Jimmy Carter photo

Fort Worth, Texas Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Luncheon Sponsored by Fort Worth Civic Organizations.

June 23, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Bentsen, Majority Leader Jim Wright, Mayor Parmer, Mr. Tinsley, distinguished officials, and other citizens of this beautiful part of the world;

I'm glad to be back in Fort Worth. When John Kennedy came here 15 years ago, he said, "I'm glad to be in Jim Wright's city." It's the way I feel.

I have to work daily with the top leaders of Congress. Jim Wright occupies one of those top positions. He's a man of sound judgment, sensitivity, knowledge of our country and, above all, represents the epitome of what is the spirit of Texas, and you can't be any better than that.

It's good to come to Fort Worth to be with the Chamber of Commerce and all the guests who have welcomed me here. You have a 3.4 percent unemployment rate. You must be doing something right. You've got the tremendous metroplex area here—Dallas, Fort Worth—the second largest community in the world not on a major waterway, and Jim Wright is trying to work on that. [Laughter]

Jim Wright mentioned the word "courage," and it kind of describes the way I feel today to come here among westerners who are interested in unlimited water projects, farmers who are concerned about beef imports, oil and gas producers who are concerned about energy legislation. I feel about like Proposition 13 at a bureaucrat's picnic. [Laughter]

This noon, I'm going to make just a few remarks and then spend what time we have available answering your questions. As a Georgian, I would want to point out the Dallas and Fort Worth airport is the fourth largest in the world. The second largest happens to be in Atlanta.

Bob Strauss is helping me, as you know, with inflation, and we are concerned about the value of the dollar overseas. On the airplane, he came up to my cabin and said, "I've got a good idea on how to make sure that the foreign currency doesn't improve its value faster than the American dollar." He said, "I think we ought to get the German deutsche marks, the Japanese yen, and run them through the change machine at the airport over here at Dallas and Fort Worth. [Laughter]

It's exciting for me to come to a State that has 25 percent of all our oil, 35 percent of all our natural gas. If it was an independent nation—and thank God it's not—it would be the fifth greatest energy producer on Earth, a State that's number one in cattle production, number one in cotton production, number one in grain sorghum production, a State that stands for the essence of what America is.

I've tapped very heavily in Texas to help me with some of my most important questions, and quite often at a Cabinet meeting, Bob Strauss will look around and remind me that Texas outnumbers Georgia 2 to 1 when the Cabinet meets with me.

I'm committed to a strong defense, and Charles Duncan from Texas, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, is there at my right hand constantly to deal with problems of increasing the power of NATO to maintain peace. I'm interested in preserving peace in the Middle East. Sam Lewis, Ambassador to Israel, happens to be a Texan.

We're trying to deal with inflation. Bob Strauss is helping me there—happens to be a Texan. We're dealing with the Federal bureaucracy. One of the most important goals that we have is to bring about more efficiency with civil service reform. The leader of this effort, the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, is Scotty Campbell—happens to be a Texan.

We're dealing with some of the sensitive human issues, immigration, naturalization laws. The man in charge of this, Leonel Castillo, happens to be a Texan.

A year ago my biggest problem domestically was an extremely high unemployment rate. We've brought it down now 2 percent. We have 5 million more Americans at work today than we did when I came in office. The man responsible for that to a major degree is the Secretary of Labor, Ray Marshall, who happens to be from Texas.

I think last year the Congress passed the best farm bill of all time. It's starting to turn around some serious problems in agriculture. The Deputy Secretary of Agriculture who helped marshal this bill through the Congress was John White, who happens to be from Texas.

I could take all my time talking about others who helped me in Washington. But I think you can see very clearly that what we are doing there represents accurately, with strong leadership from your State, what Texans want and expect from government.

I'd like to mention just two particular items before I answer questions. One of them is agriculture, because I know this is the center of one of the major producing areas of the country, even the world. We have had some improvement since last August when the new farm bill went into effect. Farm prices are up 25 percent; wheat, 30 percent; soybeans, 30 percent; corn, 40 percent; cattle, 40 percent.

I'll discuss in a few minutes the problems with beef, because I know that's so important to you. But even by increasing beef imports to a very tiny degree, compared to total production, we'll still have in our country this year 1 billion pounds more beef consumed than we can or will produce.

We've had net farm income go up. Last year net farm income was about $20 billion. We anticipate now a 25-percent increase, to more than $25 billion this year.

And we've concentrated on exports, as well. Last year we set an all-time record for farm exports, $24 billion, and we'll increase that this year with a total tonnage of farm exports, even with a better price, up about 10 percent.

