GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter were in Grand Rapids on Monday to speak as part of Grand Rapids Community College's Diversity Lecture Series and to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary.
The 39th President of the United States said Grand Rapids has a special hold on his heart because of his admiration for President Gerald Ford, the man who preceded him as commander-in-chief.
"Gerald Ford was my personal friend," he said. "Betty was Rosalynn's personal friend."
Carter spoke on humanitarian issues he tackles through his work at The Carter Center, highlighting injustices against women worldwide and here at home. "The average woman who works in America gets paid 23 percent less than the average man."
Further pointing to the treatment of women, Carter noted the Department of Defense reported 26,000 cases of sexual assault within the military last year, yet only 3,000 of those were ever brought to any kind of trial - roughly one of every 1,000 cases.
Rosalynn Carter spoke of her decades of work working to improve mental health care in the country. "Stigma hangs on," she said. "The purpose of our program at The Carter Center is to overcome stigma and influence policy."
Both the former president and first lady took questions from GRCC students and talked about the United States' involvement in the Middle East. "I think it’s a mistake for us to start bombing in Syria, because we don`t have any reliable people on the ground," President Carter said. "We don`t have anybody on the ground that would really support us."
President Carter celebrates his 90th birthday on October 1.