July 25, 2010 - 10:14 PM
Last week, one of the projects I was working on for my internship involved doing some research on a set of twins who recently passed away and left a gift to The Carter Center to help provide scholarships to female interns experiencing financial hardships. My assignment was to write a biography on the two women that could be given to recipients of the scholarship as a way to preserve their legacy.
I had a lot of fun researching and writing this piece because I have a very warm spot in my heart for donors whose scholarship funds provide these types of life-changing experiences for students. I know first hand how wonderful it is to receive financial assistance and I'd like to take this opportunity to once again thank all of the departments and individuals at the University of Oregon that made my internship this summer possible through their generous contributions.
I thought it would be nice to have a blog post that shows some of the work that I've been doing, so I am pasting the piece that I wrote on the recent Carter Center donors below. It is one of the things so far this summer that I am the most proud of and I even received a phone call during work on Thursday from the Vice President of Operations, thanking me for writing such a great piece. It had originally been his request to have it done, so upon completion, was forwarded on to him. The biography follows:
The Ruth and Ruby Crawford Scholarship Fund
Recognized by their extravagant matching outfits, bright red lipstick, and warm friendly smiles, Ruth and Ruby Crawford were known for their tireless contributions toward the advancement of women and the betterment of the Atlanta community. The Crawford twins were born in Temple, Georgia in 1919, but called Atlanta their home for over 65 years.
They decided to become lawyers during a time when it was uncommon for women to do so, both graduating from the Atlanta School of Law after receiving their masters' in accounting from Georgia State University. The Crawfords made strides for women's equality with Ruby being the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors for the Georgia State Chamber of Commerce and the two of them becoming the first women inducted into the Atlanta Convention and Visitor's Bureau Hospitality Hall of Fame. The Crawford twins were "Trail Blazers" for women in law and banking in Georgia and in her last years, Ruby spoke out for legislation promoting equal pay for women in the workplace.
Professionally, Ruth and Ruby held the titles of banker, attorney, accountant, and realtor. They worked more than 33 years at First National Bank of Atlanta, several more years with Northside Realty, and taught law courses at the American Institute of Banking and Emory University.
In the community, the Crawford twins earned dozens of civic awards for their work to help the homeless, the elderly, and the hungry. They were generous supporters of the Buckhead Christian Ministry, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, High Museum of Art, Buckhead Club, Atlanta Symphony, Atlanta Humane Society, and the Democratic Party. Ruth and Ruby were comfortable working in soup kitchens, as well as shaking hands with many prominent government leaders.
Ruth and Ruby Crawford were long time friends of President and Mrs. Carter. They were original members of the Peanut Brigade, helping to elect President Carter to the White House. President Carter once called Ruth and Ruby two of the most "effective and enthusiastic" members of his brigade. The Crawford twins later served as Docents at the Jimmy Carter Library and volunteered time with The Carter Center.
Ruth and Ruby Crawford passed away in 2005 and 2009 at the ages of 86 and 90, respectively, after living lives of great service to the city of Atlanta. Upon passing, the Crawford twins provided an endowment gift to The Carter Center to help fund internships for deserving female students. Their legacy of kindness and belief in equality will be preserved through their generous gift.
July 24, 2010 - 6:50 PM
This Friday marked the first departure of some of the summer interns. Those who started on May 18 finished their internships. Before everyone begins to depart, however, we had one more big event that was planned for us. Friday was our question and answer session with President and Mrs. Carter.
President and Mrs. Carter came into Atlanta on Friday to the main Center to meet with us. We all dressed in our professional best and filled our conference room. Mrs. Carter was the first one to arrive. She started us off by talking about her interest in mental health issues and how she got started with it. When President Carter joined her a few minutes later, he started speaking to us by sharing some statistics with us on our internship class. He said that we had been chosen from about 600 applicants and that together we fluently spoke 12 different languages. He told us that The Carter Center has had about 1,000 interns from about 80 different universities since it began its program. President Carter seemed very pleased and invested in the internship program.
Next came the questions. The Carters had very thorough answers to each question, so we were only able to get in about six before our time was up. I enjoyed hearing Mrs. Carter talk so passionately about the mental health program she helped start when she was asked a question about it. I am interested in this program as it greatly relates to my interest in homelessness.
