In the 26 years since he left the White House, former President Jimmy Carter has traveled the world as both peacemaker and provocateur -- earning the Nobel Prize in 2002, and drawing fire for diplomatic freelancing and his controversial new book: "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."
Carter and "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos covered that ground, plus the politics of Iraq and 2008, when they met at the Carter Center in Atlanta (click here to link to the organization's Web site) for Carter's first ever "This Week" interview.
But they began with the work that makes Carter most proud -- his quiet crusade against killer diseases extinct in the wealthy world but still ravaging Africa.
Carter: We've deliberately picked out the poorest, most destitute, forgotten and needy people on Earth, so it's no accident that more than half of them happen to be in the continent of Africa.We are out the boondocks, in the smallest, most isolated communities, both in the jungle areas and also in the desert areas, where they suffer from special diseases. We've pretty well adopted -- neglected diseases is the official word by the World Health Organization. These are diseases that no one else really cares about much, or knows about.
Stephanopoulos: You put a special focus on Guinea worm…
Stephanopoulos: … especially on your last trip in Africa. And I can only speak for myself: I'd never heard of it before I started studying your work. But it's one of the most horrific possible…
Carter: It is.
Stephanopoulos: … diseases.
Carter: It's a disease that only affects people who live in an area that has no fresh water supply, no well, no running stream. And these little ponds fill up during the rainy season and then that's all the water for the whole year. And if anybody takes a drink of the water they imbibe the Guinea worm eggs. A year later, it's a worm about a foot -- about three-feet long that makes a -- that stings the inside of the epidermis, the skin, and begins to emerge. And it takes it about 30 days to emerge. It's excruciatingly painful.
Stephanopoulos: A living worm coming out of you.
Carter: It's a living worm, yes.
Stephanopoulos: And you were in Ghana just this last month dealing with it.
Carter: Absolutely. The main concentration of Guinea worm now is in Ghana which has a setback, because of several reasons, and in southern Sudan, where a peace agreement has just let us get to about 3,000 new villages, so we've found some cases in those villages. But we have a concerted effort now to do away with it.
Stephanopoulos: But at this point, Guinea worm has been eradicated in all but a few countries -- 95, 97 percent…
Carter: That's right.
Stephanopoulos: ... of the world. This would be the first disease eradicated since smallpox.
Carter: That's right. Smallpox is more than 25 years ago. In fact, when I was president, it was eradicated. But this will be the second disease. And that's a good statistical fact, but the main thing is the relief that it gives to people who've suffered, and their ancestors, for 10,000 years, with an affliction that's identified in the Bible as the fiery serpent.
Stephanopoulos: But you think within three years it can be gone.
Carter: I do, yes. I do.
Stephanopoulos: If you were to sit in the Oval Office today with President Bush, how would you ask him to help on this?