Jimmy Carter photo

Hempstead, New York Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting.

October 16, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Moynihan, Governor Hugh Carey, Lt. Governor Mario Cuomo, Congressman Tom Downey, Chairman Dominic Baranello, Stanley Harwood, Nassau County Chairman George Dempster, and others:

I want to come to you today to make a couple brief remarks and then spend what time we have available answering your questions about matters that are important to you.

Before I came here I tried to get briefed as much as possible on what was the most important thing for Long Island in 1981 and the coming years, and the answer I got was to keep the Stanley Cup. Good luck. If you won't tell anybody else, you've got my best wishes.

For a President who came here during the last campaign and to see what is going on in Long Island, this is a very profound and secret development. The rest of the Nation doesn't quite understand what's happened here. This is not a bedroom community; it's not a suburb anymore. Seventy-five percent of the people who live in this region also work here. If you put together Nassau County and Suffolk County, yours would be 1 of the 10 most important economic communities in the United States. I won't list all the statistics, but one is interesting. If, for instance, Suffolk and Nassau counties were a State, the retail sales would be greater than onehalf of all the other States in the Nation. That's unbelievable. And I think the future is going to be even brighter.

As has been my custom with townhall meetings, I want to cover two points very quickly and then let you bring up other issues of importance to you. The two I want to speak on are important to the entire country. One is the threat from pollutants, and the other one is property taxes.


First, we must not close our eyes to the continued pollution problems that afflict and threaten our Nation. I'm proud of the very real progress that we have made over the last several years, but contrary to what some believe, there is a continuous pollution problem in America. I noticed, as I came in on the helicopter and got off and looked around, the beauty of this countryside and the purity of the air. I'm glad to know that the trees and the volcanoes have taken a vacation for the day.

It would be a tragedy for us to turn our backs on this very serious threat. One of the great unfinished jobs of this decade, particularly for young people looking to the future, is the problem of hazardous wastes and also groundwater contamination. On Long Island your water comes from underground aquifers, which are not piped in from outside reservoirs. I know that recent incidents have caused you some concern about water quality on Long Island. I share that concern, and you have a right to be certain that the water you drink is safe. It is safe now, and I'm taking steps along with you to protect the quality of the drinking water both here and throughout the country.

First, we are providing direct technical assistance and Federal funds to a number of Long Island cities to help identify the sources of potential pollution. Second, I've signed recently a new law which tightens the standards for safe drinking water. Third, my Council of Environmental Quality right now is investigating the extent of the problem nationwide and the seriousness of the related health threats. And fourth and most important, I proposed the so-called superfund bill. This program would identify dangerous chemical dumpsites and provide the funds, largely from a kind of insurance fee on the chemical industry, to clean these dumpsites up.

This far-reaching and overdue legislation has already passed the House, and it should be passed in the Senate in the postelection session. It's an urgent priority for Long Island, for the rest of New York State, and for the entire country.

And second, property taxes. I don't need to tell you that here in Nassau County you pay the highest property taxes of any citizens in the United States. Maybe that's news to you. No? It's my goal to avoid additional pressures on your property taxes and to relieve the burdens they have to support.

Senator Moynihan, Governor Hugh Carey, and others and I have been fighting to get very substantial relief for your very high welfare burden. This is part of my welfare reform proposal which has already passed the House and is now in the Senate. In addition, the national health insurance proposal will provide further fiscal relief from Medicaid burdens. In addition, I'm increasing mass transit aid with a new formula which greatly benefits New York. The urban policy is designed to build up the local tax base and to lessen dependence on the local property taxes for the provision of basic services.

This is a political year, and I'm sure I'll get some political questions, so I'd like to point out to you that my policies that I've just outlined so briefly are diametrically opposed to those of Governor Reagan, whose positions have very serious implications for your already high property tax burdens.

After I leave, as you talk to him or his runningmate or those who represent him here in your community, you should emphasize questions about this very serious matter. First, on urban transit—an increasingly costly requirement for the future-Governor Reagan said just this year, not in ancient history, that people like yourselves— [laughter] —talking about urban transit, he said people like yourselves, and I quote, "who are going to be in charge of spending it should be responsible for raising it." This could add a great deal to your financial burdens through local property taxes.

Second, Governor Reagan said this year, "Urban aid programs, I think, are one of the biggest phonies that we have in this system and have had for a number of years." If Governor Reagan wants to dismantle our urban aid programs like Community Development Block Grants and Urban Development Action Grants, or UDAG grants, the only way I know of to make up the difference would be higher State or local taxes.

And third, because of the great massive across-the-board tax cuts proposed under the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal, he would need to cut over $130 billion from the Federal Government to achieve a balanced budget. If you eliminate or discount defense and entitlement programs, the total remaining Federal budget is only $150 billion. So, if you cut $130 billion out of that, the only place that these cuts could come would be from local and State taxes picking up the difference.

We should remember that he has already proposed that full responsibility for certain Federal programs like welfare and education be shifted to State and local governments. Block grants would be only a first step, he says. Suppose the $5 billion the State of New York now receives from the Federal Government for welfare and education is cut off and has to be replaced by $5 billion in new local property taxes. In that case the extra tax burden for an average family of four here would be increased more than 50 percent.

