Presentation of the 2017 Ivan Allen Jr. Award for Social Courage to the Carters

G. P. “Bud” Peterson
Presentation of the 2017 Ivan Allen Jr. Award for Social Courage to the Carters
Friday, February 17, 2017



Good afternoon and welcome! I want to thank those who participated in the panel conversation earlier this morning about the power of partnership.  For those of you just joining us, we’re glad that you’re here.

In this second part of today’s program, we will award the 2017 Georgia Tech Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage jointly, to former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter for the remarkable work they have done together to improve the human condition around the world.

I want to extend a special welcome to Inman and Tricia Allen and members of the Allen family. On behalf of Georgia Tech, we thank you and your family for your ongoing engagement and support. 

We welcome all of our special guests today.  In the interest of time, I won’t mention everyone, but we do want to extend a special Georgia Tech welcome to

  • Georgia State Senator Gloria Butler
  • Georgia State Representative Scott Holcomb
  • Georgia State Representative Al Williams
  • Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell
  • Atlanta City Council Member Kwanza Hall
  • Former U.S. Senator David Gambrell,  
  • Former State Senator Jason Carter, grandson of the Carters, who participated on our panel this morning, and
  • Ambassador Andrew Young, also a panel participant.

And finally, I also want to extend our deep appreciation to Tom Glenn and his wife, Lou, for their commitment to this award.

The Ivan Allen Prize is supported in perpetuity through a generous commitment by The Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation. Today happens to be Tom’s 70th birthday, and we are delighted that he and his family have chosen to spend it with us.

Georgia Tech established the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage to illuminate the legacy of Atlanta’s former mayor, and to shine a light on those around the world who bravely act to improve the human condition, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The inaugural prize was awarded in March of 2011 to former Senator Sam Nunn. Other recipients have included global health leader Dr. William Foege, Congressman John Lewis, human rights defender Beatrice Mtetwa, and humanitarian activist Nancy Parrish. We are delighted that Dr. William Foege and his wife Paula have joined us again today. Please join me in welcoming them back to Georgia Tech.

A favorite song of the Carter’s is John Lennon’s “Imagine.” In their honor, select members of Georgia Tech’s choral groups have come together to perform “Imagine,” arranged by our Director of Choral Activities Jerry Ulrich.

The Award Presentation

Good Afternoon.  As many of you know, Ivan Allen Jr. was the mayor of the City of Atlanta from 1962 to 1970. He accomplished many things, but is best remembered for his courage, compassion, and conviction in leading the city during the height of the civil rights movement.  He helped guide the culture of Atlanta and the South, on its journey to a society that embraces social acceptance and equality. He made a lasting difference, and we are proud to claim him as a Georgia Tech alumnus.

We are also proud to claim former President Jimmy Carter as an alumnus. Before graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946, he spent one year at Georgia Tech. He is quoted as saying that “Tech was much more difficult academically than I thought it would be.” President Carter, you’ll be interested to know that we still hear that. Often.

Rosalynn Carter graduated from Georgia Southwestern College in Americus, Georgia. When they married in 1946, I suspect that few dreamed of the impact they would have on the lives of so many, and who, throughout 70 years of marriage, would change the world.

After 7 years in the Navy, the Carters returned to Plains to manage the family peanut business after President Carter’s father passed away, Mrs. Carter assumed financial management of the agribusiness while raising four sons and a daughter.

Once her husband was elected governor of Georgia, Mrs. Carter began her work to overhaul the state of Georgia’s mental health system.

She oversaw the initiation of reforms, and served as honorary chair of the Georgia Special Olympics from 1971 to 1975.

When Jimmy Carter decided to run for president, Mrs. Carter campaigned for more than two years, traveling throughout the U.S. She became the first candidate’s spouse to declare a campaign promise of her own, to guide legislation reform to help the mentally ill. Once President Carter took office, she kept her campaign promise.

In 1977, Mrs. Carter served as the active honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health. After extensive research, the commission issued a report with recommendations for the most sweeping reforms to mental health legislation in almost 30 years.

The Carter administration submitted the Mental Health Systems Act and Mrs. Carter testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Health in May 1979.

The legislation was passed and funded in September 1980.

President Carter also engaged the first lady in international relations. She visited Jamaica, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela as the president’s personal representative, holding meetings with policy leaders. President Carter’s foreign policy had as its cornerstone human rights, a commitment he has embraced throughout his life. He is known throughout the world for his successful mediation of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, leading to a historic peace treaty.

Throughout their lives, the Carters have built a legacy of unparalleled humanitarianism through Habitat for Humanity, as well as The Carter Center, to promote human rights and alleviate suffering throughout the world. For his many works, President Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

For more than four decades, the Carters have worked together to improve global health and human rights, as well as to promote democracy in more than 65 countries throughout the world.

Looking beyond the safe and the convenient, they have traveled to dangerous places and fearlessly confronted injustice. Their shared vision, tenacity, and courage have resulted in conflict resolution between countries and rival groups, advancements in mental health understanding and support, and the eradication of diseases in the developing world.

In 2012, the recipient of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage was Dr. William Foege, who I introduced earlier.  Dr. Foege was a strategic leader in the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in 1980. He joined The Carter Center in 1986 as its executive director and worked alongside the Carters in the battle to eradicate Guinea worm disease. In the mid-1980s this painful disease afflicted more than 3.5 million people each year, in 21 countries across Africa and Asia.

Through the efforts of the Carter’s and others, there were only 25 human cases of the illness were reported worldwide in 2016.

And last month, The Carter Center announced it is poised to wipe out the Guinea worm disease from the planet. That, is the power of partnership.

At this time, I would like to ask the Carters to please join me on stage.

Today I have shared with you only a few of the highlights of the many things that the Carters have accomplished together.

It is appropriate that this, our first Ivan Allen Jr. Award for Social Courage to be presented to a couple, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

Together, they exemplify the far-reaching global changes that are possible through a lifetime partnership and social courage.

President and Mrs. Carter, on behalf of the Georgia Institute of Technology, it is my great privilege to present to both of you the 2017 Ivan Allen, Jr. Prize for Social Courage.

Our Ivan Allen, Jr. Prize for Social Courage allows us to pause from our everyday lives and celebrate some of the most courageous and selfless people in the world – to applaud people of vision, committed to serving others, and to be inspired.

At this time, I ask that you please remain seated while the Carters exit the room.  As we remain seated, I invite you to join me in honoring them once again for a lifetime of partnership in service to people throughout the world.

Today’s event has been especially memorable for me, and I trust for all of you.  Thank you for joining us. 

David Scripka (left), president of Georgia Tech Graduate Student Government Association, joins former President Jimmy Carter, Nagela Nukuna, president of Georgia Tech Undergraduate Student Government Association, and President Peterson during the student town hall. 
Former President Jimmy Carter answers a question during a town hall held Friday, February 17, 2017. 
President G.P. "Bud" Peterson presents the 2017 Ivan Allen, Jr Prize for Social Courage to former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at a ceremony on Friday, February 17, 2017