Jimmy Carter photo

Chicago, Illinois Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Mayor Jane Byrne.

October 15, 1979

This is unbelievable. When Jane Byrne raises a crowd, I'm always eager to come and speak. I've never seen such a tremendous outpouring of support and Democratic enthusiasm and harmony and commitment and courage and anticipation for the future as you've demonstrated here tonight.

You might feel bad about sitting in this room—you'll be hearing the speeches on television later on—but it took me and Rosalynn and many of you 2 1/2 years to get the place we wanted to live in in Washington, D.C. So, maybe before 2 1/2 years you'll be moving up to the next floor. [Laughter]

I predict that if Jane Byrne stays as your mayor, and I think she will, this outpouring of affection and appreciation which you have demonstrated for her will continue.

This afternoon I was in Kansas City-Kansas City, Missouri—in a county courthouse, Jackson County. It's a famous courthouse, because 8 years before he became President, Harry Truman was a county judge.

As I stood there this afternoon in a small crowd on the main floor of the courthouse, I thought about him as President and what he meant as a Democrat. Harry Truman believed in Democratic Party unity. Harry Truman stayed close to the people. Harry Truman was plainspoken. He said what he thought, and the people listened. Harry Truman was not always popular, because he did what was right, regardless of public opinion polls. Harry Truman was a man of his word. When he said something, you could believe it.

Harry Truman recognized that we had a nation, during the last part of the Second World War and during the few years afterwards, which was shot through with very serious problems, but he never gave up. He tapped the reserves not only of the Democratic Party but of the people of our country.

He believed in families; he believed in neighborhoods; he believed in communities. And he saw that, in spite of problems which change from one day to another or divisions among people which cause hot debates in a free country, that there was an undercurrent, a reservoir, a foundation, a base of innate courage among the American people, and there were principles which never change, principles of honesty, integrity, dedication, concern about one another, steel strength when our country was in danger, and compassion and love among American people.

And his ability as a President to tap these tremendous resources come daily for me in the White House as a reassuring fact, because I know that the same characteristics that existed when he became President, when he served, still exist among people in our country today.

A few days ago in Grant Park, you had assembled for a great visitor probably the largest crowd of human beings ever assembled in the United States, perhaps even the world, in history—about a million and a half people, who came not out of curiosity, but to demonstrate that there was a hunger among us to preserve the finest characteristics that permeate our lives, fill our hearts and our souls. You recognized that there are things eternal and that there are things in a modern technological world that do not change.

We Democrats must remember that, although all parties have deep religious faiths. But we should remember that our country also is strong, ethical, morally, spiritually, that we don't change inside, that we have an obligation to one another. And the strength of our party and of our country lies in our belief in one another, our confidence in the future, and our determination, which we will never yield, that we will make together the greatest nation on Earth, the United States of America, even greater in the future. If you'll help us, we'll help you realize this dream.

Thank you very much. I'll see you on television in a few minutes.

[The President spoke at 8:09 p.m. in the Banquet Annex Hall at the McCormick Place Convention Center. He then went to the Don Maxwell Hall, where he delivered the following remarks at the main dinner at 9:05 p.m.]

My good friend Mayor Jane Byrne, Chairman Dunne, 1 Michael Howlett, 2 State officials, Members of Congress, distinguished leaders of Chicago and Cook County, both Democratic and those who've not yet been converted to our party— [laughter] —and especially more than 12,000 of Jane Byrne's closest friends:

I know where to come the next time I want a quiet, restful evening to spend alone. [Laughter]

1 Cook County Democratic chairman.
2 Master of ceremonies for the dinner.

Just a few minutes ago, I went down and spoke to five or six thousand people, and I was on the way back to my hotel when Jane said, "Wait, you haven't seen anything yet." And this is an absolutely unbelievable sight. I'm proud to be here.

In the last few years, this is my third visit to this great city on an occasion when the mayor of Chicago is honored. A President has many interesting and exciting experiences, but I don't believe any more interesting or exciting than to be here tonight.

