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CNN Live Event/Special

Memorial Service For Rosalynn Carter. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 28, 2023 - 13:30   ET





With President Greg Fenves, of Emory University, and the congregation of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, I welcome you to this space and this hour as we praise God and give thanks for the life of Rosalynn Smith Carter.

We gather also, of course, to surround this family with our love as they mourn the loss of a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother.

Friends, today, let us affirm together the faith Rosalynn lived so beautifully. Death, though real, does not have the last word. And God's love is greater than any foe. And the way of service and grace in this world is the way of eternal life. Even now.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we step away from the demands of the day to give thanks for the life of your child, Rosalynn. We celebrate 96 years of faith and love but we rejoice in moments shared with her, memories cherished now as treasures.

In this hour, renew our spirits by your Holy Spirit, that we like Rosalynn might with courage and grace do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you throughout our days.


In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray, amen.

PASTOR TONY LOWDEN, PRESIDENT & MRS. CARTER'S PERSONAL PASTOR: Maya Angelou wrote, "When great trees fall, rocks on a distant hill shudder and lions hunker down in tall grasses and elephants lumber after safety.

"When great trees fall in the forest, small things recall into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear. When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare and sterile.

"We breathe briefly. Our eyes are filled with hurtful clarity. And our memories suddenly sharpen, examines the words unsaid and promises of walks never taken."

But did you know that Isaiah, Chapter 40, Verse 28, says, "Do you not know and have you not heard the Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the earth?

"He is not, he will not grow tired or weary. His understanding no one can fathom. He gives us strength to the weary, increases the power of the weak. And even youth grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall."

Here's where I shout and get happy. Saying "For those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint."

I'm going to have Chip Carter come and tell you about a great soul.

JAMES EARL "CHIP" CARTER III, SON OF PRESIDENT & MRS. CARTER: I want to welcome all of you here and thank you for coming to help my family and to mourn with my family. And mostly to celebrate a life well lived.

My mother was the glue that held our family together through the ups and downs and thicks and thins of our family's politics.

As individuals, she believed in us and took care of us.

When I was 14, I supported President Johnson for president. And every day, I wore a Johnson sticker on my shirt. And periodically, I would get beat up and my shirt torn and buttons pulled off and my sticker always destroyed.

I would walk the block from school down to Carter's Warehouse and my mother would have a shirt in a drawer already mended, buttons sewn on, and the LBJ sticker still applied.

Years later, she was influential in getting me into rehab for my drug and alcohol addiction. She saved my life.

When I started making speeches for dad in his political career, I was so nervous, I often vomited in the waiting room before we went on stage.

One day after debating seven other children of offspring of candidates for president, I called my mother and told her how nervous I got.

And she told me something that I have used a thousand times since. She said, "Chip, you can do anything for 20 minutes except hold your breath."


C. CARTER: When I was in the second grade at Plains High School, they had a donkey basketball game in the stadium -- in the school building there to raise money for the school.

And my mother rode her donkey as fast as it would slowly go, right under the goal. Spun around so she was facing its tail. Caught the pass and made the winning two points. She was my hero that night and she's been my hero ever since.


A couple of years ago, mom and I were talking. When she said that when dad asked her to marry her for the second time, she said yes but that she expected him to provide for her a life of adventure. He told her that it would happen.

She told me that she has lived on both coasts and Hawaii while he was in the Navy and began her family. Mom said that when it was decided they would leave the Navy and move back to Plains, that she was upset.

And the family story is that they rode in the car from Connecticut to Plains, Georgia. And when mom had something to say to dad, she would say, Jack would you tell your father --


C. CARTER: When dad ran for office the first time, my mother ended up running Carter's Warehouse. She loved it. Every time he would go on a campaign trip or during a legislative session, she was really pleased to be in the office and be the boss. Excuse me.

She told me that when dad started running for president, that the thing that she enjoyed the most were the people that she met across the country.

And that from working in Carter's Warehouse, she said, "I was able to speak the languages, prices, and yields and relate to everyday issues in farm families, especially in Iowa."

She said, because of that, she's the one that helped win that election there.


