Capitol Page School Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Members of the Graduating Class.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. Now I want you to go back and make sure that the Members of Congress welcome me that way. [Laughter]
I'm very proud of you. I've had my staff instruct me on what you have done, what you have learned, your own individual background and achievements, the relationships with your family and with one another, and the history of the graduates of the Page School and what you've accomplished.
I'm very proud to be partners with you in trying to make our Government a better one. I spent a lot of my time studying the Congress. [Laughter] And I must say that so far I've been very pleased, as I know you have. There are a lot of news articles and reports that come out about the conflict and disappointments and so forth, but we've not failed in any item so far in working harmoniously with the Congress and constructively with the Congress.
Everything that we proposed so far has been dealt with fairly and objectively. I think in some instances when the Congress has changed a proposal that I've made it's been for the better, and I have a good relationship with them. I hope we can continue this.
I thought perhaps this morning since we only have about 5 minutes or so that you might have some questions that you'd like to ask me, rather than listening to a speech. And since you've had a chance to relate to the Members of Congress, perhaps a couple of questions, and I'll try to be brief in my answers.
Does anyone have a question? Do you have one?
THE FIRST FAMILY AND WASHINGTON
Q. How do you like Washington, D.C.? THE PRESIDENT. That's a good question. We like it very much. We've had a chance to bring our family together here in Washington. As you know, for 2 years or more we went in different directions---11 of us campaigned simultaneously.
Amy likes very much the public school system. She's got a lot of close friends, and one of her best friends is the daughter of a janitor in one of the embassies, and she comes and visits Amy. But she has a good relationship.
Jeffrey and Annette are now in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. They'll be working there in Honduras and Guatemala in archaeology. He's a student at George Washington University in archaeology.
Chip and Caron left this morning to go and represent me in England at the Queen's Jubilee. As you know, she was nice enough to come over here last year on our own celebration of independence from Great Britain, from the United Kingdom, and they particularly asked me when I was in London to send some member of my family to participate in this week's ceremonies.
And as you know, my wife is now in Brasilia, in Brazil. She was in Peru yesterday and part of that was in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Jamaica.
She'll leave Brazil after 2 or 3 days of work with the Brazilian Government and visit Colombia and Venezuela before she comes back next week.
This is one of the rare times when our family has been divided into so many geographical regions.
But I've liked Washington very much. It's my first job with the Federal Government--[laughter]--since I got out of the Navy in 1953. But the living conditions here are very good. [Laughter] It's not far to my office. And I've had a good working relationship with the people who share with me the Government. It's been pleasant.
We like Washington as a city. I think the whole family does.
Q. Mr. President, from what you know about the pages that you've learned, would you like your daughter, Amy, to try it for one summer maybe?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I'd like very much for her to do that. I used to have that aspiration myself, and I never was able to be accepted. I finally had to settle for an appointment to the Naval Academy from my Congressman. But it took me a long time. I think it would be very good for Amy, and I would like very much for her to do that some day.
Q. Do you expect to cut down on Government spending in the short time that you're in office?
THE PRESIDENT. It's hard to cut back on spending compared to what we are spending now, because there's an inevitable growth because of inflation and increasing demands from Government. But I hope to have a much more effective way to spend the money that we do have available.
We are now considering five or six major programs, as you know. We've already made a recommendation to the Congress on social security reform and on energy. We have still upcoming major proposals in, say, welfare and taxation. And all these items, including health care, for next year directly impact on the amount of money that is spent.
I have deliberately imposed some very strict discipline in this reform effort. We may increase total expenditures in the welfare field, but the proposal that we evolve is designed not to increase spending, but to see if we had the same amount of money to spend as was projected, how we could spend it better.
I think there will be some growth in total expenditures, which is inevitable. My only hope is that the money that is spent will be spent most effectively.
Q. Do you think we'll soon have a right-to-life amendment?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. That's something that addresses itself to the Congress. My own hope as a President is to do everything I can within my own legal capability to hold down the number of abortions that are needed and which take place in our country. As you know, constitutional amendments don't address themselves to the President directly, but I'll do everything I can to minimize the need for abortions.
Q. Thank you for the certificates. They're beautiful.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good. Thank you.
RELATIONSHIP WITH CONGRESSIONAL
Q. Mr. President, how do you view your relationship with the leaders up on the Hill, such as the Speaker, Tip O'Neill, and Senator Byrd?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think they could be any better. This past week, for instance, Tip O'Neill came over and had supper with me, and we spent several hours just talking about matters that relate to politics and Government, specific legislation, committee relationships. And I have an equally good relationship with Majority Leader Byrd, who has been over with his wife to eat supper with me.
