The peacemaking president: The significance of Jimmy Carter’s 2002 Nobel Peace Prize speech

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Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 6:05 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Many people know Jimmy Carter as a humanitarian and a true southern man of God. He stood up for peace at all costs.

In 2002, former President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize. But the cornerstone moment for that night was the speech that followed his acceptance.

“Ladies and gentlemen, war may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always evil,” Carter said in his speech.

Carter gave this speech shortly after the war in Afghanistan had begun — a war that lasted two decades.

“Carter, sometimes I think, felt like he was kind of like that voice in the wilderness, right? Sometimes kind of standing alone where you know, you’re trying to convey a message of truth and peace to the world, but it didn’t necessarily seem like people were listening,” Dr. Jason Berggren, associate professor of political science at Georgia Southwestern State University, said.

“We will not learn how to live together in peace, by killing each other’s children,” Carter said.

This speech came at a time when the nation was still healing from the effects of the 9/11 attacks — a time when many believed war was the only answer.

“I’ve talked to him personally several times and he’s always with the belief that we need to be better in several different areas, including those areas,” Larry Cook, a historian, said.

Carter’s 2002 Nobel Prize speech may not have been received well by some, but all of what he said can still be applied, today.

“God gives us a capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. we can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes and we must,” Carter said.

“I think it came across, as I said at the opening vintage carter. Where he’s proud of his southern identity, he’s proud of his faith. He recognizes that there has been incredible progress, but there’s still a lot of work that has to be done,” Berggren said.