The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter visits McIntosh

McIntosh High School students recently experienced a rare treat as Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter visited their school to talk about her life during and after the White House.

"Being a former first lady is a pretty nice position to be in. You have friends all over the world and you get to meet celebrities," Carter told students as she took the podium to begin her talk. Her grandson, Josh, is a student at McIntosh.

One celebrity that Carter met still stands out in her mind today. While in the White House, the Carters' daughter, Amy, celebrated her 12th birthday. When her parents asked her how she wanted to celebrate her day, she requested that John Travolta be invited as a guest to her birthday party.

"We invited him and he actually came," Carter laughed as she remembered the event. "Guess what we served him for dinner? Spaghetti."

While Carter has many fond memories that she will always cherish, she explained to students that living in the public eye is not as glamorous and fun as some people might think. As a former governor's wife and first lady, Carter says security personnel have surrounded her for nearly 30 years.

"I miss driving a car the most. It is hard to get used to someone being with you every minute and knowing everywhere you go. I wish that I could just go to the store to shop but I can't do that because people will recognize me," she said.

Carter also talked about the difficulties of the president's job. She told students that in addition to the many privileges the position brings, the president is also exposed to many difficult problems facing the world. One problem that has been a focus of the Carters is poverty.

"I remember holding a little baby in Africa. As soon as I laid him down he took his last breath," said an emotional Carter. "Poverty is all over the world. There are little babies everywhere who are sick and dying because they don't have enough to eat."

Through the Carter Center, the former president and first lady have continued their work to help other countries fight the effects of poverty by learning how to grow crops as well as educating people about diseases and how to help prevent them. When asked how students at McIntosh could help with the humanitarian efforts of the Carter Center, Carter urged students to volunteer in their communities at local shelters, soup kitchens and elderly centers.

"All suffering is not overseas. There are children who are hungry in this country and elderly people who need help. It gives you a different outlook on life when you help others," she said.

Some students wanted to know what was the most rewarding part about being a first lady. Carter, who is also an advocate for mental health, said that the passing of the Mental Health Systems Act in 1980 is something that she will always consider to be the most rewarding because of the way it changed people's perception about mental illness.

"Never discriminate against a person with a mental illness. It is a disease like diabetes or heart disease. The research that went into this legislation helped to change how we view mental illness in this country and I am very proud of that," Carter added.

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