But in addition to that, I've tried to schedule as frequently as I could meetings with individual Members of Congress. I have two more 50-Congresspersons meetings here at the White House. I meet with them 50 at a time in this room, as a matter of fact, and I spend about an hour just answering their questions.
In addition to that, this past week alone I met with the Commerce Subcommittee under John Dingell, who are now marking up the energy bill, and I think Friday morning met with the Ways and Means Committee under Chairman Ullman.
Wednesday morning of this week I'll be meeting with about 30 key Members of Congress who are interested in foreign affairs. And I'll try to spell out in an hour-and-a-half session with them, a private session, my own hopes and concerns about international matters.
As you know, before Cy Vance got to Europe to meet with Gromyko on SALT, I had the key Members of the Senate who'll have to ratify an ultimate SALT agreement over and gave them our position.
So, I think that this relationship has been good. It's a new era, really, in prior consultation with Congress. It's been absent for many years. And I hope to continue that. It's been very beneficial to me.
LIFE IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Q. What was one of the adjustments you and your family had to make in moving into the White House?
THE PRESIDENT. It's hard for me to compare that with the previous 2 years because it was just completely different. I never saw any of them except just rarely on the weekends, even my wife. But when we were in the Governor's Mansion in Georgia from 1971 through 1974, we did have a close family relationship.
My family members are very close to one another. We have strong, hard, tough constant debates about domestic and foreign affairs, about politics and government, and we've had this ever since I can remember.
I think it's accurate to say without being excessively proud that I can send Chip to India to represent me when the President of India dies, or send Chip to Buffalo, New York, when the snow is 7 or 8 feet deep and they need some presence from me, or send him to China with a congressional delegation, or send him to represent me at the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebration with no fear that he will make a mistake and no doubt that he understands the attitudes and the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the American people. I feel the same way about my wife and about my other children.
The fact that we did campaign at the grass roots level for 2 solid years and answered thousands and thousands and thousands of questions, makes us have a unity of understanding and spirit that stands me in good stead. Just getting my family back together in what you might call a collegial atmosphere has been very beneficial to me.
So, that's a dramatic change from the campaign period, but it's very similar to what we experienced when we first moved into the Governor's Mansion.
Maybe one more question and then I'll let you go.
Q. How does Amy feel about you being President and living in the White House?
THE PRESIDENT. The question was, how does Amy feel about my being President and living in the White House? Amy would rather live in Plains. [Laughter] If Amy has the option of going to the beach, going to the circus, going to the fair, going on a vacation, going to a movie, or going to Plains, she'd rather go to Plains. She really feels strongly about this.
But she's a well-adjusted child. Amy was only 2 years old when I ran for Governor and she was only 3 years old when we moved into the Governor's mansion. So she's resilient, she's strong-willed, but a very well-behaved child. She's not spoiled. She studies all the time. She reads constantly, as you may have read in the newspaper, and I never have discouraged that.
When Amy and I are alone together, which we have been this past week with my wife gone, we have a very entertaining, almost adult-level conversation at the supper table. But when other members are there to substitute for Amy, she reads while we eat.
But I have to admit that when I grew up, as a child, when I was Amy's age, I did the same thing. My mother always read at the meal table, so did I, and so did my sisters, so did my brother, Billy. So does my daughter, Amy. And we don't consider it to be rude, but we have plenty of time left over for conversation.
But Amy, I think, likes the life here in the White House, although she misses her own relatives, particularly, and friends. And when Amy was questioned about whether she wanted me to be elected or to lose last year, she said she'd rather that I lose--[laughter]--so that I would move back to Plains. But I think her concern about moving to a strange city, Washington, D.C.--those concerns have not materialized, and she likes Washington very much,
As you know, she goes to one of the public schools nearby, the Stevens School. All of her classmates have been out here to the mansion to play with Amy's dog, Grits, who's now in obedience school-[laughter]--and to climb up in the tree house and to meet Misty, her cat, and they go to movies and things together.
She saw "Star Wars" last night without me, and I was really aggravated with her because she didn't take me to the movie.
But she's had a chance to visit a lot of places around Washington, and I think in balance now she likes it here very much. The only thing, as I say for the third time, that she would rather be doing than have me be President, living in the White House, is to have me be a farmer and living in Plains.
Thank you. I'm glad to be with you.
Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.
Jimmy Carter, Capitol Page School Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Members of the Graduating Class. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243463