmy then started talking about women’s rights violations that happen in the United States. Women get payed 23% less than men, one in five women are sexually assaulted in college and many of these cases are not reported, and also that women are discouraged from reporting sexual assault in the military. Jimmy also talked about sexual slavery that happens in Atlanta, Georgia. Many people around me were also gasping in shock to hear many of these things.


Despite the heavy topics that Jimmy spoke of, he was able to make a lot of jokes and lighten up the air in the room, and everyone responded with a large amount of laughter. His speech was also very defined by giving several concrete examples.


Rosalynn was next to speak, and her topic was on mental illness. She did not seem as comfortable as Jimmy while speaking. She explained how mental illness became a big topic for her while helping Jimmy campaign to become governor of Georgia. Since then, she has done a lot of work through the Carter Center to raise awareness of mental illness and dispel the myths surrounding it.


I was very interested in what Rosalynn had to say since I suffer from a mental illness. She mainly talked about the stigma that people who suffer from mental illness have to face. I can relate to this. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder around three or four years ago, but have been suffering from this for my entire life. I feel like I have been constantly battling with the stigma I place on myself, but the stigma that everyone else places on me since I act differently.


One of Rosaylnn’s points was that one in four people suffer from a mental illness. This statistic does not surprise me. From what I know about mental illness, many people suffer from one and don’t even realize it. Rosalynn’s speech was also aimed at students of GRCC to consider becoming professionals in the field of helping people with mental illness. She received a lot of praise from me and the audience for taking a stand for people with mental illness.


Overall, Rosalynn seemed very timid, and not as comfortable as Jimmy. She seemed to not be able to handle feedback and noise from the crowd as well as Jimmy did. However, she delivered her content and made her points very well. She also repeated key points many times to emphasize her points.


When answering questions, Jimmy seemed very prepared to answer all of the topics that he was asked. Rosalynn struggled with one of the questions however, since she was not prepared to be asked a question on the topic that Jimmy spoke on. Rosalynn could have done better at preparing for any question that she might be asked.


Jimmy Carter really opened my mind to so many key issues facing our country–especially the enslavement of women.   Although he may not be considered one of our strongest Presidents, the work he is currently involved with is impressive and memorable.