C. CARTER: Then as first lady of the United States, always trying to follow the teaching of Jesus and to do what he taught her to do as a guideline, she said, "You will always get criticized by somebody for everything you do so you might as well do it right."

And she and dad were able to make a positive difference in people's lives and that of so many families, too.

My parents' 77-year partnership is often talked about. Mom was always well informed on the issues of the day. In the White House, mom asked dad so many questions that he finally said that she should attend cabinet meetings.

So she did, and caught a lot of flak for that. But she was then able to speak with authority on issues across our country and the world.

She would often try and often fail to get dad to do what was right politically. When she couldn't change dad's mind, she would repeat to herself, a leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they need to go.

Losing the election in 1980 was devastating to us all. My parents were still young. My mother, only 53. And they knew they still had more to contribute.

They decided they would become missionaries and spent months trying to decide how to accomplish their goal.

Finally, they decided, as partners, to start the Carter Center, which would allow my mother to continue to fight the stigma of mental illness and allow them both to help the poorest of the poor on this earth as Jesus had taught them.

Mom started the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at Georgia Southwestern University to train and support those who help others.

At the same time, mom and dad continue to support Habitat for Humanity, and mom continued to support the Friendship Force.

She told me that her adventures had led her to more than 120 countries. She had been fly fishing all over the world. She had met kings and queens, presidents, others in authority, powerful corporate leaders and celebrities.

She said the people that she met with, felt the most comfortable with, and the people she enjoyed being with the most were those that lived in absolute abject poverty, the ones without adequate housing, without a proper diet, and without access -- (INAUDIBLE).


And she probably had more adventures than anybody else on earth.

Mom was always fun to be with. Halloween before the pandemic, mom showed up at Amy's house. Amy lives on a street which closes down on Halloween and every house is decorated.

Mom was beautifully dressed as a monarch butterfly.


C. CARTER: The Secret Service were dressed casually, but perfectly, as Secret Service agents.


C. CARTER: She proceeded to go up and down the street with her grand and great grandchildren and go trick or treating up and down and talk to people all over the street.

She got back to Amy's and was so excited because she had been out so much and nobody had recognized her.


C. CARTER: After dad was put in hospice and my mother was ripe with dementia, my siblings, my wife and I would stay with them so that there would always be a family member around.

One day, my mother was sitting with my wife, Becky, and she was reminiscing on what it was like to go to live in Hawaii. And she was talking about learning all the native dances.

And she got up from the sofa, pushed her walker away, which she couldn't take a step without, and proceeded to do the hula for two or three minutes.


C. CARTER: She grabbed her walker, turned around, sat back down on the sofa, turned to my wife and said, "That's how you do it."


C. CARTER: I will always love my mother. I will cherish how she and dad raised their children. They have given us such a great example of how a couple should relate.

Let me finish by saying that my mother, Rosalynn Carter, was the most beautiful woman I've ever met and pretty to look at, too.

Thank you.


LOWDEN: Thank you, Chip.

Next, we'll have the reading of the Lord's prayer. Would you read it with me, please?

Our father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.




HENRY LEWIS CARTER, PRESIDENT & MRS. CARTER'S GREAT-GRANDSON: A reading from the book of Philippians, Chapter 4, Verse 13. "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."

KATHRYN CADE, ROSALYN CARTER'S LONGTIME AIDE & FRIEND: President Biden, Dr. Biden, President Carter, Jack, Chip, Jeff, Amy, very distinguished guests and friends, Rosalynn Carter was my boss and became my very good friend.

She hired me to direct her Projects Office at the White House and has kept me busy as her volunteer ever since. We shared so many special times together, shopping for beads in a

market in Ghana, popping in unannounced to a peer support program in Americus, Georgia, bird watching at the Carter Center.

What a remarkable woman she was -- wife, mother, business manager, political strategist, diplomat, advocate, author. Yet, what I remember most about her was her tireless dedication to taking care of others.

She was often fond of recalling the time that Margaret Mead came to visit her in the White House. Dr. Mead said to her then, "Our success as a society and our value as individuals must be measured by the compassion we show for the most vulnerable among us."

