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International Women’s Day in Atlanta features Barbara Bush, mothers

A celebration of mothers at the 2023 International Women's Day breakfast - (Left to right) Elaine Alexander, Paige Alexander, Rickey Bevington, Barbara Pierce Bush, Jason Carter and Judy Langford (Photo courtesy of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and tooShay Photography)

By Maria Saporta

Mothers were celebrated at the 2023 International Women’s Day breakfast gathering of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta on March 8.

The location of the breakfast – the Carter Center – was particularly appropriate given former President Jimmy Carter’s commitment to the advancement of women, both during and after his presidency.

Paige Alexander, president and CEO of the Carter Center, invited her mother – Elaine Alexander, a longtime leader in the Jewish and civil rights sectors – to the breakfast. Sitting next to Elaine Alexander was Judy Langford, the mother of Jason Carter, the grandson of the former president who now chairs the board of the Carter Center.

“My mother was in the Carter administration,” Jason Carter said proudly during the breakfast.

Barbara Pierce Bush chats with Jason Carter before the March 8 breakfast at the Carter Center. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

Langford, who was then married to Jason’s father Jack Carter, worked on women’s issues, including trying to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. She also served as the honorary chair of the President’s Advisory Committee for Women.

“My grandfather appointed more women to the federal bench than all the previous presidents combined,” said Jason Carter, also mentioning a book President Carter wrote in 2015: “Call to Action. Women, Religion, Violence, Power.”

Paige Alexander also reminded attendees that Carter established Women’s History Week, which became Women’s History Month. Everyone sent best wishes to President Carter, who recently entered hospice care at his home in Plains, Ga.

The keynote speaker of the breakfast was Barbara Pierce Bush, the daughter of former President George W. Bush and the granddaughter of the late President George H.W. Bush.

“We’ve been watching three generations of Bush women,” said Rickey Bevington, president of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, referring to the late Barbara Bush, Laura Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush, co-founder and chair of the nonprofit Global Health Corps.

In a candid conversation about growing up in a family of presidents and first ladies, Bush admitted that she was uncomfortable having the same name as her grandmother. But after the elder Barbara Bush died, she began to really appreciate the significance of having her name and respecting her authenticity.

Now her grandmother’s name is a reminder for her “to be courageous,” said Bush, who is mother to a 17-month-old daughter.

In fact, her daughter’s middle name is Georgia, partly to reflect the Georgia ties of her husband Craig Coyne, who grew up in Alpharetta and attended Georgia Tech.

One of the funnier moments in the program was when she said that the younger Bush generation calls her father “jefe,” the Spanish word for “boss.”

Bush also said that initially she thought she wanted to be an architect. But in 2003, she traveled with her parents to Africa where her father launched his administration’s HIV/AIDS program.

“I couldn’t believe the injustice,” Bush said of what she saw during that trip. “I then became obsessed… About 30 million people are alive today because of that program.”

So, she decided to go into global health. Eventually she started Global Health Corps as a way to the public health version of Teach for America, a nonprofit that she ran for nine years.

Rickey Bevington, Elaine Alexander and Paige Alexander before the International Women’s Day breakfast. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

Last month, Bush joined the National Basketball Association to work on health equity issues for the organization, even though she readily admits that she has limited knowledge of basketball and professional sports.

Bush, however, did know she was in the city of the Atlanta Hawks. She also was quite familiar with the fact that Atlanta is a hub for global health, and she told the breakfast audience that she’s open to closer partnerships with the many global health organizations based in Georgia.

The World Affairs Council has been holding a program on International Women’s Day for the past year. But the 2023 event was the first in-person event since 2020.

At the top of the program, Steve Gundlach, who is president of UPS Global Logistics and Distribution and chair of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, gave one of the best summations about the difference between equality and equity.

“Equality is giving everybody a shoe,” Gundlach said. “Equity is giving everybody a shoe that fits.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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