Jimmy Carter photo

Los Angeles, California Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Dinner.

October 22, 1977

Thank you very much, everybody. I see all the Imperial Valley farmers are not outside--[laughter]--and I want to thank you for it.

It's really a great pleasure for me to be back in Los Angeles with you and with the California Democrats. I've been looking forward to coming. This has been something that is obviously the result of a lot of work.

I got a personal handwritten letter from your Governor, Jerry Brown. I decided to come on out here anyway. [Laughter] And as you know, we formed a partnership way back in the campaign, and we've been moving toward the same goal for a long time. [Laughter] I'm very thankful I finally made it.

I see how successful the evening is, and I want to thank personally all the cochairmen and, particularly, Lew Wasserman, one of the greatest people I know. It's obvious that he met his goal and that the supper is a very fine financial success.

I was hoping that you would meet my goal to raise enough money to have my brother, Billy, come out and speak next year. Billy brings me a lot of good publicity, as you well know. I wish we could have gone along with my plans to involve him in the Government. I had it all arranged. I was going to reorganize and put the CIA and the FBI together, but Billy said he wouldn't head up any agency that he couldn't spell, so that fell through. [Laughter]

As you know, my family is very close to California. My mother has been following the Los Angeles Dodgers around the country for the last couple of weeks. She's really angry at the Yankees. She was supposed to spend a night or two with us at the White House, but after the World Series game, she refused to come. She said I live too close to the Mason-Dixon line. She wasn't going to have anything to do with me anymore. As you know, we've had trouble with the Yankees around Atlanta, too. At least they didn't burn Los Angeles. [Laughter]

Tonight I want to talk to you about a few things that are important to me as the head of the Democratic Party and also as the leader of our great country. I spent 2 years campaigning and learned a lot about our Nation and got to know many of you and formed some close and fast friendships and learned from you.

On this very brief trip, since I left Washington, I've had a chance to go into Iowa, where I won my first primary victory, and to meet with farmers. And I got up early this morning to talk to them about the new farm legislation. Before that, I was in Detroit, in a city that 2 years ago had a 24 percent unemployment rate, and they're very proud now to be down to 8 percent. They've cut the murder rate 64 percent in the last couple of years and are making great progress. I talked about the poverty-stricken areas of our Nation. Later this morning I went to Omaha, Nebraska, to visit, as Commander in Chief, the Command Center for our Strategic Air Forces, on which the defense of our country and the free world rests. And then I went from there to Denver, Colorado, to spend all afternoon meeting with a broad representation from the central Rocky Mountain West on all aspects of the water problem, and then had an encounter or a debate or meeting with leaders from eight States on the Panama Canal treaties. And there was a live television coverage of it. And now I've come here.

And after spending 9 or 10 months in the White House, I've begun to value very deeply my own knowledge of the interests and concerns and yearnings and hopes of you and other people who gave me your friendship and your support when I was running for President.

We've begun to make progress on the strategic arms limitation talks. For the first time there seems to be a desire on the part of the Soviet Union to put a lower limit on strategic launches and MIRV'd warheads and a limit on the production of new weapons. And I believe that in a few weeks we'll be able to announce some success in our negotiations with the Soviets that will make you proud. That's my hope and my belief.

A little more than a year ago in San Diego, I made a speech about nonproliferation, and I think it's accurate to say that then and even at the time I went into office, there was a general feeling throughout the world that it was too late to recapture a commitment against the spread of atomic explosives, to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle. But now we've built up a hope and a belief among the nations of the world that we can have at least a limited use of atomic power to produce electricity and to meet our legitimate need and to stop once and for all the spread of atomic explosives. I believe that this is a realization that will soon be appreciated by the world.

We've had this past week 36 countries come together in Washington to talk about this subject. And I hope that we'll never again see another nation added to the club of those who can destroy human beings with nuclear explosives. This is my belief, and this is my hope.

I want to say just a word about our efforts to reorganize the Government of our country. The Congress has courageously given me the authority to carry out this effort over a 3-year period, and I believe that you will be pleased with what is being done in that respect. It's a project that will make the Democratic Party proud. And I know that a great responsibility lies on my shoulders not to disappoint the people who have given me this effort that has been so long overdue.

The Congress has also passed a very strong economic stimulation package, and we are beginning to see the results of it. Our economy is in danger of causing us grave concern. Among the nations of the world, ours is one of the strongest, and we have an inherent advantage in our Nation with our great productivity and the commitment of our people to hard work and our free enterprise system.

