Jimmy Carter photo

Carter/Kennedy Unity Celebration Remarks at the Democratic Party Dinner.

October 19, 1980

First of all, I want to express to Senator Kennedy my deep appreciation not only for his introduction of me and those fine words you said about my campaign and the Democratic Party but also because of his generous support that he's giving me all over the Nation. We have already been together as a campaign team in California, Massachusetts, more recently, the other night, in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. He's been campaigning today in Michigan and other places. We'll be together tomorrow night in New York.

This is an all-out, deeply committed, extremely generous action on his part that I think will make the difference when election night comes. And from the bottom of my heart, I want to express my thanks to my friend, Ted Kennedy. Tonight, as a matter of fact, I play a supporting role to him.

There's no way I could move any further without thanking again Arthur Krim for being willing to host this wonderful evening. Arthur has been a loyal supporter and a friend for Democrats and for Democratic Presidents ever since the time of Harry Truman. His success tonight demonstrates again his leadership qualifies and the trust that all of us have in him. It also bodes well for the future to know that his loyal friendship will be there in 1984 and in subsequent times when Democrats call on him to make our party great and to keep a Democratic President in the White House. Arthur Krim, we thank you very much.

I hate to do this so early, but I also want to express my thanks to Bob Strauss— [laughter] —in advance. Very seldom when it is most significant to me, do I have a chance to thank Bob Strauss. But when it comes to Democratic Party unity, Bob is the reigning world's champion. He brought the party together in 1976. Had he not done so, we would not have had a Democrat serve as President. He's doing it again. Unity meant victory then. Unity means that we will have another victory in 1980. Bob Strauss, I thank you.

And although I'm repeating some of the things that Senator Ted Kennedy has already mentioned, I do want to express the appreciation of all of us to Lee Kling and to Steve Smith, to Bob Fitzgerald and all those in this audience who have helped to make this fundraising event and this unity dinner a success.

Before I go further, I'd like to make a presentation from me and my wife Rosalynn. Last October I joined Senator Kennedy, Joan, the Kennedy family, and others who have such deep admiration for John Kennedy in dedicating the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a moving experience for us all. And now I would like to make a contribution, if someone will bring it to me.

This is a watercolor sketch of President Kennedy by Jamie Wyeth. Jamie gave the portrait to me during the 1976 campaign. It's been hanging in my home in Plains and later in the family residence of the White House ever since. Rosalynn and I want this portrait to hang where it really belongs, where others can appreciate it. We would like to offer it to Senator Kennedy for display in the John F. Kennedy Library.

For those of you who knew personally and who loved and revered Jack Kennedy and for those of us who didn't know him personally, but who respected him and admired what he stood for, there is no doubt in our mind that Ted Kennedy carries on that great tradition in the finest sense of the word.

As a spokesman for the Democratic Party, as one who's tough and effective, a superb campaigner, as one who represents the finest aspect of his own family, as one who knows the historical perspective which has made the Democratic Party the majority party in this country and kept it there, as one who loves and cares for and leads for those who are disadvantaged, who are not rich or articulate or influential, but who reach out for assistance so they can stand on their own feet and enjoy the benefits of our great society, they could not have a better friend or supporter, a more effective advocate than Senator Ted Kennedy.

And let me say something else. He proves that we Democrats know how to battle hard among ourselves. But woe be unto those who face us when we're together. When we fight side by side like Democrats, that's exactly when we win like Democrats.

We have some excellent entertainment for you here tonight, and I don't want to compete with it, certainly not with Kirk Douglas, anyway. [Laughter] I'm having enough trouble with members of his profession this year already. [Laughter] Later Kirk will introduce some absolutely superb entertainment for you—Leonard Bernstein, Carol Channing, Billy Eckstine. Just the sound of their names brings music to our ears.

This has been an historic campaign in many ways. There have been divisions and demonstrations of unity. The issues have been discussed thoroughly. And I can't say that the Democrats have had a monopoly on grasping important issues; the Republicans have done their share.

For years scientists, for instance, have been grappling with the complexity of environmental pollution, and as Senator Kennedy pointed out earlier, Ronald Reagan has found the real culprit. He did misunderstand the scientists in one way. When they said that someone needs to attack the pollution problem at its roots— [laughter] —unfortunately, Governor Reagan took them literally.

Many Americans are very upset at the indictment of our flowers, our woodlands, and our trees. In fact, I hear that Smokey the Bear is going to come out of retirement to join with us— [laughter] —and demand equal time from the Republicans. It's up to us to accept Smokey the Bear in our ranks and use his notable persuasive powers to bring us to a victory next month.

We unite this evening as Democrats not just in opposition to the Republicans, but we unite under the banner that we all share and in which we all believe as Democrats.

I grew up in the Depression, and I saw the change in life and the attitude and the restored hopes that Franklin Roosevelt brought to my own family. Later I served in the Navy as an ensign and a lieutenant (jg.) and then as a lieutenant under a fighting Commander in Chief, Harry Truman. Even in uniform I cheered when he gave them hell.

I worked as a farmer later on during the civil rights days, when President John Kennedy sent a ray of hope and expectation among the downtrodden and those who had been suffering from deprivation of equal legal status in our society, followed by a great President, Lyndon Johnson. I felt the pride that they instilled in me as a Democrat and an American and the love that they both inspired in the breast of those who had been excluded.

Ours is a party of strength. Ours is a party of peace. We've kept our Nation out of war. We stand for equality under the law and also equality of opportunity. We stand for freedom of religious expression. We stand for freedom of conscience. We stand for economic progress, and we stand for social progress. These goals are just as valid today as they were when Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. They're just as important today. They're just as much worth our efforts to wage a real political fight.

Ours is a nation of great achievement, and tonight, as part of our entertainment, we will prove again the superb nature of art and its achievement in our country. Among the things of which we are so proud that has transcended the obstacles of international barriers, provided cultural understanding and admiration for our country is, of course, the film industry.

It's a privilege for me now, as President of our country, a proud President of our country, to introduce one of the finest representatives of our film industry, my friend, our friend, Kirk Douglas.

Note: The President spoke at 7:59 p.m. in Exhibit Hall A at the Sheraton Washington Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Carter/Kennedy Unity Celebration Remarks at the Democratic Party Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251342

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