Jimmy Carter photo

Abilene, Texas Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.

November 01, 1980

Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Congressman Omar Burleson, Henry Gonzalez, Lieutenant Governor Hobby:

You have turned out this afternoon in such tremendous crowd that I think after 1985 when I'm through in the White House I might come out here and spend a long time with all of you. Okay?

I rode in on the airplane with Charlie Stenholm, and I realized where I went wrong. He raises cotton and hogs instead of peanuts, and he wound up without any opposition. [Laughter] So, it looks like peanut farmers are the ones that have to face a formidable opponent. But I'll say this: At least in the Abilene area peanut farmers have a lot of friends, and I thank you for it.

Lloyd Bentsen mentioned one thing that's important, and that is the right of American people to have a decent job. I was looking at the statistics before I came to Texas this time. You know, the world has suffered a great deal economically the last few years because of the OPEC price increases, and a lot of unemployment exists still in our country and other places too. We have added 9 million new jobs, and I notice that since I was sworn in as President in January of 1977, 914,000 more people have jobs in Texas. That's a pretty good record.

A lot of good Texans have come out to welcome me. I notice that your illustrious Governor was not here to see me. [Laughter] I asked some of the students at your great colleges nearby where he might be. They said, "He might be home reading the Third Commandment." Now, for those of you who don't know what the Third Commandment is, I suggest that when you get home, you get your Bible if you've got one—I'm sure you have—turn to Exodus 20 and read the Third Commandment. And I believe that your Governor's there thinking about not only the Commandment, but the warning that goes with it.

Well, don't forget now when you get home, read the Bible, okay? [Laughter] How many of you will look it up? [Applause] Okay. Keep your promise.

I know I've come to the right part of Texas, and I understand a little bit better since I've read about Abilene and this area why you've turned out so well. Not too far from here, there's a town called Albany, Texas. It was named after Albany, Georgia, not too far from my home. [Laughter] And I understand that there's a county northeast of here where Albany is the county seat, I believe, named Shackleford County. Shackleford County is named after a Georgia doctor, Captain John Shackleford, who let a group of volunteers from Georgia, who came here to fight when Texas was seeking your independence. And there's one Georgian who does grow peanuts for a living who's still fighting for Texas, and this time I need your help, okay? [Applause]

This has been a long, difficult campaign, and I think you've noticed the trends that take place during the political season. It's hard to keep labels on people, because there's a great effort at pretense, particularly among Republicans. I'm sure you've been listening to my Republican opponent, and you know that he's tried to wrap himself in the mantle of great Democrats. Let me ask you a question. Some of you have seen a lot of Presidential elections. Have you ever heard a Republican candidate for President quoting a Republican President?

THE PRESIDENT. Have you ever thought of why? Because when Republicans are running for office, they like to sound like Democrats, but when they get in office, they act like Republicans, and they never do anything or say anything that's worthy of quotation later on.

Now, it'll be good for you to remember that when you think about where it came—social security—Republicans were against it. Minimum wage. Republicans were against it. REA. Republicans were against it. Even rural free delivery of mail. Republicans were against it. Medicare. Republicans were against it. Basic civil rights, put into effect by your great President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the Republicans were against it. Think on those things.

Franklin Roosevelt saw this political phenomenon way back in 1944. I'd like to quote what Franklin Roosevelt said. "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels. Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery," he said, "but I'm afraid in this case, it's the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud." That wasn't the case just in 1944, because in 1960, when Kennedy and Johnson were running for office, Kennedy said of the Republicans, "They're even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now," Kennedy said, "they might even speak a good word for Harry Truman, but I guarantee you that Harry Truman will never say a good word about Republicans."

As you know, that prediction came true. And I want to make a prediction to you now. I predict that 20 years from now, Republican candidates will even be saying nice things about Jimmy Carter's second term.

