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Jimmy Carter: Department of Health and Human Services Remarks at Inauguration Ceremonies for the Department.
Jimmy Carter
Department of Health and Human Services Remarks at Inauguration Ceremonies for the Department.
May 14, 1980
Public Papers of the Presidents
Jimmy Carter<br>1980-81: Book I
Jimmy Carter
1980-81: Book I

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It's a beautiful seal. It's a seal that epitomizes, in my opinion, what the life of Pat Harris means to me as President and to our country and to this Department. The wings of an eagle: aggressive, confident, proud, sheltering those who are young, the aged, the disadvantaged, and the poor. It's an inseparable commitment, one that gives us all a justifiable sense of pride.

On the way over here from the White House, Louis Martin 1 was pointing out to me that Pat Harris and you administer the third largest budget in the world. The entire United States budget is the largest; the budget of the Soviet Union is second; and the budget of your new department is the third. And as I met Pat in the reception room just adjacent to this room, she pointed out how impressed foreign leaders are when she tells them and audiences in foreign countries that more than one-third of the total budget of the United States of America goes for human services, to improve the life of the families who are dependent on this new department.

1 Special Assistant to the President.

To those of you who are the fellow workers of Pat and me in this new department, I want to say that I'm grateful for this day. Today is one of celebration. It's a day of rededication as we inaugurate the new Department of Health and Human Services.
The reorganization of the former Department of Health, Education, and Welfare brings a new focus and also will bring new energies to our struggle against poverty, disease, and inequality. It's a time to renew our drive toward goals which are conceived in the heart and the conscience of our country. Today is a time for reflection, to recall the many accomplishments that we've shared in the past, and to remember that our struggle will constantly challenge our imagination and our commitment.

Forty months ago I came into office representing a commitment by the American people of both compassion and competence, With the belief that these two are inseparable if government is to serve people effectively. I grew up in a region, as did many of you, which was transformed dramatically by this partnership between government and people. In the 1930's, the days of the Great Depression, and in the 1960's, I saw, perhaps more than most, the lives and the hopes of people enriched beyond all expectations by actions of the Federal Government.

I was raised by a registered nurse, my mother, who for a lifetime has devoted her talents and her commitments to caring for other people. I remember when I was a child, and when I was an adult as well, that often she would share her own frustrations with me about the inadequate health care and how many lives were cut short by common diseases that could not or would not then be prevented. I remember the mortal dangers, when I was a child in Georgia, of diseases like diphtheria and polio and typhus and typhoid, diseases that are now, for most people, only dim memories, because of our medical advances and because of the preventive programs by the Public Health Service. The immunization programs 3 years ago were not effective. Dramatic progress has been made by you.

My mother was also deeply conscious of the need for progress in making social changes that needed to be made in our part of the country and throughout the Nation to end racial discrimination. We've only to look at the improvements in everyday American life in the past 40 or 50 years to appreciate how far we have come and how much the programs of this department, and others with the same client families, have helped. I came into office pledged to sustain that progress, and I will continue to carry out that commitment along with you.

Compared to the last budget of my predecessor in the White House, Federal aid to education, for instance, in our 1981 request, is 73-percent higher; spending for public jobs in the CETA program, administered by the Labor Department, is more than doubled, and the great majority of those jobs now reach those who are most disadvantaged. We've nearly tripled spending for the National Health Service Corps, and increased by half the spending for community health, family planning, Indian health, and disease prevention programs. We've increased aid to mass transit programs by two-thirds; doubled economic development aid grants; increased spending for subsidized housing by more than 75 percent; and doubled spending for the food stamps program. In many departments, dealing with the same families who are primarily dependent on you, we've made this broad progress, of which we can all be proud.

Before I took office, the 1976 budget request for women, infants, and children totaled only $142 million. Our 1981 request for this program is $860 million. And our 1981 request for those combined programs, and for child nutrition, totals more than $4 billion.

