It’s about the children

1 Sep

The first time I heard this story, I hadn’t taken mediation training yet. Now I can appreciate it sooo much more.  Please hang in there with me … it’s worth it.It’s September 1978 and President Jimmy Carter is working hard at Camp David to keep all of the parties at the table for the Middle East Peace Talks.  You can imagine how tricky that was … with more stumbling blocks than strides of progress.

It’s day 13 and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin wants to withdraw. This often happens in negotiations/mediation. You think that an agreement is close and then things break down – over something.

Children and the world - compressedBefore leaving, Prime Minister Begin asks the President to sign some photos for his grandchildren.  At the suggestion of his secretary, President Carter takes the time to personalize each picture with the name of each grandchild.  He delivers them personally to the prime minister who notices this kindness and is really touched by it.

Here is the excerpt from President Carter’s book, Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President:

“I handed him the photographs. He took then and thanked me. Then he happened to look down and see that his granddaughter’s name was on the top of one. He spoke it aloud, and then looked at each photograph individually, repeating the name of the grandchild I had written on it. His lips trembled, and tears welled up in his eyes. He told me a little about each child, and especially about the one who seemed to be his favorite. We were both emotional as we talked quietly about the grandchildren and about war.”

This gesture helped to keep the talks together. Isn’t that amazing?

With all of the political strife that is going on these days, don’t you wish that our leaders would reframe things in terms of the children? After all, they are going to live with the consequences of their actions for a long, long time.




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