This afternoon, I'm going to make a different speech from the one I've been making for the last week. A political rally is a good place to talk about things that will inspire you for enthusiasm and to point out the differences between Republicans and Democrats. But I want to make a little more serious talk about one particular issue that's important here in this deeply religious educational center, and then I want to spell out for you, in just a few words, not the differences between me and my Republican opponent, but about the future, because it will affect your life.

We who live in this region of the Nation almost like one family, we share common background, a common upbringing, a common set of values about the importance of patriotism, families, hard work, neighborliness. Many of you also share with me a common religious faith. I'm sure that some of you have seen campaign advertisements and mailings that attack my religious faith and also my character in a very ugly way. You may see even more in the next few days. I'm not going to dignify these attacks by counterbalancing each one and denying what they've alleged, which are all false. I don't intend to debate the sincerity of my own religious convictions in a political campaign. I have to depend on you who know me, know what I stand for, to speak up for me. But I believe in the separation of church and state. And I don't believe in religious tests for political acceptance, and I don't believe in political tests for religious fellowship.

Now, I'm very deeply grateful for your welcome and for this tremendous crowd. Somebody told me it's the largest one they've ever seen in west Texas. And I'm deeply grateful also for a chance now for the next 7 or 8 minutes—and I'll be relatively briefs-to give you a special political speech that I've never made before. In this long election campaign the past records and statements of the candidates have been thoroughly debated, thoroughly scrutinized, but more important than what has been said or done in the past is what will be done in the future, what must be done to build the kind of future that you would like to have for yourselves, your family and for those you love. So, I want to talk to you about my hopes and plans for the next 4 years, building on what we've already accomplished together since I've been in office, about a common agenda for the second term of office which I hope to serve as your President.

First, I want to say that I'm confident about the future of our Nation. The next 4 years can be very good years. The major reason for confidence is that we have learned. We've learned so much about the challenges that have confronted us the last few months, and we've laid the foundation now to meet those challenges in the future. We know we face dangers in the world, but we've learned to use our strength wisely, in the service of our real interests, and our real values.

We know we face problems at home. We've learned a great deal also about the causes and the nature of some of those problems and about the courage and determination necessary to solve them. In 4 years as President, I've learned a great deal about myself, and I've learned a great deal about this country. I've learned that it's not always enough just to be right. We must set priorities on the most important work, [or] it may not ever be done.

We need to make sure that the people understand our programs and our policies and our commitments and then build a consensus among the people of this Nation to get your support. We've learned to do that, and the best example, I think, of our success is in energy, which has been the most serious domestic challenge that I have had to face. Four years ago, think back: Most people were led to doubt that there even was an energy problem. Today we lead the world in dealing with this severe challenge.

There's another reason for confidence in addition to energy, and that is that during my term in office we've been able to address many other challenges—economic deregulation, where we ended regulation after many, many Presidents, Republicans and Democrats, had promised to do so, and brought competition to the airline, railroad, trucking, banking, and finance industries. We've cut Government paperwork by 15 percent. In education, where we've made a 73-percent increase in our investment in the next generation of Americans, we've kept the Federal Government's nose out of the local schools, public and private. And we now have a situation in the United States where no young American who's able to do college work will ever again be deprived of a college education, no matter how poor their family might be.

And in defense we reversed a 7-year decline under Republican administrations and began a steady, balanced, wellplanned increase in our ability to defend our country and defend our interests. In these and other areas, then, we've laid a foundation for further progress. We've paid a short-term price, for that's the nature of investing in our Nation's future. Today's sacrifice will bring tomorrow's security. Our investment will begin to pay rich dividends over the next 4 years if we stay on course.

My broad objectives, then, in my second term, can be stated quite simply: Security at home. We'll continue to have a nation whose national defense capability is second to none. Second is peace aboard. I'm the first President in 50 years who can make this statement: Since I've been in the White House our Nation has been at peace. We have not had war. And my commitment for the next 4 years, with God's help, is to continue that record.

