Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a beacon for mental health advocacy, passed at 96, leaving a legacy of compassion and impactful leadership.
Former President Carter: It’s now my pleasure to introduce someone whom I love and respect and cherish. My wife, Rosalynn.
Man: She was Jimmy Carter’s partner, best friend, and closest advisor in and out of the White House for more than three-quarters of a century. Soft-spoken, politically savvy, and fiercely determined, Rosalynn Carter was known as the Steel Magnolia, and she made the role of First Lady her own. Born Rosalynn Smith in Plains, Georgia, she was a neighbor to Jimmy Carter, three years her senior.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I was shy and found out that he was so easy to talk to and we just kind of hit it off really well and I think I was already in love with him.
Man: They married in 1946 when she was 18.
Former President Carter: Rose and I have been equally and totally dedicated partners, even when I was still earning a living as a peanut farmer.
Man: Jimmy ran the family farm. Rosalynn helped manage the business. They raised a family, three sons, and later daughter, Amy. Jimmy got into politics, elected Georgia governor in 1970, then running for president with Rosalynn’s enthusiastic support.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: When people got to know him, and when they know him, they vote for him.
Man 2: Thank you both very much.
Former President Carter: And she’s completely objective and unbiased.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I love politics.
Man: The small town girl with a poor family who’d never finished college thrived on the national stage.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: Every day I see things that I think I could help with, or things that I want to learn more about.
Man: Jimmy Carter won the election with Rosalynn playing a key role.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I was involved with the selection of the Vice President.
Man: She was front and center from the start, attending cabinet meetings, leading on policy issues, including mental health, becoming the first First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to testify before Congress.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I am here as a concerned citizen.
There’s so many opportunities, and if I don’t use the influence I have to help those people who need help, I think that’s a terrible waste.
Man: She served as President Carter’s emissary, taking high-profile trips to Latin America and Asia.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I think that I am the person closest to the President of the United States and if I can help him in understanding the countries of the world, then that’s what I intend to do.
Man: Often more popular than the president himself, she was his advocate-in-chief.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I’m proud of Jimmy Carter and the job he’s doing, and he is without a doubt the best person in our country to see us through these times.
Man: But faced with a troubled economy and a painful hostage crisis, Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980, and the Carters returned to Plains. They founded the Carter Center and together began a remarkable decades-long post-presidency devoted to human rights, international diplomacy, eradicating disease, and, year after year, building low-income housing with Habitat for Humanity. In 1999, they were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I think that was one of the happiest times of my life. There is life after the White House.
Man: Through it all, she remained her husband’s greatest champion.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: It irritates me when people say he’s been a good former president. He was a good president. I don’t worry about his place in history.
Man: As for her own place in history, Rosalynn Carter was characteristically modest.
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: I just hope people think I did the best I could.
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