We should be moving to remove, not add, to the local property tax burdens. The Democratic Party platform reconfirms this, and I will be working with Senator Moynihan, with your Governor, with the mayors, and other local officials to achieve this goal of removing, not adding to, the local property tax burdens. Those two subjects are important.

And now I'd like to answer your questions.



Q. President Carter, the cost of education is high now. What will happen to the up-and-coming generation if the cost of an education continues to rise, especially for our black children.

THE PRESIDENT. All right. One of the things that is a constant burden or responsibility for a President is to have a proper balance between the Federal role in education and the local and State role. My own philosophy, which I grew up with in Georgia—I was on the local school board and was Governor there—is to keep control of the schools, public or private, from elementary through graduate school and college, in the hands of local and State officials, not to let the Federal Government interfere in the operation of the schools, but at the same time to provide Federal funds, which are collected primarily from the income tax base and not from local property taxes, to assist those areas that need Federal assistance. In the first 3 years I was in office we increased Federal assistance for education by 73 percent.

One thing that we have done is to meet a goal of assuring that no young person in this country who's academically qualified to do college work will be deprived of a college education because of the economic circumstances of the family. And I think I can assure you now that no matter where that young man or woman might live, if they're qualified to do college work, at this moment, no matter how poor that family might be, they can get a college education.

If you find anybody that can't, you let me know, and I'll see they get in college.


Q. First of all, Mr. President, the Hofstra ROTC program would like to welcome the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces to Hofstra University. Mr. President, in May of 1981, I will be commissioned as an officer in the United States Infantry. Sir, my question is this: Since you took office in 1976, the number of active duty Army combat-ready troops has gone down. If reelected, sir, how will you change this trend?

THE PRESIDENT. What's your name? [Laughter]

Q. Paul Leone, Mr. President.


Q. Leone.

THE PRESIDENT. Paul Leone. Paul, I'm glad to know you.

First of all, I'm very proud that you have chosen to go into the ROTC. When I was at Georgia Tech, before I went to the Naval Academy, I was also in the Naval ROTC, and I hope that many young people, in looking for a career, will take advantage of the wonderful opportunities in the volunteer military forces. No matter what your ultimate goal might be, I don't believe it would interfere in the development of your career. It didn't interrupt unnecessarily my own political progress— [laughter] —I became Commander in Chief. I was a lieutenant, and I think that this stands in good stead for you.

We have not had a decrease, but a real increase in the readiness of the military forces of this country in the last 3 1/2 years. When I went into the Oval Office, for 8 years prior to my Inauguration, 7 of those years we had an actual decrease in budgeted funds going for military defense. Since I've been in office, every year above and beyond inflation, in real dollars, we've had a steady, predictable, wellplanned, orderly increase in the commitment of budgeted funds to improve the military.

There's no question that now the American military forces are in better state of readiness than they were before. They are also in a better state of readiness than are equivalent divisions in the Soviet Union. We've had, as you know, threats to peace around the world. I've never been in the office of President one day that there hasn't been a troublespot somewhere in the world that might explode into combat between two nations or more nations that might affect us directly or indirectly. Because of our enormous strength militarily, politically, economically, we've been able to keep our own country at peace and encourage peace for others.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan I had three options as the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth: military action, political action, economic action. I decided to take the second two. We went to the United Nations. A hundred and four other countries joined us in condemning Soviet invasion and aggression. The Moslem countries united against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They lost their status in the nonaligned movement. Many less developed countries who had formerly been supportive of the Soviet Union have now turned against them. The freedom-fighters in Afghanistan have been much more courageous and much more tenacious than the Soviets ever expected.

Some of the economic restraints that we've placed against the Soviet Union have borne real fruit, and my judgment is that the Soviets now see very clearly that it is not politically or economically advantageous to them to carry out any further aggressive acts. And I don't believe that Afghanistan invasion and occupation is advantageous to them either.

Finally let me say this: In all the elements of our military we will stick with our voluntary recruitment program. Barring some threat to our Nation's security that's so real and tangible that the President and Congress and the people of the United States would agree, there is not going to be any draft of young people in this country.

Let me close this answer by adding one other thing—and I say it often, because as Commander in Chief it's my responsibility to let the people know what's fact. We have a commitment for the next 5 years, not just the last 3 years, to continue this orderly increase every year in commitments for defense. It amounts to about 5 percent of our Nation's gross national product, not excessive.

I have no apology to make for it. It's a good investment. As I said this morning in Hartford, Connecticut, where the Nautilus will be placed in Groton in the future as a memorial, the best weapon is one that's never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one who never has to lay his life down or shed his blood on the field of battle.

So, strength, militarily, is important. It's important that the American people know we are strong and will stay strong. It's important that our allies know that we will always be strong and second to none, and it's also important that potential adversaries know that if they attack the United States of America, that they will be committing suicide.


Q. Mr. President, as you know, the U.S. steel companies are lagging far behind the Japanese. What are the Government policies concerning this issue?

THE PRESIDENT. We have, as you know, a trigger-price mechanism system now that's just being reimposed in our country that I developed since I've been in office. The purpose of this is very clear. It was hammered out by an unprecedented cooperation between steel management, the steelworkers of this country, and local communities and the Government, which I represent. It prevents dumping of foreign produced steel in this Nation at a price less than it cost them to produce it. It also makes sure that the steel industry of our country has the financial advantageous elements of making investment to modernize.