The other item I'd like to discuss briefly, and I'll talk about it more in Houston this evening, is energy. Our national will is being tested. We are the only developed nation in the world that has not cut back on energy consumption since the oil embargo and the rapid increase in price brought about by OPEC in 1973. Oil imports have doubled in the last 6 years.

In 1977, we imported $10 billion more oil than we did the year before. And we have not yet come to grips with one of the greatest and most complicated challenges that any government has ever faced. We must conserve scarce energy. We must provide adequate incentives for increased exploration and increased American production. And we must search out also alternatives, permanent alternatives, to the depleting fossil fuels on which we are so heavily dependent.

The present energy policy of our country encourages consumption; it discourages exploration and production. The Congress so far has made good progress; they've been dealing with this question now since April of 1977. And I look forward to this chance today and tonight and tomorrow to discuss these two major issues with you and others—agriculture, trade, exports, inflation, and how they are tied in directly with the energy question.

This is a job, the Presidency of the United States, that is sometimes lonely. I represent what our Nation is to other people around the world. And it grieves me at times not to be able to put forward a demonstration of accomplishment, a willingness for us to deal with those crucial questions that are of importance to us all. I've had remarkable cooperation from Jim Wright, Lloyd Bentsen, the congressional delegation, other Members of the Congress, in this first 17 months.

In spite of the transient concerns that we have about unemployment, which is improving, inflation, which is still a serious question, our Nation is still strong, able, dedicated, idealistic. It's solid in its permanent commitment to the ideals that have made our country great.

We stand for something all over the world—decency, freedom, democracy, human rights, growth, vigor—and as long as I'm in the White House, I'll represent you in these commitments.

I'd like to close by saying this: Every time I've ever come to Texas, every time my wife or my family have ever come to Texas, even in those months long ago when I was a lonely candidate whom very few people knew or cared about, we have not only been well received with typical Texas hospitality, but you've given me a chance to speak my piece, to make my views be known, and you showed confidence in me. I thank you for it.

I feel personally a compatibility with the people of Texas. We share a lot, and as President of the United States, I feel a great compatibility with what you are, people who believe in patriotism in its finest form, people who have shown in the past an ability to provide great leadership, with Lyndon Baines Johnson and many others, and those who are always willing to face the future, not with fear or timidity or trepidation, but with courage, anticipation, and confidence that our great Nation and your great State will be even greater in the years to come.

Thank you very much.

And now, I'd like to answer some questions.



Q. Mr. President, my name is Hal Ray, Jr., and I'm from Wichita Fails. Your National Security Adviser, Mr. Brzezinski, and Secretary of State Vance seem to have differing views on the United States relations with the Soviet Union. Would you tell us what you think of the relationship between our two nations and the seeming to be cooling off attitude between us and the Russians?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I'd like to say first of all that there is an overwhelming cooperation and compatibility between Secretary Vance, Dr. Brzezinski, Harold Brown, who heads the Defense Department, and others who help me shape foreign policy.

Unfortunately in our country, quite often special interest groups who don't like what I decide—and I'm President, and I make the final decisions—always look for a scapegoat or someone they can attack without attacking me personally. And I don't think it's fair. It's certainly not right for the Soviet Union and Cuba to jump on Dr. Brzezinski when I'm the one who shapes the policy after getting advice from him and others.

We want to get along with the Soviet Union. We are determined to stay strong. We're not going to let the Soviet Union push us around. We're not going to be second— [applause] . We're not going to be second ever in the principles on which our Nation stands. We're not going to be second to anyone in our economic status, the political strength of our country, the dependence upon what our people individually are, our commitment to human rights, nor militarily. And I want to be sure that in all of our dealings with the Soviet Union and other countries, that this is clearly understood.

I believe that the best way to get along with the Soviet Union, to emphasize friendship and cooperation and peace, is for our country to be consistent, is for our country to be strong. I'm determined to have a SALT agreement with the Soviet Union without unwarranted delay. We're making good progress. I'm determined to have an agreement with the Soviet Union on a comprehensive test ban to stop the spread of atomic weapons among our two countries and around the world. And I would like to see improved trade with the Soviet Union, to give our farmers and others a better market for our products. And we are proceeding with those in an unconstrained, uninterrupted way.

So, I would say that we shape our foreign policy in complete harmony. I make the final decisions. And I believe that we are dealing from a basis of strength. And I think the Soviets in the long run respect that strength. We've not been pushed into a corner by artificial deadlines on SALT negotiations. We're doing it slowly, carefully, and methodically. And I want to be sure when we do have a SALT agreement-which I expect, as I say, without further delay—that it will be based upon adequate strength for our own country, compared to the Soviets; a good verification procedure, so we can ensure that the agreement is carried out to maintain the strategic balance, so neither country will have an advantage over the other. And I believe that we will be successful.

