KarenOne of the great privileges of going to Candler is often getting the chance to meet the writers that we as students read in class. For example, in my first year at Candler, I was in a Moral Leadership class with Dr. Robert Franklin, and one of the books we read was White House Diary by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Little did I know that in a year, I would be eating dinner with Carter himself.

For the past 35 years, Carter has led an annual Town Hall with the Emory community. Before the event, all student body presidents of the schools attend a dinner with him.

This year I am serving as president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3), who is granted the opportunity to say the blessing at the dinner. Because of this, out of 30 people in the room, I was lucky enough to sit next to President Carter.

In many ways, it was like speaking to my grandfather, who told every experience through a good story. In other ways, it was like listening to a living encyclopedia who had endless knowledge and stark opinions on many matters.

I asked him about his Sunday school classes, his favorite place to visit (Ethiopia), and about how his faith informed his work. He said it was just second nature. Everything he does is by his faith; it informs all of his decisions. One memorable thing he said was when someone asked him if there were nights during his presidency when he couldn’t sleep. And he replied, "There was never a night I couldn’t sleep, because everyday I got up and did the best I could, and so I slept just fine every night. Even on the worst of days, I woke up and did the best I could."

Karen's place setting next to Carter's. He, in turn, asked about my future plans, and encouraged me in my work in ministry, especially as a woman in leadership. He said that he’s been glad to see in his lifetime that women have gained more of a presence in the church, and that it’s a necessary presence. The church should be reflective of change, not of keeping the status quo.

The most memorable part of the dinner was his story about how he came to know Russia's Vladimir Putin; to make a long story short, he finished with the observation, "Fly fishing can bring anyone together."

I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to sit with a man who has lived through so much history, and who saw his presidency as just the beginning of his work in the world.

May every future Candler C3 president cherish this opportunity as long as President Carter continues the Carter Town Hall!