Under the revitalization program that I've already outlined that will be imposed next year, we'll have great benefits for companies whose earnings are low because they need to modernize or because they're a brand new industry, just getting started with an innovative kind of commitment. We'll let investment tax credits that formerly could only be applied to future income tax payments now be paid in cash so that if a company invests in modernization, new plants, new equipment, new tools, they'll have income tax refunds paid to them to help defray those costs to keep American workers productive.

Finally, let me say that we've got to have in this country a good working relationship between the industry, on the one hand, and the control of pollution on the other. So, we worked out an agreement with the managers of the steelplants in this Nation and the environmental community to phase very carefully over a period of years air pollution standards, provided the steel industry will agree to correct pollution problems which they've already created and have long ignored.

Not too long ago I was in New Jersey, in Perth Amboy, visiting a modern American steelplant. It's the most productive in the world. Every worker there produces more steel per year than any other plant anywhere on Earth. They take scrap steel that used to be sent overseas for processing, melt it down, and extrude steelrods. They come out of that plant at 18,000 feet per minute, almost faster than you can see. They are bound up in 1-ton bundles, and half of the total production of that plant now goes to the People's Republic of China, new friends of ours. They can produce steel, then, in New Jersey, ship it halfway around the world, and sell it to China cheaper than the best steelplants in Japan can make it and ship it just a few hundred miles over to China.

That's the kind of progress that we can realize if our industry can be revitalized. At this day, at this moment, the most productive workers on Earth are American workers. We've not been improving as much lately as some of the others.

And lastly, let me say that the innovation that comes from free people, excellent education institutions like this one, research and development, a free enterprise system, entrepreneurship, provide us with new ideas and new concepts that other people have to buy in order to use. We earn every year $5 1/2 billion from other countries like Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain, just to pay for American patents, and those patent incomes are growing, not decreasing, every year. This is the kind of thrust forward that will keep America on the cutting edge of progress and let us prove to the rest of the world that we're not only blessed with that kind of idealism and confidence but that we have also got the natural resources on which to build that continued progress.

All the Arab OPEC nations together in the world have about 6 percent, for instance, of the energy reserves of the world—6 percent. The United States alone has 24 percent. We've also got the richest and most productive land on Earth.

So, with our people, with our attitude, with our government freedom, with the cooperation that's now building, with the good energy base derived from our new policy, and with the minerals and land with which we've been blessed, there is no doubt in my mind that the steel industry, the automobile industry, the energy industry, and other basic industries can stay competitive with any other nation no matter who it is.


Q. Hello, Mr. President. My name is Anthony Morillo. I'm a student at Hofstra University and also a member of Spinal Cord Society, which is a nationwide, nonprofit organization comprised of people who've had spinal cord injuries. We are currently interested in seeking research for curing spinal cord injuries. Currently, there are about 1 million people in this country who've had spinal cord injuries, and about 10,000 new injuries occur every year—an injury that could occur to anyone at any time.

At NYU University there are doctors who claim that they can have a cure for spinal cord injuries in 5 years if this is properly funded, and in Congress there's a bill, which is H.R. 4358, which is designating $16 million for spinal cord research. This bill has just passed the House and is going to the Senate. When it comes to your desk, sir, will you support this bill and any future centralized research program in this country?

THE PRESIDENT. Anthony, I'd rather give you a call back and see what the bill does in addition to what you say. If that's the total purpose of this bill, I would have no aversion to giving you a yes, but it might be mixed in with some things that I don't know about now in the rest of the bill that I could not possibly accept. And if I made a commitment to you ahead of time to sign that bill, no matter what was in it, God only knows what could be in it by the time it got to my desk. [Laughter]

But let me tell you this. Let me check on that bill when I get back, and I'll either have someone call you directly, or I'll call you and let you know what's in the bill and if I can, Anthony; I'll call you myself. If you'd give your name and phone number where you might be reached to one of my staff members, I'll give you a call and let you know. Okay? I'm in favor of it.


Q. Mr. President, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity. I'm a spokesman from the city of Long Beach, which isn't too far away from Hofstra. We're a summer resort community that has changed. But I'd like to applaud you and your administration for the Federal grants that have been made available to our community and have been used to revitalize our community. We presently have a UDAG grant application in that is vital to the central business district of our community. I would appreciate if you would continue your good policy of helping small cities to maintain their credibility and a place for young married people to exist. And only with your help can we be successful in our endeavors.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. I really appreciate that. We'll continue that program. It's a good program.


I might say, since the young man who just questioned me is named Anthony and since an earlier question was in the ROTC and wanted to know about our Nation's defense, that we have a very special person in the audience today. I don't know if he's been introduced before I came in. But one of the great thrills of my life has been to give the Nation's highest award for heroism to a few people who have offered their lives in an extraordinary way for the defense of freedom and for the defense of our country. I'd like to ask Anthony Casamento to stand and let us recognize him.

Not many people in this country wear the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the ones that wear it have earned the gratitude of all Americans.

Next question.


Q. Good afternoon, President Carter.


Q. I am Wendy Gumbs, president of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, Lindenhurst student council. What advice would you have to any young people who are interested in entering politics?

