How many of you think that we can whip the Republicans from the top to the bottom in California in November? [Applause] Well, so do I.
It's a great pleasure for me to be here tonight with Walter Shorenstein and with Phyllis, with Dick O'Neill, and all of the others who've come here tonight to express your support for some of the most important factors in the lives of free people throughout the Earth and particularly, of course, in our great Nation.
I don't have a prepared text, but I would like to say a few things about the responsibilities that we share. This is the first time under the election laws when funds that are raised at an event like this can be shared between the Democratic National Committee and the Democrats in California. In 1976 when I first ran for President, we could not do this. There could not be an interrelationship in the campaigns between myself and a congressman or between the funds that were raised. But I think over this last 4 years all of us have realized, along with the Federal Election Commission, that Democrats at the local, State, and Federal level share a great responsibility.
The biggest responsibility on my shoulders, as President, is to keep our Nation at peace, a peace through strength—military strength, which I pray will never have to be used, economic strength, political strength, diplomatic strength, moral and ethical strength, based upon the principles on which our Nation was founded and which have never changed.
We have a country that is strong. And our strength is recognized by our allies; it's recognized by those nations which are genuinely nonaligned; it's recognized by nations struggling for a sustained existence and for progress'; it's recognized by potential adversaries. This must be maintained, and an important element of it is a degree of unity and common commitment which, on occasion, has been lacking in this country, because our Government itself was not open and because it was not trusted.
It's almost impossible to think back 4 years ago, or 5 years ago,. or perhaps 6 years ago, when our Nation was embarrassed, when our Nation was going through torture because of Vietnam, because of Watergate, because of the embarrassments of the CIA revelations, when things in Washington were done in secret and, when revealed, brought shame to the White House, to the Oval Office, and to every American.
That has changed. No one denies that every human being is fallible, and no one denies that we have made mistakes. But they have been mistakes based on good intention and based on determined progress, and the mistakes have been minimal. We've made notable progress. In California, when I came here to campaign first in '75 and '76, the unemployment rate was 10 percent or more. The unemployment rate in January of 1977, when I was inaugurated, was 60 percent higher than it was in May of 1980, the last data which we have.
We have not only kept our country at peace, but we have struggled, as you well know, to bring peace to others. In the Mideast, we haven't made sustained progress, but we've had two notable achievements which have reversed a 30-year history of hatred and distrust and division and bloodshed. And now, as Walter pointed out so well, the major Arab nation on Earth, the major focal point of military strength which brought war to Israel, is now Israel's friend, with open borders, and diplomatic recognition, and Ambassadors in the capital cities, and planes flying back and forth between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on one side, and Cairo and Alexandria on the other.
Yesterday afternoon I had a private meeting with Mr. Burg, Dr. Burg, representing Israel, and General 'Ali representing Egypt. When I asked them if they would recommence the peace negotiations immediately, Mr. Burg said his instructions were to do so.
General 'Ali said he had to have a private conversation with me first, so we went into the Oval Office, and he said, "President Sadat wants to know what you want, Mr. President." I said, "I want the negotiations to start." And he said, "Would you give me time to make a call to Egypt?" And I said, "Yes." And in about 30 minutes he came back and said that negotiations will start again.
So, we're making progress. And the progress will be sustained only to the extent that those two nations trust the United States. When we lose that trust and that faith in me, as President, and in our country as a fair and objective, conciliatory element, then the prospects for further progress toward peace in the Middle East will be gone, maybe for a long time, maybe forever. I pray not.
But we are determined to continue to make progress. We cannot give up simply because we have a temporary setback, because we have to realize that we are dealing with two sovereign nations—Israel, as democratic a nation as there is on Earth, with a cabinet and a Knesset and a populace highly motivated, deeply committed to principles that don't change, desperately concerned about the maintenance of their security now and forever.
And we recognize that in a democratic country there cannot be the imposition of a decision, either by an elected leader, the Prime Minister, and certainly not by the President of a distant country, even as powerful as the United States. So it must be tedious and it must be slow, but it must be consistent.
