In 1979, First Lady Rosalynn Carter testified before a Senate panel on behalf of the President’s Commission on Mental Health. It was the second time in history a first lady, after Eleanor Roosevelt, had done so.
For years, Carter had been championing the need for a greater focus on mental health. She championed it back when her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, was running for governor, and she would champion it well after the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 was passed. It was a cause near and dear to her heart, one she began advocating after a chance encounter outside a Georgian cotton mill in 1966.
While waiting to greet and hand out political pamphlets to workers heading home after their overnight shifts, Carter encountered a woman who would change her life. This woman was the mother of a child with mental illness, and she worked overnights, so her husband could work the day shift. This husband and wife alternated shifts to ensure that their child had at least one parent at home, as there weren’t many mental health services that could help with their daughter’s needs.
This chance encounter stuck with Rosalynn Carter. While her husband was governor, she pushed him to advance the cause of mental health in the state of Georgia, and when she found herself in the White House, she took the reins to dare to create national policy, the likes of which had never been seen before.
When Carter was voted out of office, the incoming Reagan administration repealed most of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. Disappointing as it was, the former First Lady’s conviction to the cause was only emboldened.
To this day, the Carters continue to give talks, advocate for policy, and educate people around the world about mental health, among many other causes. Whereas some former first families settle into retirement, the Carters speak their truths and work as tirelessly as ever.
In Literary Orphans Issue 34: Rosalynn, we pay tribute to the fire, spirit, and conviction of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
Many of the writers and poets in these pages have their own truths to tell and causes to advocate for. Some of them have been speaking their truths for a long time. Others are just beginning to champion an idea near and dear to their hearts.
At Literary Orphans, we all have something to say. It may not be popular. It may feel like the world is against us when we open our mouths.
But we’re going to say it. Because we have to. Because it could help someone out in the world who needs to hear it.