THE PRESIDENT. Very good. Well, you know, my advice first of all would be a Democrat— [laughter] —because in my judgment it's important for the relationship between a public officeholder, at the local, State, or national level or in the White House, to be predicated on the principles that I'm convinced my party espouses.

The Democrats, first of all, are a broad range of people, because we represent different interests. But the underlying commitment has been expressed very accurately, I believe, by Presidents of the past. Franklin Roosevelt—I grew up in the Depression years, and I remember when the Democrats put forward social security. The Republicans opposed it, but it passed.

There was a time when sweatshops were used to abuse people of this country, including young people even younger than you. The Congress finally passed the minimum wage law, 25 cents an hour. The Democrats were for it; the Republicans were against it. My first job when I got out of high school was at 40 cents an hour, which was the new minimum wage. When it increased from 25 to 40 cents an hour the Democrats supported it, the Republicans opposed it.

We have put into effect Medicare, to give older people some help with their medical expenses after they reach retirement age. The Democrats have supported it; the Republicans opposed it. My opponent, for instance, began his political career campaigning around this Nation trying to kill Medicare. Now it's crucial to the well-being and security and hope and good life of older people. You've heard some questions raised today, over here by the young man with a spinal problem. Health insurance, which I think ought to be a nationwide commitment, is a policy that we've espoused as Democrats that's opposed by my opponent and many other Republicans.

I recognize that on occasion, even in this great community here, which is fastgrowing and very prosperous, that there are families that are temporarily without income, when a factory closes because it's obsolete or when it moves to another part of the country and a family has temporary interruption of income. The unemployment compensation program is designed for a few weeks to give the mother and father, whoever's been earning a living, enough money to pay the children's hospital bills if they're sick and to buy food and drugs and so forth. My opponent has called unemployment compensation a prepaid vacation for freeloaders.

Well, the attitude that exists between someone who wants to be in politics and the public has got to be someone who wants to be not a master, but a servant. Your goal in going into politics ought to be what can I do to make the lives of the people that I love better? What can I do to make the next generation of young people have a better opportunity than I have? What can I do to keep my Nation strong with its morals and ethics, and united, and let people be free and independent? What can I do to make sure that anybody who's been a subject of discrimination because they're black or don't speak English well or because they're Jewish or because they're different from the majority or because they're women—what can we do to make sure that that discrimination is eliminated?

You also ought to be concerned about military strength of a nation, not to be used in combat, but to be used for the maintenance of peace. And if that's the kind of ideals that you have, if you express those clearly to the people around you who go to the polls and vote, there's a very good chance that you will be successful.

At this point, women don't have an equal chance. It's much more difficult for a woman now to earn a living or to be elected to office or to manage a family than it is men. If a woman and a man do the same work in this country now, if the man earns a dollar for a certain amount of work, the woman only earns 59 cents. That's why for 40 years the Republican Party has said, "We're for the equal rights amendment." The Democratic Party has said, "We're for the equal rights amendment." Six Presidents before me, and counting me, have all been for the equal rights amendment. What it says is that you cannot deprive a person of their rights, either the Federal Government or the State government, simply because of sex. That's all it says. But, again, my opponent in the race is not for the equal rights amendment.

I think that these kind of distinctions that are drawn have got to have a very important place in your life. Another thing that you have to do is to prepare yourself well with a good education, constantly studying how you can be involved in civic affairs, working with Girl Scouts, perhaps in your church or synagogue, making sure that in school that you go the second mile to improve the circumstances that are already under your control.

How old are you, Wendy?

Q. Thirteen.

THE PRESIDENT. Thirteen. You've got a good opportunity in the future. Amy's going to be 13 Sunday, and I'm very proud of her. But I hope you'll go into politics and just—this is the first time I've gotten that question but I hope that you'll think about some of the things that I described to you.

There's a place, I might say, to be perfectly objective as President, for Republicans in our society— [laughter] —second place.

Thank you, sweetheart. I love you. Thank you.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.


Q. "Dear President Carter:

"I voted for you in 1976. I was here when you appeared here before. Since then gasoline has doubled, inflation has more than doubled, and your pledge to reduce our nuclear arsenal has been replaced by a request for a multi-billion dollar retooling of our nuclear arsenal. In view of how you've done the opposite of what your 1976 pledges were, why should we trust you for another term in office?"


Q. Mr. President?


Q. That's a question composed by my son, Robert.

THE PRESIDENT. Hello, Robert. I'm glad to see you. Are you sure you voted for me in '76?

Q. I'm his mother.

THE PRESIDENT. Robert, did you vote for me in '76?

Q. [the mother]. Yes, I did.


Q. No, no, no. I disagree. I disagree. I think you're a good President.

THE PRESIDENT. I love you. Thank you.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. I love you.

Q. I think you're a good President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Q. I'm from the older generation, and I believe in you. And I love your mother, Lillian. I love her. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Robert, I'll talk to you later, okay? I might make a brief response.

You know, our country is not perfect, and I don't claim I've never made any mistakes. Looking back on the last 3 1/2 years, we've made some good progress. We do now have an energy policy that has taken us out from under the thumb of the OPEC Arab nations. We didn't have one before. And they have increased their price of oil enormously. They are the ones that set the price, not us.

