A packed Knapp Center hosted the Martin Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture Series on Thursday. This year the series collaberated with the Slay Fund for Social Justice at Drake University to present “An Evening with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.” The event featured informal speeches by former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter followed by a public question and answer session. Neil Hamilton, chair of the Bucksbaum Lecture Committee said the event had an attendance of 7000.
“We were very pleased with the turn out. We were pleased with the evening over all,” Hamilton said. “The lecture was wonderful. It was a great Bucksbaum lecture evening.”
The evening centered on the work of the Carter Center, which focuses on social justice, but does so in a wide variety of ways such as monitoring elections, advocating for the mentally ill and promoting peaceful relations among countries. Rosalynn said all of these activities are based off of fighting for human rights.
“We consider human rights to be the umbrella over everything we do. We work consistently to try to make life better for people in the world,” said Rosalynn Carter in her speech.
First-year Jamie Snyder says message on social justice resonated with her the most.
“Everyone has the basic nature of being a human. He pretty much displayed that no matter what status you are, no matter what religion, ethnic (background) you are still a human. You still need help and we need to help them,” Synder said.
In an attempt to explain social justice, Jimmy Carter listed what most Americans view as basic human rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to assemble. He then compared them to how people in countries served by the Carter Center would view human rights.
“In the areas that we serve particularly in Africa and in the poorest countries on earth they would say, ‘I think the most basic human right is to live in peace, to have a place in which to live, to have enough food for my children and to have enough clothing to keep them warm in the winter,” he said.
Jimmy Carter then encouraged the audience to place themselves in those people’s shoes.
“The people who would make a response like that, quite often are living on an income of 50 cents to one dollar a day,” Jimmy Carter said. “I think it is good for all of us to pause for just a few moments and think about how we would live if we only had a dollar a day.”
Hamilton feels that hearing this message on social justice was a great opportunity for college students.
“They heard an inspirational message about the way the Carters have dedicated their lives to social justice,” Hamilton said. “They had the opportunity to learn from a very important historic figure on the national and international stage.”Sophomore Elizabeth Kuker believes that she never fully comprehended being in the room with a former president.
“I do not even know how to describe it. I do not think I fully realized what was happening. It was an experience I will never forget, I know that,” Kuker said.
However, first-year Tyler Goebel deemed hearing the Carters speak simply a good opportunity.
“I am a fairly calm person. I do not get ecstatic. It was intriguing, the opportunity to go see a former president but he is another human being,” Goebel said.
Synder also felt that Carter came off as human, but feels it was because of how openly the Carters spoke.
“It was a lot less intense (than seeing president Barack Obama) because he does not hold as much responsibility now and he was able to openly talk. It really did make him feel like a real person. It was exciting still but less overwhelming,” Snyder said.
Goebel also enjoyed how open the Carters were.
“As speakers they were very enthusiastic about their topic and promoting their causes. I enjoyed how they were open to questions and responded in a very positive manner,” Gobbel said. “The ability to have any of the general populous be able to ask a question, when these events are more commonly restricted to just a speech.”
According to Hamilton, question and answer sessions are a part of all Bucksbaum lectures, but Snyder believes the Carters honest answers stood out.
“He was very honest last night. Any question you asked him he would give you a straight forward answer unlike other politicians now that work around the answer,” Snyder said.
According to Snyder, she comes from a very political family and thinks that opportunities to see former politicians who have become philanthropists is important.
“I wish we could have more activities like that… It really gives us an insight. I saw people from five years old to eighty years old there,” Snyder said. “It is something that our community really needs.”
Koker was inspired by the night to possibly serve while abroad.
“Overall I thought it was really interesting. It was something I would really consider doing and helping out with. It opened my eyes to all the possibilities that were out there,” Koker said. “I have been thinking about studying abroad in Israel and so when they started talking about that it just seems like a really great opportunity of what I can do when I am over there.”
The Carters’ main message on social justice involvement is something that Hamilton hoped the students would take note of.
“Social justice is something that everyone one has a stake in if we are interested in having peace. They gave a number of wonderful examples for how people can be engaged in making the world a better place,” Hamilton said. “You do not have to be a former president to be engaged in social justice. I hope it was a message that students would be inspired by and could respond to.”