The latest estimates of the inflation rate from September were less than 4 percent, but there is still an underlying inflation rate of 6 or 6 1/2 percent that we hope to bring down in the future. Last December, shortly before I became President, we had an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. Now it's down below 7 percent, and I believe it will continue to go down the rest of this year and next year, but very, very slowly. So, we are making some progress.

I believe that our country needs to get the spirit of what we have been given, and I believe there's too much whining and complaining about some of the temporary setbacks that do cause us legitimate concern. But I believe, if all of us Democrats speak out about the greatness and the strength and the bright future that lies ahead of us and the tremendous blessings that have fallen upon us, that our country can benefit even more by a concerted effort to make that future even greater.

I want to say just a word about three basic subjects that I haven't talked about to you in a good while. One is the question of human rights. As you well know, our Nation has been deeply wounded in the last few years. The war in Vietnam-our withdrawal from that country caused our people to be embarrassed and brought the condemnation of most of the rest of the world on our Nation. We have been embarrassed by the Watergate revelations and by the CIA investigations. There was a sense of malaise and a sense of discouragement and a sense of distrust of our own Government, a sense of betrayal of the fine ideals on which our country was founded.

But I think it's accurate to say that a strong emphasis on human rights and every aspect of them has restored to our people a pride again. And we now have raised the banner of commitment to the principles that were filling the hearts of Americans 200 years ago, of a pride in the individuality of human beings and a pride in the basic freedoms and a pride in what our Nation stands for.

I think now there's a sense among every national leader in the world that how we treat the people in our countries is of crucial importance for a change. And the condemnation of the rest of the world is a powerful force on those who in the past have been the most guilty of depriving our people and other people around the .world of these rights.

We are not perfect yet, but I think there is a general sense now that the United States does stand for the principles that have made us a great nation.

We've had some serious problems in Czechoslovakia recently when four dissidents were tried and convicted just because they were dissidents. And South Africa recently has made a major retrogressive step in depriving people of the right of free speech and free press. We have just announced the withdrawal of our Ambassador from South Africa for consultations, and we hope to use all the pressure we can to bring this course of action.

I think that our Democratic Party, my own leadership, the accomplishments of the Congress are going to be measured by what we do about the comprehensive energy policy. As you know, this effort is long overdue, and I don't have time tonight to go into the domestic implications of it. But I would like to point out to you in just a few sentences the international implications of what we have failed to do in the last few years.

In 1973 the world was shocked when the price of oil quadrupled almost overnight. And we realized that we were in trouble with excessive waste of the increasingly scarce fossil fuels. Great Britain has reduced their consumption of oil since 1973; Germany has reduced their imports of oil since 1973; France has reduced their imports of oil since 1973; Italy has done the same; so has Japan. But our country since 1973 has almost doubled our imports of oil. We now import more oil. In spite of the fact that we can produce a great deal ourselves, we now import more oil than all the European Community nations combined. We are the OPEC countries' greatest customer. We purchase 25 percent of all the oil exported from the OPEC nations.

This year we will purchase overseas $45 billion worth of oil--approximately half of all the oil we use and just about exactly the amount that we waste that we could be saving. This is making us increasingly vulnerable and actually can endanger our own Nation's security as we come much more heavily on foreign oil, the supply of which can be interrupted without our being able to prevent it. It removes the freedom of action that we ought to have in dealing with other countries and causes a constraint on us economically that is very devastating.

This past year we had the greatest year for exports of farm products in history-$24 billion--but we imported twice as much oil as we exported all our farm products combined. This year we'll have a trade imbalance of $30 billion, and if we could just hold down oil imports, we would have a trade surplus of $15 billion. This robs our economy of very scarce moneys. It dampens the prospect for jobs and growth. And unless we act courageously, our reputation as a nation with will and strength will be severely damaged, and we will be in serious trouble, even more than we are now.

I hope and believe that the Congress will act with courage to meet this very serious need and that we can do this in such a way--shifting toward conservation, toward alternate sources of energy-that we'll provide an adequate incentive for the oil and gas producers and not rob the consumers in the process.

This also makes it very important for us to reexamine one of the most important foreign policy responsibilities that falls on our shoulders, and that's in the Middle East. As you well know, we have made progress this year in trying to bring peace, and permanent peace, to the Middle East. My overwhelming commitment and the commitment of the Nation is to guarantee a strong, independent, secure, and peaceful Israel.