We now are beginning to produce more American energy and also to conserve energy. This year we'll have more American oil and gas wells drilled than any year in history. This year we'll produce more American coal—this may surprise you-than any year in history. There is no limit to how much American coal we can produce and export except the rail system and how fast we can load it on ships on the eastern seaboard. We've now got ships waiting from Belgium and France and Great Britain and Japan, in Norfolk and Hampton Roads—25 days standing in line just to get American coal.

You've done well. This day, we are importing from overseas one-third less oil than we did this same day a year ago. That's great. And if we can continue that trend, there's no doubt in my mind that we'll get inflation under control.

When I was running for President here before, if I had asked you what's the number one problem, you would have said unemployment. In the last 3 1/2 years, we've added 8 1/2 million new jobs, hundreds of thousands of them in New York State. Never before in our history, in any President's term, in time of peace or war, have we added that many new jobs in this country.

Inflation rate is high, you're right. But our Nation has never failed. We've been through much more difficult times than this in the Great Depression, First World War, Second World War, the divisive Vietnam war, the embarrassment of Watergate, the social revolution that swept my part of the country, and even yours, in giving black people and others an equal chance under the law. Those things have rocked our country. But whenever Americans have unified themselves and seen an issue clearly, we have never failed to answer any question, we've never failed to solve any problem, we have never failed to overcome any obstacle. And my judgement is that we are so strong in the different kinds of Americans that have come to this country that we will never fail in the future either. We're making good progress. That progress is going to continue.

I love you very much.

Q. Thank you, thank you.


Q. Um—

THE PRESIDENT. I heard you. Go ahead. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, I'd like to change the subject to foreign policy— [laughter]


Q.—and ask what do you think is the next step for the United States in the hostage situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Very good. Great. What's your name?

Q. Nicholas Moyne, M-o-y-n-e. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Nicholas, that's a great question. Let me see if I can answer it.

In the first place, ever since our hostages have been taken—and they're all innocent people—I've had two goals in mind. One is to protect the interests of our own country and our integrity and our honor, and, secondly—and they're not in conflict—not to do anything as President that might endanger the lives or the safety or the future return of those hostages to freedom in their homeland. I've also tried to work with the families of the hostages, meeting with them personally, letting the Secretary of State meet with them, my wife's met with them, to make sure they understand that America has not forgotten them.

We've tried to negotiate with the Iranians in every possible way—directly, indirectly, through the United Nations, through secret missions, every other way. The main problem, Nicholas, has been this: There has not been any government in Iran or any leader with whom we could talk. Lately, though, the Iranians have elected a President and a Prime Minister and a speaker of their parliament, which they call a Majles, and they are putting together a cabinet. Their Prime Minister is coming to the United States today to appear in the United Nations.

We are trying, as we have every day for the last 10 or 11 months, to work with the Iranians, to resolve the problems between us and to get the hostages back home safely. I don't know when that effort will be successful. I can't tell you that. All the information, however, that we have about the hostages is that they are today safe, they are not being abused. And three of them, who are separated from the other 49, we have a way to communicate with them every now and then, either an ambassador goes. from Switzerland or Spain or some other country and to talk to them, or on occasion they can talk to someone in our country on the telephone. So, at this moment, so far as we know, the hostages are alive and well.

We don't know exactly when they'll be released. We've always maintained our hope that they would be released, and I will continue to protect our country and not to do anything as President to endanger their lives or safety and to make sure they come home free.


Q. Mr. President, given the existing factionalism in America today, such as developing regionalism, growing racial tensions, and the increasing influence of special interest groups, how will you combat and unite these expanding divisions in our country if reelected to a second term?

THE PRESIDENT. Okay. One of the important things to remember in our country is its heterogeneous nature. We're different. This is a nation of immigrants. We're a nation of refugees. Almost all of the families represented in this audience came here from another country. The blacks, many of them came here as slaves against their will, but they ultimately found a good life. Everyone else, from Eastern Europe or from Asia or from Latin America and so forth, came here voluntarily looking for freedom of religion, a way to have a better future.

I hope that our country will continue to preserve our own family customs, their ties of kinship with our mother countries, the commitment to religious beliefs that are perhaps different from some of others, and at the same time, join in the conglomerate American society that unifies itself, as I said in the next to the last question, when a trial or a test or an obstacle or a question or a problem comes up. I think we've made a lot of progress in doing away with the sectionalism that used to separate our country one part from another.

The last President who was elected from the Deep South, before me, for instance, was in 1844—James Polk. And it would not have been possible for me to be elected President had it not been for the civil rights movement that eliminated racial discrimination against black citizens. That changed to give people equality for blacks, made it possible for a Southern white to be considered seriously for President.

We only have now one remaining legal element of discrimination in this country. That's against women. And when we are able to get constitutional guarantees that women will not suffer from discrimination just because they're women, legally, we will have eliminated discrimination.

They'll still have prejudice; you'll still have people thinking they're better than you are or you're better than I am because of your religion or how much money your family has or what block you live on or what kind of car you have or what kind of education you've had. I think, too—and you're not going to like what I'm going to say—but we ought not to forget that we still have refugees coming here, we still have immigrants coming here.

