A Brief Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted July 14th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
I can’t help it, Niagara At Large readers, and I hope you will indulge me on this one for a few moments.
In what so often seem to be these scoundrel times we live in, it is important to remember that there are good people among us, devoted to making our world a little better.
With that in mind, here is to one of my favourite people and one of the most decent people ever elected to the to the U.S. presidency – Jimmy Carter, who at the age of 92, is still out there volunteering his time to Habitat for Humanity, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building affordable housing for people in the United States, Canada and other parts of the world.
This July 13th, while working on a building project for the organization in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jimmy Carter collapsed from dehydration and ended up spending the night in hospital.
“Stay hydrated and keep building,’ the former president later said in a statement, and true to his words, he was back on the build site with his work boots on this July 14th morning.
While so many other retired politicians have devoted so much of their time to lucrative book and speaking engagements (not that he hasn’t graced us with a few good books over the years), Jimmy Carter has spent much of the past four decades engaged in humanitarian work like Habitat for Humanity.
Upon his arrival in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his wife Rosalynn to begin the build there, he said in a statement; “Housing affordability in Canada is at an all-time low. We are proud supporters of Habitat for Humanity and grateful to everyone who is joining us in our efforts to bring affordable housing to families across the country.”
And while I was thinking about Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity this July 14th morning, I could not help but think about a great person I met many years ago as a reporter, while covering the very first Habitat for Humanity project in Niagara, Ontario community of Welland some 25 or more years ago.
One of the individuals leading that project was Dick Halverson, a resident of Pelham in Niagara and a housing development consultant, who I came to respect as one of the most selfless, community minded people I have ever met in this region.
I would see Dick Halverson again near the end of my reporting career at the St. Catharines Standard when he came to support a battle some of us at the paper fought and ultimately lost to keep the new corporate owners of the Standard from gutting our newsroom.
Years later, after I launched Niagara At Large, he would sometimes contribute commentary to this site on matters of concern to him and to others he so often shared his support for.
Here is an excerpt from one commentary Dick Halverson shared with Niagara At Large as a companion to a piece I posted here for Remembrance Day on November 11th, 2010 which I feel shows some of the humanity of the man –
“I am a Vietnam era veteran,” he wrote. “I was not in combat but have been to the first stop hospitals to see the damage done to friends. The horror is burned in my memory.”
“ Veterans deserve honour and fair treatment after their sacrifice. They are, however, not the source of freedom. While such sentiment seems respectful, I believe it actually diminishes all of us.”
“Veterans do not ‘give’ freedom to us. Serving in the military is just one way to protect freedom. It is ours to protect just as much as those who fight.”
“It is ours to protect by taking full advantage of our freedom to protect the poor and weak, to demand accountability and to punish those who are unjust, and to ensure all have the social and economic opportunity and ability to live their lives to the fullest. And is it ours to protect by being engaged in our political life by being well informed, civil to each other, and voting.”
Sadly, Dick Halverson died this past January in his 70th year. His loss would have left a big void in this region at any time – but especially now when Niagara could use a lot more people like him in public life.
So with all the bad there is out there, it is important to remember the good people like Jimmy Carter and Dick Halverson. Their lives should serve as an inspiration to all of us.
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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders
I had the honour of meeting Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in Kathmandu, Nepal at our hotel in 2008 when they were there monitoring an election. He was genuine, down to earth and interested in my friend and me and then we dined together at his invitation. He is the one living president that I had ever wanted to meet. He laughed aloud when I asked if I could take a photo of him and was instantly surrounded by men (an unusual occurrence for me!)as I reached into my purse for my camera. The next morning at breakfast I spoke to a man beside me who was wearing a Carter Institute shirt and, not knowing who he was, I said I had met President Carter. He said he was the best father anyone could ever have – so he was obviously the same in his private life as in his public life.
This wonderful man and his wife have done more for humanity than any past president that I am aware of, not just through Habitat for Humanity but also for promoting health in third world countries. Their efforts have practically eliminated the scourge of Guinea Worm and other illnesses.
I hope they live to 100 at least. They are both genuine heroes!
I knew Dick Halverson from the period Doug refers to when the Standard was going south. Along with other like minded readers we developed The Standard Readers Forum, for open discussion and trying to close the corporatism that crept into The Standard. We, as a voluntary local group, did get buried, but I recall Dick’s openness and love of community well.