Distinguished Emory alumni and Atlanta community members gathered at the Carter Center on Wednesday, Feb. 10 for a conversation between three presidential figures.

Former President of the United States Jimmy Carter, President Emeritus of Emory University James T. Laney and current University President James W. Wagner explained the connections between the Carter Center and Emory University, as well as what the future holds for the partnership.

The consensus among the three men was that the institutions will permanently maintain their bond, as they have helped each other to reach new heights.

Carter began the program by taking the audience back to 1979, when he was invited to Emory to receive an honorary degree. Laney, who awarded Carter the degree, said that he felt Carter had been someone “who represented … what was best and human and noble in life.” Both Laney and Wagner said that Emory’s partnership with the Carter Center has significantly contributed to the success and impact of the University.

Wagner discussed his first encounter with Carter, which occurred in the summer of 2003. Wagner said the two met to discuss educating the heart and mind. There, Wagner added that Carter identified great potential in the University and its ability to carry out global service responsibilities, especially in the realm of health. In 2005, the University implemented a global health initiative for developing nations with the support of the Carter Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The global health initiative was created to foster research and scholarship in regions around the world and to help train the next generation of global health leaders.

Carter has continued his involvement with Emory through annual town hall assemblies and meetings with faculty members and international students. He said that he encourages professors to instill “modern day human experiences with moral and ethical values.”

Emory’s leaders need not feel indebted to Carter for his contributions — he said he has gained more from the relationship than the school has. He added that he greatly enjoys his involvement with Emory, especially through his on-campus events, and that he takes pride in his work with the University. He continues to make an impact by meeting with faculty and President Wagner on a monthly basis. Carter said that he is still filled with ambition to make an impact on the world through the collaboration between the Carter Center and Emory.

The two institutions have had the opportunity to tackle a variety of global issues together, and the three panelists agreed that this relationship has thrived because the Carter Center and Emory have both set individual goals. They plan to keep their relationship drawn but not bound together.

Santiago Vazquez of Atlanta, who attended the event, said that he was amazed by the involvement that Emory and the Carter Center have had throughout the city. “Being an outsider from the Emory community but witnessing everything that is going on around here is impressive, especially in regards to the eloquence and ability both [institutions] have to help the community,” he said.

Ryan Roche, who graduated from Emory College in 2005, also conveyed praise for the event. “The legacy and history of the men on stage, and everything they did behind the scenes to help, have such an impact it’s incredible.”

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