When the Italians came to America they suffered from discrimination. When the Irish came here after the potato famine they suffered from discrimination. When the Jews came here from Eastern Europe and from Russia they suffered because of discrimination. When the first people came here from Indochina or from Asia they suffered because of discrimination. When the Cubans first came to Miami after Castro took over, they suffered from discrimination. Every time we've had a kind of a wave of immigrants who came to our Nation, they've seen what a good deal it is and what a wonderful country we've got, and they've said, "Well," in effect, "we've got it made. Let's don't let anybody else come."

There are still people who live under the boot of totalitarian governments, without freedom, without a chance to worship God, who have a hunger to come to our country, and they are different from us. When they first get there they can't speak English. Unless your parents came from England, your parents couldn't either, when they first got here. But we ought not to feel that we can erect a fence around the United States now and say no one else can come in. Our country is still growing. We are still a young country. We are still dynamic. We're still aggressive. We've still confident. We're still different from one another. That does not make us weak. That difference among us, subjugated when the interests of our country are paramount, is the source of our inherent strength.

We also benefit because our ties still go back to almost all the 150 nations on Earth. We've got special understanding of them, and they understand us. We've got relatives there, they've got relatives here. And that's an avenue to bridge the gap that might exist between our country and theirs. When I have a problem, for instance, in a nation like Mexico or Brazil or Italy or Ireland or Israel or other countries, I turn to American citizens whose parents or ancestors came from that country and say, "I need you to help me, as President, understand how to iron out these differences in a peaceful way and honor the special beliefs and customs and religious attitudes that that country might represent." Otherwise I wouldn't have as good an education as President now as I do.

So, I think the progress that we've seen already over a period of historical time is going to continue in the next administration, and I hope that neither you nor any other young person who belongs to a minority group ever again has to suffer from either legal discrimination or prejudice from other Americans who might think they are better than you are.


Q. Hello, Mr. President.


Q. My name is Margaret Johnson, and I'm from Hofstra University School of Law. I would like to know, do you plan to prohibit U.S. investors from investing in South African industries? If so, how and when, and if not, why not, given your commitment to human rights?

THE PRESIDENT. If you hadn't told me what school you were in I could have guessed by the time you got through with that question.

You've got me pretty well pinned in. Let me say this: There is no authority that a President has to impose a prohibition against American citizens from investing in or going to another country.

The attitudes of the Government of South Africa, their apartheid and the deprivation of human rights in that country, are obnoxious to me. We have striven, since I've been in office, to open up the continent of Africa for the first time to the beneficial influence of American presence and American interests. It wasn't done before. Just a short time before I became President, the Secretary of State of our Nation, Henry Kissinger, tried to go on a visit to Nigeria. He was not permitted to land in Nigeria, because there was no relationship then between that largest of all black nations on Earth and our country. Last week, the new President of Nigeria came to see me. He had been freely elected, democratically, majority rule, one-man-one-vote, under a constitution patterned to a major degree after the Constitution of the United States.

Also, when I came into office, I was determined to see Rhodesia changed into Zimbabwe, to give that country a chance to be independent and to remove the blight of racial discrimination against the blacks who live there. Not too long ago, Prime Minister Mugabe came to see me in the East Room of the White House to express his appreciation to me and to the people of the country for helping his country find democracy.

Now we're working on Namibia. We and four other nations—Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany—are trying to negotiate with South Africa to release Namibia to be a free country and to let the people there make their judgments about what kind of life they want to live. Our ultimate goal is also to see the same kind of change take place in South Africa, to see apartheid eliminated and to see all people there be honored with their human rights.

Those are the basic principles on which we operate; the sooner, the better, but in the meantime we'll do the best we can working through international law, American law, and the United Nations to reach those goals which I believe you and I share.


Q. Hello, Mr. President. In your 1980 platform you stated that you would like to have a United States Embassy moved to Jerusalem. In that light I would like to ask you to sign a petition saying to the people of Israel, "You are not alone. We are united with you in proudly affirming that united Jerusalem is an integral part of the sovereign state of Israel and is its capital city. To this we pledge our complete and unswerving support. Be strong. Be strong and let us strengthen one another."

THE PRESIDENT. I have not supported that particular element of the Democratic Party platform, and I'll tell you why.

AUDIENCE MEMBER. You haven't supported Israel either.

THE PRESIDENT. We have worked, as you know, with the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of Egypt, both at Camp David and subsequently, to have a peace between Israel and her major Arab nation, who's a neighbor. There is no way that any successful attempt could be made against Israel militarily absent Egypt, and now, as you know, the borders are open between the two countries, regular airplane flights go back and forth, tourism is growing every week, diplomatic relations exist, ambassadors are stationed in both capitals.

When I was at Camp David with Prime Minister Begin and Sadat, President Sadat, we, all three, agreed on a paragraph of the Camp David accords relating to Jerusalem. I know intensely the deep feelings of the Israeli people and Jews all over the world about Jerusalem. Our commitment, agreed to by Prime Minister Begin, is that Jerusalem should forever stay undivided, that there should be free access to the holy places for all worshipers who consider that city to them to be holy, that the ultimate status of Jerusalem under international law should be resolved through negotiation, and that the final result of that negotiation would have to be acceptable to Israel.

