Jimmy Carter photo

Conference on HIRE Remarks to Participants in the Conference.

June 14, 1977

I want to introduce to you a good friend of mine who is in the back, Johnny Cash, and his wife, June Carter, whom I have always claimed as my cousin, and their son. John Carter, who is also a person that I claim as my cousin.

Johnny is the kind of man who has had hard times in his own life, who has overcome them because he had friends who believed in him, and who is now devoting a major part of his own great talent to the service of other people.

I'm very proud of his friendship. I've known him now for almost 10 years. He and June and John Carter have been down to Plains to visit my relatives and friends. And I think his own great success in life is because at a crucial time somebody gave him a chance. And that's what I came this afternoon to talk to you about very briefly.

You men and women are very successful. You've enjoyed the benefits of our own free Nation, our system of government, and our system of economics that gives you a chance to excel and you've done so, because of your own talent and ability, of course, but also because you had a chance.

And I am sure, as you are, that there are hundreds of thousands of people in this country just as intelligent and competent as you and me who are in deep despair and whose families might be broken and who have not benefited from a framework of our own governmental system.

Our country is one that's proud of its achievements. We've been through hard times in war. My father was in the First World War; he came out as a first lieutenant. And I went into the Navy in 1943 and came out after the Korean war. My own son went to Vietnam as a volunteer.

I always felt that the neighbors and friends that I had recognized me as a hero when I came home. I wasn't. All I did was wear the uniform and was willing to serve. I never did anything heroic. But I was appreciated. And I was proud. And my neighbors and friends were proud of me and they let me know it.

Well, that was not the case in the recent war in Vietnam. It was not a popular war. Most of the young people who went were too poor to hide in college and escape the draft; others went, like Max Cleland, who already had a college education, because he was highly patriotic and deeply motivated.

But there has been in our country, and still is, unfortunately, a sense among some that the young men and women who did go to Vietnam are somehow not to be admired, but despised and not to be appreciated, but castigated.

Well, I feel this very deeply because most of my neighbors and friends at home in a rural, backward area are too poor and did not have the influence or motivation or knowledge to escape the draft, and they went to Vietnam. A lot of them are black. A lot of others are Spanish speaking. And a lot of others have marginal capabilities, but they went.

Well, now our Nation is healing its wounds. We are proud of the fact we were finally extricated from the Vietnam involvement. And we are trying to repair our image around the world as a nation who made a mistake. And we feel secure once more, and feel clean once more, and proud once more, but we still have a tremendous number, hundreds of thousands, of young men in their early twenties or later who don't have the education and don't have the background and don't have the job security because they did go to fight for our country.

Well, I feel responsible for them, and your presence here indicates that you feel responsible for them, too. We are looking for jobs for those young people. We have got more than a half million Vietnam veterans who don't have jobs. And under our own economic stimulus package which the Congress has passed almost in its entirety, we asked for training and education programs to put people in jobs-about $6.8 billion. We wanted 35 percent of that to go to Vietnam veterans and other veterans. That was not approved, but we believe that of the 725,000 public service jobs, that local officials, State officials will try to give places and opportunities for those young veterans.

You are here because you volunteered to help in your own businesses. You represent some of the largest corporations and most capable employers in our country. And we hope that you will employ, without unnecessary delay, at least 140,000 of these young people who are eager to work, but who don't have yet a chance to do so.

We have money available to help, I think about $1,000 per veteran, that we can give for training and for placement, and this won't nearly meet the cost to you perhaps. I hope that when you leave this meeting, after being inspired by Bill Miller to do your utmost, that you won't be satisfied with 5 or 50 placements, if you have a nationwide company, but that you will try to have maybe 500 or 1,000.

We need to demonstrate, I think, perhaps, even in a slightly sacrificial way on your part, that we believe in our young people and that we appreciate them.

Now, I've got sense enough to know that sometimes we might take a chance in hiring someone who has been disappointed and who has not yet been successful. But I hope that we can approach this very fine demonstration of concern and compassion and trust in the young men and women involved and also in our country's system to make a success of this effort.

Ray Marshall and the others in the Labor Department have done a lot of work on it and I and my staff have done a lot of work on it. But the success of it depends on you, and I am not here to give you a pep talk, but to give you an accurate sense that we are forming a partnership. I am eager to help every way I can with public statements, with the allocation of funds, with proper administration. And I think this would be indicative of a challenge that is difficult but one that can be successfully met.

My overwhelming sense is one of appreciation to you and my eagerness to show you that I will do my share of the work if you will do yours.

We have, I think, a lot of young people who are watching to see if we can be successful. Perhaps, Bill, if there might be some other point that you would like for me to make, or Max Cleland? I know that most of you know each other, but I just want to express again my deep thanks to you and my hope that you will even exceed the fairly modest goals that we have set for ourselves.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Attending the conference were members of the President's Committee on HIRE (Help through Industry Retraining and Employment), an organization formed to aid in the training and hiring of veterans in private industry.

In his remarks, the President referred to entertainers Johnny Cash and June Carter, Max Cleland, Administrator of Veterans Affairs, and G. William Miller, Chairman of the President's Committee.

Jimmy Carter, Conference on HIRE Remarks to Participants in the Conference. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243734

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