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Jimmy Carter: New York City, New York Remarks at the Annual Conference of the National Urban League.
Jimmy Carter
New York City, New York Remarks at the Annual Conference of the National Urban League.
August 6, 1980
Public Papers of the Presidents
Jimmy Carter<br>1980-81: Book II
Jimmy Carter
1980-81: Book II

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Chairman Coy Eklund and John Jacob-I think lake has done a tremendous job lately in the absence of Vernon Jordan-members of the Urban League:
I'm very delighted to be with you.

Just a few moments ago, I had a talk with Vernon Jordan. He and I were reminiscing about a meeting that we had in the corner of a private home at a party more than 10 years ago, when he and Andy Young and I shared with each other our secret ambitions about the future. Andy Young said, "I just want to stay in Atlanta, be quiet, avoid publicity, and avoid controversy." [Laughter] And I told Vernon and Andy my ultimate ambition was to be Governor of Georgia. And Vernon said, "All I want in life is to be the Congressman from the 5th District of Georgia."

Well, as you know, none of us wound up the way that we planned. But I think all of you would agree that among the three of us that Vernon got the best job. Right?

It's a joy for me to be here with my personal friends and with dedicated leaders, who have been my partners in so many fights and with whom I share so many basic beliefs that are important to our country and important to those who look to you for leadership.

I want to salute you, first of all, for 70 solid years of leadership and service to all the citizens of this Nation. Yours is not a narrow responsibility. The breadth of what you do and what you have done and what you will do in the future is indeed impressive in our analysis of the Urban League.

And I want to thank you for the counsel and the support that you've given me over the years, the frequent, constructive criticisms that I've received from you- [laughter] —and from your leader, as we have pressed forward toward common goals down a common road. We've stood together for what was right, and we have often prevailed under very difficult circumstances.

With your help, in the 3¼ years since I became President, funding for teaching basic skills, for instance, to the disadvantaged of our Nation has more than doubled; Job Corps, up 157 percent; CETA programs, up 115 percent; food stamps, up 99 percent. And we removed the requirement that poor people have to pay cash for food stamps. Our funding for women and children's programs and for infants is three times what it was in 1976. Despite our continuing effort to control inflation, we're protecting the programs that are most important to you, like Aid for Families with Dependent Children, social security, subsidized Government housing, and programs like Head Start. As a matter of fact, about 35 percent of our next year's budget will be allocated to giving the elderly citizens of this country a better life.

I want to express my personal appreciation to your leader, who's been such a strong advocate of all these causes and, quite often ahead of me or anyone else, has been in the forefront of economic and social progress. You can really afford to be proud of Vernon Jordan, who's a fighter. He's watching now on television. He has his mother and others with him. I'll be going from here to visit him in his hospital room, to pay my personal respects, and to wish him again a speedy recovery.

[At this point, the President was interrupted by a person in the audience, later identified as a member of the Communist Workers Party.]

As I was saying before the Communist speaker captured the audience, I'm going to stop by his room, pay my personal respects, wish him a speedy recovery, and I'm going to assure Vernon that I'm the last Presidential candidate that he'll have to entertain this week. [Laughter]

Today is a special day. Does anybody know what it is? It's the 15th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. And together with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, these two new laws, passed with your support and with your courageous conviction, opened up a new and vastly improved era of American life for many citizens who had been deprived. These measures paved the way for new levels of opportunity.

Who would have dreamed, for instance, back in those days that we would see the election of people like Dick Arrington and Maynard Jackson in the South? Who would have dreamed that one day the mayors of Atlanta and Birmingham would be prominent, respected, national leaders who were black?

I've been proud, as President, fighting for a more just and equitable and prosperous society, to have had at my side in this fight such good friends, old friends from those early days like Vernon and Andy Young and Coretta King and many others many of you, who've contributed so much to making civil rights an integral part of the American conscience. All of your children now enjoy a life that's fundamentally changed from the one that you knew. You and I know that the struggle is far from over.