My favorite part, however, was probably when someone asked President and Mrs. Carter what their advice would be for a student graduating who wasn't entirely sure what he or she wanted to do. President Carter's advice was to join the Peace Corps, but the answer extended beyond that simple response. Both President and Mrs. Carter began to talk about the importance in taking the time while we are our age to just enjoy life and do all of the things that we may not be able to do as easily when we get older. They suggested traveling as much as we could. Mrs. Carter probably put it the best when she said that now is the time to explore and have fun and travel because eventually you will have a family or a career or something that makes it harder to just get up and go. I think this was important for me to hear as I approach my own graduation and try to find the balance between a hefty appetite to travel and high ambitions for excellent work experience. President Carter said that if you graduate and completely know that you want to go to graduate school for something or take a particular job, that that's great, but that if it isn't like that, it is fine to just explore and take advantage of being young.
After our question and answer time was over, President Carter jokingly told us all to get back to work. Before actually doing so, we all got in line and went through for our individual photos with the Carters. You only got one chance and if you blinked, they just take your solo picture again later and Photoshop your unblinking face into the picture. It all had to be done very quickly, as the Carters keep to a pretty tight schedule. I know at least that I didn't blink in my photo, but we'll have to wait and see how it turned out! We also had a group picture taken with the two of them.
July 18, 2010 - 8:41 PM
I have decided that a year of my life needs to be dedicated to living in some small farm town, learning how to do hard work in the hot sun and studying how to soak up the beauty in simplicity.
This weekend, along with the other interns, I spent the weekend in Plains, Georgia, the hometown of President and Mrs. Carter. Plains is about three hours south of Atlanta and is home to about 650 people and 11 churches. Its downtown is about the size of a city block in Eugene and contains a Jimmy Carter/Peanut souvenir shop, an antique store, a café, a small inn, and maybe about two other gift/book shops.
When we all stepped off of the bus in Plains, I put on my sunglasses and let the heat engulf me. We had a bit of free time before lunch, so we wandered around downtown a bit. Upon entering the souvenir shop, I was presented with various peanut and peanut ice cream samples. The shop was filled with Jimmy Carter campaign buttons, t-shirts, old newspapers, and just about anything you could think of. There was also a wide variety of peanut related products for sale and witty country signs, such as "Opossum: The Other White Meat."
The annual pig pull festival also happened to be going on, so we wandered down the street toward that as well. I stopped for a lemonade from one of the food vendors. Watching the lemonade be made was like watching some very scientific chemistry experiment before my very own eyes. First, she cut a lemon in half and stuck it in a juicer. Then, she put ice in a cup and added two different liquids to it from different containers. Next, she added the freshly squeezed lemon juice and then swished the drink back and forth between two cups. Needless to say, it was amazing. "Thank you, ma'am, enjoy," she said with a sweet southern twang, and we walked off in a state of pure bliss.
Before continuing through the tiny festival, we stopped off to walk through the Jimmy Carter Presidential Campaign Headquarters and got to see a little of the history behind his election. I think my favorite campaign bumper stickers had to be the ones that showed a cartoon-like drawing of his famous smile followed by the text, "in '77." As we walked back to the bus to meet up for lunch, I enjoyed looking around at the local crowd, seeing simple families enjoying a summer day.
We had lunch at a little cafeteria-style restaurant across the street from downtown called "Mom's Kitchen." Mom's involves walking through a line with a tray and pointing out to the friendly staff on the other side anything you may desire. I ended up with rice, black-eyed peas, a fried cornbread patty, and a grilled cheese sandwich that a friend of mine has taught me to love covered in sliced pickles. I also had some of my friend's corn on the cob. It was all gloriously heavy, deliciously simple southern food. I later learned that "Mom" has been known to cater the Executive Briefing event for The Carter Center as well.
Our next stop was a tour of the historic inn in downtown with Mrs. Rosalynn Carter. The inn has been renovated with the help of the Carters and each room represents a decade in which Jimmy Carter has lived. Everything in the rooms from the furniture and decorations to the toilet and refrigerators are actually from the different decades. It was a very neat place to tour and would be a very cute place to stay.
Mrs. Carter was very sweet when talking to us. She had so many stories to tell and seemed as though she really wanted us to get the most out of being in Plains and being interns. I enjoyed hearing her tell us about some ghost stories from an apparently haunted house that we would later be passing on the way to President Carter's boyhood home. Mrs. Carter's voice was so soft, sweet, and welcoming. Before she left, we got a group picture taken with her and she said she'd see us in Atlanta next week for our question and answer session and photo opportunity with the Carters.
