Jimmy Carter photo

Jackson, Mississippi Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.

October 31, 1980

Governor Bill Winter, former Senator Jim Eastland, Mayor Dale Banks, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chairman, my friends from Mississippi:

Last night about this time I was in St. Louis, Missouri, talking to people who remembered the great Presidency of Harry Truman. Early this morning I was in Columbia, South Carolina. Later I was in the central part of the State of Florida. Then I went up to Memphis, Tennessee, and now I've come here to Jackson, Mississippi. And tonight I'll be in Houston, Texas. Tonight I want to talk to you for a few minutes about the Southland, about what it means to be a southerner and about what Mississippi has meant in my own campaign to become President of the United States, the first President from the Deep South since James Polk was elected in 1844.

I remember election night of 1976, when the issue was in doubt: the choice between a Republican President for 4 more years and a southern Democrat, who'd be in the White House for 8 years. Mississippi came through then. You've set a good tradition. I'm counting on you Tuesday night.

First I want to clear up a very important point. Last night in Missouri I was reminded of the fact that when Harry Truman ran in 1948 they said he ran a mean campaign. Some people say that I've run a mean campaign, but I have not. I want to tell the truth about the Republicans, and when I do, they always say it's mean.

I grew up on a farm in deep south Georgia, very similar to the lives of many of you or at least your mothers and fathers during the Depression years. I remember what it meant to live in a house that didn't have electricity or running water. We worked from early in the morning till late at night. To plow—a mule; we didn't have tractors. We didn't have electricity on our farm. And we had a lot of needs in our lives. And then Herbert Hoover, a typical Republican, was replaced by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt proposed the TVA, the REA, to transform the lives of all southerners. The Republicans were against TVA. They were against REA. They said it was socialism or communism for the Government to bring electricity to rural farms in Mississippi and in Georgia.

My mother had to work for a living. She was a registered nurse. She worked 12 hours a day. She was paid $4. Sometimes she worked 20-hour-a-day duty. Then she was paid $6. The Democrats thought that men and women who were grown and who had to support a family were worth at least a minimum wage. They put forth 25-cent-an-hour minimum wage. It was quite a struggle, because the Republicans were against it. They didn't believe that an able-bodied man or woman was worth 25 cents an hour. Later, as I approached the age to finish high school, I got my first job measuring land for the Government, 10 hours a day, furnished my own car and paid all expenses; 40 cents an hour, which was the minimum wage then. The Democrats were for increasing the minimum wage to 40 cents. The Republicans, predictably, were against it.

Franklin Roosevelt felt that the senior citizens, the elderly in our country, ought to get out of po' folks homes, and they ought to have social security. So, Franklin Roosevelt put forward the idea of social security. The Democrats supported him. The Republicans said it was socialism, communism. They opposed it. But the Democrats prevailed, and now our senior citizens in this Nation, nationwide, have some respect in their old age, and they have a security that they didn't have before.

Later, in 1961, Democrats proposed Medicare to give senior citizens some chance for good medical attention. Obviously, the Republicans were against it. Democrats prevailed, and now we have a better life. Those kinds of things are typical of what has taken place between the party of the working people, the party of the elderly, the party of the young, the party of equality on the one hand, and the party of privilege on the other.

You've been listening lately to the Republican candidate, Governor Reagan, who's running against me, and you know he's been trying to wrap himself in the mantle of Democratic Presidents. [Interruption from the audience.]

I'm trying to tell the truth, but they don't want to hear it back there.

Every time a Republican starts running for President, you always notice they quote Democratic Presidents. Have you every heard a Republican candidate quote a Republican President?

THE PRESIDENT. No. And you never will. Here's what Franklin Roosevelt said in 1944, and I quote Franklin Roosevelt. He said, "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels just before an election. Now, imitation," he said, "may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm afraid that in this case, it's the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud." And I might say that Roosevelt wasn't the only one who observed this phenomenon. Republicans have now taken to quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt himself.

John Kennedy in 1960 said this: "The Republicans are even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now," Kennedy said, "they might even speak a good word for Harry Truman. But I guarantee you that Harry Truman will never say a good word about Republicans." Now, you all know that that prediction of John Kennedy came true. And I want to make a prediction to you tonight. Twenty years from now, Republican candidates are going to be saying nice things about Jimmy Carter's second term.

