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Distributive Education Clubs of America Remarks on Greeting National and State Officers of the Organization.

May 11, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. This is a very pleasant sight for me. Most of the time I just see the ones behind me. Sometimes it's pleasant; sometimes it's not. [Laughter]

We've had a very good first 15 or 16 months here in the White House as your President. I want to thank you for your interest in government and for your interest in the system that underlines and underlies and supports our government.

We didn't have distributive education when I was a child and a student in grammar school and high school. The only vocational program we had was in agriculture, and I was a student there. But I learned a lot about marketing and management, merchandising as a student then. I began to sell boiled peanuts when I was 5 years old. [Laughter] It was a lot of hard work, and I very carefully saved my money. And after 3 full years, 4 full years of selling boiled peanuts and not spending any of the money, I had saved up enough in 1933 to buy five bales of cotton. Cotton got down to 5 cents a pound; peanuts were only 1 cent a pound.

I bought five bales of cotton, and I kept it until it went up to 18 cents. Then I sold that as a high school student, and I bought five houses. I bought five houses for $800 total. Every month I would go around on my bicycle. Some of them were in the country, some of them were in Plains, in the metropolitan area. [Laughter] The total rent off all five houses was $16.

I learned then how important it was for me to participate in the free enterprise system. I probably could not have defined it then, but the more I've lived and the more I've learned about our great country, the more I see that what you do and the other 185,000 members of DECA do is illustrative of the crucial difference between our own system of government and our system of marketing, merchandising, as contrasted to the so-called planned economies of the Socialist and Communist nations.

You represent freedom in its finest sense—the right of an individual to make one's own decision about a lifestyle and a life commitment, a willingness to participate in building the strength of our Nation without unwarranted government intrusion or government interference in the making of decisions on a daily basis, or even more often.

And I'm very proud of what you do to contribute to our country. I hope that you will continue to expand your own interests outside of a fairly narrowly defined commitment just in the grammar school, high school, or college classroom area, even extend it.

I know in Georgia, for instance, the distributive education students have taken on a special project of exposing and helping to control shoplifting, a very strong contribution to controlling crime in our country. There might be equivalent opportunities in all the States of our Nation.

I am also aware of how good your own experience in distributive education pays off in your own life. Ninety percent of all the distributive education students go on beyond high school to a higher education. I wish this was the case with all students in our country; it's not. And so you've set an example in that respect as well and give your own present life and your own future families an opportunity that you wouldn't otherwise have, not just to make a higher income but to have a life that's more exciting, more challenging, more compatible with the finest aspects of our country.

I wish the Rose Garden was large enough to hold all 6,000 delegates—no, I don't. [Laughter] Let me say as an alternative, I hope that you will relay my best wishes to all the 6,000 delegates who are at the convention and to the other 180,000, who are back home looking to you for leadership presently and in the future.

But as President of our great country, I'm proud to welcome you to the White House, to the center of our Government. And I know that the group of Members of Congress behind me and many more like them who have joined in an additional commitment to making sure that your program is well formed, well financed, and well publicized, and that the beneficial aspects of it are enhanced, join me in congratulating you on a superb achievement in your own life already. And best wishes for an even greater life, leading to an even greater country in the years ahead.

Thank you very much.

HARRY A. APPLEGATE. Mr. President, ever since Congress created attention to this instructional phase of education, we believe we have met the challenge with a very successful program. But the uniqueness of it has been our insistence on cooperation and placement with the private sector. We continue a national advisory board, which consists of representatives of some 60 major corporations in the Nation, and we continue a congressional advisory board, with some 30 Members of the Senate and the House, continuing to help guide and direct us in that effort.

It is our pleasure to be here this morning. And on behalf of the delegation and the national officers, we sincerely appreciate your interest and your show of support. It's our pleasure to be here.

I would like to introduce to you our national president, Ken Conner, who has a presentation to make.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr. Applegate.

MR. CONNER. Mr. President, on behalf of the 180,000 Distributive Education Clubs of America members across the the country, we'd like to present you with this official DECA cardigan. Since you have brought the cardigan back into style lately— [laughter] —we thought it would be appropriate, and we hope that you will wear it with our support.

We also appreciate the support that your administration has given us, and we hope to continue that support in the years to come.

Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT. This might inspire me to make another fireside chat. [Laughter]

I might say that it would be a mistake for me to lose an opportunity again to emphasize the crucial support and the staunch support in the Congress for your program. And I believe that the presence here of many of the key Members of the Congress this morning is indicative of that support. I know how much it means to me to have their experience, their background, and their strong partnership in trying to shape a greater country. And I particularly want to thank the Members of Congress for being here.

And, Ken, this is a gift that I will wear with pride and appreciation. It will be a constant reminder to me of what you all mean to me personally and what you mean to our country, now and in the future.

Thank you very much again.

You all have a good time in Washington.

Note: The President spoke at 10:15 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Harry A. Applegate is executive director of the Distributive Education Clubs of America, and Robert Kenneth Conner is president of the organization's high school division.

Jimmy Carter, Distributive Education Clubs of America Remarks on Greeting National and State Officers of the Organization. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245813

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