The Carter Center in Atlanta has observed democratic elections in 30 countries in the past two decades. The recent election in Iran was not one of them, said Steven Hochman, an assistant to former President Jimmy Carter and director of research for the center.
"President Carter is not welcome in Iran," Hochman said to an audience of students at Transylvania University on Wednesday. "Those of you who know your history will know why."
None of the 51 students in Lexington as part of the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship's National Student Congress would remember the 1979 taking of American hostages in Iran during Carter's presidency. But, because they are interested in international diplomacy and compromise, they might have studied the event.
The second annual congress focuses on "global statesmanship in a changing world."
"We're in the midst of a global conflict, and we have been for quite some time," said Mindy Shannon Phelps, executive director of the Henry Clay Center. "The congress is bridging the nations of the world by educating a new generation of leaders in statesmanship."
The rising university seniors chosen for the program represent each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. They are in Lexington this week for sessions on debate, diplomacy, listening, mediation and compromise, Phelps said.
The students were all recommended by their U.S. Senator or by their university to attend the congress, she said.
The students, who arrived on Saturday and Sunday, spent their first few days immersed in the world of Henry Clay and Kentucky history, Phelps said.
On Wednesday, Hochman showed the students a video depicting the Carter Center's advocacy work in countries such as North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and China. Then, Hochman urged the students to apply for internships or volunteer at places such as the Carter Center, the Peace Corps and other non-governmental organizations.
Positions at the Carter Center are becoming more and more competitive, he said.
"Now even our secretaries speak more than one language," Hochman said.
After his lecture, he fielded questions from the students.
One student asked if democracy was always the best path for a country, or if "stable dictatorships" could work in some cases.
Hochman said the Carter Center does not always push for democratic elections in every country, but he does believe it is necessary to take small steps toward democracy.
"You don't have to have all or nothing," he said.
Tyler Craft, a rising senior at the University of Mississippi who is here as part of the student congress, said he believes the United States must learn to work with powers like China, Russia and the European Union to fix global problems.
"We're no longer able to fix everything single- handedly," he said.