Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has worked for more than two decades to improve the quality of life for people around the world. Today, she is an advocate for mental health, early childhood immunization, human rights, and conflict resolution through her work at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The Center is a private, nonprofit institution founded by former President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter in 1982.
A full partner with the President in all the Center's activities, the former First Lady is Vice Chair of the Center's Board of Trustees. She created and chairs The Carter Center's Mental Health Task Force, an advisory body of experts, consumers, and advocates promoting positive change in the mental health field. Each year, she hosts the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, bringing together leaders of the nation's mental health organizations to address critical issues. Mrs. Carter emerged as a driving force for mental health when, during the Carter administration, she became active honorary chair of the President's Commission on Mental Health, which resulted in passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980.
Mother of four, Mrs. Carter has maintained a life‑long dedication to issues affecting women and children. In 1991, she launched with Mrs. Betty Bumpers, wife of U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, "Every Child By Two," a nationwide campaign to publicize the need for early childhood immunizations. Mrs. Carter plays an active role in the activities of ECBT promoting the importance of timely immunizations. She served on the Policy Advisory Board of The Atlanta Project (TAP), a program of The Carter Center addressing the social ills associated with poverty and quality of life citywide, from the program’s inception in 1991 until its transfer to Georgia State University in 1999. In 1988, she convened with three other former first ladies the "Women and the Constitution" conference at the Center to assess that document's impact on women.
Outside the Center, Mrs. Carter is president of the board of directors for the Rosalynn Carter Institute of Georgia Southwestern State University (RCI), which was established in her honor on the campus of her alma mater in Americus, Georgia. The mission of the RCI is to help family and professional caregivers. In 1996 she became honorary chair of the call-to-action campaign, Last Acts: Care and Caring at the End of Life, a national coalition of individuals and organizations advocating more compassionate care for those who are dying. She also works for Habitat for Humanity, a network of volunteers who build homes for the needy, Project Interconnections, a public/private nonprofit partnership to provide housing for homeless people who are mentally ill, and The Friendship Force, a citizens exchange program in more than 40 countries. She served as distinguished centennial lecturer at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, from 1988‑92 and is currently a distinguished fellow at the Emory University Institute for Women's Studies in Atlanta.
Since graduating from Georgia Southwestern College in l946, Mrs. Carter has received many honors, among them the Volunteer of the Decade and “Into the Light” awards from the National Mental Health Association; the Award of Merit for Support of the Equal Rights Amendment from the National Organization for Women; the Notre Dame Award for International Service; the Eleanor Roosevelt Living World Award from Peace Links; the Kiwanis World Service Medal from Kiwanis International Foundation; the Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service; the Georgia Woman of the Year Award from the Georgia Commission on Women, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. In 2005 she was named an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognition of the work she has done and continues to do for the health and well-being of children.
She has written five books: her autobiography First Lady from Plains; Everything To Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, a book about life after the White House co‑authored with President Carter; Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book For Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant); and Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), which was selected as the winner of the 1999 American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award in the service category. Following on the success of her caregiving book, Mrs. Carter teamed up again with Susan Golant in 1998 to write Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers. Helping Someone with Mental Illness was selected as the winner of the 1999 American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award in the service category. In May 2010, Mrs. Carter issued a call to action for creating equity for mental illnesses in our health care system by publishing Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis (with Susan Golant and Kathryn Cade), a deeply personal account of her advocacy and an unsparing assessment of the state of mental health care. She continues to travel and speak throughout the world and enjoys fly-fishing, bird-watching, biking, and jogging in her free time.