Carters come to campus

Former US president Jimmy Carter awarded honorary degree

Jimmy Carter told graduates to reach out to those in need if they’re able to.
Jimmy Carter told graduates to reach out to those in need if they’re able to.

For former US President Jimmy Carter, receiving an honorary degree from Queen’s was an opportunity to spread a message of peace.

Carter and his wife Rosalynn paid a visit to Queen’s as part of fall convocation on Wednesday to receive their honorary degrees, their first received outside of the US. 

They spoke to graduates about the importance of pursuing peace and human rights in other countries.

The Carters were selected by Principal Daniel Woolf for their “humanitarian efforts and their shared commitment to advancing democracy and human rights, building a peaceful society, improving health and education and helping people both at home and abroad, including their work with Habitat for Humanity,” according to a statement on the Queen’s News Centre website.

Drawing on his own experiences, Carter, now 88-years-old, told graduates to help those in need.

“Our [status] puts an obligation on all of us ... to reach out if you’re rich, and well educated and safe to those that are not,” he said. 

In 1982, both Carters created the Carter Center, a non-government organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering, most notably by reducing rates of worm disease in Guinea from 3.5 million in 1986 to 521 in Oct. 2012. 

Since the early 1980s’ the Carters have also been actively involved with Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization which helps to provide shelter for those in need. 

Carter was the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his humanitarian work. Since 1982, Carter has taught at Emory University.

In his speech, Carter touched on the current crisis in the Middle East, saying that principles of peace and human rights should be extended to preserving peace in Israel.

“There will be an increased chance of conflicts unless we find permanent peace.”

His wife added that she recommends students take time off after graduating to pursue humanitarian work.

“I encourage you to take the time to do something for the benefit of others, like join Habitat of Humanity, before you get too tied down,” she said.

“It will vastly change your perspective and that I can promise you.”

Queen’s politics professor Jonathan Rose co-nominated Jimmy Carter for his honorary degree. He said Carter’s commitment to leadership made him a worthy candidate. 

“The Carter Centre is a superb resource for those of us interested in elections and transparency around the world,” he said. “I think the fact that this is his first honorary doctorate outside the US says something about the esteem he holds Queen’s in.”

Trevor King, MSc ’12, said he liked that Carter’s speech wasn’t too political.

“I’m not overly versed on much of the political controversy that occurred during his presidency,” he said. “The message of his speech was positive and aimed to inspire us to reach out to the less fortunate. I thought that he was an excellent speaker for a man of his age.”


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