This is a sober time, a time to think about where we have been, where we are, and where we might go in the future. You and I know that our struggle is far from over. I'm here today to renew my permanent pledge to you, that I will never relent in our joint pursuit of equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal dignity for everyone who lives in America.

I'm not here to tell you we've reached the promised land. You cannot undo 30 decades, 300 years of discrimination in just 3 or 4 years. But we're on the right road, and we're going to stay on the right road until we do reach the promised land, the goal that God set for all of us, black and white together. For us to lose sight of that promised land is to lose our sense of direction, for we have had some victories. And it's a mistake for the Urban League or anyone else who's been involved in this fight to deny itself credit for the victories that we have achieved, because to deny ourselves the sustenance and the encouragement of what we have done is to deny the inspiration and the support required to continue this struggle together.

For more than 200 years, our Nation has groped as a country, sometimes slowly, sometimes painfully, to stretch its moral horizons and to fulfill its moral promise. First it was the elimination of slavery; this took 90 years. And then it was the elimination of legalized segregation and the beginning of integration; that took a hundred more years. Today we are still challenged to reach the brightest of all horizons-the extension of equal justice and full economic opportunity to every human being in our society.

I wish I could celebrate with you here this morning the end of the age of racial antagonism, but as you know so well, the days of racial violence are not all behind us, not while groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the reemergence of that group to stir up racial and religious hatred is seen in our country and not while so many citizens of all races are afraid for their personal safety and not while the code words of bigotry are still heard in the political arena and even in the legislative halls in Washington and in State capitols.

It's the sworn duty, for instance, of every police official throughout our country to protect the life and liberties of every citizen in a nondiscriminatory manner, regardless of race. By and large, our law enforcement officials do just that, but there's still some distrust and some fear between minority citizens and the police. Where we have found lapses, as recently in Miami, for instance, where we have found any officials victimizing any citizens, our Justice Department has acted.

Every American should know that the President of the United States, the chief law enforcement officer of our country, is absolutely determined that the liberties and well-being of every citizen will be protected to the full extent of the law. All Americans must know that the Government of the United States is on their side. The person in the Justice Department responsible for carrying out that commitment that I've just made to you is Drew Days, and I'm very delighted that I've appointed people like him and Eleanor Holmes Norton to administer the laws that enforce civil rights.

I've put black people on regulatory boards of all kinds, and I've always insisted on affirmative action. The results speak for themselves. In order to save time, I'm not going to quote to you statistics.

But I've served 3 1/2 years as President, and I've already appointed more blacks, more women, and more Hispanics to the Federal bench as judges than all other Presidents combined in the 200-year history of our country. Three other comments: One, I'm not through yet; second, the quality of these appointments is a credit to the judicial system of our Nation; and third, remember that these Federal judges serve for life. Their influence extends far beyond any single Presidential administration, even though it might be 8 years in length. Don't forget that these judges will be interpreting your rights and the rights of your children and the rights of your children's children on into the next century.

This administration has been committed to strict enforcement of civil rights here at home, but we've also been equally aggressive in advancing human rights abroad. We've been successful, thanks in part to the wonderful efforts of people like—

[At this point, the President was interrupted again by a member of the Communist Workers Party.]

It's a nation of free speech. Some people don't even need a microphone. That's what always surprises me. [Laughter]

As I was saying before the second intermission— [laughter] —our extension of civil rights here at home, in the human rights throughout the world has been made, thanks in part to the wonderful efforts of Andy Young and Don McHenry, who've enhanced our relationships with the developing people of the world, and particularly those who live in Africa. Our greatest single success has been to help in the peaceful transition in Zimbabwe, of a nation which is now free and independent and democratic. And I am really proud of that.

A couple of years ago I visited, and 2 weeks ago Vice President Mondale visited west Africa. He went on my behalf to celebrate another advance, important to you and to all those who love freedom and democracy throughout the world. He took with him our best wishes to the people of Nigeria, the largest, perhaps the most influential, certainly the strongest economically of all the predominantly black nations on Earth. He took my best wishes and your best wishes on their return to a complete democracy, where their leaders were chosen by the freely expressed will of the people who live there.