These goals are more difficult to attain than they are to state, but attain them we shall. Security at home also means energy security. It means economic security for our Nation, for each of us, and our families. It means the security of knowing that our rights as Americans are guaranteed. We've put into place the first comprehensive energy program in our history. It's already helped us to reduce imports of foreign oil by one-third in the last year alone. This day we have more oil drillrigs running in the United States than ever before in history. This year we'll bring in more oil and gas wells than any year in history. This year we will produce more American coal than any year in history, and we will also export more coal than any year in history. We are making good progress. That's the kind of base on which we .can build for the future.

And I'm glad to say that Americans are now conserving more energy. And as I look at this beautiful farmland around me, I can tell you that part of the production of fuel in the future will come directly or indirectly from the Sun. Two years ago we had no gasohol production in this country to speak of. This year we'll have 135 million gallons, and by the end of 1981 we'll produce in our Nation 500 million gallons of gasohol from growing crops of the rich land that God gave us to take care of.

This commitment to the future, to continue the progress we've made, using the great technology and the natural resources of our country are very important to you and to me. The inflationary forces that have swept the world are far from vanquished, as you know. Last year OPEC oil prices went up more in one year than oil had increased in price since oil was first discovered in the 1800's. The first quarter this year the inflation rate was 18 percent; Second quarter, 13 percent; this quarter just completed, down to 7 percent—still too high, still too high. We must build on the progress that we've made in deregulation, in cutting government spending growth.

We've cut the rate of increase of government spending more than 50 percent since I've been in office, and as a part of the gross national product we've also cut the Federal deficit by 50 percent since I've been in office. And we've changed the relationship between labor and management in the basic steel industry, the coal industry, the automobile industry, and others, where now instead of just arguing with each other every 3 years about the terms of a labor contract, now government, management, labor work together to strengthen those basic elements of the prosperity of our country in the future.

I want to continue the economic revitalization effort that I've already proposed and started to increase the productivity of our economy and sharpen our technological edge in the world marketplace. One of the greatest allies that any President could have in Washington in forging for the future a successful industrial complex, to increase American productivity with sound tax programs, good investment in new tools and new plants, new jobs, is Senator Lloyd Bentsen. He's my ally in Congress. His proposals will be put into effect. He and I work closely as partners to give you and all of our families a better life. This is the only way I know to fight inflation and to put Americans to work by the millions, in new jobs, with new tools, new factories, in fact, in entire new industries that many Americans cannot even envision yet.

We've also made great strides in the last 4 years in the protection of the quality of our air, to keep it pure, our water, to keep it clean, and our land, to keep it unspoiled and productive, in safety of workers and the healthfulness of workers. In the next 4 years we must tackle and solve another problem that hasn't been addressed yet, and that's the long neglected and increasingly serious environmental problem of toxic wastes, poisons that have in the past been dumped in our soils and in our streams, both nuclear materials and also others that must be controlled. We can do it. And we've already made progress now in making plans for the future. A superfund bill has passed the House and is now before the Senate for consideration. There are few things that we could do that would have a more beneficial effect on the long-term health of our people.

I want to increase the productivity of our land and expand the agricultural markets around the world, to honor the stewardship of our farm families, and to enrich our own people and others with America's bountiful harvest. I'm a farmer. My people have lived in this country since the early 1600's. Every generation of my family have been farmers—my father was a farmer, his father, and all the way back since they first came to this Nation as settlers.

I've chosen as the Secretary of Agriculture a man who's also a dirt farmer, and one difference between Republicans and Democrats is who they choose to be the Secretary of Agriculture. I didn't choose, as Republicans have done, a member of the board of directors of a major processing plant that buys farmers' products cheap at harvest season and sells them high to consumers later on. I chose a man who knows what it means to plow a mule and to plow a tractor and has given you a better life.