That's my position, and I will maintain it.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Wendella Ault, and on behalf of the African People's Organization at Hofstra University and our president, William Mayo, we'd like to extend a very hearty welcome to you.


Q. Now, we know that in our Constitution it states that all men are created equal, and you stated that you have increased minority representation in the U.S. Government. Now, I'd like to ask you, if you win the election in November, what steps do you plan on taking towards increasing that representation in the judicial government of our country?

I'd also like to say that I think you're one of the greatest Presidents we've ever had in terms of equal opportunity for the minorities of this country.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. Is your first name Wendella?

Q. Wendella, yes.

THE PRESIDENT. Wendella, as you know, our country has made fumbling or faltering steps toward giving equality of opportunity to black people and to those who speak Spanish and other newcomers to our Nation. We're not perfect, but we're struggling with that question.

When I came into office, I came in with the support of some great black leaders that I knew in Atlanta and had met in the rest of the country. I have seen at first hand as a southerner the adverse impact on me as a white person because of racial discrimination. As Governor of Georgia, I tried to eliminate that discrimination, and I've had the Ku Klux Klan marching around the Georgia Capitol as I took some of those actions, working harmoniously with my black fellow citizens of Georgia.

When I got to be President, I resolved that in filling positions in the judiciary, which is what you mentioned, that 1 would eliminate discrimination. We didn't have any black Federal judges in the South. With the exception of Virginia, where the Senators of that State refuse to consider anyone for a judge except white males, in every Southern State now, we will have at least one or more black Federal judges.

I have appointed twice as many black judges in the Federal system as all the other Presidents in history for the last 200 years. And I'm just getting started. I've also done it without lowering the standards of quality or professionalism or integrity, because if I should ever appoint a weak or a poor judge, who might be a woman or a black or a Hispanic, immediately those who oppose equality would say, "Look, the President lowered the standards in the judiciary." I have never done that.

So, we have not had any trouble finding excellent black judges, Hispanic judges and women judges to serve in the judiciary. I have not had a vacancy created yet, as you know, in the Supreme Court of the United States. If and when those vacancies occur, then I will follow the same policies that I've followed in the Federal judiciary on the district and circuit court levels to honor my commitment to eliminate discrimination and also to repair the remainder of discrimination that has existed so long.

Another thing that will help is for more and more representatives of the minority races and women to go through law school and to begin to prepare themselves for those kind of major responsibilities in the future. My record is good so far. I intend to improve on it in the future.

Q. I'd also like to say, I intend to.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Tom D'Agostino. I am an electrical engineer at Underwriter's Laboratories here in Melville. First of all, I'd like to thank God for the opportunity to be here today to speak to you. It was exactly a week ago that I saw this moment. What I'd like to say is that I've read your pamphlet, your campaign pamphlet that was distributed to us. Above your photo it stated, "A glimpse of a remarkable record of achievement. A record almost unknown to most Americans and that can be read here."

I am personally troubled by the fact that the record of this administration, at this time, remains unknown, particularly with regard to the state of our national defense. I believe that many of us here, many of my peers, viewing the recent events in the Middle East, and being bombarded constantly in the media relative to the state of our defense, in our position relative to the Soviet Union, are getting to feel—it's emotional—we're getting to feel that we're moving backwards in our ability to protect ourselves and our vital interests. As our President and our Commander in Chief, I believe the American people are seeking your unequivocal assurance that our Nation can meet any and all military crises envisioned by you and our strategic planners in Washington.

As an example, today in the New York Post, I see the Russians, it says, are geared for invasion of Poland. The reporter, Guy Hawthorn, in his second paragraph says, "The move is timed for November or December, between the U.S. Presidential election and the Inauguration, because the Soviets fear Ronald Reagan, if elected, would take a much tougher line than our President Carter." He goes on further to say that "the Kremlin believes it can depend on a relatively low-key response from President Carter once the election is over."

I would appreciate your comments on just how you would handle an invasion of a country the second time in 1980.

THE PRESIDENT. I think in every election year that I remember the question of the status of our national defenses has come up. It doesn't serve any good purpose for a candidate for President to make a false statement about the degree of competence or commitment of our military forces. It does several damaging things. It creates confusion and doubt among good Americans like you that. we are able to defend ourselves. These false statements also create erroneous doubts, without foundation, among our allies and friends who depend on us to defend them and to carry on our obligation to protect the peace. And perhaps more seriously, it creates an erroneous belief in some potential adversary that they can attack us with impunity.

Our nation is at this time the strongest nation on Earth militarily. We are much more ready to defend ourselves now than we were before. When I came into office we did have some serious defects. As I told you earlier, the commitment to defense had been going down 7 out of 8 years. Now it's going steadily upward. And at first it was difficult for me to get these defense increases through the Congress, because the American people didn't believe that we needed to do so. Now the American people and the Congress support me in these improvements in our national defense.

The Trident submarine program was bogged down when I came into office with over $2 1/2 billion worth of lawsuits. That's been resolved, and now we've got the first Trident submarine with its new missiles now undergoing sea tests. The second one is ready to be launched. We've got a steady stream of Trident submarines coming out to help us with one leg of our so-called triad of strategic weapons.