I've been doing a lot of different things lately. When I was at Sunday school yesterday morning, one of my friends said, "Mr. President, I know what you've been doing the last week or so. What are you going to do next?" And I said, "Well, I'm going to Kansas City tomorrow morning to speak to the National Conference of Catholic Charities, and then tomorrow night I'm going to Chicago to a large testimonial dinner to Mayor Jane Byrne." And they looked at me for a while and said, "You've been spending an awful lot of time with Catholics lately." And another Baptist friend standing nearby said, "Well, it hadn't hurt you at all. Keep it up."

I am glad to be with you, members of all political parties, members of all faiths. I speak to you tonight as President of the greatest nation on Earth, and I also speak to you as a friend of your mayor. I also speak to you as a Democrat.

This enormous attendance is proof indeed of the enthusiasm and the dedication and the unity and the commitment and the confidence of people who live in Chicago, and it's also proof of the tremendous leadership of your mayor, Jane Byrne. You've made a wise choice, and I'm proud of it.

We are here to honor the mayor, to provide her with the support and the help she needs in a very difficult job and to recognize the fine performance which she has already exhibited to the rest of the Nation in the short time she's held this exalted office.

I want to thank you for this support for her personally and to encourage you to keep it up. The lifeblood of politics and effective government is good and loyal people ready to work, ready to contribute talent, ability, and care for one another. Your mayor is depending on you, and your President is depending on you, also.

God must have loved Democrats because he made so many of us. However, he always leaves us short of money. Our opponents can almost always outspend us. Since we don't like to lose elections, we work harder to raise money, and we do a better job in office after we are elected. Your mayor has proven that. This extraordinary determination and fighting spirit and better performance all in our party make sure that our party is the first choice of Americans. By earning the loyalty and the support of the American people, we have been the majority party for the last 50 years, and it is my determination is to keep it that way.

Mayor Richard Daley understood the basis for party strength. He was proud of the people of Chicago. He dedicated his life, as you know, to serving you. He earned the loyalty of the people of this city, no matter what your party preference might be. In doing that, he made Chicago synonymous with economic progress and with workable government.

What I admired most of all and what kept him in office so long was that his government, your government, was one with a human side. He understood that politics is a two-way street that loyalty comes to an officeholder only if we give good government to the people who vote, and bring into the political system working people—immigrants, minorities, the old, the needy. Then they'd know they are better off to be inside the political system rather than outside as an alienated and lonely American citizen.

So, when we honor Jane Byrne tonight, we also honor the tradition of Chicago and the people who helped to make her become your mayor—I might add, with an unbelievable 82 percent of the vote. And we also honor the people who have made Chicago one of the great success stories in the entire world.

From the time Chicago was founded, people came here in search of better lives. They came here to work and to build together. That's what still distinguishes Chicago today. You are a city of builders builders of new industries and great enterprises and the most superb architects on Earth. There is no better symbol of this than the Chicago skyline—nothing like it in the world.

This afternoon I and Rosalynn and Jane Byrne, George Dunne, and others flew down the lakeshore and looked at the skyline from a helicopter. It was a thrilling sight, and I get a thrill as President and as an American every time I see it. And there's another side to Chicago that I also admire, which I mentioned earlier—its human dimension. This is a city of families. This is a city of neighborhoods, where churches and community life and traditions are important.

When His Holiness Pope John [Paul] 3 II came here, he did not visit just the great cathedrals. He went to the neighborhoods, and he went to their churches. He went to the South Side, to Marquette Park, to Pilsen, to the Five Holy Martyrs Church, and the Visitation Church. He was in the different communities of this city, where unique heritages and customs stay strong and vital.

3 Printed in the transcript.

Sustaining that neighborhood life has been a chief goal of Mayor Jane Byrne. She's fighting for the well-being of neighborhoods in Chicago, and I can assure you that she's fighting for Chicago in Washington as well. And she is winning her fight in both places—here and in Washington.

With a good partnership between your mayor and your President, Chicago is leading the country in Urban Development Action Grants, above and other city in the Nation. We expect this money to stimulate $300 million in private investment, creating 5,000 new and permanent jobs in Chicago. In addition, we've approved block grants for Chicago of $127 million for this 1 year. We've just reached an agreement with Mayor Byrne, who is a tough negotiator, that will preserve over 1,300 federally funded city government jobs.

My urban policy means making government work better together—Federal, State, and local. In Chicago, we have had an opportunity to ensure that a major national and international travel system is not stifled in its necessary development and expansion.

