Jimmy Carter photo

Democratic National Committee Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner.

September 26, 1979

Are we going to win in 1980? [Applause] Right on. Thank you very much. Thank you, Governor Jim Hunt, for that very good introduction, and thank all of you who are here for letting us participate in the largest, most successful single fundraising event in the history of the greatest political party on Earth.

Thank all of you very much.

We've already recognized the Governors, the Cabinet, the Members of the Congress, who do give me remarkably good support, the last 2 days. And I thank you for it. [Laughter] Last week was just one of those weeks best to forget about. But we're correcting all our mistakes. [Laughter]

But I'd like to recognize one special Democrat, who means as much to me as anyone that I have known since I've been involved in politics. He represents the essence of the Democratic Party, the kind of principles and achievements and ideals and accomplishments that make every Democratic chest swell with pride. I'd like for all of us to express our appreciation and admiration to Averell Harriman. Averell. [Applause]

He's helped to carve out the history of our country in the past. He's helping to forge the history of our country now. And he provides the guidance for an even greater America in the future.

We have a lot to be thankful for. We are here tonight because we know, as Harry Truman said in September, 26 years ago, the principles' and the programs of the Democratic Party are exactly what's best for the United States of America. We still have that relationship with our country, and we are going to keep it that way.

I'm sorry I wasn't here early enough to eat supper with you. Rosalynn and I will stop on the way home and get some ice cream. [Laughter] And I would like for there to be no political analysis made of the fact that I still eat ice cream. [Laughter]

Jim Hunt complained about the $1,000-a-plate supper. I understand that it costs a thousand dollars just to eat lunch with John Connally, the famous friend of the few— [laughter] —which reminds me of one of those few, Bob Strauss, who's already been introduced. [Laughter]

Bob finished his job helping me control inflation, and then he's now working in the Middle East. [Laughter] He's taken the same kind of dedication and modesty to the Middle East that he used to fight inflation. [Laughter] If there's one thing you can say about Bob Strauss, he's always loyal to the Democratic Party, and I thank him very much.

Sometimes he goes too far. I had a call this morning from Prime Minister Menahem Begin, who said—he said, "Mr. President, I am willing to take on new friends, to meet with President Sadat, who was an enemy of mine for the last 20 years." He said, "I am willing to give up the Sinai, because you and President Sadat asked me to." He said, "I am willing to put my political future on a piece of paper, the treaty between us and Egypt. But I am not willing to buy a table to the DNC fundraising banquet this evening." [Laughter] He said, "As you well know, the people of Israel have never had any interest in United States politics." [Laughter]

I'm also glad that Senator Bob Byrd is going to play his fiddle for us tonight. He's a wonderful man, a close friend, and a great supporter of mine in the Senate. I meet with him regularly. Rosalynn can always tell when I'm in trouble in the United States Senate. Every time I come back from a leadership breakfast on Wednesday morning with another $25 worth of fiddle records— [laughter] —she knows I'm still trying to buy influence. [Laughter] But it works.

And I would like to express my thanks, particularly tonight—if I don't do it all the way through my speech—to the tremendous Democratic Congress, which means so much to our country.

The Members of the Congress have just recently returned from their home work period with their constituents, where they listened to hear expressions of concern, even fear, but a modicum of hope. And I, too, have been visiting with the same people, who are also my constituents, from one end of this country to the other. During that August recess period, I made about 60 speeches about the greatness of our country and the need for a new energy program. I've listened, I've debated, I've answered questions, I've talked, and I've learned. And the Congress and I came back to Washington filled with, in some ways, with a. feeling of being refreshed, even inspired. But in other ways, we came back concerned and reflective.

The people tell me and they're telling the Congress that this is a crucial time in the history of our country. And that means, for you and me, that it's a crucial time for the Democratic Party, because there's no way to separate the two. Our very way of life is literally being transformed. Historians will prove that this is true. Rapid, uncontrollable, unpredictable changes confront us on every hand.