Presidents have a lot of duties to perform, and I'm talking about the South tonight. I came from a family; my father didn't finish high school. Neither did his father. Nobody in our family had ever finished high school in 300 years in this country until I came along and got an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Southerners know what it means to protect our Nation. We've always been in the forefront of volunteering to go to war, to give our lives, if necessary, to defend our Nation. The honor roll of those who lose their lives is always headed by southerners, who know what it means to defend basic rights. But we also know what it means to have a strong defense. When I got to the Oval Office as President, as an ex-submarine officer, for 8 years Republicans had let the Americans' defenses go down. Seven of those 8 years, we had had a decrease in the commitment of Federal budget dollars for defense. Since I've been in the Oval Office, with the help of John Stennis, who was speaking for me last night in Columbus, we know that we have had a steady increase in defense expenditures above and beyond the cost of inflation. That's the kind of commitment that we've made for defense.

We'll continue to do it, but it's important to remember, it's important to remember that the reason to have a strong defense is to keep our Nation at peace. When I came into office, there was no long-range cruise missile program. Now we have one. There was no battle tank. Now we have one. There was no modern armored fighting vehicle. Now they're in production. There was no answer to the potential vulnerability of our silo-based ICBM's. Now there's an answer—the mobile MX missiles. Our purchases of Army equipment listen to this—jetfighters and attack aircraft had dropped by two-thirds in the 8 years before I became President. Since then, we've increased them by 50 percent.

I'm not here to tell you that the end in itself is to have major military forces, but I can say this—and no President has been able to say this for the last 50 years: Since I have been in office, this country has been at peace. We have not had a war, and I'm determined to have— [applause] .

Every President faces difficult decisions. The Oval Office is sometimes a lonely place, but the judgment, the moderation, the careful, prayerful consideration of basic issues in a time of crisis is the important function of a President who serves you.

I said earlier I grew up on a farm. I want to say just a word about agriculture. I know something about farmers. I even know what parity means. [Laughter] When I was growing up, farmers had a difficult life. There was no price support for agricultural products, there was no stability in our lives. It was boom one year and bust the next—mostly bust because when the farmers made a good crop, they sold at harvest time, and the middlemen bought our products, and when the price went up later on, maybe because they held grain from the market or cotton from the market, the farmers didn't get the profit. Now that's been changed under a Democratic administration. And we've got a policy that's been in effect since I've been in office, with Bob Bergland, a farmer, as the Secretary of Agriculture, that has transformed the lives of many farmers in this Nation.

Since I've been in office, we've had the highest gross income in history, the biggest increase in net income in history, the biggest exports of American farm products in history. Now we've got the most onfarm storage in history—2.8 billion bushels of grain are now being stored by the farmers on their farms so that they can market their grain when the markets are good. This not only helps farm families it costs the middlemen, yes—but it helps consumers as well, because you don't have the wild fluctuations in wheat, corn, oats, milk, and other products that we had before under the Republicans, as you know.

We had Secretaries of Agriculture, not who were farmers, but we had Secretaries of Agriculture who were employees or executives of the very middlemen who had been responsible for keeping farmers impoverished for many years. It's better to have a Secretary of Agriculture who's a dirt farmer, and that's what we'll have as long as I'm in the White House.

I want to say a word to you about an issue that you may not ever have thought about much before and that's China—the People's Republic of China. One of the difficult decisions that I've had to make, as President, has been to normalize relationships with one-fourth of the total population of this Earth a billion people in China. You might say what has that got to do with someone who lives in Jackson, Mississippi, or who lives on a farm in southern Mississippi? I'll tell you what it's got to do with it. Right now, as Jim Eastland knows, the number—one customer in the world for American cotton is China, and we've only had normal relationships with them 2 years. We just signed an agreement where they will buy every year between 6 million and 9 million tons of American grain.

In Mexico—we have tripled trade with Mexico in just 4 years, and now we have a good contract and a good ability to sell American rice, Mississippi rice, to countries like Korea. They'll have their biggest orders with us this year ever. And recently when I met with the new, democratically elected President of Nigeria—the biggest, most powerful, and newest democracy in Africa—they agreed to open up their markets for American rice. These are the kinds of things that have helped us to make good progress.

I know what it means to be able to sell things we grow on the farm, not just to American consumers but to consumers around the world. In 1977 we set a world record for farm exports. In 1978 we broke the record. In 1979 we broke it again. And this year we'll have an $8 billion increase in American exports overseas, up to a total now of $40 billion, a new record again.

When Ronald Reagan was asked about subsidies, he said he wasn't familiar with the subject. [Laughter] And only recently he's heard about the Tennessee-Tombigbee, which is going to take those farm products to market. Recently he said, and I quote him, which may be mean [laughter] —here's what he said about price supports: "You subsidize the inefficient," he said, "when you put a floor under the price for farmers." And again he said at a later time, he said, farmers should start planning for an end to Government assistance in production and in the marketplace.