We left the inn to head off to President Carter's boyhood home. When we arrived, we were greeted with bags of boiled peanuts and we sat around in a semi circle on wooden benches, waiting for President Carter to arrive. President Carter was just as sweet as Mrs. Carter had been. He stood in front of us and told us about what it was like growing up in Plains and how African-Americans had been truly important to him throughout his childhood. He mentioned his "Daddy" with a wonderful Georgian accent many times throughout his stories. We also got to ask some questions at the end and get a group photo taken with him before he left. He was a very humble and kind person and seemed very open with us, expressing his thanks for the work we do as interns. It was also fun watching him walk off through the grounds of his boyhood farm with his grandson, Jason Carter, who was recently elected to the Georgia State Senate. They would stop at the fig trees and at the well. It was nice seeing how down to earth a former president can be.
We all walked around the farm a bit before leaving. I enjoyed walking through his old home and watching the blacksmith at the farm make j-hooks. I think my favorite part, however, was eating a fresh, ripe fig right off of one of the trees.
We left to nearby Andersonville next to do a short visit to the National P.O.W. Museum before having dinner and then settling into our hotel in the small, neighboring town of Americus.
The next morning, we woke up early, got dressed in our Sunday best and headed back to Plains for quite a unique experience. Periodically, when President Carter is in Plains, he will teach an adult Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church. The interns were invited to come to his lesson this Sunday.
Before entering the church, each of us was scanned by the Secret Service with a security wand. If you had a purse, they wanted to go through everything. If you had a camera or a cell phone, they would want to hold it and push some buttons and take some pictures. Despite all of the security measures, they were all really nice people and carried on some conversation with us. They knew we were Carter Center interns.
Before President Carter actually entered the room, we, and the rest of the audience, were instructed on every way to act while President Carter was present by an adorable southern woman. She spoke very frankly in a way that kind of made me giggle a little.
Next, President Carter entered the sanctuary, as did Mrs. Carter and his grandson and great-grandson. Mrs. Carter and the family went and sat down in the pews while President Carter stood up in front of the group. I was impressed again by his very humble and personable nature. It was more like he was carrying on a conversation with all of us than he was talking at us. He asked for everyone to shout out where they were coming from and there were people present from all around the world. His lesson was on the seven deadly sins and this one focused in particular on pride. President Carter is a great speaker and it was great seeing him speak about something that he was so clearly passionate about. I like that he related a lot of what he was teaching to the work that he has done around the world and to current government policies here in the U.S. In particular, he talked about immigration and undocumented workers. I enjoyed the experience.
The interns left after President Carter's lesson, although it was soon to be followed by the Sunday worship. We drove down the road instead to the high school that President and Mrs. Carter attended when they were young. It has since been turned into a museum. I enjoyed looking at the tiny desks in the classrooms and wondering how in the world high schoolers could fit in them. After the museum, we once again loaded the bus and began our travel back to Atlanta.
I greatly enjoyed our trip to Plains. I think that it added a really wonderful aspect to my internship, helping to make me feel more connected to the organization. I liked its personal nature and its obvious interest in its interns. President Carter introduced our group to the whole congregation and shared some detail on the work we do. I got goosebumps being honored by a former president in front of a group of people like that.
In addition to adding to my internship experience, however, Plains also further pushed me into a state of love with the countryside and the ideas it comes to represent. Oddly enough, there is something very romantic about the idea of sitting in a rocking chair on a porch, swatting away flies, sipping lemonade after a long day of work on the farm. There is something about living simply and creating what you have through your own work that sets my heart fluttering. I think it's time I invest in a good, wide-brimmed hat. I'm going to need it to keep the sun out of my eyes.
July 17, 2010 - 5:30 PM
One thing I'll miss about living in the South is the thunder. I've grown very fond of the sporadic, passionate storms that hit Atlanta periodically. I think someday I'll find myself dreaming of the lightning storms that flash through the sky like sun through a river rapid.
If you know anything about the University of Oregon, you know that it exists in an area of very persistent drizzle. A good chunk of the year is dedicated to gray, gloomy skies and heavy mists that are occasionally broken up by actual rain drops. Growing up in this environment, I have actually come to love it as well and the thought of it can easily spark nostalgia. The chromatic grays of the Pacific Northwest will always be a part of my identity.
