Surishtha’s reflections on Rosalynn Carter

Last week, the country lost a remarkable person. A tremendous First Lady, Rosalynn Carter.

And I lost a dear friend.

My family relationship with the Carters goes back several decades, when my husband R.K. first met Lillian Carter (Jimmy’s mother). Over the years, I got to know the Carters, and we developed a close relationship.

I even started a nonprofit organization named for the Carters that celebrates academic service learning.

I’ve been flooded with emotions since learning of Rosalynn’s passing. Of course, I’ve been sad and sentimental, but I’ve also smiled as fond memories came to mind.

I’d like to share some:

  • After I introduced President Carter at the Carter Award presentation at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, India, she squeezed my hand and said how proud she was of me. We had brought the work of the foundation to India, and we were highlighting the good work that universities were doing in their communities. The Indian press buzzed: “The Carters call on Indian campuses.”

  • Once during a meeting, I complimented her stylish shoes. She told me that she had bought them in China. She added that she bought the same shoes in many other colors because they were so cheap. We both laughed.

  • “Sue, you have such good taste. I want you to take me to shop in India where you buy your scarves,” she said. It’s was a lovely compliment. And, of course, I took her and we went shopping together.

  • We celebrated many birthdays together. On President Carter and Rosalynn Carter’s birthdays, we would conduct an Indian Arti or ceremony in which we offer (and eat) “Prashad.” At one of the celebrations, she said, “Sue, Jimmy and I so look forward to this celebration every year, and I also look forward to those wonderful raisins and almonds!”

  • On a flight to Chicago, I was sitting behind Rosalynn. When we got to the tarmac, President Carter and Rosalynn went down, and the secret service stopped me from following them, even though we were traveling together. I stayed back, and then I heard Rosalynn asking from the bottom of the stairs, “Where is Sue?” I was amused and touched.

  • When we visited Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany, she told me that she enjoyed the small town and asked if I was staying there longer. She wanted to stay there longer but President Carter wasn’t feeling well.

  • When we were in India, she shared with me her favorite fragrances: pine, magnolia, jasmine. We designed and sourced candles for her with these scents which she loved.
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