Well, people of Mississippi, I know what it means to have a stabilized price for farmers, because you can have a devastating drought that wipes you out one year. You can have the highest production in the world the next year. Farmers don't want a handout. Farmers want to stand on their own feet, but they want to have markets that are stable and predictable, because they can't control the weather. And almost all of our programs that we have don't cost America anything. They help the farmer, yes, but they help our consumers as well. It's the best investment I know in the economy of this country.

Just a word about energy, because, as you know, most of American energy comes here from the South in oil and gas. I believe, like you southerners, that we ought to have a minimum of interference by the Federal Government in the private affairs of American citizens and in the free enterprise system of our country. Republican Presidents have been promising for a decade to deregulate the price of oil and natural gas. The Democratic Congress, working with me, has done that, careful and projected to the future so everyone can understand the benefits of it.

This year we will have more oil and gas wells drilled in the United States than any year in history. Right now we've got over 3,100 drillrigs running in the United States, never before that many in history. And this year, ladies and gentlemen—this may be a surprise to you—we'll produce more coal in the United States than any year in history. We are exporting more coal than any year in our history, and in the next 15 years, keeping our same, rigid standards, on air pollution and water pollution, we will triple the production of American coal. What I want to see on the international markets is to replace OPEC oil with American coal and American energy, and we're going to do it.

And finally let me say, looking to the future, I've talked to you about this election not just as a contest between two men who disagree on every major issue that I've described to you, but it's a campaign to decide the future of this Nation, the rest of this century and perhaps beyond.

Think on things that are important to you—agriculture, trade, stability. Think about the minimum wage, which Ronald Reagan wants to repeal. Think about peace. Think about a strong defense. Think about social security. Think about Medicare. Think about the things that are important in your life now and in the future. I see a nation in the future strong. I see a nation at peace. I see a nation secure. I see a nation in the pursuit of progress for all its people. I see a nation where everyone can have the dignity of a decent job, where new industries create a new generation of American buildings and vehicles that will house us and move us in comfort on a lot less energy, and what energy we use coming from America, not overseas.

I see a nation where our children are better educated to their maximum potential that God's given them, where the elderly are treated with the respect, which they have earned with their life's work, where families are secure and intact and respect one another. I have a vision of a nation free enough to attract the deprived from other parts of the world, a nation of liberty and justice and love.

I need your help this next few days, because, as you know, the election is not very far off. I've been President now for almost 4 years. I've made thousands of decisions. In each one of those decisions in the Oval Office, I have been learning about this country. Every decision I make leaves me better qualified to make the next decision. What I've learned has made me a better President over a 4-year period, and it'll make me a better President in my second term.

I consider myself to be in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. I consider myself to be a true southerner, representing the ideals and commitments that have made us proud of our own region of this land. I also consider myself in the mainstream of bipartisan Presidents, Democrats and Republicans, who've had tremendous responsibilities on our shoulders and who've tried to represent our Nation well. Like them, I believe that our Nation must be strong, yes. The Nation must be secure. We must have a society that's just and fair. We must dare to struggle for a peaceful world.

There have been times of crisis and conflict during these years. In each case I alone have had to determine what are the interests of my Nation, what degree of involvement should we put forward? Should we try to resolve problems diplomatically or politically, or should we send American soldiers to die overseas? I've learned that the more difficult the decision is, the more likely it is that my advisers and experts will be divided almost equally. The final judgment has to be made by the man in the Oval Office.

Sometimes it is a lonely job, but with the involvement of the American people like you and the heritage that I've gotten from you it's a gratifying job. Now each one of you faces a similar lonely decision next Tuesday in the voting booth. Your decision will make a difference. It's made a difference in the past. Think how few votes would have changed in 1948 and Harry Truman would never have been President. Think how few votes would have been changed in 1960 and John Kennedy would never have served this Nation, and think how few votes would have been changed in 1968 to put another Democrat in the White House and Richard Nixon would never have served and embarrassed our Nation.

So, my final word is I need you to go on with me to build a partnership, to stay strong, to stay secure, to raise high the banner of human rights, and to keep our Nation at peace. For the sake of all we've done in the past, the things that have made us proud of Mississippi, proud of Georgia, proud of this Nation, for the sake of all we can do in the future together to make us even prouder of a life that we can have, let's win a victory next Tuesday, not just for me and Fritz Mondale, not just for the Democratic Party, but let's win a victory for the South, for the ideals and beliefs that we have, the vision that we share for a greater nation even than we've had before.

You join me. We'll have a partnership. We'll whip the Republicans and have a great nation.
Thank you very much. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. outside the Governor's Mansion.

Jimmy Carter, Jackson, Mississippi 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/252003

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