Many Americans are genuinely filled with troubled souls and doubt about the future. But this is not the first time this has happened in the history of our country, and time and again, we Democrats have been called tip on to lead the American people through times like these. We Democrats are not crippled by fear or trepidation or doubt. That's a characteristic of our party which has prevailed in every time of trouble and strife and challenge. And we have always met that challenge successfully, and I guarantee you that we always will.

We brought the Nation through a great depression as a united Democratic Party. We fought and we won World War II and saved the world for freedom and forged a long peace that followed, as a united Democratic Party. We got the country moving again in the 1960's, and we made an enduring commitment to the poor and to the people struggling for basic human rights, as a united Democratic Party. In 1976 America turned to us again, and now we must meet the challenges of the 1980's as a united Democratic Party.

Those 8 years of Republican rule could not erase what we had begun to build in this country, but 8 years of Republican rule could and did damage the faith of American people in our own government and in the very institutions of democracy. It's hard to remember clearly now how seriously our Nation was afflicted 3 or 4 or 5 years ago. We inherited illegalities and embarrassments, confusion, deprivation, and deep unemployment. But we've never confronted any of those tough issues which we inherited and flinched from our duty. We have never avoided a single difficult issue, no matter what the political consequences might be.

Our Federal, State, and local officials, 1 guarantee you, in an unprecedented way are now working as a team. This was not the case before. Our party, as Tip O'Neill pointed out so well, is putting America back to work. We created 8 million new jobs. We increased job programs for the poor and the minorities to a level 10 times greater than that of the Ford administration budget, and we have knocked the unemployment rate down by 25 percent.

We've increased education aid by 60 percent. We've added massive improvements in housing', public transportation, agriculture. We've cut the unwarranted intrusion in the private enterprise system by government and eliminated regulations and cut out redtape. We've boosted business profits. And as Tip said, again, at the same time, in spite of all those better services for our people, we have slashed the Federal deficit by more than 50 percent.

We've not yet solved all the problems of our country. For more than 10 years now, our Nation has faced a serious problem of inflation, a problem that wracks our economy, that frightens out' people, and which is at the top of our legislative and the national agenda. But we have refused to take the road that some would suggest to tick inflation by sacrificing jobs and employment opportunities. The Democratic Party never has and will not now turn its back on the working men and women of America.

We've listened to Americans who are concerned about the way government works, about the growing impersonality of government bureaucracies. We didn't just listen; we acted.

We put through the first reform of the civil service system in a hundred years. It's paying off. And it will help all Americans, those who work inside government as employees full-time and those who receive the benefits of government service for the next hundred years.

We've begun to reorganize the structure of the Federal Government. Let me just give you one recent example of what that means to the American people. This reorganization plan, so far as I know, never got any media attention. But earlier this month, three Governors in the gulf coast region called me about the damage being done by Hurricane Frederic. Because we had reorganized our emergency services—eight different programs now into one; five agencies now into one, under one solid and competent administrator-we were able to guarantee effective assistance for their States in minutes. In the past, it could very well have taken weeks or more, and then the assistance would not have been well coordinated or effective.

We've faced up to the problem of a social security system that was headed down the road toward bankruptcy. And again, at some considerable political cost, we put the social security system back so it was secure again, and we kept faith with millions of hard-working Americans, both young and old, who had their faith shaken during the '74, '75, and '76 period.

We're delivering on another promise, too—the promise that we would maintain an America that is strong and an America at peace. NATO is revitalized. Our alliances are strengthened. And under this Democratic administration and under this Democratic Congress, not one single American life has been lost in combat, and I thank God for that. And we've maintained this peace without retreating 1 inch from our responsibility to America or to our allies—not with saber-rattling rhetoric, but with calm, reason, and persistence.

