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Jimmy Carter accepts O’Connor Justice Prize at ASU ceremony

ASU honors Jimmy Carter for humanitarian work.
The Carter Center focuses on world peace, democracy and disease prevention.
January 27, 2017

Former president receives honor for humanitarian work focused on world peace, democracy and disease prevention

Former President Jimmy Carter said Friday that the U.S. should be “a champion of peace,” “human rights” and “generosity,” aspirations he said would stem worries over the country’s future.

“We should be the nation on Earth where anyone who has a conflict or potential for military conflict, they should say ‘Why don’t we go to Washington?’ ” he said shortly after accepting the O’Connor Justice Prize, administered by Arizona State University and named for retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  

“The United States is a champion of peace. The United States is a champion of human rights. The United States is a champion of generosity … America reaches out to people in need because we are the greatest country. That’s the kind of super power the United States ought to be.”

Carter, 92, visited Phoenix to accept the honor for his post-presidency humanitarian work. Through his nonprofit, The Carter Center, he has focused on world peace, democracy and disease prevention. He became the first ex-president to win the honor, which recognizes O’Connor’s legacy and efforts on behalf of judicial independence and human rights.  

Previous winners include Ana Palacio, a former foreign affairs minister for Spain who worked to incorporate human rights into the fabric of the European Union, and Navanethem Pillay, a former South African judge who fought apartheid.

About 300 people attended the award ceremony at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

Patricia Wald, whom Carter appointed as a federal appeals court judge, presented the award while O’Connor applauded with the audience. 

“His achievements out of office is just as impressive as his achievements while in office,” Wald said, adding that his integrity and honesty restored trust in government in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

She also noted his international legacy, saying “he has sincerely earned his title as the ‘human rights president.’”

Palacio led a brief Q&A session with Carter, ranging from world peace to women’s rights.

“Peace, justice and human rights have been the guiding light of our organization from the beginning,” Carter said. He added human rights must be “fair, honest and vigorously pursued.”

Carter said one of his proudest accomplishments in office was appointing more women as federal judges than all previous presidents combined.

At the time, he said, “it wasn’t easy to find women who were qualified for their service in the judicial system, because there were not deans in law schools and not heads of law firms” who were women.

Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981. During his time in office, he established diplomatic relations with China and forged an arms-limitation deal with Russia.   

Since then, he has used his Atlanta-based center to eradicate Guinea worm disease and mediate conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. He also supports human activists by appealing on their behalf to world leaders.

He said the idea for the center was seeded at Camp David in 1978 while negotiating a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

“We felt like we could offer our mediation services to the world, and we began to do that,” Carter said. “I soon realized that was just one aspect of it … later we expanded our horizons a little bit to fill all the vacuums in the world.”

Last year, the center focused on advancing the peace process in Sudan, fighting malaria in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and monitoring the presidential election in Zambia.  

Carter said he has observed and monitored more than 100 elections around the world.   

His center’s mission is “guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering.”

The former Georgia governor, Navy veteran and peanut farmer won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development,” according to the Nobel Foundation’s website.

The 86-year-old O’Connor watched the ceremony from a wheelchair in the front row.

Carter thanked her, calling the former justice a “great hero” and one of his “favorite fly-fishing companions.”

“I didn’t always agree with everything that Ronald Reagan did,” Carter said, “but selecting her as a justice was one of the best decisions he ever made.”

Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now. 

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24% of kids in ASU study were chronically bullied throughout their school years.
Bullying has adverse academic as well as psychological effects.
January 30, 2017

In Q&A, psychology professor Gary Ladd explains his latest research and shares how parents can help kids having trouble

A study published Monday by ASU psychology professor Gary Ladd found that contrary to popular assumptions, bullying is more severe and frequent in elementary school than high school, tending to taper off for most students as they get older.

Regardless, Ladd said the sheer number of children who are bullied at school — 24 percent of the children in his study suffered chronic bullying throughout their school years — is “extremely disturbing.”

“For teachers and parents, it’s important to know that victimization tends to decline as kids get older,” he said, “but some children never stop suffering from bullying during their school years.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study also found that bullying is related to lower academic achievement and less engagement in school.

“It’s tough to think about school when you’re worried about somebody beating you up,” Ladd said.

ASU Now dove a bit deeper into the subject and its nuances with Ladd as our guide.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

ASU psychology prof
Gary Ladd

Question: Your study found that bullying was more severe and frequent in elementary school compared with high school. Why is that?          

Answer: When children first come to school, they find themselves in very large groups of similarly aged children for the first time. Figuring out how to fit into that group can be more challenging for kids when they’re younger because they can’t express themselves as well with words. So when they’re frustrated or upset by something — or someone — they might have trouble expressing that. As they get older that improves, and also as they get older, there are more sanctions in society against aggression.

Q: Why has the connection between bullying and academic achievement been overlooked before?

A: There has been some prior research on bullying’s effect on achievement, but we’re the first to look at its effect on school engagement — those aspects of children’s adjustment to school that are the precursors to achievement. Things like, do children like school, do they participate and want to be there, or do they avoid it?

It has generally been assumed that those things don’t have much of an effect on children’s achievement. Our study would suggest there are stronger relationships between those variables than was previously thought.

Q: Why does being bullied have such a strong effect on school engagement and academic performance?

A: Most children, whether they want to or not, have to be in school every day. Often, what we heard from children who were bullied was that they had trouble concentrating because of it. It’s tough to think about school when you’re worried about somebody beating you up or waiting for you after school. Children who were bullied were also absent often, so they were missing out on schoolwork.

Q: Did your study look at the effect of bullying on the bullies themselves?

A: No, but that’s something that needs attention as well.

Q: Did your study find any indication that certain types of children are bullied more often than others?

A: Not this particular study, but some of my other studies suggest that kids who are extremely shy or withdrawn, or who are anxious or cry are more likely to be bullied.

Q: Did you find anything surprising in this most recent study?

A: The biggest surprise was that, despite movies and popular media depicting bullying as being most prevalent in middle school and high school, our study suggested that on average, kids are bullied more often in early grade school.

Another surprise was that we found that different groups of children had very different trajectories. One group, who were all chronic victims of bullying — meaning they were consistently bullied all throughout their school years — their achievement and engagement suffered most. However, kids who experienced a decrease in bullying in their later school years suffered fewer adverse academic and engagement effects. So our next question is why some kids escape victimization and others don’t.

Q: What are some ways parents and schools can help stop or lessen bullying?

A: My No. 1 suggestion, especially with younger children as they start school, is to be alert to the possibility that a child might be victimized at school. Look for signals like kids not wanting to go to school, or complaining or talking about being treated badly. It’s worth checking out and talking to teachers or the principal, or even observing classrooms to see how things are going for your child. It’s always best to be preventative. Our study found the adverse effects of bullying accumulate over time and get worse.

Schools are trying to create bullying-free environments both for safety and because of the effect on children’s development. Sometimes it’s good to ask if there’s any evidence that whatever program is being used works.