FOR A SMALL-TOWN boy brought up in the rural South, one of my
good fortunes in life has been the opportunity to travel: under the
sea as a young submarine officer with the U.S. Navy, on trade
missions as governor of Georgia, throughout the United States as a
candidate, and around the globe as president.
In the 16 years since leaving the White House, Rosalynn and I
have continued to travel, packing and unpacking so many times we've
lost count. Sometimes we go for pleasure - to be with family and
friends and to fish the remote reaches of the world, sometimes on
missions for the Carter Center, such as observing elections,
negotiating between disputing parties and helping to resolve
problems in the developing world.
In all this travel, what I remember best, beyond the places
I've been, are the people met along the way.
Seasoned travelers know that if you're going to experience life
in another land, you have to get as close as you can to the people.
You must embrace them and their ways, and the best way to do this
is close up - in their homes.
Exchange programs in which students and young people stay in
private homes in other countries have been around for a long time.
They have served well as vehicles for helping participants cross
over and gain insigh t into other cultures.
But what I didn't realize until I was governor of Georgia is
that this mode of visiting - and of learning - doesn't have to be
restricted to students and other young people. The homestay
philosophy is just as valid for adults, and through organizations
like The Friendship Force - marking its 20th anniversary this year
- they are readily available for all who are adventurous enough to
give them a try.
While I was governor of Georgia, Rosalynn and I helped carry
out a series of people-to-people exchanges between Georgia and
Brazil. Through our involvement in this program, which was the
precursor to The Friendship Force, we saw firsthand what could be
accomplished. It made us firm believers in the homestay concept for
enriching individual travel and as a means of creating a more
After entering the White House, Rosalynn and I helped create a
new organization that would promote a global homestay program for
adults called Friendship Force. It would be nongovernmental, the
homestays would last one or two weeks, and it would be available to
everyone in the world. Our goal was to create a "force," using the
power of friendship to break down barriers by creating direct,
personal ties among the people of the world.
Rosalynn's mother, Allie Smith, was an ambassador on the first
exchange between Atlanta and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. While
there, she stayed with an English family with whom she still stays
Later, our daughter-in-law, Annette, went to Berlin. Even as a
member of the president's family, she was assigned to live with a
typical German family, sleeping on their living room sofa because
there was no spare bedroom.
And our daughter, Amy, has been on two exchanges, one to
Newcastle and one to Moscow.
Back To Newcastle
In 1987, Rosalynn and I were ambassadors on an exchange back to
Newcastle and lived in the home of the family with whom Amy had
stayed years before. I remember fondly our summer visit with Tony
and Jenny Coates in northern England, and we still keep in touch
It was an unusual situation for me. Rosalynn, for once, had the
busier schedule, attending official Friendship Force functions,
leaving me free to enjoy our visit as an ordinary tourist would. I
had quite a bit of time to be with Tony and Jenny and their
daughters, Amy, 10, and Charlotte, 7.
I like to jog in the morning and found that Tony likes to run
as well. So early on Saturday morning we went for a 3 1/2-mile run
through the beautiful countryside outside Newcastle. Our route took
us through a tiny village called Riding Mill, and you couldn't ask
for a better setting for an early-morning run. …