We've also had to face some longstanding needs in our country. This year we will send to foreign nations $90 billion to buy oil to use here. It's a lot of money. It's hard to envision what $90 billion is, but what it is amounts to $400 for every man, woman, and child who lives in the United States, to buy oil from foreign countries. And that $90 billion could be used for investments and better productivity and more jobs and a better life and more economic security for our country. And we've been struggling, as you well know, for 3 1/2 years under the most difficult possible circumstances, to bring about the kinds of change that would give our Nation energy and economic security, because along with oil we import inflation and we import unemployment.
We are now making some progress because of the sound judgment and deep commitment and the patriotism of the American people. As you well know, up until 1977 we had a constant escalation, always upward, in the amount of oil that we were buying from overseas. Today we are buying 1 1/2 million barrels less every day than we did 3 1/2 years ago. This is good progress. It's good progress, but it's not enough.
Walter also mentioned the great prospect that we have in the future from our new relationship with the People's Republic of China. I just was blessed with the opportunity to inspect the port facilities in the bay area, San Francisco and Oakland. On the west coast of our country, in the first quarter of this year, export trade was up 32 percent in the bay area, up 39 percent compared to last year. We've done this just because we've opened a crack in the door of dealing with a billion new friends, and in the process we have not injured our trade relationship with the people of Taiwan, because trade with Taiwan is up even more, more than 40 percent. So this opening of American hands and American arms and American hearts to receive a better relationship with those who in the past were not our friends is an historic and a major achievement.
This progress must continue. It can't be aborted and it can't be restrained, and we cannot undo what we have struggled so hard to achieve. The economic problems on our country are severe. They're severe throughout the world. But it's very gratifying to me to know that our major allies in Venice last week committed ourselves unanimously to economic progress based on a common approach to inflation, unemployment, and energy consumption restraints.
At the same time, we recognized the threats to peace that have been foisted upon the world by the unwarranted Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when an innocent, nonaligned, deeply religious, courageous nation was invaded and is now occupied by Soviet military forces. And we expressed our admiration for those freedom-fighters who are struggling for their national liberation. The world, as you know, through the United Nations, condemned with 104 votes, the Soviet's invasion of that country and called for the withdrawal of their forces.
I might say that we are eager to get along well with the Soviet Union. We are eager to see that detente [is] not weakened but strengthened. And we are eager to control nuclear weapons, to reduce our dependence on them, and ultimately to eliminate nuclear weapons as a factor from the face of the Earth. This is our ultimate goal. And as soon as we can achieve a clear indication from the Soviet Union that they are ending their occupation of this neighboring country which threatened no one, that progress will be recommenced with the fullest enthusiasm on our part.
But that is a prospect that will be terminated if the Republicans are successful in November, because they have announced that SALT agreements to restrain the escalation in nuclear weapons that can destroy the Earth are not a part of their agenda. They would oppose the ratification of a carefully negotiated treaty, negotiated not just under myself, but even under two previous Republican Presidents.
The final thing I want to say is that the Democratic Party is committed to strength, to peace, to better relations with all peoples, to the controlling of nuclear weapons, to sound judgment in management of our economy and the energy question, but we are also committed to caring for those less fortunate than are we—the deprived, the poor, the inarticulate. Those who've suffered from discrimination of all kinds have always been at the forefront of the consideration of our party, and they still will be. And we've been trying to bring into the consciousness of America and the governing of America those who have been too long excluded.
I have been able to make some appointments to the courts. I've appointed more women, more Spanish-speaking Americans, more blacks, than all the other presidents who ever served in this country. And we intend to continue that progress.
And the last thing I want to say is this: The progress has not been total. We've still got difficult problems. There are no simplistic, easy answers for them. Our country has never made progress the easy way. We've done it by courage, by determination, by insight, by sensitivity, by trusting one another, by determination, by tenacity, by idealism, by compassion, by concern, by competence, and by unity. And I hope that we'll see a unified Democratic Party guided to victory in November, because we share those commitments and we share those principles that have made our Nation great and, with your help, will make it even greater in the future.
Thank you very much. God bless you all.