I'm very pleased to report to you tonight that after 10 years of waiting and after several months of work with Mayor Byrne, we have finally reached an agreement in principle to relocate some defense facilities at O'Hare Airport, which will permit the much-needed expansion and modernization of your international air terminal.

This is good news for Chicago, and it's good news for the millions of people who fly in and out of O'Hare Air Terminal, and it's good news to me, because it represents precisely that kind of creative Federal-local cooperation that's so important to our mutual success and lets our Nation realize its great strength.

I don't want to recite a long list tonight. I just want to emphasize to you at this special evening banquet that Jane Byrne is working hard for this city in the same tradition as her great predecessors. And I can also say that if we had more congressional delegations like Chicago's, we would be moving even more vigorously to rebuild all our cities and also to rebuild our national economy even more rapidly.

I've worked closely with Senator Adlai Stevenson, with Danny Rostenkowski, with Frank Annunzio, and all the rest of the Chicago delegation. When I say that Chicagoans are builders, I mean that you also send that same building spirit to Washington.

When I took office as President and the times called for rebuilding a stagnant economy. I called on the Democratic Congress and Chicagoans in that Congress to get the job done. We've done that job—together—and we can be proud of it.

We've increased our commitments to Democratic programs—social security, housing, education, and health. Corporate profits are up 50 percent. Farm exports have broken world records in 1977, 1978, and again in 1979. Taxes have been cut. In 1980 you will realize tax savings of over $40 billion. We've had good luck in getting away from unnecessary regulations. We have cut 1,000 OSHA regulations off the books. Paperwork is down 15 percent, and the budget deficit has been slashed 60 percent by $36 billion. Those things are important. They are kind of a measure of what we have tried to do in this country and what we've accomplished.

In 30 months, we've created 8 1/2 million new jobs in America, a quarter million of those jobs right here in Chicago. We've brought the national unemployment rate down by 25 percent. And in Chicago, because of your extra good leadership, unemployment has been cut almost 30 percent.

Throughout the country, we created a million new jobs for black workers, over 1,000* of those jobs for black citizens here in Chicago. We've created 700,000 jobs for teenagers in America, 17,000 of those jobs here in Chicago. We've created over a million jobs for construction workers, 30,000 of those jobs here in Chicago. The country's never had before so many new jobs in such a short time, and we are still hard at work.

*The President meant to say 100,000. [Printed in the transcript.]

Americans in 1976 also wanted to rebuild our cities, our older cities. I knew that with the right policies older cities could be rebuilt, a new spirit could be engendered, past defects could be corrected, our urban dwellers could be given a better life.

With your help, we launched the Nation's first comprehensive urban program. We changed old and existing Federal programs so that for the first time they really began to give better services to our people. Now downtown and inner-city communities are reviving all over the Nation. As in Chicago, the building spirit has revived, and people are putting hard work and new life back into our cities.

There's plenty to be done. It will not be easy, but we are off to a good start. And I pledge to keep this progress going. Our cities in America must be rebuilt. If you'll help me, we will succeed with that job.

And we are now devoting that same American spirit—individualism, innovation, dedication—to our energy problem, to free us from dangerous overdependence on imported oil. We now import more than half the oil we use from foreign countries. Next year, we will spend $70 billion on foreign oil. We are importing oil; we are exporting jobs, we are importing inflation.

We've begun to act after too long a delay. We've already cut imports by 2¼ million barrels per day by 1985, but we know that this will not be enough. We must do better.

I have now sent to Congress, in July, a program to conserve more energy and to produce more American energy. I proposed a windfall profits tax on the unearned income of the oil companies of this country to help poor families pay high energy bills, to build a better transportation system, and to produce synthetic fuels, solar power, and other energy in our own country.

It will amount to the most ambitious peacetime undertaking in our history, on the same massive scale as we saw when we built the Interstate Highway System throughout the United States. It's the kind of program Chicagoans like. It builds on American strengths. It harnesses American ingenuity. It provides American jobs.

We can cut our oil imports by one-half by 1990. We can reassert American leadership. We can achieve energy security. All it takes is a spirit of common enterprise and determination, and that's what we've got.