In many ways, Dr. Mead had captured the very essence of Rosalynn Carter.

The issues that claimed her time and attention, mental health, support for care givers, childhood immunization, problems of the elderly, neglected tropical diseases. Even building latrines to prevent the spread of Tracoma, a blinding eye disease.

These were not glamorous and sexy causes. Yet, she brought critical leadership to problems that impact the lives of millions.

Rosalynn's compassion and empathy for those who are suffering was boundless. Her passion for action even more so.

I shall never forget the day as first lady she decided to personally visit the refugee camps in Thailand where thousands of Cambodians lay desperately ill and dying.

"I have to do something," she said. Rosalynn was determined to help. The doctors in the camps called her the Yankee Angel because she brought hope where there had been none.

As a result of her efforts, a broad coalition came together and raised tens of millions of dollars for refugee relief.

Her tenure as first lady of the United States was just one chapter in a life that was really devoted to caring and doing good for others. With President Carter, she founded the Carter Center as one of the world's foremost humanitarian organizations.


She invited me one year to join her on a trip promoting Guinea Worm eradication in West Africa.

In a small village in northern Ghana, she insisted I come meet a little boy being treated in a containment center. "You have to see the worm," she said. "You have to see how much suffering it causes."

The alleviation of suffering has been an integral part of Rosalynn's life for as long as I've known her.

While campaigning for her husband early one morning at a factory gate, a woman covered in cotton dust approached her. "What is your husband going to do as governor of Georgia to help my daughter, who is suffering from mental illness?"

Thus began her more than 50-year career as a mental health advocate. Lobbying first her husband, then the United States Congress, and finally later the WHO to increase support for mental health.

When students at her alma mater, Georgia Southwestern, documented the isolation, the stress and burnout that afflicted so many caregivers in their community, she lent her support to the creation of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers.

Today, it is a national advocate for programs to build resilience and strength in families navigating the daunting challenges of caring for loved ones, a challenge that her own family has confronted with grace these last few years.

Even the plight of the monarch butterfly did not escape Rosalynn's attention. Threatened by loss of habitat and an alarming decline, the monarch needed an advocate, and who better than Rosalynn?

She first started with her garden in Plains. Then she created a butterfly trail across Georgia.

And finally, she wrote Michelle Obama that the butterflies needed a garden on the White House grounds. A short time later, there was a garden on the South Lawn.


CADE: What a remarkable life she led. Born at a time and in a place where segregation was the norm, as a young wife, she joined the fight against racial discrimination in her church and her community.

Raised during an era when opportunities for women were limited at best, she became an ardent advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment. She ensured that women were well represented in the senior ranks of government.

And she even successfully lobbied her husband for equal pay for her East Wing staff, something for which I shall always be grateful.


CADE: Married at 18 and the mother of three little boys by the age of 25, she became an invaluable business partner in the peanut warehouse operation.

When Jimmy Carter decided to run for the state Senate without consulting her -- the last time he ever did that --


CADE: -- she still pitched in as a key campaigner and political strategist, a role in which she excelled in the years that followed. She served our country as one of its most activist and accomplished

first ladies. Her legacy is defined not only by her work in mental health but also by the multiple roles she played as Jimmy Carter's personal adviser.

Personal emissary to the leaders of seven Latin American countries, consultant on his most important speeches, lobbyist for key legislative initiatives and spokesperson on controversial policy matters.

Once, as she departed for Iowa just two days after the grain embargo had been announced, she quipped, "I happen to always be the first one out after a major decision or happening, but it's interesting."

Whether it was the Mideast peace negotiations at Camp David or planning strategy for the Democratic convention in 1980, Rosalynn was present and a full participant.

She loved her time in Washington and was very sad to leave. But she returned to Georgia ready to pursue her passion to, as she once said, "use my influence to give voice to those who may be powerless and persuade the powerful to listen."

As I had the privilege of knowing Rosalynn over the years, I was constantly reminded that, for her, life was truly about helping others and finding joy in the simple act of service.

She never sought fame, fortune or accolades for the work that she did, although her accomplishments have been widely recognized and honored. In so many different ways, she promoted a more caring society.