By Elom Tettey-Tamaklo
“We must accommodate changing times but cling to unchanging principles.” This summer, I worked at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia and this was one of the quotes, often mentioned by former President Jimmy Carter which characterized my work and shaped my perspective. I worked in the Conflict Resolution Department specifically on the Access to Justice in Liberia program where I worked on projects around Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and youth participation in local politics. These projects allowed me to expand my knowledge about the effects of conflict on different demographics of the society and its impact on social relations between individuals. The work of the Carter Center in Liberia and many other places involves grappling with questions of rebuilding communities in the wake of political violence and preventing a resurgence of such violence. The autonomy and opportunity given me to work on relatively large-scale projects involving external stakeholders helped me develop professionally and gave me more insight into the world of international development.
Another aspect of working at the Center I enjoyed was the frequent communication and interaction with individuals in the field office in Liberia. This did not only broaden my network but exposed me to the dual perspectives of working from the headquarters and the field offices and the attendant challenges that come along with it. The depth and breadth of research work, the interesting and thought provoking conversations, the collegiality and friendships made with other intelligent and dynamic interns from all over the world made this experience truly worth it. One thing that stands out about the internship program is the investment the Center makes in its interns. From scheduling speaker series on a variety of topics, hosting a retreat, creating networking opportunities with individuals in various fields and providing mentorship, the Center has its interns at heart.
One of the most profound aspects of my internship however, were the interactions we had with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter. He graciously gave us a tour of his boyhood home, recalling memories growing up in a period of racial segregation and how it shaped his perspective about socio-political issues. He also talked about in detail, more than any other textbook will, his efforts in negotiating peace between Egypt and Israel in the Camp David Accord. President Carter’s gentle demeanor, grace, humility and honesty did leave an indelible impression on me. We often saw President Jimmy and Rosalynn coming through the hallways, warmly greeting us and still very much interested in work we were doing. I remember encountering the former first lady in the hallway and we struck up a conversation about Ghana, my home country and the work of the carter center there. She was excited that I was working with them and expressed her gratitude. These encounters with the Carter’s apart were inspiring and humbling, to say the least. President and Mrs. Carter’s words of concern and more importantly their commitment to improving democracy and human rights, which are rooted in their faith, inspire me to do more, fight for justice and be the change I want to see in my society and the world at large. I am confident that this experience was one of the significant milestones and turning points in my life. I am also happy to talk to any students who may be interested in applying.