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Columbia, South Carolina Remarks at a Fundraising Reception and Dinner for Charles Ravenel

September 22, 1978

I think that's one of the best introductions I ever had. [Laughter] And it's obvious that Pug means what he says, that he's very excited about being in the same place as the President. And I suggest that in January, you send him to Washington to be with me for a long time.

As you know, I was supposed to come last week. And I'm very interested in this race in South Carolina and seeing Pug win. I thought the best thing to do was to delay the Camp David proceedings for about a week and see if I couldn't boost my own popularity a little before I came up here. [Laughter] And I'm very grateful to say that because of your prayers and the support of many people and the presence of two truly great men at Camp David, Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat, that we have been successful in taking the first step of what I think is inevitably going to lead very shortly to a peace treaty 'between Israel and Egypt.

To me, this is indicative of a kind of new tone or interrelationship among people, perhaps throughout the whole world. Those of you here in South Carolina, those of us in Georgia, are descended from people who know what it means to go through a terrible war and to live under occupation and to struggle to restore what we've lost and then to rise to new heights of achievement and common purpose.

I think this is the sense that I get throughout our own Nation now, because we have had some very bad years, with the Vietnam war and the Watergate embarrassments, the CIA revelations of violation of U.S. laws. But I think there's a determination on the part of American people to have a nation and a government of which we can be proud once again, and also a nation of which the entire world can be proud.

There's a great determination, I think, to have peace. And the change in attitude and demeanor, the dropping of ancient, unwarranted demands, the shuffling away from longstanding hatreds, the forgetting of four wars in 30 years by the two leaders of Egypt and Israel was, I think, a part of a growing sense in the world that things can be better if people can work together for a common purpose.

I was Governor of Georgia for 4 years, and I watched the campaign of Pug Ravenel 4 years ago. It was like a breath of fresh air that swept across the South. There was a lot of inspiration in it for us. I never had met Pug Ravenel. I came to South Carolina early that year to kick off the campaign of another candidate— [laughter] —Congressman Dorn. And it was a bad year for the Democratic Party, because the victor in the primary, because of a legal technicality, was deprived of the right to represent the South Carolina people.

This is not typical of our party. It was an extra-party thing, legal thing. I don't have any background in law; I'm not criticizing what was decided then. But it was a loss to South Carolina. And there were a lot of bitter feelings left over from it.

The supporters of other candidates felt that the party didn't come back together quickly enough to repair the divisions that had been caused, through no one's fault. Now is a different time, and if we are not successful in November—I think we will be—but if we are not successful in November, the only reason will be that you didn't grasp this additional opportunity to have the leadership of this fine young man and to heal old wounds, as we have together healed old historical wounds in the South, and to resolve together to reach for an element of achievement and height of accomplishment and greatness of which I believe Pug Ravenel is capable.

It's nice of you to come tonight and to make a substantial contribution, and I'm grateful for your doing it. So is Pug. But that's not enough. There is probably no one here—with maybe just a very few exceptions-who couldn't give much more, and I'm sure there's no one here who couldn't go back home and raise 10 times as much among your own neighbors and friends who trust you and who would be willing to make an investment in South Carolina's future.

I hope that you won't be satisfied with just having done this small thing to help a man who, in effect, has devoted his last 4 years paying off old debts and getting prepared to present his ideas, his hopes, and his dreams for South Carolina to the people who live in this State. You know the formidable opposition he has and the immense finances that have come in to help his opponent, not only from South Carolina but from other States.

I think the financial part is something that's particularly of interest to you, because you've been blessed by God with great financial security, most of you have, and you can, among your own friends, help him in that way. But I recognize in many of you additional elements of leadership that quite often are not adequately tapped, maybe for your own professional business, yes. But I think you can take the next week or 2 weeks; or perhaps a month or two, and make an investment of your own great talent and ability in the future of our country. Organize your own family, your own block, your own community, suburb, neighborhood, your own county, on behalf of Pug Ravenel. Join in with those who've been active for him in the past. I need him in Washington.

