A ‘devoted,’ ‘courageous’ friend

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For 40 years, I have been blessed by the friendship and inspirational counsel of Father Theodore Hesburgh.

Father Hesburgh has devoted his long and consequential life to serving humanity, always taking courageous stands on the serious moral issues that have faced our nation and the world–from his fight for civil and human rights and against nuclear proliferation and global hunger to his ongoing efforts to seek peace among people in conflict.

As has every U.S. president since Eisenhower, I had the privilege of his advice and personal service when I was in office. His invitation for me to deliver Notre Dame’s Commencement address early in my Presidency provided a forum to inspire a new generation with the concept of human rights. His vocal concern regarding the treatment of immigrants led me to name him chair of the Select Committee on Immigration and Refugee Policy, and his recommendations served as the basis of crucial congressional reform legislation.

Following up on a humanitarian fact-finding mission to the former Vietnam war zone with my wife Rosalynn, Father Hesburgh helped spearhead relief efforts that averted mass starvation among Cambodian refugees. Because of his progressive views about the role of science and technology in world development, I appointed him U.S. ambassador and chairman of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Conference on Science and Technology for Development, the first time a priest had served in such a diplomatic role. He succeeded beyond expectations in all these tasks.

Father Hesburgh has made the world a better place–for those of us whose lives he has touched directly and as an inspiration for generations to come.


Jimmy Carter

39th President of the United States


Click to read Carter’s letter as it was originally presented.