Memphis, Tennessee Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting.
THE PRESIDENT. Senator Sasser, Congressman Jones, Congressman Ford, Congressman Alexander from Arkansas, Speaker MacWhirter, a special visitor, Bill Winter from Mississippi, and my good friend Johnny Cash and my cousin, June Carter Cash:
I haven't just recently claimed her as a cousin. She's been my cousin for a long time.
I'm here today because I believe the people of Memphis and the mid-South should get a chance to question or to listen or to be with at least one of the Presidential candidates this week. Also, I believe in beauty, and I wanted to come to the city, among all the major cities in the Nation, that's been chosen the cleanest of all. That's great; 'that's great.
Anyone who's familiar with geography or familiar with history or familiar with the South or familiar with the technological changes that are going to take place in this Nation the next few years has to look on Memphis with great admiration and anticipation. The confluence here of major highways, railroads, tremendous opportunities for barge traffic, coal in the future, synthetic fuels, technology, new ideas, cohesion of your people, competence-gee, you've got a lot to be thankful for. After 1985, maybe, when I come South, I'll spend some time with you again.
You've had to make some tough decisions in recent years, but you've made good ones. I notice that since the day I was sworn in as President, you've added 24,300 new jobs in the Memphis metropolitan area alone.
And as President, I know something about decisions as well. I've had to make literally thousands of them in the Oval Office. One of the most important and meaningful ones was one of the most difficult, and I'd like to mention it because it affects you and your life, and that is to establish full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. You might say, "How does a decision like that made by a President in the Oval Office affect my life?" Well, as a result of this historic step, we've got a billion new friends, a billion new customers for products that you make and products that you grow on the productive land that God's given us in this country.
Earlier this month we signed the grain agreement with China guaranteeing that we'll sell them between 6 million and 9 million tons of American grain every year. And we still have an opportunity to sell them steel, coal, other products that we manufacture. This means, too, that rice production 'in this region, a rapidly growing crop, will have new opportunities for export sales. Korea will buy more rice this year perhaps than ever before in history. And we've got new possibilities of major rice sales to Nigeria, the largest and also the most influential and also the largest and the most economically sound black nation on Earth; 80 million people live in Nigeria.
We have also tripled our trade with Mexico in the last 4 years. And all the time we were improving our relationships with China, we have doubled trade with Taiwan.
At this moment China is the biggest customer in the world for American cotton. And we've had a good opportunity, short of any sort of military relationship, to join with China in keeping stability in the Western Pacific, to make sure that we could keep the world at peace.
I'm very grateful that for the first time in 50 years—50 years—I can say, as President, since I've served in the Oval Office the United States has not been at war and I pray that the next 4 years we'll keep our Nation at peace.
The last point I want to make before I answer questions is this: Being a southerner, I'm proud of my heritage. And I think you've done a superb job in this region to preserve the finest aspects of the past, like the revitalization by the preservation of Beale Street area, and also to look to the future with your $800 million coal gasification plant. And you have also been able to balance in this region the proper economic growth with industry and with agriculture.
A lot of people say OPEC oil is a special blessing that God gave to the Arab countries. All the Arab nations together have about 6 percent of the world's energy reserves—6. The United States by itself has 24 percent. And if I had a choice between Arab oil and American soil, I'll take the good land that God gave us.
And now we've got a solid 30 minutes for questions, and I'll start on my right.
QUESTIONS AGRICULTURAL POLICIES
Q. Mr. President, I'm Marlin Jackson, from a small country town in Paragould, Arkansas, the First Congressional District. I'm president of a small country bank, and I've served for the past year as chairman of the agricultural division of the American Bankers Association. My question, sir, is, there was a conspicuous absence in the national debate of a discussion of agriculture and farming. And I would like for you to discuss with us this evening the basic difference between your farm policies and those farm policies as proposed by Governor Reagan. And more importantly, do you understand what parity is? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. The only comment that I recall that Governor Reagan has made about agriculture this past year is that he did not know what parity meant. I grew up as a farmer. My people have lived in this Nation since long before the Revolution. We have all been farmers. And I've been extremely interested in a good agriculture policy for our country.
The farmers ought to think back. You've had a terrible drought in this area, as we have in Georgia. But think back to 1977 and compare what existed then with what has happened since that time. Net farm income for farmers in the last 3 1/2 years is the highest under any President who ever served; gross farm income, the highest under any President who ever served. Exports of farm products set a new world's record in 1977, a higher record in '78, a higher record in '79.