You've got a superb United States Senator, Fritz Hollings, there, who helps me and helps you and helps the country. He's a man of great dignity, self-assurance, competence, knowledge, experience as Governor of your State, and a man of great compassion. I first heard about him when he was concerned about hungry people, mostly blacks, mostly little children that public officials had not thought about ever before. And I observed the attention that he gave them and the book he wrote about them and learned a lot from it and from him.

We need two men of that quality to represent South Carolina. And it's really up to you. A few people like this, a relatively small group in a big State can make all the difference in the world if you really care. I care. I know Pug Ravenel cares. Fritz Hollings cares. And I want all of you to care as well.

This is a time for us to make a sacrifice. We are rising now, I think, very rapidly to reach those elements of success and the goals that we've set for ourselves. I think that you can be part of it. And I would feel better knowing that we had a solid partnership, whether you might have supported another candidate in the past or not, whether you've been a completely devoted Democrat in the past or not, whether you've ever been active in politics in the past or not.

There are no defects in this man that I can discern. I know him well, and I know you know him perhaps even better. I believe that we're ready for him, and I believe with your help, he'll be in Washington next January to help me.

I'm going to go in a few minutes over to speak to a larger group. I hope you'll join us there. I want to talk about a few issues that are important to our country.

My speech will be brief. I haven't had much rest this week. I've had to double up on my trips that I couldn't take last week and had a lot of paperwork left over because we really stayed at Camp David longer than I thought. But there are some things I want to say to you and to them. And I just want to say let's work together to send Pug Ravenel to the Senate.

You'll be doing me, your President, South Carolina, your State, and the United States, your Nation, a great favor. Thank you.

[The President spoke at 8:45 p.m. at the reception on the grounds of the residence of Jeff Hunt, a South Carolina businessman. Following his remarks, he went to another area on the grounds where he addressed guests at the dinner at 9:25 p.m. as follows:]

THE PRESIDENT. I think when I leave here, I'll take Pug Ravenel tomorrow to Ohio and Pennsylvania to introduce me there.

MR. RAVENEL. Mr. President, I'm never leaving this State again. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. For the last 4 years, I've been trying to get Pug to come to Plains— [laughter] —and he wouldn't cross the Savannah River until after this election. But I think next January he'll be making a trip. And we'll let him come home every weekend or two to let you know what he's doing in the United States Senate, representing you.

As I listened to Pug's glowing introduction, a thought went through my mind. There is a uniqueness about the Presidency, it's a lonely job. Except for prayer, you don't have any place to turn. When things go bad, you get entirely too much blame. [Laughter] And I have to admit that when things go good, you get entirely too much credit. [Laughter]

I was able to spend the last 2 weeks with two strong and courageous men. And the decisions they made violated ancient history, generations of hatred and death. Both of them took great political chances in changing their past political commitments-you might say their campaign promises; they had to violate some of them. But they were eager to reach for peace. There was a change in the Middle East in the attitude of people, and I believe that we'll make rapid progress now in bringing a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

President Sadat had a heart attack not long ago; so did Prime Minister Begin. And Sadat is very careful about his health. He gets up early every morning and takes a long walk, 4 kilometers, takes an hour. He's a military man, a very brisk walk. He comes back and takes calisthenics about another half hour or so; he says acrobatics, gymnastics. And then it's about 10 o'clock in the morning before he's ready to go to work.

But on several occasions I got up early and did my homework with members of my staff, and as President Sadat passed my cabin, I went out and walked with him. He's a man of great strength. One morning he said something that I thought you might be interested in. He said, "I believe that you have a sensitivity about our problems in the Middle East because you're from the South, because the South is the only part of the United States and southerners are the only people in the United States that really know what it means to suffer the tortures of the aftermath of a war in an occupation government and deprivation for a while and a struggle for the overcoming of prejudice and hatred between one race and another."

And he said, "I believe that has given you not only a special insight but perhaps an additional commitment to bring a resolution between two people that have long hated each other."

I've come here tonight still tired, haven't had any time off yet. I had to postpone this meeting from last week till tonight. I've already been to New Jersey this week, and go to two more States tomorrow; just came from North Carolina.

But I've come here because I believe in something. I believe in what our Nation has been in the past, is becoming now, and can be in the future. I believe in the Southland. I believe in the people of South Carolina, where my grandmama came from. And I believe in the people of Georgia. And I've seen just in my own political lifetime, which has been very brief, a repairing of ancient divisions.

