National Lutheran News

Nobel keynoters challenge U.S. arrogance, absence from international stage

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

Gro Brundtland, Jimm Carter spoke at St. Olaf College in February.

A former Norwegian prime minister and a former U.S. president spoke to Twin Cities Nobel Conference audiences during February. Both gave the U.S. government bad marks for the direction of its current foreign policy.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, one-time Norwegian prime minister and former director of the World Health Organization, spoke to friends of Norway at a luncheon in Minneapolis on February 19 and again at St. Olaf College the next day. She said countries like Norway have a good record of providing aid for development in Third World countries, but pointed out that the U.S., as a percentage of Gross National Product, gives about one-tenth that of a typical Nordic country.

Said Brundtland, “Today, one billion people can’t meet their minimal nutritional needs. That’s one-fifth of the world’s population.” She said the typical African country has reduced its standard of living 20% in the past 25 years. “It wasn’t high to begin with,” she added.

The former WHO director said developed countries like the U.S. are not doing their part to help alleviate international health crises.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter spoke at St. Olaf on February 21. Speaking to a full house at the ELCA school’s Skoglund Auditorium, he chastised the Bush administration for leading the country into an “ill-conceived” conflict in Iraq and for having no plan to deal with the confusion which followed the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Carter said the United States has “failed miserably” in sharing its wealth with the world’s less fortunate countries. He observed there appears to be no sense in the United States of wanting to be more generous to those in need beyond our borders.

He said the greatest challenge that the world faces today is the growing chasm between the world’s wealthy and the marginalized.

Asked how Americans could most effectively deal with the growing polarization in the nation’s political arena, Carter half-jokingly replied, “Vote Democratic in November.”

The former Democratic president’s comment generated laughter and sustained applause.