Energy price increases are now the main force driving inflation. Oil price increases have caused 4 percent of our own inflation rate. Without energy, the inflation rate this past summer—this summer-would be no higher than it was in 1978 or 1977.

Clearly, no economic problem today is more important than the 10 years of high inflation, and I intend, with your help, to bring it under control.

We took a big step forward just a few weeks ago by forging a historic national accord. It's a broad agreement with labor on economic and domestic policy, with direct participation on wage and price stability. For the first time ever, we've made full partners of those who suffer most from inflation—the working men and women of America.

The national accord acknowledges that we all have to tighten our belts. We've recognized inflation as the number one threat economically to our country.

The national accord acknowledges that we can succeed. We can and we will do it fairly. We can and we will protect jobs. We can and we will protect the poor and the disadvantaged. That's what the national accord is all about. It's not just to make life comfortable for the few. It is to bring economic justice and security to all Americans.

There's nothing easy about this inflation fight for you or for me. In fact, I'm the fourth consecutive President to confront this same problem. Presidents before me have tried mandatory controls, and they've also tried the deepest recession since the 1930's. Neither worked. I believe they didn't work because we've never before had a comprehensive energy policy, and we've never before had a national accord where the tackling of the inflation problem would be a joint effort among government, business, and labor.

The national accord gives us all an historic opportunity to bring inflation down without massive unemployment and suffering. It's a program that can appeal to our finest instincts and can bring about the best in Americans.

We face other challenges and opportunities. As President, my first and my foremost responsibility is to keep America strong and to maintain peace for our people. We are also helping to bring peace to our friends in the Middle East, who've been enemies for centuries and at war almost continually for the last 30 years.

We're determined to control nuclear weapons. The Senate must ratify the SALT II treaty.

And as Americans, we will always hold high the banner of basic human rights throughout the world.

We are indeed maintaining America's leadership among all nations on Earth. This is not an easy role, but we will not fail.

Let me add this about inflation and jobs and world peace and our other challenges: When I became President, I decided to confront the fundamental problems of our country. I decided to do it forcefully and directly, no matter what the political impact might be, no matter what the public opinion polls might be.

Whatever the future may hold, I want the personal satisfaction to know that we did not duck problems, that we did not settle for half-hearted approaches, that we always put the interests of this country first. We owe that debt to the Democratic Party. We owe that debt to the people of this country, and I owe that debt to myself.

As a Democrat and as President, I'm not afraid; in fact, I look forward to tough political fights—and with your help, we will not lose those fights ahead. This has been the approach of the Democratic Party, and this has been the approach of our country to major challenges in the past.

Whenever our Nation has been in danger, whenever we have seen our Nation being tested, Americans have put aside differences, have put aside trepidation and fear, have reached our hands out to one another, have joined in together and have approached the future with determination and with confidence. That must always be our commitment, as it must be in times like these.

The energy crisis, the inflation crisis, is not as easy to see as the First World War or the Second World War or the Great Depression. But at the same time, our Nation's security is in danger.

At times serving as President can be a lonely job, but a President, particularly a Democratic President, does not stay lonely on a trip to Chicago, especially when you're with Jane Byrne and 12,000 friends of hers and great leaders on your own.

I'll still be with you when I'm back in Washington. I'll still be working with Mayor Byrne, with George Dunne, with Frank Annunzio, Danny Rostenkowski, and all the other good Democrats and Republicans who are here representing Chicago.

We'll be working together to tap that great reservoir of strength in America-the same spirit that's brought us together in time of war and depression, that can reunite us again to meet any challenge and to prevail.

When Pope John Paul spoke to a million and a half Chicagoans in Grant Park, he saw in you a picture of America—a nation formed of many people, each with a different history, but together creating something new each day. I share that beautiful vision of Chicago and of America. And our common prayer will be that we will return to the basic and unchanging values that have made this country great.

I pledge to you as President to lead this Nation—all of our people—to realize that vision so that our most fervent prayers for each other and for our great country will be answered as God has answered them in the past.

Thank you very much. God bless all of you.

Note: The following morning, the President attended a private reception at the residence of Mayor Byrne.

Jimmy Carter, Chicago, Illinois Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Mayor Jane Byrne. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/247954

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