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Charleston, West Virginia Remarks at a Fundraising Reception for Senator Jennings Randolph.

May 26, 1978

Senator Jennings Randolph, Governor and Mrs. Rockefeller, Congressman John Slack and Rahall, distinguished members of the Jennings Randolph fan club, of which I am a member:

It's very good to be back in your great State. I'm following in this beautiful place one of my favorite performers, Willie Nelson, who's perhaps the greatest country music player in the country, with the possible exception of the majority leader of the Senate. [Laughter] And Willie Nelson represents, in a strange way, the same thing that Jennings Randolph does. He sings about average American people, hopes and dreams and fears and discouragements, concerns, questions. He sings about being homesick, and he sings about young people who go away and who want to have an opportunity to go back where they came from and find a good job and a sound life. He sings about veterans who have been in Vietnam and who came back to a strange world where they were not adequately appreciated. He sings about people who are handicapped in different ways—people who are poor, people who are not well educated, people who don't have a strong, loud, demanding voice, and who don't belong to any organization that's powerful. He sings about the greatness of our country, and particularly about the working people of the United States.

And those are exactly the same people who love and who are served so well by Jennings Randolph. There's something special about this man. This meeting or rally was not even planned until about 10 days ago. But the fact that you have come here from all over this great State, traveling hundreds of miles to pay your respects to a leader, is indicative of how much you care about him. The former majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Mike Mansfield, said recently that Jennings Randolph had touched the lives of more Americans than any other United States Senator who has ever served.

Senator Randolph's career has been long and distinguished, but there's another remarkable thing about him, and that is he does not dwell in the past. And I want to relate to you just a couple of his accomplishments, which I believe demonstrate his proven devotion to duty, his tenacity when he faces obstacles in the way of his doing a good service for you and the other American people, and his vision of the future.

In the depths of the Depression, which I remember very well, and which all of you remember too who are old enough, Jennings Randolph sat down with a map of the United States of America, and he drew lines north and south and east and west. He called his product, way back then, the transcontinental super highway system. And then he began to hold congressional hearings.

It took 20 years for other Members of Congress and the Presidents to realize how badly our Nation needs a better road system to take our goods to market and let our people be bound together as visitors, as friends, and as part of one great national family.

We now have the Interstate Highway System. And I drove in a few minutes ago from the airport, and I realized that every one of the Interstate Highway System roads built in West Virginia and in Georgia, 90 percent of the cost was authorized by Jennings Randolph's committee, and the original concept and idea was originated in the mind of this great man.

But he's a modest man. He's not the kind who would go around this State saying, "I built you this road." He doesn't try to claim credit for his great work. But it would be a serious mistake for those who live in this State and who are going to make a decision this fall to forget what he's done for you and for us in Georgia and throughout the Nation. And this is the kind of quiet service that ought to constantly be recognized.

Another example—and I wish I had time to go through a whole list, but I just picked out two or three. In 1942 Jennings Randolph introduced a proposed amendment to the Constitution to extend the right to vote to young Americans 18 years old. They were old enough to fight and to give their lives for our country, but for most Americans, even enlightened Members of the House and Senate, who were Democrats even, they were not old enough to vote. But Jennings Randolph, being a man whose heart is young and who can see the value of the future, said, "I think these young people ought to have a right of citizenship."

His amendment was not adopted that year, but as is his nature, Jennings Randolph did not give up. He introduced this proposal 11 different times, and each time picked up a little more support because of his persistence and the depths of his belief in young people.

And in 1970, the Congress finally passed and then the States ratified the 26th amendment to the great Constitution of the United States. And it's a credit to him, of course, but it's also a credit to West Virginia that this document, which shapes our lives now and in the future, was modified for one of the few times in history by the man who has served this State so well. And again, he's a modest man. He doesn't go around bragging about his accomplishments, but that quiet, good, solid service, based on visions of the future years but also based in how close he is to you and to your children, is what has made him so effective.

Well, finally, let me just recall for you that in 1959, Jennings Randolph introduced a bill to create a national commission on fuels and energy. I wish it had passed when he introduced it. [Laughter] But this was a measure specifically requiring that our Congress and the President back then develop a national energy plan. And when he introduced this legislation almost 20 years ago, his words were clear and prophetic, and I would like to quote just one sentence: "Every year we delay in establishing a national energy policy perhaps brings us I year closer to disaster."

Almost 20 years later, finally, we're on the verge of developing a sound energy plan for our country.

Of course, I can't claim that Jennings Randolph didn't have some ulterior motive in mind, because the plan calls for a heavy reliance on West Virginia coal.

I don't believe anybody here will be surprised to learn that the coal utilization conversion bill which has already been approved by the House and Senate conference committee—and it's sure to become law—is almost exactly the same bill that Jennings Randolph introduced himself long before I became President. And I might add that as we use more and more coal, that coal will be hauled over the same Federal highways and the roads in West Virginia for which Jennings Randolph is directly responsible.

Well, I won't talk much longer, but I would like to say a couple more things. I've just cited a few of the accomplishments of this great leader. But they vividly underscore that he's not a man of yesterday, but he's a man of today and tomorrow. He's strong, determined, vigorous, active, competent, and because of the respect which he enjoys throughout the Congress and certainly in the White House, he's effective.

I think that there's no one who has done more for American veterans. I think there's no one who's done more for the disabled and the handicapped people of the United States. I think there's no one who's done more for all those who live in Appalachia, because the legislation that set up the Appalachian Commission, which I headed as chairman when I was Governor, was introduced, you know, by Jennings Randolph.

He doesn't believe in government handouts for those who are able to work, but he believes in giving people the opportunity to work if they are able. And I don't believe anybody has helped me more in trying to bring down the unemployment rate than has Jennings Randolph.

And finally, and what's perhaps most important of all for me, is that he's a man on whom you can depend, a man .of absolute integrity. There has never been an allegation against his honesty, against his integrity, against his commitment of what was fine and decent and idealistic, that represents accurately what all West Virginia people would like to be themselves and what they demand and expect in a leader who represents them in the national and international councils of the United States Senate.

Well, as President, I face difficult and sometimes almost insoluble problems. And I need Jennings Randolph in Washington to help me to serve our people, those who live here and those who live around the country. This is not going to be an easy election year. It will not be an easy campaign for Jennings Randolph. And I know that you've sacrificed coming here, contributing to his campaign financially. And I would hate for any one of you to go away thinking that you've done all that he or I expect from you.

When you get back home, think about the prospects for victory in your family, in your block, in your rural neighborhood, in your town, and say, "What can I do, myself, to organize an effective campaign with me as the campaign manager?" Don't wait for anyone from Jennings' organization to call you. Just start on your own. Ask the people in your church, in your Lions Club, who work with you in a factory, who mine coal with you, who have respect for you, who may not be very interested in politics, to join in helping to help West Virginia and to help the United States by keeping there in the Senate a great leader who has genuinely earned the admiration and appreciation of our country—my good, personal friend, Jennings Randolph, your Senator now and years to come.

Note: The President spoke at 2:15 p.m. in the West Virginia Room at the Charleston Civic Center.

Jimmy Carter, Charleston, West Virginia Remarks at a Fundraising Reception for Senator Jennings Randolph. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245064

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