Jimmy Carter photo

Houston, Texas Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.

October 31, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. Right on.

AUDIENCE [chanting]. Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. You've got me convinced. I'll take it.

First of all, let me say that it's really great to be in your wonderful State of Texas. At least you have got a real southern gentleman for your Lieutenant Governor. [Laughter] To Congressman Mickey Leland, Congressman Bob Eckhardt, one of the great leaders, not only of Texas but of the entire Nation and who needs to stay in the Congress and who needs your help, all of you help him. Jack Brooks already won his election overwhelmingly, as you know. Mike Andrews is going to be your next Congressman from the 22nd District, Bob Hutchins, next Congressman from the District 7. And I want to say that it's good to be in a city that can produce a baseball team like the Astros. You can really be proud of them. The whole Nation was, and I'm very glad that Joe Sambito and Joe Niekro are here tonight. And I noticed the Houston Oilers are right up there at the top, right? [Applause]

It's always good to come back to Houston, because you run out of great things to say about it—the biggest city in the biggest county in the biggest continental State—a city, by the way, that since the day I was sworn in as President, has added 240,000 new jobs for Houston citizens. That's great.

Last night about this time I was in St. Louis, Missouri, and I was speaking to an audience that remembered very clearly the time of Harry Truman, a great President who understood what our Nation was all about, a man who made some difficult decisions, a man who was castigated by the Republicans because they said he was too mean when he ran his campaign. [Laughter] Sometimes they say the same thing about me. All I do is tell the truth about Ronald Reagan, and the truth sounds mean.

If you've been listening to the campaign lately you've probably noticed that the Republican candidate, everywhere he goes, quotes Democratic Presidents. Have you ever heard a Republican candidate for President quoting a Republican President?


THE PRESIDENT. No. And there's a good reason for it, because every time an election approaches they like to forget about their record. It happens every election year. As a matter of fact, Franklin Roosevelt said in 1944—and I'd like to quote that great President about how the Republicans change their tune when election day approaches—he said, ('The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels. Now, imitation," he said, "may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm afraid that in this case it's the most obvious garden or common variety of fraud."

Now, that didn't stop with Franklin Roosevelt. It happened, the same thing, when John Kennedy ran for President in 1960. 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 say a good word about Harry Truman. But," he said, "I guarantee you ,that Harry Truman will never say a good word about a Republican." [Laughter] And I want to make a prediction to you tonight. Twenty years from now I predict that Republican candidates are even going to be saying good things about Jimmy Carter's second term.

You're the State that has provided great leaders in Washington for the Democratic Party and for our Nation. Sam Rayburn was a man who led the Congress of the United States, who knew what it meant to be a Democrat, to be proud to be part of the South, to take the heritage that is part of our own consciousness and let it be beneficial for the rest of the country. And when the New Deal came along there were people like you and me who were waiting for a change in life. And I think it's time, with just 3 or 4 days to go before you make a great decision, to think back on those days. Some of you are quite young, Larry Gatlin's age, who's a great friend of mine. Some of you, old as I am. I was born in 1924, but I remember how things have changed, in my life, because of the Democrats.

I grew up on a farm in south Georgia, where everybody worked from before daybreak until after sundown and then had to plow, put the plow in the barn, pump water for the mules, and then go to bed after dark. My mother was a registered nurse. She worked 12 hours a day for $4 or either she worked 20 hours a day for $6. We didn't have electricity on our farm. And old people when they got past retirement age, if they didn't have a family that was rich, had to go to what we called the po' folks farm. Maybe some of you remember those days.

Roosevelt came along, and as a young man Lyndon Johnson helped Franklin D. Roosevelt. As is the case with Democrats, they cared about working people. And they looked upon old people and said, "We need to make sure that when they reach retirement age, they have some self respect." So, Roosevelt proposed, along with Democrats, that we have social security. The Republicans opposed it. They called it socialism, even called it communism. Franklin Roosevelt thought that the American farmers ought to have electricity, proposed TVA, REA. The Republicans opposed it, called it socialism, even communism.