The last President that came from the South, I think, was in 1848—not because we weren't good people, not because we weren't competent politicians, not because we weren't natural leaders, but because there were divisions that couldn't be healed; maybe because we didn't set our sights high enough, because when one of our southerners would run for President, it would probably be on a racist ticket, running against blacks or against the poor. But we've overcome that now, and we are taking the lead in the whole Nation in binding our country back together. And the rest of the country is proud of it, too.

And we have shown the way to pull white and black people together again in a spirit of harmony and friendship and mutual trust and absolute equality. We haven't repaired all the damage yet, because there are a lot of black children, as there are a lot of white children, who are very poor, who, because their parents didn't have an adequate opportunity, don't yet have one. And I think we see that clearer perhaps than folks who live in other parts of the country.

I'm a Democrat because our party has always seen better than the other party that the best investment of our natural resources and our money was in people-to give a child of ignorant parents a chance for an education, to give a sick person a chance for good health care, to tear down barriers between people, to let young married couples have a chance to own a home, to have farmers who were destitute during the Depression years have a chance to live in dignity for a change.

The Democratic Party has always been the center of reaching out to help people, not as a gift, but to repair a damage to them and to recognize in them an innate worth that God had given them and to give every human being, no matter how poor or how deprived, no matter how tiny their talents might have been, a chance to stand on their own feet, to make their own decisions, to work productively, to be a part of society.

The Democratic Party has always had a heart. And I'm proud of that. These men and women who sit on the stage with me tonight, your senior Senator, exemplify those qualities. Your next Governor, my good friend Dick Riley, exemplifies those qualities; Jack Bass typifies those qualities; your congressional delegation on my left and right, who are there working with me, show those qualities to the Nation.

I've tried to come into the White House not as someone who knew all the answers, but as someone who brought a fresh view.

I spent 2 years campaigning around this country. As you well know, when I first started, I was a laughingstock. Nobody thought I had a chance. But I worked, and my wife worked, my family worked, many of you worked. Some of you had great confidence in me. I did enter 30 primaries—and won. I've never served in Washington before, I never lived in Washington before. But I think I have a background that qualifies me at least to know what the people hunger for.

We've made some changes for the better, with the help of these men on the stage: I think we've spelled out programs in the future that will keep us busy for the next 2 years or more. I feel that we've got a task given by you, and as I was elected with your help, I think we can succeed with your help.

I'm interested in a lot of races in this country, but there is no political campaign in the United States in which I am more deeply and personally interested than to see a victory won by Pug Ravenel in November.

If you'll excuse my saying so, I think we have a lot in common, which is a compliment to me. His family moved to South Carolina about 200 years ago; mine moved to Georgia about 200 years ago. Our families were never rich. My father was a working man; so was his. My parents were not well educated. I don't think anybody in my family before me had ever finished high school or been to college; I don't know about his. But I had the chance to go off and get a good education at the U.S. Naval Academy. And Pug had a chance to go up North and get a good education because he worked four parttime jobs, had a scholarship—was an outstanding athlete; I was not. He's brought something back to South Carolina that's precious, as did I when I went off for 11 years in the Navy.

When I became Governor of Georgia, I had made friends all over the United States who had become executives in large corporations and businesses. And when I began to recruit new industry, new jobs into Georgia, I called my friends. And they helped Georgia.

Pug Ravenel has got a much broader base of friendship in that area than I ever had. And there's no doubt in my mind that those few years he spent outside of South Carolina can pay rich dividends for you in the future, because there's an intense interest among those who know Pug best, in seeing him exert a position of leadership not only for South Carolina but for the whole country. And that experience he's had as a young man will pay off greatly for you.

He's a man who's been through a political campaign and lost. I ran for Governor in 1966 and I lost. And my loss resulted eventually in Lester Maddox being Governor of Georgia. And I felt like it was a setback for me and Georgia and the South, without any criticism of him. But I think there are some things about South Carolina that can be improved, politically speaking, not in the Democratic Party, but in this election coming up.

I think this is a time for inspiration in our country and in this particular campaign. We need to forget about some things in the past. It's time we had two United States Senators from South Carolina who vote yes for matters of importance, who are willing to invest in people, who are concerned about raising standards, not lowering standards.

