Jimmy Carter photo

Granite City, Illinois Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.

November 03, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. What a tremendous welcome, I thank you very much. It makes me especially proud that I'm the first Democratic nominee to come to Granite City since John Fitzgerald Kennedy. You helped him. I'm counting on you.

I particularly want to express my admiration, my appreciation as Commander in Chief of our military forces, and on behalf of 230 million Americans, for the wonderful job that has been done for the years past and many years in the future by your great Congressman, Mel Price. And I also want to thank Mayor Paul Schuller, Chairman Chris Costoff, Committeeman Bruce Cook, and Dave Robinson, your next Congressman from the adjacent district.

Also let me say that it's a pleasure for me to be in the soccer capital of Illinois. Since I've been President, you've been the State champion 4 years, and I want us to have 4 more years together.

As you know, we are now standing in the heartland of America's industrial district. At the end of the Second World War, we rebuilt Japan. At the end of the Second World War, we rebuilt Western Europe. Now it's time to rebuild the United States of America, and that's what we're going to do.

Not long ago, last summer, I was delighted to take a trip down the Mississippi. And not far from here, with the help of Mel Price and others, we've now recommitted ourselves to the rapid rebuilding and the expansion of Lock and Dam 26. That will help you. It'll help all of the people of the whole Nation.

And as you know, my administration has also been very concerned about and interested in the steel industry. We've now put a plan in effect nationwide, with management, with the steelworkers, and with my administration, to help this industry and all those who work in it. It's already making great progress.

Granite City has seen this at firsthand. Your steelplants are now committed, as you know, to major expansion in the months and years ahead, and EPA has just reached an agreement with Granite City Steel that will protect the quality of our environment and at the same time will protect the jobs of thousands of workers here, now and in the future. That's the kind of progress that we're going to make in the years ahead.

Let me ask you one question. How many of you know that tomorrow we're going to whip the Republicans? [Applause] There is no way that the Republicans can win an election. There's not enough of them. But there is a way the Democrats can lose an election—by not going out between now and the end of the voting time tomorrow and using your influence and your voice and your vote to make sure that we have a victory. We're the ones, as working families, that can lose the election. We're the ones, as farmers, that can lose the election. We're the ones, as senior citizens, who might lose this election. We're the ones, who have been deprived of a good life in the past, but given one by Democratic leaders in years gone by, who might lose the election.

Republicans cannot beat us, but if we don't work hard these last few hours, we might very well beat ourselves. And I'd like to remind you of how the working families will feel, how the elderly will feel, how the farmers will feel if we wake up Wednesday morning and find that for the next 4 years we'll have Republicans in the White House. That would be the worst thing that can happen. Let's don't let it happen.

If you've noticed, lately my Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, has been doing the best he could to sound like a Democrat. I want to ask you a question. Have you ever heard a Republican candidate for President quote a Republican President?

AUDIENCE. No!

THE PRESIDENT. No, you haven't. Some of you watched the Republican convention, and you heard Ronald Reagan quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan standing there and quoting Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon?

AUDIENCE. No!

THE PRESIDENT. Okay, there's a reason for it, because it happens every 4 years. Every 4: years, the Republican candidates for President try to make the working families, the farmers, the elderly, and others forget the difference between Democrats and Republicans. This has caused America several times to make serious mistakes until it's too late, after election day, to realize what's happened.

A man who says that the New Deal was based on fascism hasn't got any right to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A man who opposes and has always opposed, and who now suggests that it be repealed, the minimum wage has no right to quote Harry Truman. And no man who failed to support the limited arms agreement, the antiballistic missile agreement, the limited test ban agreement, SALT I, the Vladivostok agreement, every single nuclear arms limit—no man who opposed all of those has any right to quote John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And no man who campaigned all over this Nation, as Governor Reagan did, fighting against Medicare, calling it socialism, has any right to quote Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Now, you can rewrite the lines in motion picture scripts, and you can rewrite the lines in the records sometimes in business or professions, but there's no way that a rightwing Republican with a 20-year record in public affairs, his statements on the record, can change his spots the last 3 or 4 months before election and get away with it. But they always try.