Roosevelt even was radical enough to believe that a grown man or a grown woman ought to be paid living wages; 25 cents an hour was the first proposed minimum wage. Republicans were against it. They called it socialism, communism, the interference of government in the private affairs of big business. I got my first job when I finished high school in 1941. I worked 10 hours a day for the minimum wage, which at that time was 40 cents. I had to furnish my own car and pay all the expenses to measure land for the government. Republicans opposed that radical increase from 25 cents to 40 cents an hour. This has been the typical continuing struggle between the party you and I represent and the Republicans who always imitate Democrats just before elections to get in office.

Later in 1961, Medicare was proposed to give our senior citizens a chance for some medical care when they reached the retirement age if they didn't have much money. My Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, an employee of the anti-Medicare lobby, went around this Nation making speeches, and he referred to Medicare as socialism—"socialized medicine," he said. Now he's against national health insurance.

He's proposed several times lately that social security be voluntary. This year he proposed that the minimum wage be abolished. He said that the thing that's caused more misery and more unemployment in this country than anything since the Great Depression was the minimum wage. And he said the other night in the debate-you probably heard it—that social security was a bad investment for a young person. The fact is that a young man, a husband, or a young mother with children, if they start at the age of 22 and put their money into social security, they'll get back 3 1/2 times more than they put in. And all that time they're working they have the protection of disability, or if one of them dies, survivor's benefits for the other spouse and all the children until they're 18. That's the kind of program that Ronald Reagan is still against. He can't change his spots just before election, although he's trying very desperately to do so. And it's important for us to remember these basic truths as we approach the time for a decision.

My people have lived in this country for a long time, since the 1600's. They've all been farmers, every one of them. My father never had a chance to finish high school; neither did his father. Nobody in my family ever finished high school until me. And I had an ambition when I was a child to go to the Naval Academy, to get a college education. It was a wild dream. Nobody ever thought I could ever do it. But I was lucky enough to go. I served in the Navy for 11 years and when I got out of the submarine force, I went back home and saw the changes take place in the Southland, when black people and those who speak Spanish were finally given equal rights, a right to vote, a right to be holding a job, a right to have a chance in life.

And let me ask you a question. Let me ask you a question, those of you who might speak Spanish, those of you who might be black, those of you who might be women. Which party has always been in favor of helping those who felt the scourge of discrimination? The Democrats. The Democrats. And it has not changed. It has not changed. We would never have had the civil rights bill, the voting rights bill, had Roosevelt, Johnson, Kennedy not been elected. Never would have happened.

Another thing—let me say this— [applause] —I agree with you. And let me say this, when the civil rights act and the voting rights act was passed—

[Interruption from the audience.]

You're for me. Be quiet, man.

AUDIENCE [chanting]. Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT. He's for me. Let me finish. That's good. Okay, let me talk. And when the voting rights act and the civil rights act passed, Ronald Reagan said that's bad legislation. So, what we need to do is to remember as election day approaches, which party is best for our country.

I went in the Oval Office as a young President, remembering that our Nation had to be strong. I went into the Oval Office, after I was elected, as a young military officer concerned about what had happened to our Nation's defense the last 8 years before I became President. In those 8 years, 7 of them under Republicans-the Republicans

[Interruption from the audience.]

AUDIENCE [chanting]. Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT. Okay, you got me. Thank you.

The Republicans have a lot of money. They have enough money to back—to pay a few people to work for them.

I want to cover three more points to you, because these are important because they affect your lives. One is concerning defense. When I was elected President the Republican administration 8 years before I was elected cut spending for defense every year except one. We had a reduction of 37 percent below what it was a year before when Nixon became President, in 8 years—37-percent reduction. Every year since I've been in office, as a Democratic President, we have added to our defense spending to give our country strength in our military forces. This will continue for the next 5 years, because I know, like other people know, that we can only have peace in our Nation if our Nation is strong. And I can make another statement that no other President can make in the last 50 years. Since I have been in the Oval Office, our Nation has not known war; we have been at peace. And I'm going to keep this Nation at peace.

I know I'm in the State of Texas, and I want to say something about land and I want to say something about oil. First of all, all the Republican Presidents have always promised that when they got in the Oval Office that they were going to decontrol the price of oil and gas to let our Nation produce more energy. Who has been able to do it? A Democratic President, working with a Democratic Congress, and we've already seen rich results for our Nation. This year we will have more new oil wells and gas wells producing in this country than any year in history. We've got more oil drillrigs running right now than the Nation has ever had in history. We're producing more American coal than we've ever produced in history, and we're cutting every day the amount of oil we buy from overseas.