Pug Ravenel is a man who believes in a strong military defense; so do I. It's my profession, the only profession I ever had, except farming. But I see very clearly, as does he, that a strong defense means more than just airplanes and tanks and atomic missiles and ships. The strength of a nation also rests in the spirit of its people, in ideals that don't change, in beliefs that are realized, in trust in government, in the search for peace, repairing damage with other nations, trusting other people, setting the standard, raising a banner of human rights. These kinds of things are what make a nation great within and also make a nation great and strong in international affairs. And we need candidates who become public officials who base their own strength, their own influence, their own decisions, their own wisdom, on the folks back home, who don't get separated from them, and who try to heal differences and not create new differences.

We've still got some problems in Washington that need solving. We're making good progress on energy, good progress on civil service, but there are still some ways in which the people of this country, including you, are getting cheated, and I don't like it. I would like to have Pug Ravenel, Jack Bass, other Congressmen, Fritz Hollings, help me with it.

I'll just give you one example, because it's coming up for a decision soon and it's a tough battle, and that is inflation. Inflation robs us all, saps away our strength, particularly those who have fixed incomes or a small savings account or who live on a welfare payment or a pension. It also hurts our Nation's reputation in the world and takes away some of that greatness and strength that I just talked about.

The Congress can do a lot of things. We're trying to get the budget balanced. I believe in it. When I was elected in '76, the deficit was in the high sixties of billions of dollars. In my first budget, I cut it down to $50 billion. This year the Congress, in '79, will turn out a budget, along with me, of about $40 billion. I hope next year to have one down in the thirties of billions of dollars. We're trying to bring it down, but still give people good services.

We are trying to make our system more competitive and do away with the deprivation of people brought about by a twisting of the free enterprise system. We are going to soon pass airline deregulation to let there be competition for a change in air travel.

One of the things that presses on me is a problem with hospital cost containment. There's not .anybody here in this audience who's not directly affected by the cost of medical care. And this is one of the most serious problems there is. Now, as you know, hospitals, particularly the private hospitals, are quite often owned and managed by the same people who decide whether or not you go in the hospital, how long you stay, what treatment you get, what the charges to you are.

This is not right. Last year in South Carolina—I looked up the statistics-charges for hospital care to you went up 20 percent in 1 year. Hospital costs are doubling every 5 years. This ought to be changed.

I'm not going to belabor the point, but I want to give you one example of what I mean. I have not had much success in the House in getting hospital cost containment passed, because we had a lot of pressing items on the agenda and not enough attention was given to it. And the special interest groups were putting tremendous effort in keeping it in committee, and they succeeded in the House so far this year. I hope to get it out and get it passed, still.

But Tip O'Neill, the Speaker of the House, a decent, good man, went home for a weekend. And one of his friends, a working man, came up as he was getting on the plane to go 'back to Washington, with tears in his eyes. He said, "Tip, I think I'm mined." Tip said, "What's the matter, friend?" He said, "I just got a bill from the hospital, and I can't pay it. My little boy, just a child, fell down and crunched two or three of his teeth up into his gums. It wasn't all that serious. And I took him to the hospital. He stayed in there 1 day, 26 hours to be exact, and the bill is $2,330.99."

Well, that person had his problem presented to the President of the United States, because his friend was the Speaker of the House. But there are a lot of people like you around this country that are presently being cheated and charged too much for hospital care, because we've not yet been able to break the will and the influence of the special interest groups who are fighting against you. I'm determined to change that. And there are some other things, too, that I'm not going into tonight. But I need good help, and I would like to ask you as you leave here this evening not to overlook what you've got as a possibility for South Carolina—Pug Ravenel.

You couldn't have a better three top offices if you searched the Nation over than Dick Riley as Governor, Fritz Hollings as your senior Senator, and to replace the other Senator with Pug Ravenel.

I just want to ask you one more question: Do you think that all of us together can elect Pug Ravenel to the Senate? [Applause] Right on. I'll do my part if you will.

Thank you very much.

Jimmy Carter, Columbia, South Carolina Remarks at a Fundraising Reception and Dinner for Charles Ravenel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243342

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