With his lifetime dedication to bring democracy to South Korea and igniting popularity among the Korean public, my grandfather became a major threat to authoritarians who sought absolute control of the country and its citizens and hence was subject to ongoing assassination attempts, even unjustly sentenced to be executed. President Jimmy Carter, along with multitudes of other influential leaders throughout the world, successfully fought to prevent this immoral death penalty. Understanding President Carter’s affiliation with Emory University, the minute I began my freshman year, I had no doubt an opportunity to thank him would present itself sooner or later. However, in spite of the annual Carter Town Hall at the university, with chosen students even taking professional photos with President and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, I was never invited and thus remained oblivious to his near presence. Three months following my graduation from Emory College of Arts and Sciences, I attended a gala celebration, where the former president was assumed to make an appearance; nevertheless, he instead sent his grandchildren, one of whom ran for Governor of Georgia in the recent midterm elections. I began to lose hope in my desire to meet President Carter.
National Families in Action (NFIA) staff recently gathered for a minor conference regarding registering for a new social medium to increase the organization’s audience. Oz Nelson was in attendance, and when each participant was given a minute to introduce himself or herself, NFIA president vaguely shared with Oz my background and grandfather’s history with President Carter. I elaborated on her comments, and Oz immediately asked me to join a breakfast meeting on December 5, 2014, at The Carter Center, where I would briefly talk to and take a professional photo with President Carter, followed by breakfast and an assembly. Overwhelmed with exhilaration, I suggested my brother be there as well, and Oz gladly approved. When Oz left, I was informed of his positions as chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Carter Center and former chairman and chief executive officer of United Parcel Service, leaving me awestruck by his humility.
Roughly two to three hundred people participated in the occasion, but only a select few were invited for pictures with President Carter prior to the main gathering. As I shook his hand, I told him, “It’s an honor to finally meet you. [My brother] and I are grandchildren of” our grandfather. President Carter pleasantly surprisingly knew of us, asking, “One of you is still at Emory?” My father has repeatedly mentioned that, after meeting my grandfather in 1983, President Carter enthusiastically said, “Do you know whom I just met? I met my hero!” Over three decades since, to my brother and me, President Carter once again expressed, “Your grandfather was my hero … [He] was a good man” along with several other brief and warm personal messages relating to my family. Throughout this momentary conversation and process, humble Oz stood next to my brother and me to ensure we had the best experience possible. Connecting with President Carter helped refresh my family’s gratitude towards him for what he has done for my grandfather and world peace. I am confident God created this tangible moment for my family to cherish.