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Jimmy Carter: America has abandoned its leadership

Posted at 5:26 PM, May 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-19 17:26:42-04

(CNN) - Former President Jimmy Carter gave the commencement address Saturday at Liberty University.

He said the biggest challenge the world faces today is the human rights issue of the discrimination of women and girls.

Carter also talked about the growing disparity in wealth, the threat of nuclear war, deepening racial divisions in the US, the loss of confidence in public officials, the US abandoning its leadership in pursuit of a healthy environment and his wish for the US to be "strong enough so that we'd never have to prove that we are strong."

Carter opened with a quip about President Donald Trump, the only time he named the president in his speech.

“This is a wonderful crowd. Jerry told me before we came here that it's even bigger, I hate to say this, than it was last year. I don't know if President Trump would admit that or not," Carter said.

Carter said in 1999 he was asked to make speeches about what he believed the biggest challenge the world will face in the new millennium.

“I pointed out it was the great disparity in wealth between the richest people and those who still work for a living for their families. Since then, this disparity in wealth has gotten much greater, both within nations and also between nations," Carter explained.

He said eight people, six of them American, control more wealth than half the world's total population.

"Recently, I've changed my mind about the biggest challenge that the world faces," Carter said. "I think now it's a human rights problem and it is the discrimination of women and girls in the world."

Carter talked about human trafficking, forced sexual labor and sexual assault in the US military.

"The last time we did a check on our military, it was found that there were 16,000 cases of sexual abuse every year in the US military," Carter said, "probably one of the finest organizations on earth."

The US has more people in prison than any other country and there are more than seven times as many Americans in prison now than when he was in the White House.

"More than any country on earth," Carter emphasized.

He said racial divisions in our country are only getting deeper.

"And now we also know that the partisan divisions and the racial divisions in our country have never - are becoming deeper and deeper," Carter said. "All our religions are all so divided."

"More recently, the threat of nuclear war has become more acute," Carter said. "America has abandoned its leadership, as you know, as a champion of a clean and healthy environment. Broad confidence in our public officials has gone down. And we citizens have tended to lose faith in ourselves and in each other."

Carter talked about the loss of support and commitment to unwavering principles.

"We know that the United Nations has failed to bring peace and universal human rights have not been realized,” Carter said. “But we also know that the modern ability to travel rapidly and instant communication along with the wide use of social media have brought an enormous step big step towards a truly global society for the first time."

Carter talked about the Civil War, slavery, struggle to grant women the right to vote.

"So far we Americans down through history have had a hard time of adjusting to this concept of equality," he said. "More recently we have been struggling to end racial segregation. Even now some of us are still struggling to accept the fact that all people are equal in the eyes of God."

Carter said there are attributes of a superpower that go beyond military strength.

"It's the same as those of a person. Our nation should be known as a champion of peace. Our nation should be known as a champion of equality. Our nation should be known as a champion of human rights. We should also be admired for our generosity to other people in need and other moral values," Carter said.

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