And we've made historic progress toward peace in the Middle East. A year ago, we had the Camp David accords; 6 months ago, a Mideast peace treaty. It's imperative that all of us—and these days, especially, American Jews and American blacks—must unite in securing peace and justice in that historically troubled land. This is no time for division; it's no time for criticism. It's a time for searching together fox' a common ground.

We've created a new and beneficial relationship with one-fourth of all the human beings who live on Earth, in China. We've taken the lead, and we continue the Democratic Party's tradition, of seeking to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We've dared to put the issue of human rights on the permanent international agenda. Only the history books will ever record how many jail doors are open and how many formerly oppressed people, who lived under a totalitarian regime, now know the benefits of human freedom and a chance to choose their own leaders.

Our concern with human rights, which is a foundation of the Democratic Party, begins here at home. We've chipped away at decades of neglect, and we've tried to root out examples of blatant prejudice. We've placed minorities, qualified in every way, in many decisionmaking jobs in the Federal Government. We've whacked away subtle forms of discrimination. We've improved the enforcement of Federal equal opportunity laws. We've brought more minorities and more women into our judicial system than in all the rest of American history combined. And we are not through yet. And we have waged an intense State-by-State effort for the adoption of the equal rights amendment. And we are not through ,vet.

I could go on and on about the achievements of this administration and this Democratic Congress. It's a record of courage and of dedication and of leadership. But the truth is that, despite our record of accomplishment, much of what we do here in Washington too often seems confusing and irrelevant to millions of Americans. You who are in the Congress share that problem. You know that your constituents may love you as a person, but they think poorly of the institution of which you are a part and which you represent.

You know how easy it is for us to reap the benefits of the Democratic Party and our own incumbency in high office and, at the same time, to attack in a subtle way the system or the government in order to derive transient political advantage. It's the simplest job for us to tend to a certain home base or some narrow constituency, while giving national interests less attention. And because of this temptation, party unity sometimes goes lacking and our Nation suffers, because national priorities are sometimes met at a snail's pace.

Look, for example, at the energy problem. Is it real? It certainly is. But it's taken 2 1/2 years—I'm not exaggerating 2 1/2 years to get the people of this country to face the fact that our very Nation's security is in danger. Is the energy problem understood? My mail says that, to an increasing degree, it is understood by the the American people and that the American people are crying out now for action, bold action, and action without any further delay.

Americans will not long permit and not long suffer those who do permit the drain of billions of dollars going overseas to pay for oil—next year $70 billion sapped out of the American economy. Along with those dollars go jobs, and with those millions of barrels of oil every day, we import inflation. United Democrats can now and are making good progress toward giving our Nation, finally, after long years of neglect, a comprehensive national energy policy that will heal our troubled land, bind us together in a spirit of unity' and accomplishment and also hope and confidence to the future, cut down on inflation, put our people back to work, and let our Nation be secure. I'm proud of the progress made so far.

I'm also convinced that Americans want nuclear weapons controlled. The SALT treaty must be ratified. And I tell you, it is easy to find a reason, if one is a U.S. Senator, not to support SALT.

I could have written a better SALT treaty had I done it unilaterally, without consulting the Soviet Union. This treaty was hammered out over 7 years by three Presidents. It's fair; it's balanced. It contributes to our Nation's security. It lets us monitor what the Soviets are doing. It puts a limit and an actual decrease of 10 percent on Soviet missile launchers. It keeps us in a role of leadership for the Western World. It holds NATO together. It contributes to world peace. It gives us authenticity and influence in preventing non-nuclear weapons from turning toward that horrible option.

But if SALT is rejected by the U.S. Senate, that will be a terrible blow to our country and to our party and to our security and to our unity and to our influence in the world and to our alliances and to our own future and to world peace. It is extremely important. And I hope that every single Democrat who listens to my voice will put the ratification of the SALT II treaty at the top of your priority and help me get this done. We must not betray Americans who want peace. We must not betray Americans who look to us for leadership. We must not play politics with nuclear arsenals.