Secondly, we were about to waste an awful lot of money, when I came into office, building a B-1 bomber, because it would have been vulnerable to the ground-placed air defenses of the Soviet Union. We changed instead to the airlaunched cruise missile, a cruise missile that's a small, relatively inexpensive, very accurate, formidable new weapon that's practically invulnerable to a counterattack from the ground air-defense forces of the Soviet Union. And now that'll be mounted on our airplanes, launched 800 or a thousand miles away. It could penetrate the Soviet Union, make an attack almost without any chances the Soviets could stop it.

The third thing was that some of our ICBM's, our intercontinental ballistic missiles, had gotten vulnerable, because the Soviets, over a period of time, had built up not only great big missiles, because they didn't have miniaturized circuits and so forth, but they started to put MIRV'd warheads on them. So, I have developed now—and I hope you'll support this—the MX missile system, which will be a smaller number of missile launchers which will be located in places where the Soviets will never know where it is. It can be moved from one place to another, and it would take an enormous number of Soviet missiles to ever destroy those ICBM's. That's our strategic weapons—the nuclear weapons.

At the same time, we have proceeded with the control of nuclear weapons. You can't fly an airplane with just one wing on one side. You've got to have a balance. The most important single difference that I consider between myself and Governor Reagan is the approach to this defense issue.

I might repeat myself that all of our ground divisions now are in much better readiness state than they were 3 1/2 years ago, much better than the Soviet Union equivalent divisions. We've got a strategic force now ready to move, conventional forces called rapid deployment force. We're building it up good, and in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, outside of the Persian Gulf, we've got a formidable array of Navy, with F-14 planes, each one having unbelievable electronics. They can monitor, track six targets at the same time and shoot down those six targets with just one plane. And you've seen what the Iranian F-4's have done to Iraq, and what the F-14's are doing. You've seen what the Israeli F-15's have done with the MIG—25's that have been sent against them from Syria. That's the kind of weapons we have.

Let's leave that for a moment. I can assure you that they're better than they ever were before and improving every day, second to none, but—I won't have time for another question; I want to make this point before I leave. I want you to remember what atomic weapons are.

My early Navy career was in the nuclear submarine program, working under Admiral Rickover. I had instructions on the destructive nature of atomic explosives. We dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to end the Second World War under Harry Truman. Their explosion power was about 20,000 tons of TNT. Now, we're talking about megatons or millions of tons of TNT.

It takes a few pounds of TNT, as you know, for a terrorist to blow up an automobile or to kill 100 people in a shopping center in Germany or in Jerusalem, a few pounds. A megaton, if loaded 50 tons on a box car, on a train, would take a train 200 miles long to haul that much TNT. It would take 400 railroad engines to pull it. That's how much explosive power there is in 1 megaton of a nuclear weapon.

The control of that kind of power is the most important issue before our world today. It makes energy policy and employment levels and inflation rates pale into insignificance. Every President since Harry Truman, Republican and Democrat, has committed himself to strategic arms limitations. I signed a SALT II treaty with Brezhnev in Vienna, the culmination of negotiations by President Ford and President Nixon before me. A few weeks ago Governor Reagan said that he would tear up the SALT treaty. He insisted upon nuclear superiority, and he said that the launching of a nuclear arms race would be a card to be played against the Soviet Union.

This is such a profound change in the approach to nuclear weaponry that you ought to understand it very clearly. Nuclear superiority sounds great, but put yourself on the other side. If the Soviets said, "We'll negotiate a SALT treaty with you in the future provided we have nuclear superiority," we would not negotiate with them. And we cannot expect the Soviet Union to negotiate with us on balanced, controlled, observable, and then reduced SALT agreements if one side insists on nuclear superiority. It would be an end to the arms limitation talks and a radical departure from what we've had in the past. That's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength.

The other point is this: Everybody who serves in the Oval Office knows that every day there is a troublespot somewhere in the world, sometimes three or four, and a President has to deal with problems and crises alone at times. If I address that potential crisis successfully you never know about it. If I make a misjudgment, though, that potential crisis can affect your life and the life of everyone in this country, perhaps the entire world.

In the past we've had trouble around the world. We've used our enormous military strength, economic strength, political persuasion, to resolve those differences peacefully. Governor Reagan has a very disturbing habit of proposing, as a major political figure wanting to be President, that we inject American military forces into different places around the world to resolve troubles. He has advocated that we send American military forces to Ecuador, North Korea, Cuba, Cyprus, the Mideast, Angola, Rhodesia, Pakistan, and other places, three of those proposals just this year.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan his proposal was, "Let's put a blockade around Cuba." This would immediately have created a major confrontation between ourselves and the Soviet Union, because every day the Soviet Union delivers to Cuba several millions of dollars worth of goods and services. This would have precipitated an international threat of war greater than any our Nation has faced since we've got peace, finally.

The tone of what my opponent uses to address nuclear arms control and the solution of problems on a peaceful basis-using our strength, yes, but not military forces—is very, very important as an issue.

I can assure you in closing that we're the strongest country on Earth militarily, and we will never be second in military strength to any other country.

Thank you very much, everybody. I've enjoyed being with you.

Note: The President spoke at 3:30 p.m. in the Hofstra University Physical Fitness Center.

Jimmy Carter, Hempstead, New York Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251225

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