In '80, early this year when the Soviets went into Afghanistan, we restricted grain sales to the Soviet Union, and we started looking around to make sure that we did not let the full suffering for that action fall on the shoulders of farmers. So, we explored for new customers.
Last year we exported $32 billion worth of American farm products—$32 billion. We will increase that this year by 25 percent, the biggest increase in the history of this Nation. We will export to foreign countries this year $40 billion worth of American farm products.
Also, it's good to point out that the price of corn now compared to 4 years ago, early in '77: twice as high. Meat prices have doubled. Soybean prices have doubled. Wheat prices have doubled.
We've got a long way to go in agriculture. In 1981 we'll have a new farm bill coming up to replace the one that we passed in 1977. We'll do the same thing we did before. We'll use a farmer as the Secretary of Agriculture, Bob Bergland, and not some paid representative or lawyer that represents the main grain trading companies that in the past took the profits away from farmers who had to sell their crops in the harvest season.
One other point. We have gotten the Government's nose out of the affairs of the American farm family, and we've let the farm family build on their farms 2.8 billion bushels of storage so that the farmers, when they harvest their crops—corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice—can store those crops on the farm, wait until the price reaches an acceptable level for them, and then sell the crops.
As you know, in the past farmers quite often had to sell their crops during harvest season. That's when the middlemen put the price down as low as possible to buy the crops cheap, and then they would hold the crops in major grain elevators until the price went up, sell them, and the consumer had to pay a lot more. The farmers didn't get any profit. That has been changed, and that will continue to be changed.
And the last point is that we have opened up to the farmers a bright new prospect for using new technology. Two years ago we produced hardly any gasohol from crops grown in this Nation. This year we'll produce 135 million gallons. Next year we will reach our goal of producing 500 million gallons of fuel from the farms, not from OPEC, which I think is a very good step forward and will give us 10 percent of our fuel from it.
Thank you, sir.
I might add one postscript. Ed Jones is here. He's one of the most knowledgeable members of the Congress about agriculture. He helps guide me in the right direction. Ed? And Bill Alexander has formed on his own initiative, with a group of interested people, the Mississippi Valley International Trade Center, which is promoting the sale of American farm products, particularly those grown in your big region here, three States, to foreign countries.
So, a lot's going on good for the American farmers and others interested in agriculture in the years ahead. Now, the second question.
Q. Mr. President, I'm Sue Jankey, from Bartlett, Tennessee, and I'm very much concerned about America's natural resources. Considering this country's energy needs, what role will the protection of the environment play in the policies of your second administration?
THE PRESIDENT. Sue, I think that's an outstanding question, because that's one of those balances that has to be drawn that I mentioned earlier.
We've finally passed, after 3 years, a new energy policy for our country. We never had one before.
In 1974 the OPEC oil companies-OPEC oil countries increased the price of oil much more than anyone ever thought they would. We had a terrible recession, the worst recession since the Second World War. The unemployment rate went much higher than it's been any time this year, and the inflation rate was much higher even than it's been in the last 6 months.
In '79 we had an even worse increase in the price of oil. As a matter of fact, the price of oil last year went up more than since oil was first discovered in the 1800's. We were partially ready for it with our new energy legislation. We held unemployment down. As a matter of fact, unemployment here is lower than it was when I went into office. We've added 9 million new jobs in our country, a net increase of 9 million new jobs, 24,000 of them right here in the Memphis metropolitan area. The last few months, the unemployment rate's been going down. We were hit hard with inflation—18 percent the first quarter this year, 13 percent the second quarter, 7 percent average this quarter.
And in that balance we've tried to make sure that as we produce new energy that we protect the quality of our environment. We haven't destroyed America's beauty and the purity of our air and the cleanliness of our water, and the productivity of our land in giving us this new energy achievement. Compared to a year ago, we're importing one-third less oil from overseas, 2 million barrels every day less than before. That's good, because as you import oil from overseas, you also import inflation and you import unemployment.
There was a temptation to say, well, let's do away with environmental laws in order to expedite production. But we've worked with the coal companies, the United Mine Workers, with the steel industry, and the steelworkers, we've worked with the automobile industry and the automobile workers, we've worked with agriculture, to make sure that we do not lower environmental standards in order to increase production.
This year, in the United States we've got more oil drillrigs running today, over 3,100, than ever before in history. We'll produce more oil and gas wells this year than any year in history. We're producing more coal in the United States this year, over 800 million tons, than ever before in history. We're exporting more coal than ever before in history. And our environmental laws are being enforced as well. We're protecting the beauty of the precious part of our Nation that ought not to ever be destroyed.