I know that Americans want a nation at peace and a strong America. A strong America is the best guarantor of peace for our own country and for the world. I tell you quite frankly, I believe in a united nation, and I believe in a strong defense. And as long as I'm in the White House, this Nation is going to have a strong defense. And you can depend on it.

I'm sure you would agree with me when I say that it's not easy these days to be a President or to be a Governor or to be a Member of the Congress or to be a mayor. But through unity, we can share the responsibilities that fall so heavily on our shoulders, and we can enjoy the honor and the pleasure and the gratification of effective public service.

This is a time of testing, for us and for our country. It's time to make the American people understand what we are doing and understand government and, therefore, to trust and respect and support government in difficult times. How? By beginning to speak to one another, to work with one another, and to reason more closely together, by spelling out a common vision of and for America, a vision that our party has always had and a vision that we are now bringing into reality.

Our party has always represented the best in American thoughts and ideals and values. Our party has had the ability to deal with change, change without timidity and without fear. There are others, not Democrats, who long for the past, who resent the present, and who fear the future. That's not the story of the Democratic Party. Our theme song isn't "Auld Lang Syne" or some funeral dirge. Our theme song is "Happy Days Are Here Again."

Let me say in closing that it's time now to shape the Democratic Party for the 1980's. We, the Democratic Party, have the biggest stake of all in making government work, because we intend to be the majority party permanently.

The people give us their confidence, but they also give us a great responsibility. It's a greater responsibility than a Republican has. We must understand that unless we make government work well, some day it may not work at all. We must recognize and we must understand the impatience and the frustration with government that is so common in our Nation. We must fight the splintered special interest and single issue politics that tend to dominate our national debates.

The challenge that we face is to build a party for the rest of this century that's strong enough to be effective and broad enough to be representative, a party that speaks the meaning to the people of what democracy is, what compassion is, what truth is, what peace is, what harmony is, what unity is, what freedom is, what leadership is. That's our responsibility, and together we can do it. But with selfish divisions among ourselves, our voice is fractured, and it cannot be clearly heard.

This forthcoming year will be filled with campaigns and caucuses, conventions and debates, and we look forward to it. There will be disagreements, and there must be. We will argue about the issues among ourselves, and we ought to. But we can make the system work. We can sharpen our focus on the common agenda items which pull us together, which unite us as Democrats.

We must join together in the fight for SALT II, for hospital cost containment, for better environment, for healthy and growing and happy cities, for a national health plan, for welfare reform, for a windfall profits tax on the oil companies to finance energy security for our country. We've got a lot to do. Let's do it together.

In my speech on July 15, a Sunday night speech, I spoke of a crisis of confidence and a lack of unity in America. The outpouring of mail and telephone calls to the White House after that speech was overwhelming. The professionals that have been there 25 or 30 years said they have never seen so many letters or had so many telephone calls on any single incident , in wartime or peacetime. Tens of thousands of people, literally, from all over the country wrote similar letters. "You're right," they said. "Tell us how we can help." Sometimes it's hard for that person, who probably wrote their first letter to a President, to find an avenue to the core of American Government. That avenue is through you and through other members of the Democratic Party.

I say to you tonight what I've said to them: The answer to the crisis of confidence is action, and the answer to fragmentation and doubt is unity. It's this belief that holds us together here tonight—that we believe in working together as a great party, that we can shape the destiny of a great nation—the faith that as a free people we can join together to improve our own lives and the lives of others not nearly so fortunate as any single person in this room, that as a strong nation we can build a community of nations at peace. These are not just dreams. They are the long-term agenda that gives purpose to our Democratic Party.

We believe with William Faulkner that mankind will not merely endure, but will surely prevail. So, let us think and consider and rededicate ourselves tonight to the simple truth of that conviction. We shall prevail, we shall overcome, together.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:25 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Democratic National Committee Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248464

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