Volunteer Story – Day 6

Questions and Answers with the Carters

President and Mrs. Carter took a few minutes out of a joyous Friday morning schedule of meeting homeowners and volunteers to share their reflections on a week — and a lifetime — of building with Habitat. Photo by Angel Pachkowski
Volunteer Story – Day 6 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

An interview with President and Mrs. Carter

Q: President Carter, why did you want to come to the Gulf Coast to build this week?
We’ve been in a lot of places all around the world — in Asia, in Africa, in Europe, Latin America and so forth, as well as the slum areas of America. But I would say that this Gulf Coast region — with its absolute determination — really made it feel like a privilege and an honor for Rosalynn and me to come and join this victory march toward better communities.

Q: Mrs. Carter, tell me what your involvement with these projects has meant to you these 25 years.
This is one of the things that I look forward to every year. It’s really an emotional experience for me to come — and particularly, as Jimmy said, to this area where people have suffered so much and the need is so great. I hope that we have put the consciousness of the great need that is still here on the minds of the American people again.

Q: President Carter, in your most recent book you talked about the inspiration that your mother was in terms of public service.
President Carter:
My mother devoted her life to helping people who were poor and deprived. She reached out to them, and she would pay no attention to any elements of racial discrimination or discrimination against people because they were poor or ill or in need.

And I don’t think there’s any doubt that my mother’s kind of inspiration is the same kind that we get from Habitat. Habitat gives us an opportunity which is very difficult to find: to reach out and work side by side with those who never have had a decent home — but work with them on a completely equal basis. It’s not a big-shot, little-shot relationship. It’s a sense of equality, and that’s what my mother stood for in her life.

Mrs. Carter:
Jimmy’s mother was an inspiration to me, too. His sister Ruth was my best friend, and I spent a lot of time at their house when I was growing up and I got to know the whole family. Jimmy’s mother came to help take care of my daddy when he was sick. And when he died, the whole community just helped us. I grew up with that, seeing people help people.

Q: President Carter, you’ve spoken this week about housing as a human right. What is it that housing does for people?
Rosalynn and I have worked on the Habitat project for a whole week 25 years in a row. We haven’t missed a year yet — and hopefully we won’t in the next few years. But we’ve seen that when people become a homeowner family and see that they have helped to complete their own house, it gives them a much greater elevation of their own self-respect. They become inspired to reach for greatness in ways that would have been unacceptable or undreamed of had they not had a decent home in which to live.

So I’ve always felt that it’s not only a human right to have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and trial by jury, but maybe even more important to someone who doesn’t have one is a decent home. I think that Habitat fulfills a basic human right of people in this country and in 90 other countries around the world.
— Shala Carlson