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A message from Jonathan Reckford:
Reflections on the passing of Rosalynn Carter

Dear colleagues,

As former first lady Rosalynn Carter was laid to rest this week, the world has come together to celebrate the extraordinary life of a pioneer and advocate for mental health, women’s equality, adequate housing and human rights.

I had the honor of attending her memorial service in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. on Tuesday. One hymn at the service was “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” The guest list brought together former U.S. presidents and former first ladies from both sides of the aisle in unity. It was also deeply moving to see all of the Carter family together, including former President Jimmy Carter. His public attendance was a testament to his deep devotion to his “Rosie,” and his greatest commitment was to support her throughout their wonderful life together.

Over the past few days, there have been so many memories shared of the hope and humanity she brought to all she did. In addition to recalling her many accolades – from serving as the honorary chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health to founding the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern State University – the personal stories showed her deep kindness and compassion not only for her family, but also the families she served. Her grandson Jason affectionately remembered a time when their family was on a commercial flight, and his grandmother pulled out a container of pimento cheese – and then proceeded to not only make sandwiches for his family, but also sandwiches for other passengers on the plane.

Despite her high profile, she was still a down-to-earth, loving wife, mother, grandmother and friend, who was constantly thinking about the needs of others. I recently learned that during their time in the White House she arranged for the families of their staff to use Camp David when they weren’t using it. I will always remember her humble grace when I took my children to Plains, Georgia to meet the Carters for the first time. We attended church with them and then went out to lunch. My daughter, who was eight at the time, was in the middle of a book and began to read it under the table. Mrs. Carter was quick to tell us it was fine, before sharing that Jimmy used to do it all the time. Consistently, I’ve seen her extend that same compassion she had for her colleagues and friends to the many families impacted through her work with Habitat, the Carter Center and her other endeavors.

Since Mrs. Carter’s passing, we have received over 1,000 messages on Habitat’s online memory book, as well as an abundance of reflections and condolences on our social media channels. She was such an important part of Habitat’s work, not only as an advocate, but as an active participant. Though she had a “voice as soft as cotton,” she was quick to proudly tell you she had become a fairly accomplished carpenter. So many families around the world have roofs over their heads because of her, and we are eternally grateful for her support of more than 30 years.

Mrs. Carter lived a full and impactful life, and while we can be sad about missing her, we should also celebrate all that she accomplished. She was strong in her faith and knew this was not the end of the story for her – nor should it be the end of her work. Her legacy of service will live on, and it is up to us to continue the selfless work that defined her life. In honor of Mrs. Carter, do something kind for someone else today, and may we all strive to follow her example and live lives full of love, compassion and grace.

Jonathan T.M. Reckford
Chief Executive Officer
Habitat for Humanity International

If you would like to leave a message on Habitat’s online memory book please visit:

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