Senator Bob Morgan, Senator [Governor] Jim Hunt, one of the finest products that Wilson, North Carolina, has ever produced, future Senator John Ingram, my good friend, distinguished members of the State government, and Members of Congress whom I'll mention a little later:
Let me say that I'm very proud to be the first President of the United States to come to Wilson, North Carolina. If they had known what I've seen today in the form of a welcome, all of them would have been here, just like I've come today.
It's good to come to wide-awake Wilson. [Laughter] And I hope that after you've lost your rooster that used to wake people up, that you'll still be able to keep the image that you have now.
I had planned today to bring Joe Califano with me. He decided not to come. He discovered that not only is North Carolina the number one tobacco producing State, but that you produce more bricks than anyone in the Nation as well. [Laughter]
He did encourage me to come, though. He said it was time for the White House staff to start smoking something regular. [Laughter] I would like to say a word in his defense, because as I am a farmer, as I am deeply interested in the small farmers of this Nation, as I am deeply committed, and permanently, to a fine tobacco loan program, obviously I'm also interested in the health of America.
I would say that the tobacco industry, the tobacco farmers, the Federal Government, all .citizens want to have an accurate and an enlightened education program and research program to make the smoking of tobacco even more safe than it is today. And we'll continue these joint programs within which I don't see any incompatibility.
I've seen great strides made in our country in recent years in the proper understanding of the farm community. My own people, the Carter family, moved to Georgia from North Carolina. They were farmers. They produced the two greatest crops in my life—peanuts and tobacco.
And as I drove in from the airport, I felt at home, because I saw the tobacco fields and the cotton fields, the sweet potato fields, the soybean fields that have made this not only a great producing area but a great marketing area. And I know that in the marketing of flue-cured tobacco, Wilson, North Carolina, has the greatest market in the entire world.
My sister moved back to North Carolina and lives not far from here in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And I think you all know, as has already been mentioned before, that I feel an additional kinship for you, because in 1976, when I, as a lonely candidate, came into North Carolina to face formidable opposition, you gave me your hand, you gave me your hearts, you gave me your votes, and you helped put me in the White House. And I won't ever forget it.
I'm particularly glad to be in North Carolina because of some of the men on the platform here today, particularly your great Democratic Senator, Bob Morgan. He's a man of courage. He's a man of great intelligence. He's a man whose roots have given him a proper perspective. And although he represents, of course, in his decisions in the Senate, the entire Nation, his heart and his soul and his great allegiance is to the people of this great State.
I served as Governor before I became President, and I've seen at first hand the superb, young leadership exemplified by Jim Hunt. He still works closely with me. And as we have recently decided to try to make more effective the joint effort of local officials, State officials, and Federal officials in controlling crime, Jim Hunt has been in the leadership among the 50 Governors who helped to make these programs control crime better.
I'm very proud to feel, also, a certain kinship with John Ingram. If there ever was a man who was an underdog and has shown in every statewide race an ability to come from behind and win, he's it, and he's going to do the same thing in 1978.
He's a man who's not afraid to fight against political odds. And he's a man who's not afraid to fight against other odds, when he's trying to bring a correction to a system that doesn't treat American citizens fairly. He was the man who rooted out discrimination against women in insurance rates, and he's the man who rooted out discrimination against fine young men in insurance rates. And he's the one, also, who fought against the indiscriminate overcharging of tobacco farmers for insurance. And he's the man who will take the same kind of fight to Washington, to join with me and Bob Morgan to give you an even better life than you have already.
I agree with him. I think North Carolina needs a United States Senator who doesn't think that veterans benefits and tobacco loans are the same as welfare.
I would like to say a few words to you today about some of the problems that I faced when I became your President. It's not an easy job. It's a very complicated responsibility. It requires good support and understanding among the American people, and it requires a certain human sensitivity to people's needs.
I felt when I became President that the farmers of our Nation were approaching a time of repetition of the devastating years of the Hoover Depression. Prices were going down; uncertainty prevailed in farm markets. We needed a new agricultural bill to give farmers some security, some sureness about the future, some stability in their lives, and a right to produce food and fiber and other products that help the American consumer to have low prices and high quality.
The agriculture bill of 1977, passed by the Democratic Congress, has brought that improvement already to farmers' lives. It didn't go into effect until last October 1. Nineteen hundred and seventyseven, in spite of the very lowest prices we've had in a long time, saw a world's record in the export of farmers' products overseas—$24 billion in exports in foreign markets.
Your number one export product is tobacco. Georgia's number one export product is tobacco. But we also combine that with the export of wheat, soybeans, cotton, and other basic crops, to give the rest of the world good, stable prices and high-quality products and to put our farmers back on the road to prosperity. That was a record year. But I predict today, and I believe my prediction will come true, that we'll see a new record set in 1978 in the export of American farm products overseas.
I was concerned, also, about the low family incomes of farmers. And under the new legislation passed last year, implemented for the first time this year, we will see net farm income, income after expenses, increase 25 percent—no less than $5 1/2 billion more in the farmers' pockets, that will go to make everybody have a better life.
I would say that one of the most important problems that I have at this time is inflation. This is the kind of secret robbery that hurts every American citizen, every American family.
I'm determined to do what I can to control inflation. We have been bringing down the 'budget deficit. I know how North Carolina people feel. You'd rather have services met that the American people require, but you would like to have a balanced budget as well. And that's my goal along with yours.