He repeated once more our clear-cut policy toward South Africa: The relations between our two countries will depend on its progress toward full human rights and full political participation in that country by everyone who lives in South Africa.

I've often been asked why our country should play such a strong role in Africa and pay so much attention to it, because previous administrations before I became President did not do so. I believe an answer to that is fundamental to what Americans believe. It's best described in a letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the height of his nonviolent battle for desegregation, in which he said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

In order for us to build an America of full social justice, we must do more than just to protect basic civil liberties. We must move toward much broader, moral Americans.

We all know that discrimination in employment still remains an all too frequent part of American life. When job bias is compounded, when job discrimination is compounded by a painful period of slow economic growth in our country, a disproportionate share of blacks become caught up by the brutal phrase, "Last hired; first fired."

With your help, the Federal Government has acted. With the help of Weldon Rougeau,1 we are putting heat on Government contractors. A number of major U.S. corporations have found out the hard way that the Federal Government means business when it says, "no job discrimination."

1 Director, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Department of Labor.

And within the Federal Government, we're pursuing a vigorous, unprecedented affirmative action program in Federal procurement, never attempted before. We're moving to triple the amount of Federal business going to minority-owned contractors. And as you know, a couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court has now finally ruled that the requirement for a 10-percent set-aside for minority businesses is constitutional. I might say this is not just a law that's on the shelves gathering dust. In public works we have already reached not 10 percent, but 18 percent. And that's not the limit of what we're going to do.

I'd like to mention a very important issue to you. We need this same kind of muscle in our fair housing laws. We've got a bill already that has passed the House of Representatives, with the help of Charlie Rangel, Bob Garcia, and others here, Pete Peyser, that will put teeth, for the first time, in the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which has never been enforced. It's the most important civil rights legislation in the last 10 years. It now only needs Senate approval. We can make it possible for the first time ever, if you will help get the Senate to pass this legislation, for people who want jobs to find homes where the jobs are. That's what we need to do.

Another very important problem for our Nation that has not been resolved is the problem of youth unemployment. Since taking office we've hammered away persistently on this urgent problem of minority youth unemployment. We've already almost doubled funding from 2 ¼ to 4 billion dollars a year, but that is not enough.

Last year I asked Vice President Mondale to head a special youth employment task force. Working with Vernon Jordan and others in the Urban League and other community-based organizations, we developed a major youth employment bill, which is now before the Congress. It will increase our commitment to youth employment from 4 1/2 up to 6 billion dollars and open new career opportunities to 2 million young people. We do not need to wait for new promises or new plans. Talk is cheap. Here is work that we can be doing right now. I hope you'll get behind this measure with me, and we can meet head on the challenge of youth without jobs.

These two measures, the fair housing bill and the youth act, are not pie-in-the-sky or future dreams. They're an agenda for today, and they're in their final stages of congressional consideration at this very moment. Every Member of the Congress, on this first row, will agree with this: No group should dare play politics with them. They are vital strides forward for our country, and they require no more debate. They open a vast array of economic doors for minority Americans, and we need these bills to be passed without another moment's delay. And I believe that we can rally our efforts and unite in this cause, that before the Congress adjourns this year, we'll have this legislation on the books and we'll have a major stride forward toward the end of discrimination in housing and putting our young people back to work. That's what we must do together.

Once the doors of equal opportunity are opened, we've got to make sure that there's some genuine economic opportunity behind those doors. And to do that right, and to do it permanently, our Nation's great economic foundation must be rebuilt, so that every American can have a decent, productive job without all Americans losing their income through inflation. I pledge to you that this Government is going to meet that challenge successfully. We have a strong base on which to build.

This might surprise you, but our economy is the most productive on Earth. If you read the newspaper headlines, you would not know that. We produce more per worker than any other country in the world. And in the last 3 1/2 years, we've added more than 9 million men and women to the American work force, the largest increase in war or peace in the Nation's history. One million more black Americans now have full-time jobs than they did in January of 1977.

We are making progress, but for years some of our basic industries have been losing their competitive edge. They've not been modernizing as rapidly as those same industries in other countries. Our human and our technical investments have been inadequate, and our growth in productivity has come to a halt. That's one cause of persistent inflation that has damaged the life of every American black or white, young or old—and undermined the ability of government and industry to generate all the jobs and the services that we need.

Another major cause of crippling inflation is the soaring price of imported oil. That's why I've worked literally every day for the last 3¼ years to give our Nation, finally, an energy policy.

We've made rapid progress in reducing imports, with your help. The first 200 days of this year, we imported 15 percent less oil than we did at the beginning of 1979. That's a reduction every day of a million and a half barrels of oil below the same days a year ago.

However, we still suffer, because the price of oil imposed on the world by the OPEC nations increased more in 1979 than in all the years since oil was first discovered. That's been a blow to the world's economy. And we have poured out billions and billions and billions of dollars out of the pockets of American consumers into the pockets of those who produce oil in the OPEC nations. This takes away domestic jobs. It creates inflation. And that inflation has been so dangerous early this year, as you remember, that I had to take steps to protect the American economy and our Nation's security itself.

Because we faced the truth then, we have cut inflation sharply, and you will see, this month and the next month and the next, the inflation rate continuing to go down. Interest rates have dropped quicker the last few weeks than ever before in history. We have laid the foundation for a sustained period of economic recovery and economic growth, based on lower inflation and interest rates.

I'll shortly present to the American people an economic renewal program, carefully designed, based on the following principles. And I'll be very brief.

It will put American people to work, not in make-work jobs, but in modernizing our American industries, improving their ability to compete, and expanding our exports.
[At this point, the President was interrupted again by members of the Communist Workers Party.]

You know, we have a lot of people trying to escape out of communist countries and come to our Nation. You don't see many boats trying to escape from Key West and going to Cuba, though. [Laughter]

This new program will put people to work, also, not with massive programs that hide inflationary time bombs, but with carefully designed measures that will also make possible continued reductions in inflation, to put our people back to work without reigniting inflation.

It'll put people to work building the facilities that we need to conserve more energy, change the way we use energy, and produce more energy. You know how massive the program was that our Government instituted for the entire space program to put the first men on the moon. You know how massive the program was after the Second World War to rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan. You know how massive the program has been in our country, throughout this Nation, to build the whole Interstate Highway System. If you put all those together, what we are going to spend the next 10 years to take care of our energy program will be even greater.

It will put millions and millions and millions of people back to work in new jobs, exciting jobs, stimulating jobs, to make our Nation greater, stronger, and more secure. It's an exciting time, an exciting prospect to rebuild these facilities and to give us a new life, a better life, based on the technology and the commitment and the courage and the unity and the innovative spirit of American people that have always made our Nation so great.

It'll put people back to work, also, with special programs of distressed areas, to focus attention on those communities in America where the unemployed workers are there and have marketable skills. And if they don't have marketable skills, a major part of our program to revitalize America will be to give them those skills that will let them take whatever talent or ability God might have given them and use it to their own advantage, to the advantage of those they love, and for the betterment of our country.

Under this economic renewal program, we'll modernize our industrial capabilities, we'll stimulate more research and development, we'll build new facilities for alternative energy sources, things we may not have ever dreamed about so far, and we will replace billions of dollars worth of older facilities, made obsolete by higher energy costs. We'll weatherize our buildings, private homes and public buildings, improve our facilities for exporting coal. We'll expand mass transit and many other things that I don't have time enough to enunciate to you now. We'll channel investment into areas where industry has been declining and where unemployment is especially high. Literally millions of jobs will be created as we make America's industry more vital and deal with our energy problems.

In the next few weeks I'll be working with you, with your leaders, with other leaders in government and private industry, and I'll set forth an economic renewal program to restore growth and to reduce unemployment without fanning the fires of inflation, which we've so successfully dampened the last few months.