And if you'll allow me one more minute I'd like to point this out. I've seen in my early days and also since I've been home from the Navy, as a farmer, that quite often we've had to sell our crops at harvest time at whatever price prevailed. Later the middleman made a lot of profit and cheated the consumers in the process. But Bob Bergland and I have seen the difference that ought to be made, and we've increased farm storage by 2.8 billion bushels to encourage farmers to take their grain at harvest time, to store it and to keep it and then to sell it when the market was right. This has paid rich dividends already.

In just 3 1/2 years we've seen the greatest increase in gross income for farmers in the history of this country, the greatest increase in net income for farmers in the history of this country, and we've opened up overseas markets that our Nation never dreamed would be. As a matter of fact, we set a world record on exports in 1977. We broke that record in 1978. We broke it again in 1979, and this year we've had the greatest increase in exports in history, $8 billion increase. This year we'll sell $40 billion worth of American farm products overseas. That's a great record. We're going to continue it in the next 4 years.

I'd like to mention a word that you might think strange around Abilene, Texas, but it affects your life, and that's China. We opened up diplomatic relations with China 2 years ago, a billion people, one-fourth of the total population of the world. We've doubled trade with Taiwan since it happened. But let me tell you just a minute about China. Recently we sold enough wheat to China every year to produce 15 loaves of bread for every one of those billion people every year. Six to nine million tons of grain will go to China every year for the next 5 years.

Texas produces a lot of cotton. You know what nation is the biggest and best customer for the United States in the world today? China. Already. And they're just getting started in demanding products from us. Mexico is your neighbor. In the last 4 years we have tripled trade with Mexico. This year we'll sell Mexico 10 million tons of American grain. Those programs were hammered out not with agricultural specialists from major colleges. They were hammered out by Bob Bergland and me working with farmers and with organizations of farmers to make sure that agriculture remains the basis for the economy and the economic growth of America in the future.

Another thing I want to say about the future is this: In the next 4 years I want to help our country achieve a long deferred dream of the Democratic Party and the American people, a national health plan, a plan that emphasizes prevention of disease, a plan that gives care for mothers, both before and after their babies are born, that protects families with catastrophic health insurance from being financially destroyed if a family member is sick for a long time, a plan that would put a limit on how much hospital costs can increase. These kinds of commitments would give America better health and would cost much less than health care costs today.

In the next 4 years I want to see equal rights for American women guaranteed where the rights of Americans are supposed to be guaranteed, in the Constitution of the United States.

I'd like to stop and say a word about that. It might make my speech a little longer, but I think it's important, because I come from a very conservative region of our Nation. A lot of people have been misled about the equal rights amendment, but let me tell you just in a few words what it means. My mother, Lillian, is a working woman. During the Depression years, she was a registered nurse. She worked 12 hours a day for $4 a day. And sometimes when she was lucky she worked 20 hours a day and got paid $6 for it. She helped our family a lot during the Depression years.

Nowadays, a third of our families are headed by women who have to bring home a paycheck to buy food and clothing and shelter for the whole family. Now when a man and woman do the same amount of work, a man gets paid a dollar, and a woman gets paid 59 cents on the average. That's not right. And what the equal rights amendment says is this—it's a very simple amendment. It says: Equality of rights cannot be abridged by the Federal Government or any State government just because the person's a woman. That's all it says. It doesn't say anything about bathrooms. It doesn't say anything about homosexuals. It doesn't say anything about being drafted. It just says that the Federal Government and the State governments have got to stop cheating women. That's all it says.

And the last thing I want to mention to you about the future is this: Security at home is obviously important, but it will avail us little if we don't have continued progress toward our other great goal, and that is peace in the world. Real peace is more than just the absence of war. There's something that must be constructed brick by brick through a strong defense and a wise and restrained foreign policy. During the next 4 years, in cooperation with our allies, we will continue the steady strengthening of our conventional and our strategic military forces. We'll strengthen our presence in the vital Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean region, building a system of regional security in that part of the world through diplomacy as well as military strength. That's a major task for the early 1980's.