But in Alaska, for instance, all of the offshore areas would be open for oil and gas exploration, 95 percent of all the land in Alaska that's got mineral potential will be open for exploration, and we've opened up in our continental United States, south of Alaska, more land for exploration for oil and gas in a 5-year period than has been opened up since 1954, when the offshore leasing program started.
The point is that we have made all this progress, and between now and 15 years in the future, we will triple coal production, and we have not lowered environmental standards one bit, and we're not going to.
And this is one more point I'd like to add: If Americans are ever told that the only way you can burn American coal is to have dirty air and filthy water and destroy the cleanliness of our land, then people would be very reluctant to use coal. But as long as we keep our standards high on environmental quality, then the American people can say we car use coal with confidence. And my goal is, using Memphis as one of the major ports, by the way, on the international energy markets to replace OPEC oil with American coal.
RELIGION AND POLITICS
Q. Mr. President, I'm Peggy Reynolds, from Memphis. It seems to be the popular thing these days for your opponent on those of us that support our new Department of Education to be charged with being immoral. As a mother and a teacher, I think it's the best thing that's happened for children and education since peanut butter. How are you reacting to these charges from our moral opponent?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is a question I've never answered before, but I think this morning, here among my friends and my neighbors, in a State that houses the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention, I'd like to answer the question.
We're kind of one family here in the South. We share a common background. We share a common upbringing. We share a common set of values about patriotism, about family, about hard work, about neighborliness, and we share, many of us, a common religious faith. We worship in different ways, but in the South we've always respected another person's religious beliefs.
I grew up as a little boy who went to Sunday school every Sunday morning. From the time I was 3 years old, I never missed going to Sunday school. When I went to the U.S. Naval Academy as a midshipman for 3 years, I taught Sunday school. It was an extra chore for me, but it was one that I enjoyed. I taught the little children of the officers and enlisted men who worked full time at Annapolis. When I got on a submarine, on a ship, quite often Sunday mornings, certainly on Easter Sunday and so forth, I would hold religious services for other crew members on the ship, who wanted me, as a young officer, to tell them about Christ, about my religion.
When I was elected Governor, the first day I moved to Atlanta I shifted my church membership to a nearby church. And I became a deacon in the church, taught Sunday school to a senior citizens group. When I moved to Washington as a President, immediately I joined a church, First Baptist Church in Washington. And about one out of four Sundays when I'm there at the church—I travel a good bit on weekends—I teach Sunday school still.
My religious beliefs are very precious to me, and I've never tried to criticize those who worshiped differently from me. But until this year, I have never had anybody question the sincerity of my belief in God and my commitment of my life as a Christian believing in Jesus Christ as my savior.
Lately I have heard about—I have not seen them—some very vicious television advertisements questioning my religious beliefs, insinuating all kind of damaging things to me within the region that I love so much. I'm not going to dignify these attacks by answering them specifically.
But I feel sure about my own relationship to God. And I hope and I pray that the people who know me so well, including Johnny Cash, who came to Atlanta when he had just finished making a beautiful movie in Israel, and I joined him in the premiere showing of that movie, not to get publicity, but because it was part of my life. And here the last few days of an election to have my opponent and those who support my opponent allege that I have a false belief or that I would twist my beliefs against the teachings, as I understand them, from the Bible is very, very disturbing to me.
I'm not trying to say this in a bragging way, because it's maybe not appropriate for a President, but this is important. For years my wife and I have closed each day, never missed, reading a chapter in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. When she and I were apart last night, we read the same chapter. And quite often we call each other on the phone and kind of share what we read about. We both study Spanish, and for the last 2 or 3 years, each evening we read the chapter in Spanish just to kind of get two birds with one stone. I don't believe God minds it. [Laughter] I don't quite understand it quite as well.
But, you know, I believe and hope that those listening to my voice on television, radio, or in this audience will share with me a belief that in our country we ought to be able to separate church and state. It's the way I was raised.
Peggy, one other point, just to summarize: I'm not in favor of a religious definition of an acceptable politician, and I'm not in favor of a political definition for Christian fellowship or for religious fellowship. I don't see anything in the Bible that says whether or not we should have a Department of Education, or whether we should build a B-1 bomber or the airlaunched cruise missile, or whether we should share the responsibility for the operation of the Panama Canal. These are the kinds of things that have been injected, for the first time in my memory, in a major way into the political arena, tied in with religion.