Let me give you some quick statistics. In 1976, when I campaigned in your State for President, the Federal budget deficit was in the sixties of billions of dollars, 1976 fiscal year. In 1978, we cut it down in the fifties of billions of dollars; 1979, in the forties of billions of dollars; 1980, I promise you today that it will be down in the thirties of billions of dollars, and we're headed down to a balanced budget as fast as we can.
We're also trying to get control of the Federal bureaucracy. When I ran for President, one of the most frequent requests that I had from the American people was, "Give us a government in Washington of which we can be proud, a government that's efficient and effective." And I believe along with you that American taxpayers deserve a good return on the investment that you put in the Government in Washington, and that's what I'm going to give you.
I want to get the Federal Government out of the affairs of private citizens as much as possible. I'm a small businessman myself. I own a cotton gin, a peanut sheller. I sold fertilizing seed to farmers. I know what it means to have unnecessary reports and regulations and redtape. So, we've got some good people in office now, in Washington, who are trying to turn this trend around. It's not easy.
Last year, OSHA eliminated 1,100 regulations in 1 day, and I can tell you that this year we're going to eliminate another 1,000 regulations in OSHA. And we're trying to make the Government regulations so they're written in plain English. We're even requiring that the people who write them sign them. And I believe that you will see this good impact in all our communities in the years to come.
Let me make one comment to you about the biggest problem that I faced and you faced when I came in office. It's already been mentioned. When I became President, we had just had a report from the Labor Department that 8 percent of all American citizens were out of work. We've changed that. In the last 18 months, we've had a net increase of 6 1/2 million jobs for Americans. We've cut the unemployment rate almost 2 percent. And with the good leadership of Jim Hunt in North Carolina, you've cut the unemployment rate in the last year and a half by 50 percent, better than almost any State I know. So, we believe in putting people in this country back to work.
Let me say one additional word—about defense. Our country is now at peace. We haven't had an American soldier fire a gun in combat or anger in the last 18 months. And my prayer is that when I go out of office, we'll still have a nation at peace. That peace can only be ensured with a strong defense.
This morning I went to Norfolk-where I first served in the Navy on the old U.S.S. Mississippi—to commission a new United States Ship Mississippi. It's a nuclear carrier. It's designed to exemplify the high commitment that all of us have to giving our Nation a good, strong defense. We have that commitment. And we'll never see our Nation second to any in our ability to fight, if it were necessary, and to prevent fighting by our adherence to peace and a strong military establishment that will always be there, with your support.
I would like to say one other thing in closing. There is a time in our country to recognize basic human rights. One of those rights is the ability to speak, even to shout when other people are trying to speak1 [Applause] Let me say to you that that's one basic right that I would never want to see eliminated in our country. Our Nation was founded on the principle of people's liberty, people's freedom, people's individuality, a right to express ourselves, to stand on our own feet, to make our voices heard, to stand for decency and honesty and morality—a nation, through strength, to lead the rest of the world to peace.
1 The President was referring to a group of people demonstrating near the audience.
We've never betrayed those principles. And one of the things that I wanted to do when I came into the President's office, after Vietnam, after Watergate, after the CIA revelations, was to have some standard that I could raise to make Americans once again part of their country. And as long as I'm in the White House, I not only will do everything I can in this country but I'll do everything I can throughout the world to make human rights be two words that the world will never forget. And we'll be the ones to stand more strongly for those rights.
America is a religious nation. North Carolina is a State whose families, whose communities are centered around the church. No matter what your own beliefs might be, we know that God teaches us to care for others, to preserve principles in spite of hardship, to exhibit courage when our Nation or our families or our own selves are being tested through difficult times.
We are not afraid of the future. We know that our Nation has an inherent strength derived, to a major degree, from belief in God. One of the things that I did when I was campaigning through North Carolina was to say quite openly that I was a believer in God, that I was not ashamed of it, that I was not afraid to say so publicly. As a Baptist, I also believe in the separation of church and state. But those guidelines that often control our lives, which always should control our lives, should also control our Nation.
We've a strong nation. But we don't have to be a bully to show it. We want to be the kind of nation that arouses the understanding and the admiration and the friendship of smaller countries, those that are poor, those that are uncertain, those that are new, those whose citizens might be black or .brown or yellow. We're trying- to extend the influence of our Nation and its principles throughout the world in a good, decent way, to make Americans proud.
We have a good agenda for the Democratic Party. But there's no way that I can be successful as your President in putting forward those proposals unless I have a team effort.
The most important element of that team is obviously the American citizens, yourselves, who share the same principles and hopes that I do. But I also need a good team in the Democratic Party, a party which has always mirrored accurately what North Carolinians want and in which you believe.
Bob Morgan, Jim Hunt, in the future, as you know, the fine Senator John Ingram for next year, Congressman Jones, Richardson Pryor, others, your own Congressman Fountain—we have a need to have a strong team. And I hope that this year you remember all the Democratic delegation, measure them with the strictest standards. You will find them not wanting. They need your help.
If there's one characteristic of our party which has always been crucial to us, it's closeness to the people. We'll never betray your trust. We recognize that you are the ones who put us in office. We recognize that we have to please you to stay there. And we can only please you if we understand what you want our Nation to be.
I have great confidence in the economic strength, the political strength, the military strength of our Nation. It's not getting weaker. Don't believe anyone when they say that our Army or Navy or Air Force or Marines can't handle any challenge that comes to us from any possible adversarial foe. We are the strongest now. We'll always be the strongest militarily. And with your help, with your cooperation, with your support of good candidates, we'll keep a team, a Democratic team that will make our Nation in the future even greater than it has been in the past.
We have now and we will always have the greatest nation on Earth: the United States of America. I'm proud to be your President.
Thank you very much.