In the Middle East, I want to continue to use our country's good offices to help achieve the dream of a strong and secure Israel living in peace with all her neighbors. This is an ambitious goal, I know, but 4 years ago, no one believed that by 1980 there would be a treaty of peace between Israel and the most powerful Arab country in the world, Egypt. The Camp David process works, and we'll stay with it. The thing is that we're not just doing Israel a favor, because it's a great contribution to our own security to have a strong, secure, democratic, peace-loving Israel in the Middle East.

One of the least noticed changes in the last 4 years and one of the most important has been our tremendous improvement in our relationship with the so-called Third World countries, the home of the vast majority of the human race. We've built positive relationships, that I've already mentioned with China, with Nigeria, and other African countries, and with Central and South America. Just to point out the importance of better relations with the Third World, let me remind you that every American who has been killed in action since World War II has died on the soil of a Third World country. In my second term, I want to help our Nation solidify these new relationships by working with them and with their people in promoting economic development, political stability, and basic human rights.

Most important of all, during these next 4 years, I want to continue our Nation's efforts to lift the shadow of nuclear annihilation from this Earth. I'm determined to move ahead with balanced and verifiable nuclear arms control. This is crucial to our national security, to our leadership of the Western Alliance, to our efforts to halt the spread of nuclear bombs to unstable or terrorist regimes and organizations. Our ultimate goal is nothing less than to turn the attention of the whole world from the works of war to the works of peace.

When Americans went to the Moon and turned their eyes back to Earth, we saw our planet for what it is: a beautiful, fragile spaceship in which all of us, all 4 billion of us, must travel together. In the coming decade, all the people of the Earth, increasingly, will face problems like environmental decay, resource depletion, and hunger. There are going to be conflicts, tensions, pressures, and they'll be intense. The sooner we stop fighting each other and start fighting these common enemies of all human beings, the more likely it will be that we can survive and to prosper.

All these efforts to build security at home and peace abroad will be affected by your choice next Tuesday. I appreciate what you've done in the last few years. I congratulate you and I thank you. You've given this party, the Democratic Party, your contributions in your hearts, but none of us can walk away satisfied that we've fulfilled our obligations. The job is not yet over. You still must have a willingness to contribute your leadership, your dedication, your energy, and your spirit. We've only got a few days now to make a decision. It will affect your life. It'll affect the future of your family; it'll affect the future of the people that you love. It'll affect the future of the country that you love.

It's nice and I appreciate your coming out here this afternoon. Many of you have made financial contributions, maybe worked in campaign organizations for candidates who are Democrats, and I thank you for that too. But now, these next few hours, as we approach the final deadline for deciding the future, I'd like to ask you to do more. I'd like to ask you to stop and think about the consequences to you and your family if you should wake up Wednesday morning and find that a Republican will be in the Oval Office the next 4 years. Think about it. The choice will be yours. The choice will be yours.

Think back in 1948, how just a few votes if they had changed would have prevented Harry Truman from ever serving as President in his term. Just think back to 1960, when John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were on the Democratic ticket. If 28,000 people in Texas had voted differently and just a few thousand in Illinois, John Kennedy would never have been President, and Lyndon Johnson, perhaps, never would have had a chance to. serve this country either. Those two stories came out well. But think about 1968. If just a few Democrats the last few hours had done a little more work, we would have had a great Democratic President and Richard Nixon would never have embarrassed this country in the White House.

So, now it's up to you. There's not a single person in this great audience that can't reach at least a hundred other people between now and Tuesday. Some of you might reach a thousand. Some might reach as many as 10,000 through the media and so forth. But I'd like to ask you to make a sacrificial effort these next few days to make sure that you and I can remember the past when the Democratic Party served us so well and think about those things in the future that I've outlined to you this afternoon.

I thank you for your partnership. God bless you for your past efforts. Let's get together and win on Tuesday and keep this country on the road to peace and prosperity.

Note: The President spoke at 3:53 p.m. at Abilene Municipal Airport.

Jimmy Carter, Abilene, Texas Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252128

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