Jimmy Carter photo

Los Angeles, California Remarks at the Senior Citizens Nutrition Center of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee.

May 04, 1978

So I won't forget: Ted Watkins, Governor Brown, Mayor Tom Bradley, Congressman Hawkins and Senator Waters, Supervisor Hahn, Merv Dymally, other Members of the Congress, my friends, ladies and gentlemen:

How you doing? I'm glad to be back. As many of you may remember, this is where I started my campaign in Los Angeles. I was a stranger and you took me in. I thank you for it.

It's been almost 2 years since I was here also to dedicate part of the Martin Luther King Hospital, and 2 years ago this month, I spoke here at the Nutrition Center during the California primary. A lot has happened to me since then- [laughter] —and I saw as we came through a few minutes ago, around Franklin Square and in five or six other places, with the move on housing, that many things have been happening to you here in Watts. And I want to congratulate all of you who are responsible for making this community grow and thrive and be bound close together in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood and make progress. Thanks to you and all those on the stage with me.

I know that the Watts area has a lot of problems, but you've got a lot going on among all of you that's almost guaranteed to make the future even brighter. You've got Gus Hawkins, Ted Watkins. I've been talking to Gus in the automobile just a few minutes ago, and I'm working with him now in the Senate-we've already been successful in the House—to pass the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill that's going to help all of you and your neighbors.

You've got the largest percentage of homeowners of any urban black community in the whole country. And that speaks well of you, because I know of nothing that can create more security now and a better prospect for the future, for your children and your grandchildren, than to have a place you can call your own, a permanent home. And that's a fact that's not very well known around our country, about Watts, but it shows that you've got the spirit to overcome difficulties and plan for a great future.

And you've got people like Elvin Hudson at the Broadway Federal Savings and Loan who care enough—I wish all bankers did this—but he cares enough so that 90 percent of all the deposits made in his bank are loaned out, right here in this community, to let people own even more homes.

Other financial institutions have joined to provide storefront mortgaging counseling and to fund the Hope program. I know Mayor Bradley is very proud of that program. It's amazing how many people in our Nation don't know how to go and get financial assistance, to borrow some money, to buy furniture, to buy a home. And they need counseling, they need to be taught. And it doesn't have to be done by government agencies.

When you have enlightened public officials like these and enlightened lending institutions like you have, it makes it much easier for you to meet your needs. Like most inner-city neighborhoods, Watts has problems with redlining, where banks say we will make no loans, no matter what the quality of the family, no matter how secure their jobs in a certain part of our cities.

With my strong support, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board has issued tough, new rules which will help end redlining in all parts of the country. And you've set a good example here.

We've doubled money available for repairing and rehabilitating homes, and this has also been supplemented by new money to build more new housing for the low-and the moderate-income families. We've cut the FHA down payments, and we've increased the insurance for mortgages to make it easier for the moderate income family to become homeowners.

The new urban policy that we recently announced will further aid areas like Watts. It will provide employment tax credits and expanded training subsidies to encourage private industry to hire the unemployed who especially have a difficult time getting a job.

We're providing low-interest loans through a new national development bank, an expanded economic development grant program, and special investment tax credits to businesses to give them less taxes to pay if they will move their business and set up a new business in areas like your own where the unemployment rate is high.

We're providing direct payments to neighborhood groups and organizations, like those here in Watts, for community crime control, to repair housing, and for neighborhood development.

This urban policy will strengthen minority businesses. We passed a public works bill last year, several billions of dollars, $4 billion, and for the first time, with the help of people like the Congressman here on the stage with me, we put in the law that at least 10 percent of all the projects built had to be built by contractors owned by minority American citizens. We're going to beat that 10 percent.

We also set a goal that by the end of last year, we were going to have at least $100 million in Federal money deposited in banks owned by black citizens. We went over our goal. We're going to have even more this year.

In the past, the Government agencies haven't bought enough supplies, like filing cabinets, notebooks, furniture, from companies owned by minority citizens. But I pledged when I became President to double that in 1 year. We've already doubled it, and I pledge for next year to triple what we were doing in purchasing supplies and other things from companies owned by and employing black citizens and Spanish-speaking citizens.

I realize that we've still got a long way to go. We're partners, you and I, in trying to make America, the land, the country that we love, be fair to everybody, because too long in the past, because someone was poor, because someone was black, because someone was without influence, they weren't treated fairly by government—and by private industry and business, as well.

We're going to try to change that, and I believe we've already made some good progress. We've tried to bring people into Washington to help me, who understand these special problems. Just 2 weeks ago, for instance, Bob Kemp began his duties as the new Executive Director of a Council for Minority Businesses, and he will help me see that we meet the goals that I've just described to you. Until he was called to Washington, Bob was president of the Economic Resources Corporation, which built the Watts Industrial Park. This park has brought in already more than 900 new jobs, and this year it will add several hundred more, 80 percent of them for local residents like you and like your kinfolk.

The industrial park, like the Labor Action Committee projects in this center, represent the kind of. development that inner-city neighborhoods need. Local people have just gotten together and brought in big national companies and dozens of smaller firms to create a broad and expanding economic base and new jobs.

You included a day care center to serve workers in the community. Projects like these show what a community can do for itself, with the right kind of help from the government, to meet some of its needs for jobs, housing, good health care, day care centers, and senior citizen services.

It was this spirit of cooperation for the common good that moved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, and all the other Americans, black and white, who did so much to free this Nation from the ancient evil of discrimination that had divided and weakened us from the beginning. Thank God those days are almost over.

When I was here nearly 200 years-nearly 2 years ago— [laughter] —it seems like 200 years [laughter] —when I was here nearly 2 years ago to dedicate the hospital to Martin Luther King's memory, I told you that we still have his dream. We still have your dream. We still have my dream.

I told you we must give our government back to the people. I spoke of a new day, of honest and compassionate and responsible government, of an America with a tax system that did not cheat the average citizen and give to the rich, of a time when there was a job for every man and woman who wanted to work, and a decent standard of living for those who were not able to work.

I've tried to fulfill those dreams through new jobs programs, through increased funding for education—more than ever before in the history of our country—and through child health programs.

Last year in this Nation, we had a net increase of 4.1 million jobs and, as you know, we cut the unemployment rate down 2 full percentage points in just 12 months. Well, we've made some progress. But we knew to begin with that the road would never be easy.

Sometimes out system moves slowly despite the best intentions. We need to attack the long-term problems that have built up over the years—energy, inflation, hospital costs going up too rapidly, welfare reform, and unemployment.

All these things touch most cruelly the poor and the elderly. I've sought to make this country the kind of place that you want it to be, a land of opportunity and justice and hope. I have felt your pain and I have shared your dreams and I take my strength as President of the United States from you.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. at the Bradley Multi-Purpose Center, a part of the Nutrition Center. In his opening remarks, he referred to Ted Watkins, director and founder of the Watts committee, California Assemblywoman Maxine Waters, County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and Lt. Gov. Mervyn M. Dymally.

During the motorcade to the Bradley Center, the President viewed and was briefed on new federally funded housing projects in the area.

Jimmy Carter, Los Angeles, California Remarks at the Senior Citizens Nutrition Center of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245658

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