This kind of progress, in tangible, financial terms, is often overlooked or even forgotten by those who are directly responsible for the evolution of budgets and the carrying out of the opportunities financed by the budgets. These budget figures show clearly, along with the programs that they finance, that we will never turn our backs on the poor or the disadvantaged; that even during difficult economic times, when budget restraints are very profound and when severe fiscal constraints must be maintained, we will always maintain our commitment to social and to economic justice.

In doing this, I might point out, not parenthetically, we have the overwhelming support of the American people. Your programs are popular with the American taxpayers, as well as with those who are not yet able to earn income adequate for the payment of taxes. Despite the call by a few who would want to turn the clock back, Americans have absolutely no intention of throwing away the hard-earned gains of the elderly and the afflicted and the disadvantaged.

We are fully committed also to reduced dependency on the government by those who are able to become self-sufficient, with your help. There's nothing that brightens a person's life more than to know that one's own talent or ability has been nurtured and developed to such an extent that that dependency is a thing of the past.

Our challenge, especially in this new department, is to build on our progress. We still have a long way to go, and we face more years of hard work. We must realize that for a needy family there is no way to separate the problems of unmet health, welfare, hunger, housing, safety, employment, education. transportation, cultural, or social needs. We cannot build a wall around any particular Federal agency to the exclusion of those other agencies who deal with that same person or that same family. And the breaking down of these formerly extant boundaries is a notable achievement of all of you who have served so well in the recent years and the recent months.

Your close relationship with constituency groups so that you have a way to assess how good a job you are doing in delivering necessary services, is crucial. And there must never be any isolation of that person whom you serve from a real live role in shaping the policies and improving the delivery of services for which you are responsible.

We must reform our welfare system. We must redouble our drive against youth unemployment. We must develop a comprehensive national health plan. Many other items are on the agenda which we face together for the future.

Just as fundamental, we must renew the strength and the productivity of an economy that has given us so much and which is challenged now. We've neglected for too long our ability to produce ever more efficiently. The productivity of American workers is the highest on Earth, a factor we often forget. The rate of increase of productivity in our country, however, is exceeded in many other countries. The restoration of that productivity growth is a challenge which we share.

We ignored too long energy problems, chronic inflation problems, as if they were someone else's problems to solve. As we renew our economy, remember that we do not seek simply more wealth but a better life for all and a new capacity to provide for basic human needs.

We must seek new approaches to solve the difficult problems that remain. In five decades, we've succeeded dramatically in solving problems that once reduced people to a hard, mean existence. To make further progress is our challenge today.

When Lyndon Johnson was launching the Great Society in 1964, he said this to his Cabinet, and I quote: "... as a Government, we must get the most out of every dollar of scarce resources, reforming old programs and using those savings for new programs.... "We have an even greater responsibility for that today. We must sustain and improve those programs that brought us this far, but also add new approaches to carry us further. We must be forever restless, never satisfied, and innovative-not afraid to try new ideas.

We must have a coordinated effort between government at all levels and between private institutions of all kinds. That coordination is important, but there is one group of Americans who must retain the lead: That group is you.
The programs in this new department and elsewhere are the only refuge for many millions of Americans. Their sustenance, their hopes, their dreams for the future depend greatly on how faithfully and effectively we adapt to change and thus carry out our commitment to them.

Hubert Humphrey once said, "The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life—the children; those who are in the twilight of life—the elderly; and those in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy, and the unemployed." That moral test is the challenge of this new department, and I both congratulate you on this day and pledge that together you and I will redouble our efforts to meet that noble challenge expressed so well by Hubert Humphrey.

Thank you very much. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:27 a.m. in the Hubert H. Humphrey Building auditorium. Prior to his remarks, the President and Secretary of Health and Human Services Patricia Roberts Harris unveiled the Department's new seal.
Citation: Jimmy Carter: "Department of Health and Human Services Remarks at Inauguration Ceremonies for the Department. ," May 14, 1980. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=33408.
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