Summer is often a time of sun-filled relaxation. Not so for the new director of the School of Communications, Ed Carter, who spent four weeks this summer in damp England finishing his master’s degree in international human rights law at the University of Oxford.
As an immigration lawyer, Carter was already aware of many of the problems faced by refugees and immigrants, but the international setting of Oxford deepened his understanding of the importance of free speech.
“In the U.S., we really have an extraordinary protection for free speech,” said Carter. “The incentive that creates is for us to have a lot of debate and be open to criticism. Sometimes it gets chaotic, but in a democracy that’s a good thing. . . . The reverse situation is what we have in most of the world.”
He says that his interest in international human rights law stemmed from his beliefs about human dignity and promise. While human rights laws may act as a vehicle towards development and goodwill, such laws are limited whereas God’s law is not.
“There’s some scholarship out there that says that human rights has taken the place of religion for some people,” said Carter. “My belief is that the basis for human rights is the divine nature of human beings as children of God. We’re all entitled to realize our full potential.”
Much of what he learned during these two years helped him gain a more positive outlook about his work, rather than a cynical resignation. One of his professors, Andrew Shacknove, even cited Carter to his other students saying that if Carter can do refugee legal work in Provo, Utah, then anyone else can do it wherever they might be.
“I came away with an appreciation for the opportunity that we have to use education to become more Christ-like and serve other people,” said Carter. “Education leads you toward compassion. Your education is useful only if you use it to bless others.”
This is an idea he wants to instill in students at BYU. Carter believes that everyone should learn to make positive contributions within their own sphere of influence.
“You should leave BYU with a commitment to improve the world and go outside yourself, even if it’s hard. You have to go outside yourself because that’s how you magnify this gift,” said Carter.