I have complete assurance that our relationship with the Soviet Union is stable. And I reserve the right, when they make an unwarranted intrusion, for instance in Africa, to speak for our country and deplore their threat to the good attitude that American people would like to have with the Soviet Union that demonstrates its desire to have peace, which is what we want.


Q. Mr. President, other dignitaries, and guests, I'm Eve Schultz from Mansfield, Texas. My question is, do you have any new ideas or information that you might wish to expand on regarding a national health policy?

THE PRESIDENT. As you presently know, our Nation is laboring under an inadequate health program. The cost of health care is growing at more than twice the nationwide inflation rate. We've had a rapid increase in the total financial burden of Americans for health care. We have dozens of Federal agencies now responsible for administering our health laws. What I want to see evolved is a comprehensive health care plan that will give Americans good health care, primarily emphasizing prevention of disease at the lowest possible cost, with an emphasis on outpatient care instead of inpatient care, an increased use of immunization programs, non-medical-doctor care, when it's appropriate under the supervision of medical doctors, and a tough anti-inflation component.

We are trying to evolve this in such a way that we will not have a major increase in the cost of health care in our country. And I want to be sure that when we do put a health care program into effect, whenever the Congress decides to do so, that the cost of a given level of health care will not be higher, but lower.

The exact rate of implementation of such a health care plan will have to depend upon budget constraints and the change, which might be slow, in the Federal bureaucracy. But we are working very carefully on it, and within the next few weeks, I will present to the Congress-rather, to the Secretary of HEW, a set of principles in more detail than I've just described to you.

Secretary Califano will then consult with Members of Congress, the medical care community, doctors, hospitals, and others, and make a recommendation publicly later on this year. But those are some of the principles that I see as being needed—careful attention to cost, better preventive care, outpatient care, immunizations, and a broader use of health care professionals and less cost for Americans for a given level of care. I believe we can do all those things within the constraints I've set.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Joe Cook, and I'm from Dallas. First, I'd like to preface my question by saying that I welcome you to our area and that I certainly am proud of the many accomplishments which you've stated today, although on occasion I have disagreed with you.

My question concerns one of your campaign promises to reduce our country's dependence on nuclear power as the primary energy source for the future. Your reasons at that time, which I wholeheartedly agreed with, concern the environmental and health dangers from operation of the plants, and especially lack of safe ways to dispose of nuclear wastes, some of which have a half-life of some 250,000 years.

Your administration's energy policy under, I presume, substantial influence from Secretary Schlesinger, seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Why is that? And specifically, what will you do to de-emphasize nuclear power and stimulate rapid development of safe alternative energy sources, such as solar, for the future?

THE PRESIDENT. Dr. Schlesinger is here. [Laughter] But I'll answer the question.

I think we've got a very good and sound policy evolving concerning nuclear power. My own background in graduate work is in nuclear physics and nuclear power, and I think I understand both the limitations and the capabilities of nuclear power as a layman and also as President.

We've tried to emphasize as best we can the shift toward permanent fuel sources—Texas has taken a leadership role in that—more use of coal, decreased waste, more conservation, and the use of nuclear power in such a way that it will be safe, that waste products can be disposed of as they have not been in the past, in a safe fashion, and a predictable fashion, and to stop the spread of nuclear explosives around the world.

The Congress has now passed legislation ensuring a nonproliferation policy by the end of this year.

For the first time in 30, 35 years, we'll have a proposal to make on waste disposal. We've tried to expedite the licensing of nuclear powerplants which are needed, to be sure they'll be located in safe places and to be sure they're environmentally acceptable.

So, I would say that our position is balanced. I have never said, nor do I believe, that we should not use nuclear power. But we ought to have conservation, permanent sources used, like solar power, long-term sources like coal, and have nuclear power, when it is used, be safe.


Q. Mr. President, my name is P. L. Jones. I'm from Arlington, Texas. And my question is, do you think there is a chance of a decrease in the inflation rate in the near, foreseeable future?

THE PRESIDENT. No. [Laughter] I think the underlying inflation rate has now gone up about a half of 1 percent. We did have an extraordinary inflation rate for the first 3 months of this year. That will not be maintained; it will go down, I think, some. But our first goal is just to stabilize the inflation rate and not let it keep going up. This is not an easy thing to do. It's going to require tough government action, and I intend to do all I can to prevent unnecessary spending. I'll use the veto, if necessary, to stop any attack on holding down the budget deficit.

The Federal Government can also set a limit on how much unnecessary regulation costs on the inflation rate. Airline deregulation has been a good example of that. We are trying to get industry and labor to cooperate. But you have to remember that we have very fine special interest groups, each one of which wants everybody else to control inflation. Everybody wants to build water projects. The veterans want more payments. Farmers want higher prices. We want to have as much increase in wages among labor unions. Business doesn't want to have their own profit margins or prices constrained. Teachers want more money for education, and so forth.

Every one of those groups has a good argument, and somebody has got to stand up and say, no, inflation has got to come first. And that person is me.

Since I mentioned teachers, let me say, "That person is I." [Laughter]


Q. Hello, Mr. President, my name is Guinevere Bradley. I'm from Sweetwater, Texas. I'm representing the Mayor's Council on Youth Opportunity, and my question is, with rising prices and inflation at its highest, what do you see in the future for better hiring practices, more and better jobs for minorities?

THE PRESIDENT. As I said a few minutes ago, a year ago the overriding question that was on my shoulders, as the number one domestic problem, was unemployment. We had about 8 percent unemployment when I came in office. Because of the good action of the Congress and also the private sector, we've improved that substantially. We've had a net increase of about 5.5 million jobs in the last 17 months. Among adult male minority Americans the unemployment rate has dropped substantially. Among all Americans the unemployment rate has dropped substantially.

In Texas, for instance, the unemployment rate has dropped over 2 1/2 percent. You've had more than 500,000 net jobs added in Texas in the last year. But we still have a very serious problem among minority young people and minority women.

My guess is that these focused Federal programs that are already on the books and already financed, the comprehensive education training programs, local public works, and so forth, can now be focused much more accurately upon those minority citizens who have not yet benefited, because they are ordinarily the last ones hired and the first ones fired. And as the general economy improves, that competition for scarce jobs goes down, and the Federal programs, which I hope will be temporary and not needed in the future, can be channeled much more accurately to the people about whom you asked.

Thank you.


Q. Mr. Carter, I'm Lloyd Cite, presently living in Dallas. There's been a lot of talk in the last year or so about the situation in southern Africa. The United States Government has expressed an interest in seeing that majority rule comes to Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, better known as South Africa, and also Namibia, better known as South West Africa.

I'd like to know just how far the United States Government is willing to go to see that majority rule comes to those three countries, especially South Africa. Just how committed is the United States Government?

THE PRESIDENT. I understand this will have to be the last question, but let me try to answer this as briefly as I can.

I think all of you would agree that our Nation's interest in the tremendous continent of Africa has only been aroused in the last few years. We have a uniform policy, both publicly and privately, to encourage majority rule in the nations of southern Africa.

We have a new friendship, I believe, with major African leaders, those who are at the frontline states around Rhodesia, the leaders of Nigeria and others. We have combined our efforts with those of the British, primarily, who have a legal right in Rhodesia to try to bring about majority rule there.

Secretary Vance, myself, and our constant efforts through our delegations, ambassadors, and so forth, are trying to bring together the so-called internal government leaders, four of them, as you know, and those comprising the so-called Patriotic Front. We want to do this in such a way that the interests of the minority groups there, who are white, are protected, and so that there can be free elections and unlimited registration. These are the principles that we have put forward.

The arguments at this point are about the transition period. What will be the role played by the United Nations? Who will control the police? How will the two armies be merged after a settlement comes? Who can qualify to run for public office?

In Namibia, we represent the United Nations with four other major Western countries—Canada, Great Britain, France, and Germany. We're trying to bring about a situation where South Africa will withdraw from Namibia and permit free elections to be held, based on those same principles of majority rule.

We are down to just a few, mostly two, remaining issues. One is the status of Walvisbaai, which is a seaport there in Namibia. The other one is how many South African troops will be left in Namibia during the election period, and where they will be located.

We're making progress. I think it's accurate to say that we have let our views be known much more freely the last year and a half than before. The South Africans know very clearly that we stand for those principles that I have described to you. And we will not change those commitments at all.

This is a very troubled part of the world, and it would be a mistake for us to lose the trust of people in our good intentions and in the integrity of what we say. But I believe everyone involved understands that what I've outlined to you very briefly is our constant, unchanging public and private policy. We intend to pursue it with tenacity; we will do the best we can to bring about our hopes there; we will not get militarily involved on the continent of Africa.

Let me say again how deeply grateful I am to come to meet with you. You've received me well again. It makes me feel proud to be President, to come and see such a large group who are interested in our Government. And I ask you to give me your support, your confidence, your criticisms when you disagree with me, and at all times, your prayers.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:16 p.m. at the Tarrant County Convention Center. In his opening remarks, he referred to Mayor Hugh Parmer of Fort Worth and Jack Tinsley, executive editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and an organizer and master of ceremonies for the event.

Jimmy Carter, Fort Worth, Texas Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Luncheon Sponsored by Fort Worth Civic Organizations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248915

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