We have in our country energy far beyond what the OPEC countries have, technology, education, dedicated people, freedom to have new ideas. We've always been on the cutting edge of change. We've never feared change. We're the leaders in the world. Other countries look to us. What is the United States going to do about this new worldwide problem that's been brought about as the price of oil has gone up from $2 a barrel to $35 a barrel? It has almost wiped out the economy of many nations. It's hurt us, with inflation and unemployment. But I have absolutely no doubt the strength of our Nation will be successful in meeting it.

We'll have the 1980's be a decade of sound growth for America. This is a sound approach, a considered approach, a workable approach to our economic challenges.

But I'd like to mention briefly an idea that is not sound. It's ill considered and unworkable. Be on your guard against it. A bill has been introduced in Congress, and it is endorsed by major political candidates, that would cut Federal income taxes 30 percent in the next 3 years. That sounds nice. But I mean to tell you the truth about the so-called Kemp-Roth proposal. It may well be the most inflationary piece of legislation ever introduced and considered seriously by the United States Congress.

Kemp-Roth offers rebates to the rich and fierce inflation and deprivation for other Americans who are particularly vulnerable. It substitutes a fantasy of instant gratification instead of a realistic vision of a better future. It's even worse than a free lunch. It's sugar-coated poison. And I'm not exaggerating.

The same people who are pushing this tax also promise massive increases in the defense budget, and they also promise to balance the budget. Whom are they trying to fool? If they're serious about these problems—and they say they are—would they cut all Federal help for all other programs? We have done an analysis of this. If this proposal is put into effect, if moderate increases are made in the defense budget, if the social security program is just protected, not improved, and the budget is balanced, every other agency and department and program in the Federal Government would have to be eliminated 100 percent.

Would they cut out all the Federal programs for all these other vital services? Or would they run the money printing presses, so we had inflation that was uncontrollable? Why can't they tell us which programs are cut out? Maybe later this year, we'll make these questions be answered. Where would the massive budget cuts come from? What are they afraid of—the truth?

It's not surprising that many of those who propose this Kemp-Roth massive tax cut are the same ones that have opposed every form of social progress of the past generation. This is a "soak the poor" tax. Its backers serve as Robin Hoods in reverse, taking money from those social programs that benefit the poor and the elderly and the sick and the disadvantaged, and delivering the proceeds to the rich. It would be extremely regressive in nature, providing a person making $200,000 a year 35 times more than a family that makes $20,000 a year.

As long as I am President of the United States, there will be no "trickle down economics" in the United States of America. This is not an idle threat by those who propose this tax and this economic program; it is a very serious threat. We will strengthen the private sector, which is the heart of our economic system, and we will also rebuild our cities and educate and train our people, for those who for too long have been the victims of discrimination. We ensure a future that promises the full right to participate in the achievement of American prosperity and to share its benefits.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been quoted recently. I would like to quote him in the true context of his life. This is what he said about government: "Let us not be afraid to help each other. Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not some alien power over us."

I believe in our country, in the generosity and the good sense of the American people. I believe in our Government and what it can achieve. I believe in a true partnership between the American people and your own Government, and I believe that that partnership holds the key to the future and to our hopes for this country. These have been my beliefs in my life and throughout my Presidency. They've been your beliefs as individuals and as leaders within the Urban League.

We've never acquired an additional element-never acquired an additional element—of fairness or equity or freedom or justice without struggle and without sacrifice, and we never will. In a society like ours, that's open and free, there is no way to make progress by looking for an easy answer or by avoiding the truth or by being afraid or by creating disunity among those who are on the cutting edge of progress and compassion and love.

I look forward to continuing our fight, together, to make all our beliefs a reality for all Americans.

Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:15 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the New York Hilton Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Coy Eklund, chairman of the board of trustees, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., president, and John Jacob, vice president, National Urban League.
Citation: Jimmy Carter: "New York City, New York Remarks at the Annual Conference of the National Urban League. ," August 6, 1980. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=44882.
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