Back in 1960, this is what John Kennedy said about this exact same thing, and I'd like to quote John Kennedy. This is what he said about the Republicans: "They're even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now," Kennedy said, "they might even speak a good word about Harry Truman. But I guarantee you that Harry Truman won't say a good word about Republicans." As you well know, that prediction came true.

And I'd like to make a prediction to you this afternoon. I predict that 20 years from now the Republican candidates for President are going to be saying nice things about Jimmy Carter's second term.

Like many of you, I grew up during the Depression years. I lived on a farm. My mother was a registered nurse. She had two different kinds of jobs during the Depression. One was 12 hours a day on duty; she made $4. The other times, when she was a little more fortunate, she worked 20 hours a day on duty, away from home, and she brought home $6. The Democrats cared about people like my mother, and so they proposed a minimum wage, 25 cents an hour. The Republicans were against it. They said it was socialism, communism for the Federal Government to interfere between employees in the sweatshops and employers who owned the companies.

Later, when I finished high school in 1941, I got my first job working for the Government, measuring land. I got paid 40 cents an hour, a big increase from 25 cents up to 40 cents. The Republicans were against it, but the Democrats prevailed. My life was like a lot of yours.

When senior citizens reached the retirement age, if they didn't have a family that could support them, they went to what was called the po' folks farm. Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats cared about senior citizens, and they put forward the idea of social security. The Republicans were against it. They called it socialism, communism to have an insurance program paid for by working people to give them some security in their retired age and some sense of self-respect and human dignity.

My father never had a chance to finish high school; neither did his father nor any other man in my family before I came along. My daddy had to work from before daylight until dark, because we didn't have electricity on our farm. The Democrats felt that farmers ought to have a better life and put forward the idea of the TVA and the REA. The Republicans were against it. They called it socialism, communism, and an interference in the free enterprise system and the major companies that sold power in those days.

This has not changed down through the years, but every time before an election year Republicans try to make us forget those things. I see some young people over here on the side with signs holding up for Governor Reagan. They don't remember those years, and they don't know the historical difference between Democrats and Republicans that never change. They don't know how many times the Republicans have tried to mislead Democrats just before election year.

Governor Reagan hasn't changed. He says the minimum wage has caused more misery and more unemployment than anything in this Nation since the Great Depression. He says that unemployment compensation is a prepaid vacation for freeloaders. He says, just like he did about Medicare, that national health insurance is a symbol of socialism, and he's against it. And as you know, this policy of his is typical of the Republicans.

But we are also a nation that believes in a strong military, and the Democrats have put forward in the last 4 years, with the help of Mel Price and others, a repair of our Nation's defense. I believe in a strong defense, but let me tell you this. In the last 50 years no President has been able to make the next statement that I'm going to make to you: For the last 4 years, since I have been in office, our Nation has not been at war; we have been at peace. And with your help, we'll keep our Nation strong and at peace for the next 4 years. But peace is not something that comes automatically; it has to be built piece by piece, brick by brick.

Every day that I've been in office, somewhere in the world there has been a crisis, there has been armed conflict, there's been a trouble spot. There've been dangers, yes. But I have known, as many of you, that the President of the United States is the one that must make a decision. What are the real interests of America? How should we protect those interests? What degree of involvement should we pursue? Should we try to solve those troubles peacefully, politically, diplomatically, or should we inject our military forces in the war?

I'm a father; I'm a grandfather. And as President I'll always remember this: Keep our Nation strong, yes; but the best weapon is one that need never be fired in battle, and the best soldier is one that need never shed his blood on the field of battle.

And I'm proud that our Nation, not only keeping ourselves at peace, has been able to spread the benefits of peace to others. We brought finally a treaty of peace between Israel and Egypt—the first time ever that Israel has been at peace with any of her Arab neighbors. That's a commitment of the Democratic Party, to bring peace. But I think that you ought to be reminded that the major commitment, the strongest responsibility on the shoulders of every President since Harry Truman, Democratic and Republican, has been to prevent nuclear war.

