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President Carter's Press Conference Transcript

The following is a partial transcript of President Carter's press conference in Plains, Ga., on Friday, Oct. 11, 2002, at 12 p.m.

PRESIDENT CARTER: …The right of people to have a voice in their own government, and the right of a person for decent shelter, and food, and health care--those things comprise the quality of life. My hope is that all will share with me my gratitude and my commitment to these kinds of things.

I'm very humbled today as well as proud because I recognize how many people have shared with me their commitments, and how much work they have done without recognition. My hope is that this award will be adequately appreciated by all of them who I feel are part of my own family.

I am especially grateful to Rosalynn, who has been a partner in everything I have ever done, and to the people of Plains, who have given me a foundation of support and friendship and love that has made it possible for me to expand my life to some degree.
So thank you all for coming here and for honoring me. I'm glad to see my old friend from the Senate Terrell Starr. That was my first experience with politics. And my press secretary in the White House, Jody Powell. Good to see him and his family and all of my staff from The Carter Center. So, thank you all.

If anybody has a question, Deanna has a microphone, and you could ask a question if you like.

QUESTION: Mr. President, congratulations first of all. I'm from ABC. I've talked to you over the years. Tell me what you felt like, in your heart. How did you react to learning you had won the Nobel Peace Prize? It is quite an honor.

PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, first I had a feeling of disbelief. We had a call, Rosalynn said, at two minutes after four this morning. I thought it was some joker who was calling. Then, they left word that I should call the Nobel Prize Committee at exactly 4:30 a.m. our time. When I did, and received the message, I was obviously grateful, and as I've said already, humbled and honored. I was also thankful that, when they mentioned the reasons for giving me the award, they talked about the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and especially emphasized the work of The Carter Center. I think those are the emotions that I felt. I've already expressed my other thoughts about human rights and humility and gratitude. But maybe this award will let people know more vividly than they have before what The Carter Center is and what it means not only now during my lifetime, but I hope 100 years from now. My hope is that everyone at The Carter Center will know that we share this award. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Gary Tuchman with CNN. Congratulations to you.

PRESIDENT CARTER: Thank you, Gary; I gave you all my first interview this morning.

QUESTION: We heard you bright and early this morning at 5 a.m. I want to ask you, Mr. President, there's prize money with the Nobel Peace Prize, more than $1 million U.S. dollars. I was wondering if you know what will be done with that money at this point?

PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, I haven't asked Rosalynn yet (laughter), but my present intention is to give either all or almost all of it to The Carter Center, just to expand our work there. (Applause.)

QUESTION: Mr. President, Terry Pickard of NBC News with Tom Brokaw. Your reaction to the committee's announcement that they made this decision partly to send a message to governments around the world?

PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, I didn't hear them say that this morning, but I'll have to take your word for it. I don't think there's any doubt that the government of Norway and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has inspired a deep awareness throughout the world for 100 years or so of the need for people to speak out for peace and human rights. I don't think there's any doubt that, down through the years, the Nobel Peace Prize awards have been partially designed to honor individuals and organizations, but also to send a message. I think the message that I derive from this is a commitment to peace, to the honoring of international law, to the partnership that the United States must maintain as the only superpower now, but also as an integral part of the world community. My hope is that the message that I've been delivering in the last few months, in a very small way-that we should work through the United Nations in dealing with crises on earth, like the Iraq issue-will be heard clearly. My hope and expectation is that the United Nations will, indeed, take strong action to force Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions already passed and perhaps a stronger resolution in the future; that international inspectors can go to Iraq without impediment; can visit any site that they choose throughout the country; and that Saddam Hussein will be forced by international pressure, through the United Nations, to comply fully.


QUESTION: President Carter, Jason Dennis from WTVM news in Columbus, Georgia.
One question I think a lot of the people in the community have is, now that you've won this prize, they're wondering if it's going to change you, if you're still going to be riding your bike through Plains, teaching Sunday school.

PRESIDENT CARTER: I'll be teaching Sunday school Sunday morning, and this afternoon, after this big crowd leaves, I'll be riding back down town on my bicycle. I've got some photographs to take of the storefronts because a very nice man is going to give us Christmas lights, and he sent me a message saying he needs some photographs to know what the buildings look like before he sends his staff here. So, I'll be-as I always have been-a citizen of Plains and doing my share for the community. It didn't change my life when I became a state senator, or governor, or president or a defeated candidate for re-election, and I don't think this will change my life either. My roots are too deep here to be changed, and I'm too old.


