Jimmy Carter photo

Blountville, Tennessee Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Reception.

October 09, 1980

My friend, Jim Sasser, and my equally good friend Mrs. Cauldwell, and all my east Tennessee friends who've come here this morning to be with me:

First of all, I want to thank Mrs. Cauldwell for making it possible for me to visit her beautiful home and to sign the door as Jimmy Carter, President of the United States. You don't know how nice it is to sign something that I don't have to get through Congress first. [Laughter]

I notice in more ancient history there are few Republican names on some of those doors. I can tell they sign them in a hurry, because you know Republicans-once they get in, don't stay in very long. [Laughter] And I hope from now on all those doors will be covered with Democratic names. But, Mrs. Cauldwell, it is a delight and a pleasure and an honor to come here and to participate in part of the history of our Nation and the history of the South, the history of Tennessee, that makes all of us so proud.

You've come here because of your confidence in our party, because of your respect for Jim Sasser, Ned McWherter, other Democrats who are here with me this morning, and also because of your respect for the Presidency itself and for your belief in the future of our country. I've never seen a more thrilling and excited and supportive audience than I had at the Tri-Cities Airport a few minutes ago. It was a delight for me and a reassuring thing for me to see the expectation and confidence in their faces.

We face a very important election on November 4. I'm not going to repeat the issues that I discussed at the airport, but I would like to say just in the quiet setting of this beautiful yard a few words about the Presidency itself.

This is an office, as you know, with Andrew Johnson and with Andrew Jackson and with other great Presidents of the past, that is revered by the American people, the office itself, because there is a realization that in a very strange but tangible and heartfelt way the President represents what this Nation is. He represents the fears and concerns and troubles and problems and challenges that confront the American people and has to deal with them, and he also represents the hopes and the dreams and aspirations and confidence and a unity of our Nation as look to the future.

It's a good job. It's one that is gratifying for anyone interested in politics or government. It's the greatest elective office in the free world, certainly, perhaps the entire world. It's an office that is not easy, sometimes a lonely job. In the confines of the Oval Office, in the privacy of the White House, major decisions have to be made concerning questions of unbelievable complexity and difficulty. The problems that come to my desk or the questions that come to my desk in the Oval Office can't be solved in your own life or in your family or in a city hall or a county courthouse or a State legislature or the Governor's office. And if they are that difficult, eventually they wind up on the desk of the President, and then the President consults very closely and works very closely with the Congress. And we've had extraordinary good relationships with the Congress the last 3 1/2 years.

Many crises or potential crises come to that desk and to that one sometimes lonely man. If the issue is dealt with effectively, with common sense and sound judgment, with the reminder of what this Nation is and the principles that have always guided leadership in the White House, then those potential crises are never known by you. They simply pass into the history books, maybe the private memoirs of a President or his adviser. If a President makes a wrong judgment or a snap judgment or an ill-advised judgment or is unsure of the strength of our country or must test his bravery by making a rash statement or a rash action, then that potential crisis becomes a real crisis, and it can affect adversely the life of every person in this country or perhaps every person in the entire world.

I'm not complaining about the job, because there's a reassuring part of it too, in that although it's a lonely job, the President is not alone. You have the realization of the strength of the ties that exist all the way from the grassroots precincts into the Oval Office itself, a kind of a structure or a stable organization, a relationship or friendship or partnership that ties the people of this country together. And the thing that I recall most vividly now that I'm in the White House is that our Nation has faced much more difficult problems than we face today.

We complain sometimes about interest rates—and they concern me deeply—or the level of unemployment—it concerns me deeply—or the threats to our peace and security in the Persian Gulf—obviously that's a constant concern to me. But if you go back and analyze where we stand today, with the material blessings that God has given us, with a nation at peace, a nation that's strong, a nation unified, a nation that's not embarrassed anymore by Watergate and CIA revelations or divided by the Vietnam war, if you go back and compare the present circumstances with the Great Depression, when I grew up, or the First World War, where my daddy went, or the Second World War or the Korean war or the Vietnam war or the embarrassments that I've outlined previously, if you compare all those extreme difficulties with what we have today, indeed we are a blessed nation.

The Revolutionary War, referred to earlier, the Civil War, that tore our Nation apart, those were tests of the American people. And the point to remember in closing is that when we've been presented by those tests—in war, in depression, in the potentially divisive issue of the relationship in the South between black and white citizens—our Nation has never failed, never failed to meet every challenge, to solve every problem, to answer every question, to overcome every obstacle. And that inner strength, that's easy to inventory when you think back through history, is still here.

We're a nation of diversity. We're a nation of immigrants. We're a nation of refugees who've come here looking for a better life, keeping intact as best we could our religious convictions, our heritage, our family patterns, our attitudes, our friendship and blood ties with European and Asian and Latin American and African countries. But once we get here we know that the paramount consideration is the unity and strength of our country, because that's where lies the chance for our families to be closer, for our children to have a better life than we've got even, for our Nation to perpetuate peace, to strengthen human rights, to strengthen democracy all over the world. And we extend a hand of friendship, not war, to those who are different from us.

As our Nation stays at peace and strong we can help the Mideast be stable and at peace. We can see new nations formed, like Zimbabwe, where a large number of people who've always been deprived of even a chance to vote, now running their own affairs very well. In the past we've never had, for many years, friendship or any relationships at all with the 1 billion people that live in China—now new friends, new opportunities for trade and for stability, strategic interrelationships, not based on war or threats to anyone else, but just based on a sharing of common principles that do bind us together in many ways.

So, the point I want to make is this: The issues that I outlined at the airport are crucial. We need confidence in our Nation. We need to emphasize the unity that binds us together, and we particularly need to review in our own minds the importance of that partnership that I described, from the White House to your house.

You are my partners in every sense of the word, whether you're a United States Senator or the speaker of the house in Tennessee or a State senator or Member of the Congress or Mrs. Cauldwell, who has many visitors come to see her, or a farmer, maybe even unemployed. But we're partners, and I have no doubt that this election will see the right judgment made, the principles of our Nation and our party preserved, and our Nation perpetuated as a strong nation at peace, a great nation to be even greater in the future. That's my prayer, and I believe you'll help that prayer come true.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:38 a.m. outside the Old Deery Inn.

Jimmy Carter, Blountville, Tennessee Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Reception. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250822

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