We must continue our progress in the careful, balanced, verifiable control of nuclear weapons. It's the greatest overriding issue of this campaign. The greatest legacy that we can leave our children is a world at peace. Peace is my passion. And with your support for the next 4 years, we'll control nuclear weapons, we'll prevent the radical countries like Libya from having atomic bombs, and we will keep our Nation at peace. That's my pledge to you.

And finally, let me say that I'm proud to be a Democrat. I believe in the heritage and I believe in the mission of the Democratic Party, the heritage and the mission of Franklin D. Roosevelt—think back-the heritage and mission of Harry Truman, the heritage and the mission of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the heritage and the mission of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the heritage and the mission of Hubert Humphrey. Every great advance in our Nation, in your lives, for the last half century, from the collective bargaining to the minimum wage, from social security to Medicare, every single one of them has come under Democratic administrations over the opposition of Republicans. Don't forget that for a minute.

But the Democratic Party is not just a party of achievement in the past. The Democratic Party has been an organization, with you part of it, that's always looked to the future. The Democratic Party is the party that fights for the interests of working people, that fights to protect the quality of our lives, that protects the health and the security of senior citizens, that supports national health insurance for all Americans, that supports human rights for all people in this country and around the world, and the Democratic Party is a party that supports equal rights for women guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. These are our goals, and we'll work together for them for the next 4 years.

Now, today I'd like to say a special word directly to those citizens of this country who share these goals that I've just outlined to you, but who are considering a vote for Congressman John Anderson. Obviously, there are some differences between me and him, but on many of the key issues of this campaign, like the need for energy conservation, pure air, and clean water, controlling the spread of nuclear weapons, equal rights amendment, our views are very similar one to another. And on the one most important issue of all, the control of nuclear weapons and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries, on this great fundamental issue, all of the other candidates agree on one side; on the other side is Governor Ronald Reagan.

I ask you to consider the consequences of a new administration that is not committed to these goals if they should control our country for the next 4 years. I appeal to you for your dedicated support, your deep commitment during these next few hours as people approach the time to cast their ballots. You might say, "Well, one person can't make a difference. I've come here today, and I've added my voice to the crowd. Maybe I've been involved in the Democratic Party in the past. Maybe I've even been part of a Democratic organization or made campaign contributions. That's enough." But that's not enough.

The other night I was over in St. Louis at a rally where I reminded people primarily about Harry Truman. In 1948 there was an election, very close. If just a few thousand people around the country had voted differently or had not gone to the polls, Harry Truman would never have been President. In 1960—think back very carefully—if 28,000 people in Texas had voted the other way and a few thousand people in Illinois had voted differently, John Kennedy would never have been President, and Lyndon Johnson, the Civil Rights Act, and the great progress we've made under those two great men would never have come to pass.

Those two stories wind up with a happy ending, but let me remind you of another campaign, in 1968, where a few Democrats, maybe some of you and me, didn't work as hard as we should for the Democratic nominee. Hubert Humphrey, a great American with a great heart, never was able to serve as President of this country. And instead we had the last Republican President ever elected to serve in the Oval Office, Richard Nixon. That's the difference that we want to prevent this time.

Let's remember these events that I've just outlined to you as you leave this great rally. Let's remember also the words of another Democrat who might have been President, but who died on his last day of campaigning, and that's Robert Kennedy. In 1968, on the last day before he was killed, he made a speech, and this is what he said. And I'd like to conclude my remarks just by quoting him, because the message that he gave to you is the one I'd like to give to you today. Robert Kennedy's words: "I ask you to recognize the hard and the difficult road to a better America. I ask you to vote for yourselves. The people must decide this election. For your sake and for the sake of your children, vote, vote, vote for yourselves. Vote for yourselves."

Thank you very much. God bless you. Don't forget to vote for yourselves.

Note: The President spoke at 12: 37 p.m. from a stage outside Granite City South High School.

Jimmy Carter, Granite City, Illinois Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252184

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