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Rosalynn Carter spent four years in the White House, and will forever be remembered as a former first lady. She was so much more than that lofty title, however.
As remembrances pour in for Carter, who died this weekend at the age of 96, many have emphasized the substantial legacy she leaves behind as a humanitarian and champion of a wide range of causes — perhaps none greater than her work advocating for mental health care.
“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” son Chip Carter said in a statement released by the Carter Center, the non-profit that she and her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, created after his presidency. “Her life of service and compassion was an example for all Americans. She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”
Former President Carter remains in hospice care at home in Georgia. In his own statement, he called Rosalynn his “equal partner in everything I ever accomplished.” They were married 77 years.
“She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it,” Jimmy Carter continued in his statement. “As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”
And that support extended to the rest of the world, too. As her many mourners have made clear, Rosalynn Carter used her platform and skills to improve lives across the globe.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said she had an “indelible impact on our state and nation.” Former First Lady Michelle Obama said Carter’s life “is a reminder that no matter who we are, our legacies are best measured not in awards or accolades, but in the lives we touch.”
Maine Gov. Janet Mills also issued a statement mourning Carter.
“Few people have impacted as many lives as Rosalynn Carter. Rising from humble roots in Plains, Georgia, Mrs. Carter redefined the role of First Lady and used her platform to champion mental health and the performing arts,” Mills said in her statement. “After leaving the White House, Mrs. Carter co-founded the Carter Center with her husband. Together, as full partners, they improved public health, eradicated disease, and strengthened freedom and democracy across the globe. Mrs. Carter’s extraordinary legacy will live on through the millions of lives she touched and all who will grow up in a safer, healthier, and freer world. On behalf of the people of Maine, I extend my deepest sympathies to President Carter and the Carter family.”
The outpouring of condolences and appreciation for her impact could fill many pages. Rather than share more examples from that expanding library of statements, we’ll leave you with some of Rosalynn Carter’s own words, as highlighted on the Carter Center’s website:
“Do what you can to show you care about others, and you will make our world a better place.”
“Mental illnesses are diseases like any other. They can be diagnosed and treated, and the majority of people who have them can lead fulfilling lives, working, going to school, and being productive members of their community.”
“Each one of us can make a difference. It doesn’t take a former first lady or a former president of the United States to make a difference in our communities.”
Rosalynn Carter made a difference, again and again. We hope her words and example will continue to have an impact — by inspiring others to constantly show that they care about each other, and to always endeavor to make our world a better place.