A few days ago in a conversation with about 30 Members of the House of Representatives, I said that I would rather commit suicide than to hurt the nation of Israel. I think many of them realize that the two concepts are not incompatible. [Laughter] If I should ever hurt Israel, which I won't, I think a political suicide would almost automatically result, because it's not only our Jewish citizens who have this deep commitment to Israel but there's an overwhelming support throughout the Nation, because there's a common bond of commitment to the same principles of openness and freedom and democracy and strength and courage that ties us together in an irrevocable way.

I think it's important, though, for the people of our Nation to remember that now that we are moving toward a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East disputes, that we have two roles to play. One role is the one that I've just described: an unshakable partnership with Israel, an unshakable support of Israel--the only staunch and dependable major ally on which Israel can depend. That's one of the two roles. The other one is as a mediator, a trusted political entity that cannot afford to betray the trust of all those that we hope to bring together in Geneva before this year is over to talk about the terms of a genuine peace.

I've had long, detailed, private conversations with the leaders of Israel and her neighbors. And I'm convinced that the Egyptians want permanent peace, and I'm convinced that the Jordanians want permanent peace, and I'm convinced that the Syrians want permanent peace, and I'm convinced that the Lebanese want permanent peace, and I know also, of course, that Israel wants permanent peace. But if I ever betray any of those leaders as they look to me and to our country to bring them together to discuss the extremely sensitive and divisive issues that have caused hatreds and animosities to exist, closed borders and barbed wire to exist, a lack of communication and common purpose to exist for generations, even centuries, then the hopes for peace will be dashed for many years to come.

My own belief is that we do have a chance for success. There is a very delicate balance, because there have been strong statements made in the past that now must be forgotten. And there must be an inexorable movement toward an open discussion on a bilateral basis, where Israel can sit down with Syria on an equal basis and discuss the Golan Heights and sit down with the Egyptians and discuss the Sinai and on a multinational basis discuss the problems of the Gaza Strip and also the West Bank and the Palestinian refugee question. These must be addressed, and I believe that all the leaders agree that this is a prospect for the future.

It's very difficult for me at times to explain to the public the private negotiation terms that have convinced me that we are making good progress. This is a year when hopes are growing, and I believe that we have a good chance to see a vision realized that fills my heart and my mind-a vision of borders that are not closed, a vision of trade, an exchange of students, an exchange of tourists, of commerce, a sense of political commitment to common purpose, diplomatic recognition between nations, an alleviation of the arms race, and a repair of the economic chaos that exists in many of the nations that I have described. We want to be sure that there is economic growth there so that private contributions and Government aid programs that go into that region can be used not just for weapons, overwhelmingly, but to repair the lives of those who have lived there in torment for so long.

I don't know that we will be successful. But I am committed to this hope with my uttermost commitment as a human being who loves Israel, as a President of a country that feels a sense of partnership. And I hope that everything that you do as Democrats and as leaders of one of our great States will be contributing to a realization of these hopes that we share so deeply.

I've enjoyed being President this year. There have been many responsibilities that have not been so enjoyable. But I see the prospects for progress. But I can do really very little without a sense of partnership with you, because my judgment must be based on a realization of the hopes and dreams of the American people. And your demonstration tonight of support for our party is very encouraging to me. I appreciate your confidence in our government in spite of the fact that it has had problems in the past, and I appreciate your confidence in me as President.

I want to continue to have an open government where even controversial subjects can be discussed without fear, because sometimes the longstanding problems of unemployment and inflation, of nuclear weaponry and nuclear proliferation, an absence of an energy policy and a comprehensive farm legislation, rebuilding our cities, bringing peace with the Soviet Union and peace to southern Africa, an emphasis on human rights and peace in the Middle East--none of these questions are easy. It would be much easier to ignore them or delay the resolution of them. But with your strength and support and the commitment or the principles of a Democratic Party, I believe that we can be successful.

Tomorrow morning, I and those traveling with me will get up early, about 5 o'clock, and we'll get on a plane, and we'll fly to Minnesota. And as I get off that plane, I would like to be able to extend the love of the California Democrats to the greatest Democrat of all--Hubert Humphrey. Senator Humphrey and Muriel will fly back to Washington with me on Air Force One. And as I travel that short distance with him, I will be expressing my thanks to him for what he means and has meant to our country, and I'll extend to him your love and a recommitment from you to the principles for which he stands, for which our party stands, and for which stands also the greatest nation on Earth--our country.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8: 40 p.m. in the Los Angeles Room at the Century Plaza Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Los Angeles, California Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242289

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