QUESTION: CBS News. Congratulations.


QUESTION: I'd like to ask a follow-up question about the message of the award. Gunnar Berge, the chairman of the committee, said to Norwegians that the award should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken. It's "a kick in the leg" to all that follow the same line as the United States.

PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, I don't see it as a kick in the leg. I think that it is significant. I've said before that the international expressions of concern, and those in our own country as well, already have had a profound and beneficial effect on the policies of Washington leaders. If you go back and look at the statements that have been made by the secretary of defense and by the vice-president and others in the past-that we should act unilaterally, that we should have as our primary goal a change of leadership in Iraq, that inspections would be a waste of time, and that we didn't have to pay attention to the United Nations-every one of those has now been changed. I listened with care the other night to President Bush's speech. He said, in many of those things just the opposite: that we would, indeed, work through the United Nations; that we did not have any intention of acting unilaterally; that the purpose of our emphasis on Iraq is to remove the weapons of mass destruction; and that we expect to work in harmony with other countries. So all those previous statements that concerned me very deeply, those of the most radical nature, in my opinion, have now been modified. My hope and expectation is that the influence of the world community will continue to play a beneficial role. I don't think there's any doubt that Saddam Hussein does create a threat-I don't think directly to the United States at this time, but potentially in the future. I think we should take every action to make sure he never does get nuclear weaponry. I don't think that's likely in the next year or so. He might be a threat to the surrounding countries, and I think it's very important that he and others who are the focal point of United Nations resolutions should comply with those resolutions. My hope is that this entire process will strengthen, and not weaken, the beneficent influence of the United Nations, and it will encourage all countries that have a serious problem or concern to work through the Security Council and not independently or unilaterally to begin a conflict or war which I believe would be a direct violation of international law.

QUESTION: Tim Russell, the Albany Herald. I want to say congratulations. I spoke with a person who was very proud that you received the award this morning, and she asked if you would be doing more on domestic issues. She pointed to race-related problems with those in prison and the elections problems we had in Florida.

PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, please tell her that The Carter Center was not involved in the election in Florida (laughter). As a matter of fact, after the Florida debacle in 2000, President Gerald Ford and I volunteered to help work with other leaders, particularly the Miller Center and the University of Virginia, to evolve a comprehensive set of new laws that would help guarantee that we don't have a repetition of the problem in Florida. Yesterday, as a matter of fact, the House of Representatives finally passed that law, and I don't have any doubt that the Senate will pass it very quickly. I talked with President Bush this morning, who graciously called to congratulate me, and I asked him to be sure that there was adequate funding in his budget to implement the new laws that will make American elections more honest and fair in the future. So I think there is a great move made, and you can inform your interrogator that progress is being made.

I might point out also, very quickly, that The Carter Center has had a major and deep investment in domestic issues, not only working with 500,000 people in Atlanta through the Atlanta Project for eight years, but primarily through the work of my wife, Rosalynn, who I think has become the world leader in promoting the concept of mental health and trying to remove the stigma from those who fear revealing that they have a mental problem-pointing out that research on the brain has now made it possible for mental illnesses to be treated and for people to live a normal life and to try to elevate the status of mental illness to the same as physical illness through attention by the insurance industry and others. So I think an awful lot of our work, which is often unpublicized, has been devoted to domestic issues. Not only elections, but in other things.

Maybe one more question, if there is one.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Charles Reed, 13 WMAZ in Macon. Congratulations and best wishes from your friends in Macon, by the way. I've been talking to some of your neighbors here who were wondering if they're going to get a little bit of the side effects, the ripple-down effect, maybe, from the prize that you have won. How do you think it's going to help your neighbors?

PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, I don't know that Plains needs any help. They help me more than I help them. But as you probably already have noticed, if you've been here a long time, the town of Plains and the citizens within it have taken the initiative and really worked hard to improve the concept of our little village. We happen to be a historic site-the entire community-and work very closely under the benevolent direction of the park service to make sure that we preserve the heritage and the appearance and the character of Plains. At the same time, everyone works to make it a much more pleasant place, a more interesting place, and an informative place for people to visit. So I think we'll continue to do that.


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