Jimmy Carter photo

Ad Hoc Coalition for Women Remarks to Representatives of Women's Groups.

March 10, 1977

I wish I could get all my Cabinet members and the Vice President and all the others who work with me to be as brief as--I will never say anything any more about women talking too much, because I think, if anything, the presentations were too abbreviated. But I think in every instance you had thought very carefully about what you wanted to say to me. It means a lot to me.

I think that it is obvious that all of the statements made are well considered and justified. I think they were to the point. I think that what women have demanded and are demanding and have not yet received are very significant considerations for me as the leader of our country.

I think I might also say that the Vice President and I don't feel that we are on opposite sides of the issues that you have described. There is no incompatibility in our assessment of need. And I think that perhaps some of you recognize that we have tried to do a lot.

My own family members--my daughter-in-law, who hasn't got any money, much, has traveled around this country to meet with legislators, to try to talk to them and cajole them and plead with them. And she has called me on the phone and I've called back, and I've done the best I could along with many of you to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed.

I don't think anybody here could know how much time my wife has put in on it. And in my public statements more recently, I think on Saturday when I had the call-in show, I have never equivocated about it. We have not yet been successful.

In the last 2 or 3 days, I have talked to Reubin Askew in Florida and I have talked to the speaker down there, Don Tucker. They both assured me that the Equal Rights Amendment will pass in Florida. And I've had my hopes raised and then have been disappointed on many occasions, but I trust Don Tucker to know the House in Florida. I trust Reubin Askew to know the Senate and House. I believe that is a fairly good prospect for success.

We have appointed strong, vigorous, sometimes controversial women spokesmen to positions of crucial importance. They have not been token appointments. And my own effort to ensure adequate women to represent you and others-in this country will be continuing. It is not going to slack off.

One of the constant criticisms of our own administration has been that we have made appointments too slowly. We have been in office now more than 6 weeks. But I think that the slowness has been to your advantage.

There are a couple of things that I would like to say that you will not like. It is not fair to judge the appointments just on the basis of sex and to say that when we appoint someone that is sensitive and who cares about women and your rights that they are unqualified or unacceptable just because they happen to be men.

I don't believe I could have chosen a woman to be Vice President who cares more about day care centers, care for those who are deprived, and women's rights, than Fritz Mondale. And this is something that ought to be recognized.

In some of our major Departments we have 50 percent women at the top levels; in some we have much less than that. I understand that we have got a long way to go. And when we double or triple what has been done with the previous Presidents, even Lyndon Johnson, even John Kennedy, we are not bragging about it. But I think it would be good for you to recognize it.

I have a hard time with my own staff members and I have a hard time with some of my male and female Cabinet officers who come to me and say, no matter what we do we will never get anything but criticism from the strong and forceful and militant women spokesmen.

I think every now and then it would help if you would call Joe Califano and call Bob Bergland and say, "We appreciate that appointment." It might be only the one out of ten or one out of five. But I have had a hard time trying to convince them, you know, to come along with me and to come along with Fritz Mondale in breaking new ground.

I am not saying that we have done enough. But I am just giving you very frank advice. I think it would really pay you rich dividends, as spokesman for women in this country, to let Bergland and them know that you appreciate it when they do make a very highly controversial appointment like Carol Foreman, for instance. She is a superb leader and in the long run we are all going to be benefited from it.

But Bergland, he really has a hard time to face farmers all over this Nation who are concerned about marketing their peaches and marketing their other crops when he never has a beneficial or complimentary word from you.

So, we have got a long way to go. I am not bragging about what we have done. We are going to do more in the future, and we are in it together. But don't exclude yourselves from constant and permanent interrelationship with the Cabinet officer who happens to be a man because, quite often, they are just as concerned about women's rights as they would be if they happened to be a woman.

And I want this to be a constant prod to me, a constant criticism to me, but also one of mutual support.

The other point I would like to make is this: We are making dramatic changes in the policies of our Government. I am not going to enumerate them. Some have already been mentioned already, like human rights in the international field.

But we will come out in April for the first time in our country with a comprehensive energy policy. It will affect every home in our country, transportation systems; it will also affect job placements. And your involvement in this process is crucial to me. I would like for you to take the initiative in dealing with Jim Schlesinger on that subject.

We are going to come out with a complete reform of the welfare system, using the word "welfare" in the generic sense, so we can lay the groundwork maybe for the next 20 years on dealing with people who have been deprived. And I want you to be aggressive in intruding yourselves into the decisionmaking process and not let the time slip away.

I have a very rigid time schedule to complete the study of this extremely complicated subject and make a report to me and then to the Congress by the first day of May.

In the long run, we are going to be assessing also health care and this year we will complete a study of tax reform. And by the end of September, we will make recommendations to the Congress on that subject.

So, I just want to be sure that you are part of it. I am not as accessible as I would like to be to you. It is just on a fairly rare occasion that I can meet in a group like this. But I want that to be a continuing process.

And Midge Costanza is constantly with me in my office. She comes forward and says this is something we need to do. And she is a contact point for you within my own office. So is Bunny [Martha M. Mitchell] and others.

Senator Mondale, now Vice President Mondale, and Governor Carter, now President Carter--we see things from the State level, from the Congress level, and I think now from the White House. So, I think we have a good way to work as intermediaries between you and Members of the Congress, and you and Governors.

So, I just want this meeting to be one of caution to us, of criticism about things we haven't yet done, of a vision of what we can do, but primarily one of a recommitment to a partnership.

And I've always learned from you, and I've got a lot yet to know. But I haven't forgotten for a single hour the need for me and others to correct long-standing discriminatory practices.

We save, I think, 130,000 back cases in equal employment discrimination, and we are searching for someone to head up that agency. And I think we will make a good choice. But we have got six other agencies and now there is a great deal of confusion about where the responsibility lies. As I choose people to head up every single agency, the Civil Service, I am making sure that if they are men or women that they know about my concerns, about women's rights.

But I would like to ask you to stay in close touch with me and also with others who have constant access to me and not to ignore the possibility of helping to shape Government policy, which is societal policy, even if you are not part of the Government itself.

I will do the best I can to be a better President, and I know that you will see to it that I have your constant advice and counsel and criticism. And I welcome it.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. in the Family Theater at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Ad Hoc Coalition for Women Remarks to Representatives of Women's Groups. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242954

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives