From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Jimmy Carter Keynotes Peace Forum at ELCA's St. Olaf College

Date Mon, 23 Feb 2004 15:21:50 -0600


February 23, 2004

Jimmy Carter Keynotes Peace Forum at ELCA's St. Olaf College

     NORTHFIELD, Minn. (ELCA) -- The United States has "failed
miserably" in sharing its wealth with other people in the world,
and there's no sense in this country of wanting to be more
benevolent and more caring toward others, said former U.S.
President Jimmy Carter to a packed auditorium here at St. Olaf
College, one of 28 colleges and universities of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
     Carter was the featured speaker at the 16th Nobel Peace
Prize Forum, held annually at one of five ELCA colleges and
universities. The Forum engages participants to discuss and learn
how to promote world peace.  Carter, Plains, Ga., was the winner
of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.
     Since leaving the White House in 1981, Carter has been a
University Distinguished Professor at Emory University, Atlanta,
and he founded the Carter Center, a not-for-profit organization
that seeks to resolve conflict, promote democracy, protect human
rights, prevent disease, and advance health and agriculture in
the developing world.
     "The greatest challenge that the world faces today is the
growing chasm between rich people on earth and the poorest
people, and it's growing," the former president said in his
address.  "The ratio is just past 75 to 1, which means that the
average person in a rich country makes $75 more per day than the
people in poorest countries."
     More than half of the world's six billion-plus people live
on less than $2 per day; 1.2 billion people live on less than $1
per day, he said.  He asked his audience to imagine how they
could survive on $1 per day.
     "That includes shelter, food, clothing.  And as you can
quickly see there is nothing left over for an education, health
care or self-respect or for hope,"  Carter said, adding it is the
responsibility of nations such as the United States to help
others.  Such expenditures are an investment in the future and
can help insure security for the United States, he added.
     But the United States -- its politicians and its people --
have failed to meet that responsibility, giving a mere one tenth
of one percent of its Gross National Product to others.  The
average European country gives away four times as much as the
United States does, and Norway gives 17 times more to other
people, Carter said.
     Carter criticized the Bush Administration, saying it does
not put peace, conflict resolution and alleviating threats to
people's safety first.
     "We single out potential adversaries who might disagree with
U.S. government policy, and almost the first resort, it seems, is
a military response," Carter said.  "The completely unwarranted,
almost unilateral war that we started in Iraq is a typical
example of this, and it's not the only one.  We brand people
[the] 'axis of evil,' and it alienates them.  Sometimes their
leaders obviously deserve condemnation.  But it arouses within
their people -- quite often people who are suffering under a
despotic leader -- a sense of fear, intimidation, aggravation and
even hatred of the United States."
     Acknowledging his own military service, Carter defended the
concept of a strong U.S. military but said it should be used to
push people toward peace, not war.
     Carter concluded his remarks by saying the United States can
be a great country with great potential, but it must adhere to
"the broadest definition of human rights: the right of every
person on earth to live in peace; the right of everyone on earth
to be free, to have a democratic government, to have their
environment and our environment protected not destroyed; to have
rights of individuals not to be abused and to alleviate
suffering.  That's a description of the America that I love."
     Following his prepared remarks, Carter responded to audience
     + President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti is an "absolute
disaster," and he hoped the United States could use its influence
to bring about a cease fire to current violence in that country.
     + The United States must insure honest elections, share
economic benefits and maintain a leadership role of some kind
before its military force can gracefully leave Iraq.
     + The "Geneva Accords," an Israeli-Palestinian citizen
initiative, announced in November 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland,
holds the greatest promise for Middle East Peace.
     + "Vote Democratic in November," was Carter's response to a
question about how to address growing partisan politics in the
United States, which drew the loudest applause of his appearance.
Carter added that voters should reject candidates that use
campaign tactics that "tear down" their opponents personally.
     Carter was introduced to the St. Olaf audience by his vice
president, Walter Mondale, a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter attended as did Mondale's wife,
Joan.  More than 2,700 people were registered for this year's
Peace Prize Forum.
     In addition to St. Olaf, the other ELCA colleges involved in
the Nobel Peace Prize Forum are Augsburg College, Minneapolis;
Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill.; Concordia College,
Moorhead, Minn.; and Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.  The colleges
collaborate to put on the annual Forum with the Norwegian Nobel
Institute, Oslo.  Augsburg College will be site of the 2005 Nobel
Peace Prize Forum.
-- -- --
     A video news story on the 2004 Nobel Peace Forum can be
found at on
the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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