President Constantinescu’s VIP Dinner Address
Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Work Project
Biloxi, May 11th, 2008
Come to Build
“You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Let us build the walls of Jerusalem that we be no more a reproach.”
Dear President and Mrs. Carter,
Distinguished Sponsors, Volunteers and Friends,
2,500 years ago, Neemiah’s sorrow for his nation in Judah was so deep and God moved him so strongly that he returned to Jerusalem to serve his people. Where others could see only a disaster he has seen a sign from God, a call for rapid reconstruction. I am sure many of you have read the book of Neemiah, a visionary but also a good administrator. Applying principles of risk management and of communication, Neemiah, Governor of Jerusalem has proven to be a precursor of modern management, too. By then there were not big trade companies like The Home Depot or the Dow Chemicals or the Whirlpool to supply class materials; there weren’t then the great American foundations like the Knight Foundation or Habitat for Humanity with experience in organizing humanitarian activities. It was just about an extraordinary determination and resolve to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and to comfort the suffering of its dwellers. And there was the strong faith in God that this reconstruction was possible.
On the way from the New Orleans Airport to Biloxi Sunday afternoon, traveling along the Mexico Gulf shore, I could notice the incredible destruction of housing stock because of the Katrina hurricane. Yesterday and today I got to see this destruction along the streets of Pascagoula.
In the Carter Work Project here I found the determination to work hard so that no hurricane destroyed homes be here on the Gulf Coast anymore. Same with Neemiah during that period of massive destruction, Habitat had a vision that no more people living in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) containers, no more poverty housing on the Gulf Coast. Those who joined Habitat’s call answered like in the biblical times: - Let us get up and build!-
I learned about the Habitat for Humanity project when I was invited by the Habitat Romania organization to join an effort of helping families in need of decent shelter from a small Romanian town by building 27 homes through Euro 2007 Habitat Blitz Build last September. Some of the ones working in Radauti I met here on the sites on the Gulf Coast and am glad to greet now our friend Dale Kirk, who worked dedicatedly in Romania. Next I take advantage to thank the thousands of Americans that worked and donated money for those in need in my country.
To these Americans and to concerned people all over the world I’d like to tell that in the 12 years of activity in Romania the organization has built not only new housing but new consciences.
Dictatorships, especially the communist ones are based on the idea that people must be grateful and obedient to a leader that “gives to them” and that controls them in all they do. At an opposite pole from such a damaging mentality, Habitat has promoted in Romania a concept of solidarity that encourages the affluent to help people in suffering. Many times charity, no matter how generous it might be, puts the recipients in a humiliating position. What the Habitat concept and this project brought new is the sentiment of dignity to the new houses’ owner beneficiaries as they, along with their work for their own house, also pay an amount of money. Even if it is small and they pay it within installments, they know they help on their turn, other people in need. Thus, they become donors for others’ benefit.
Work with Habitat brought me satisfactions I couldn’t get as President. After 5 days I could see completed last fall a house where I worked at and whose beneficiary I had met in person. As former President I know that projects I initiated often take time beyond a term in office to see results. Sometimes this can happen during lifetime but never during your term in office.
I am happy I can join together with my colleagues Sandra, Elena, Dana, Mario, Adrian and Catalin a program like Habitat for Humanity, where I feel like in a family.
Upon our departure from Bucharest we organized as a team, my staff with Habitat, a press conference. A lady journalist reminded me that at the 1996 presidential campaign when I ran for office I asked the president of Romania in function if he believes in God. I didn’t put that question from a pure electoral point of view but because I believed it is important for a head of state to know that above himself there is a supreme instance that judges his acts and whom it should be answered to and that cannot be lied to or cheated as with people around him. In 1979, after a military action failed in Iran, President Carter decided to tell the American people and the whole world the entire truth, even though uncomfortable for his people and disadvantageous for his political career. The communist leaders of those times have not learned anything out of that political gesture. They continued to lie to us and to themselves up until they fell together with the system they created.
President Carter, I am glad I could work with you and I could understand, having the opportunity of a closer relationship, how you embody faith in Christian and humanity values and how you have the power to act in their spirit.
I invite you, Mr. & Mrs. Carter, I invite you all to visit our part of the world, which also has a lot to offer, mostly spiritual values.
God bless America, God bless Romania, God bless all needy families and everyone here!
 President Constantinescu’s Address at the Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Habitat for Democracy Project participants’ meeting, Biloxi, U.S.A., May 11th, 2008