News and analysis
August 21, 2015

Carter Center 'Well Prepared' to Carry On, Former President Says

Louise Gubb for the Carter Center

Jimmy Carter has been diagnosed with melanoma, which has spread to his brain. But he is undergoing treatment and is still involved with the Carter Center, which he and his wife, Rosalynn, founded in 1982 to pursue peace and fight disease.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said that he will cut back on his obligations at the Carter Center because of his cancer treatment but expressed confidence in the organization’s future.

"The Carter Center is well prepared to continue on without any handicap if Rosalynn and I do back away from a lot of activities that we have been doing," he said during a news conference Thursday.

The Carter Center has an endowment of about $600 million, the 90-year-old former president said.

Mr. Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his humanitarian work, created the organization with his wife, Rosalynn Carter, in 1982 to alleviate human suffering and support human rights. Mary Ann Peters, the center’s chief executive, said the center takes its guiding principles from Mr. Carter’s personal philosophies, which include tackling new challenges, not duplicating the efforts of other organizations, and accepting the risk of failure.

Continued Involvement

Mr. Carter is a member of the Carter Center board. According to Ms. Peters, he has not recently been involved in day-to-day operations at the center but visits for a few days each month for meetings with staff and visitors. He also writes letters to donors and world leaders on behalf of the center, reads program reports, and makes decisions on topics in which he has a particular interest.

Mr. Carter said during the news conference that he will continue to make key calls to prospective donors.

Jason Carter, the former president’s grandson and former Georgia state senator, will take over as chairman starting in November. Ms. Peters said he has served on the center’s board for five years and led the board’s recent strategic-planning process.

"If he wants me to give him advice, I will be delighted to do it," Jimmy Carter said during the news conference.

Living Legacy

Among Mr. Carter’s greatest philanthropic legacies is his respect for the dignity of all people, Ms. Peters said.

"They want the same things, they are just as dedicated to their families, and are just as hard working," she said. "What they don’t need is people telling them what to do."

She also highlighted his willingness to work with "just about anyone" to achieve peace and his credibility with the faith community.

One of the center’s biggest success stories is the near-eradication of Guinea worm disease, caused by a parasite that humans ingest through contaminated drinking water. The center has reduced cases worldwide from an estimated 3.5 million in 1986 to fewer than 20 today.

"How many organizations will really stick to a goal for 30 years?" Ms. Peters said.

Mr. Carter also has had close ties to Habitat for Humanity International for more than 30 years. Every year since 1984, the former president and first lady have spent a week building houses with the nonprofit, and their eponymous work projects have helped to build, renovate, or repair nearly 4,000 homes in 14 countries.

"Through their leadership and passion, they have made us a stronger organization and have directly helped improve the lives of thousands of families," said organization CEO Jonathan Reckford in a statement. "We are grateful for their longstanding commitment to our mission and wish President Carter well in the days ahead."

Ms. Peters predicts Mr. Carter will continue to focus his attention on protecting women and girls from human-rights abuses, the subject of his 2014 book A Call to Action.

Send an e-mail to Rebecca Koenig.