In economics Democrats have always been those in favor of the investment in new jobs, new plants, new opportunities for our people. Ronald Reagan has a basic approach to taxation and economics called the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal.

[Boo' s from the audience.]

You understand it very well.

You all know that Business Week is a magazine that's not particularly a Democratic publication. But Business Week said that Ronald Reagan's tax proposal was completely irresponsible, that it would cause an inflationary explosion that would destroy this Nation's economy, and it would impoverish every person in this country living on a fixed income. That's what Business Week thinks about Ronald Reagan's tax proposal. And George Bush, who was a temporary Texan, said that Ronald Reagan's proposal was "voodoo economics" and would cause 30-percent inflation. At least one time George Bush was right.

And the final point I want to make is this, about land, about agriculture. As I said earlier, I grew up on a farm, and I was very interested when I got to be President to have a Secretary Of Agriculture who was a dirt farmer. In the past, as you know, the Republicans have chosen for Secretary of Agriculture a lobbyist or an executive in the major food-processing companies or the middlemen who handle large quantities of grain after the farmers sell it cheap at harvest time. I wanted to be sure I had somebody in there like Bob Bergland who understood the life of an American farm family. We've changed.

We've had a lot of progress made already. Look back on what happened to the farmers in 1977 before we passed our new farm bill. Corn prices have doubled. Wheat prices have doubled. Beef prices have doubled. In the last 3¼ years gross income of farmers in this Nation have grown faster than ever before in history. Net farm income has gone up more than ever before in history. On exports—Texas is a very important State—we've had more exports and set a new record in 1977, a higher record in '78, an even higher record in '79. And this year we had the biggest increase in exports in the history of our Nation, $8 billion. We'll export $40 billion overseas this year.

And I want to mention a word to you that you might not think about concerning farm families, and that's China. There are 4 billion people who live on this Earth. A billion of them live in China. We've normalized relationships now with that country about 2 years ago. This year we just signed an agreement—as a matter of fact last week—to sell China between 6 million tons and 9 million tons of American grain every year. The number one customer for American cotton right now is the People's Republic of China. We've tripled trade with Mexico in the last 4 years. We've opened up the sale of our products to Korea, to Nigeria, to other countries. The American farmers have never been better off. That's a very important commitment, an historic commitment of the Democratic Party.

And finally let me say this: I may not have mentioned it earlier, but I need your help this next few days. November the 4th is the day. A President has sometimes a difficult job, but he has to face problems that affect your life. I've made thousands of decisions since I've been in the Oval Office, and every time I've made a decision I've learned in the process. I became a better President with every decision, and I'll be a better President than I have already in the second term.

I've never served one day as President that there wasn't a crisis or a troublespot somewhere in the world. There have been six or eight armed conflicts that broke out in the world since I've been President. I've had to make a judgment about our Nation's interests and about the depth of our Nation's involvement, whether to handle that problem through politics or diplomacy, or through the injection of American military forces into those troubled areas. A President has good advice, but I know from experience that when the difficult times come and the issue is sharply divided and the decision is very important, that advisers tend to split about 50-50. A President has to make a decision based on sound judgment, based on prayer, based on the understanding of the conscience of this country, about peace, or war. And I believe in peace.

I have to make some difficult and some lonely decisions. In the next few days, 100 million Americans have to make a difficult and a lonely decision. That decision will affect your life, the life of your family, the life of people that you love, the ones that look to you for leadership. You would not have come here tonight if you weren't interested in politics and government, but you have a responsibility like I do, the next few days, to make those judgments about the future of our Nation. You might say, well, one person can't make much difference, but think back on 1948. If just a few people had voted differently, Harry Truman would never have been President. In 1960, if 28,000 people had changed their vote in Texas and a few thousand in Illinois, then John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson would never have served this Nation as President. If just a few people had gone out and worked a little harder in 1968, Hubert Humphrey would have been President and Richard Nixon would never had embarrassed this Nation in the White House.

So, you've got a choice to make, between the Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon Republican Party, or the Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter Democratic Party. I need your help. Will you help me? We'll win together. We'll win together. Four more years, right. [Applause and cheers]

Note: The President spoke at 8:33 p.m. at the Miller Outdoor Theater at Hermann Park.

Jimmy Carter, Houston, Texas 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/252011

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives