Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for Dolvin Elementary School in Alpharetta, Georgia

September 15, 1980

Senator Talmadge, Governor Busbee, Congressman Fowler, President Otis Jackson,1 Sissy, Mamma, my fellow Georgians:

You can't imagine how delighted I am to be back in Georgia, to see my friends and to drive through this beautiful part of God's world, and how thrilled I was to ride up in front of this beautiful school and see my Uncle Dolvin's name on it. It means so much to me.

He first came here to serve the parents and the young people of this part of Georgia in 1930. He was a young man. The years were not good. Jobs were scarce as you well know, and he went to Mr. Ira Dodd's house in the middle of the night to ask for a job—woke him up—and the natural inclination was to be to turn him down. But Dolvin was so filled with a commitment to serve and a love of the educational process and a concern about young people that his fervor prevailed, and he was hired. And he went to work in elementary school as principal at Ocee, and he served there for a long time. Then he went to Crabapple and served there, I believe, for 19 years. And then he went to Roswell Elementary and served there for 15 years. And then later North Roswell was built, and he served as principal of both schools.

I visited often, because Sissy was my favorite aunt and helped to guide me through my formative years. And as I got into politics and government, Sissy's and Dolvin's house was a good place for me to come, not only to receive love and friendship and support but also to learn, because Dolvin was a tough debater. He knew that as a new State senator and later as a Governor that I was eager to learn and to improve the educational system of our State, and he taught me just as he taught his students in elementary school.

Dolvin was interested in two things, as you know, in education. One was the students, and the other was the teachers. He was president of Fulton County Teacher's Association for 10 years, and the thing that he believed was that teachers ought to be treated fairly. He thought that black teachers ought to get the same pay as white teachers. And he thought that elementary teachers ought to get the same pay as those in high school. He thought that the pay ought to be based on the responsibilities and the quality and not the age of the students or race. This was quite a startling thing in those days, but he was so persistent and he felt so deeply about what his beliefs were that he ultimately prevailed.

He fought hard for pension benefits and security at retirement for teachers and achieved notable results, benefiting not just the teachers in this immediate area but throughout Fulton County and eventually, I think, joined with many others in having a better life, better salary, better retirement, better security for teachers throughout the State.

He was not the kind of person to brag on himself. He was forceful, but quiet, and a lot of the achievements that he realized for me as a formative politician and a State leader and for the teachers and the students and the parents have never been adequately acknowledged until now. Nothing could have pleased him more than to have a beautiful school named for him.

This is a memorial that's much better than a book or a statue or speeches by political leaders. This is where his heart was. And as you know, the Roswell School was built on. part of the ground of the Presbyterian Church where he was an elder, and he felt that serving students and helping to form young minds and bringing parents closer together to one another and opening up the delights of learning—all those things were part of God's work. He never saw any incompatibility between his service in the church and his belief in God and his service in school and his belief in human beings.

He meant a lot to me. He served in the time of depression, a time of transition in our State, when ideas had to be changed and when the politicians in Atlanta, in Washington, and the county courthouses and the city halls and the business leaders and the church leaders were not willing to make those social changes so important to the South. The teachers had to do it. The teachers were the ones that had to bear the scars of those social changes that transformed our Nation. And I would not ever have been elected President, the first one from the Deep South in 140 years, had it not been for teachers and school administrators like Jasper Dolvin, who thought that the principles of the Constitution of our Nation ought to apply to all Americans the same.

To have modern schools with good facilities, pleasant surroundings, beauty, is very good, and as he struggled with those Depression-year children and welcomed a flood of new residents into the north Fulton County area, his leadership was very significant. He believed in what St. Paul said in First Corinthians 13, in three great things: faith, hope, and love—faith in young people who some day would strive to let their life burgeon forth, to let their minds be stretched, their hearts be expanded to love more people, to learn about God's world. He had faith in them and in their love to do things and to learn things.

And he had hope that no matter how dismal their background might be, no matter how poverty stricken their family might be, no matter how lacking in education their parents' life might have been, that that hope for that child was just as bright in the United States of America as for the wealthiest kid in Georgia.

And then, of course, he had love, not just for people but for nature, for the beauty of a mathematical equation and the loveliness of a song, and the inspiration of a painting as well as for books. And I believe that the most exciting thing he had to work with were young minds, and he never underestimated what those young minds could do and how difficult a challenge they were able to overcome.

Now, when I look at my grandchildren-Jason and James and little Sarah-who live in Georgia and I see so much potential there and so much eagerness to learn and to let their own lives be meaningful, I envy what Dolvin stood for-and Sissy was a teacher too—and what all the educators face: a delightful opportunity to spend the days opening doors for other children just as eager and just as full of potential as my grandchildren are. And when I see Amy learning and discovering and probing and asking questions, I wonder how all of the teachers do it. It's a tough job. And sometimes parents may not appreciate it enough, and sometimes the State legislators and the Governor and Presidents may not appreciate enough what teachers mean.

I had a special uncle, Jasper Dolvin, who meant a lot to me as a teacher. I had a special teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, who noticed in me, as a country boy, some potential and who let me take full advantage of it. She never lived to see me as President, and Dolvin never lived to see me as President, but they would have been proud not just of me but for all those students who had a better life because of them, the excitement of learning and the joy of a teacher in joining in the responsibility to prepare a better future for our Nation.

As President I have that responsibility, a better economic life, a safer life, peace, strength, unity, commitment, compassion, confidence of a nation, but my responsibilities are exactly the same—a little bit different perspective—as a teacher or a parent who also has to look to the future and feel responsible for it. Teachers, parents hold a special sacred trust to make an investment in a better life for us all. They've never let us down, and I'm deeply grateful to them and to Jasper Dolvin, being a superb example of what educators mean to me, to our Nation, and to the world.

1 Fulton County School Board chairman.

Note: The President spoke at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafetorium.

Following the ceremony, the President attended a Democratic National Committee fundraising reception at the home of Mrs. Dolvin.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for Dolvin Elementary School in Alpharetta, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251101

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