However, growing up in this drizzle, I have never truly gotten to experience the coming of great storms. Occasionally, we will have some lightning or thunder, but only a few strikes of lightning and mostly muffled thunder. In Atlanta, the thunder comes like an earthquake and the lightning like a strobe light. The rain pours furiously, quickly flooding sidewalks and smashing down on the windshields of cars in manner that forces them to slow down. I love it. I love watching it, hearing it, smelling it. If I'm in my room and a storm hits, I turn off my air conditioner so that I can better listen to the rain and the thunder and not have it contaminated by the humming of the machine.
My favorite way to watch a storm is sitting on my front porch on the swing. It's best at night when it's cooler and you can kind of still see the rain in the darkness, but the lack of light forces you to experience it more through touch, smell, and sound. I feel very calm watching the rain this way. It makes me breathe deeper. I believe a good rainstorm can almost (almost!) have that same effect on me that running into the cold waves of the Pacific Ocean does.
One night, there wasn't any rain and no huge thunder, but there was a lot of lightning higher up in the sky and out toward the hills. My friends referred to this type of lightning as heat lightning and, also being a storm enthusiast, drove with me out toward it.
I have the feeling that my memories of Atlanta will come like its storms do. Those moments that stood out from all the rest will be unexpected, strong, melancholic, but beautiful.
July 11, 2010 - 3:53 PM
I think this blog post could probably also be titled "Getting Back to the Basics." The ideas of beauty, love, and being fabulous are pretty core to the way I live my life, but I think that they are also sometimes too easy to forget about when wrapped up in the stress of work or school.
Last summer, I ended my internship with the Fresh Air Fund by traveling for a couple of weeks through New York. This led me to my past blog post about the importance of finding moments of fabulousity in everyday life. While in New York, I found a lot of beauty and I found that beauty in many forms. That is what I love about traveling to new places for work. Being in a new environment presents the opportunity to explore and to find those moments that make you realize just how special the experience is. I always look forward to days in my life where I find "the feeling" and often find it while traveling to new places.
I first noted "the feeling" during my travels in Greece and have since then been unable to properly define it in words. It usually just involves some motioning toward my heart and a face filled with calm joy. "The feeling" is a sensation that overtakes the body when presented with an environment or situation that exudes beauty. I feel as though I spent the beginning of my time here in Atlanta forgetting about "the feeling." This realization set me on a path of the pursuit of the fabulous, to find beauty and love in the space I am in and the work I am doing. My first honest experience of "the feeling" came not in the office, but on the farm.
Last weekend, I went with one of my intern friends to his farm. The farm is about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. His family and friends were having a Fourth of July party out at their campsite. The campsite was out in the woods near the pasture and next to the river. The party involved a large amount of good foods, including barbeque, potato salad, baked beans, and more. Some of the people at the party brought their instruments and played in a circle on their guitars and banjos as the sun slowly set. There was a bonfire over which I, of course, cooked one of my famous s'mores. The scene was filled with simple joys and the environment was so peaceful and serene. I loved being out there because it was as if I didn't have to worry about anything for a moment. For a moment, my mind stopped thinking about everything I needed to do.
I loved just sitting and listening to the crickets. As the night took over, the fireflies came out in their attempt to blend the stars in the sky with the land. The air cooled down, but it was still hot enough out that a jacket was unnecessary. It got later and the music kept playing and I looked at some of the children who were present begin to get their sleepy faces and snuggle close to their parents. I slept the night under the stars, the sounds of owls and coyotes in the distance. It was perfect. It felt so nice to be away from everything for a moment and just relax and enjoy.
That farmland was such an extreme place of beauty of love in a way that I haven't really experienced before. Recently, I have been infatuated by cities. After New York, I was convinced that everything wonderful and everything I wanted could be found in the concrete jungle. This trip let me see how much I equally love and appreciate the country. It is quiet and peaceful out there in a way that nowhere else is.
I went back out there this weekend and picked a gallon of blueberries. After a long week, it was almost like a form of meditation to be able to just focus on picking berries. The hot sun and the sweat no longer bothered me, but became instead a part of the experience, a part of the beauty. There is something charming about the South. It is easy to get stuck in the routine, but what I am learning is that to be free in the South, in Georgia, is to be carefree, well-fed, listening to great music, and looking at love in a new way.
Stay tuned as I continue my quest for beauty, love, and everything fabulous in the South. I'm excited to have found "the feeling" again if only for a moment.