The last point is anyone who believes differently from me has a perfect right to express themselves privately or publicly or even from a religious pulpit, but I have a right to explain myself. And I appreciate your having given me that opportunity.
EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
Q. Mr. President, I'm Caroline Graves, from Immaculate Conception High School here in Memphis. Seeing how ERA ratification is at a standstill right now, if you're reelected what would you do to ensure that the progress that has been made in this direction so far will not be eroded by the time I or even my children enter the business world?
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Caroline. You know, the equal rights amendment is one of those very divisive issues on which people have strong feelings both ways.
Again, to repeat myself, I grew up in the South, and I grew up in a time when there was a lot of discrimination against people because they were black. My first job after I came home from the Navy was on a local school board, and we had so-called separate but equal rulings from the Supreme Court. It took me a few days, a few weeks on the school board to realize that the white kids were riding school buses to school, the black kids were walking, and that the books that the black kids used in their schools were the ones that the white kids had worn out.
The South made a change. It was very difficult to give equality of opportunity to all of our citizens. It was the best thing, in my judgment, that's happened to the South in my lifetime.
I come from a working family. My mother helped support our family during the Depression years. She was a registered nurse, which was quite an achievement back in those days, in the twenties, early thirties. She worked either 12 hours a day for $4 or 20 hours a day for $6. And the cash money that she brought home during the depression years was very important to us.
Nowadays in this country we've eliminated a lot of discrimination, but there is still discrimination against women. When a man and a woman work the same job, the same amount of time, on an average throughout the country if the man gets paid a dollar, the woman only gets paid 59 cents. That's not right, because quite often, as you know, about a fourth of the households or families in this country, a woman is the head of the household, and that means that the children only are getting 59 percent as much food, clothing, shelter, and an opportunity in life.
There've been a lot of distortions about the equal rights amendment. Let me tell you exactly what the equal rights amendment says. It doesn't say anything about bathrooms. It doesn't say anything about women being drafted. It doesn't say anything about homosexual families. Here's what the equal rights amendment says: that equality of rights shall not be abridged by the Federal Government nor any State government because of sex, because somebody's a woman. That's all. That's the amendment. It says that the Federal Government nor a State government shall not take away equal rights from a person because they're a woman. That's all it says.
We've extended, since I've been in the White House, the time for the ratification of that constitutional amendment by 3 years. It runs out, I think, in March of 1982. Thirty-five States have ratified the amendment, got 3 States to go. I don't know what those States will do, because States are independent of me and State legislators are the ones that have to vote on it.
But I believe that we should guarantee women equal rights in the Constitution of the United States, and I'll do all I can to get that amendment ratified.
Caroline, I'm kind of long on postscripts today, but let me say that this is not a partisan issue. The first party to include the equal rights amendment in its platform was the Republican Party, 40 years ago. For 40 solid years the Republican Party under Eisenhower, Goldwater, Nixon, Ford have always supported the equal rights amendment, until this year when Governor Reagan changed it. Six Presidents before me, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, have all favored the equal rights amendment. Governor Reagan's opposition to the equal rights amendment is a radical departure from the mainstream of other Presidents and also his own party.
I don't think it's liberal or conservative when you guarantee women that you won't cheat them. And that's what the amendment says: you can't cheat women.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Pat Ostrander. I am president-elect of the Memphis Education Association and first and foremost a teacher of first grade. As a teacher I am particularly pleased about the establishment of the new Department of Education and about its potential. And I would like to know from you, sir, what do you see as the major focus of the Department of Education during the next 4 years of your Presidency?
THE PRESIDENT. Okay. Thank you, Pat.
I think I said earlier that my first job was on a board of education. And when I ran for the Georgia Senate back in '62, I only had one request when I got to Atlanta, and that was to be on the Committee on Education. When I was Governor, I spent about 25 percent of my time trying to improve the education system in Georgia, because it was in bad shape and it was important to me, as a young person who got a good education, to give the same opportunity to others.
My family lived in this Nation for a long time. My father didn't finish high school; neither did his father. Nobody before me ever finished high school. And I could see that the future of the South lay in its children.
When I got to Washington, it was obvious to me there that almost all of the relationships between the "E" part, the education part of HEW—education was down here, health and welfare were on top—was just arguing and squabbling with the States and local board members in the Federal courts.
There was no way for a Congressman or a Governor or a member of the school board or a teacher or a school superintendent or a parent to go to Washington and know exactly where to go to get the answer to a question about education. You went to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and there was nobody there who could really speak for education.
Now we've got a Secretary of Education that sits with me in the Cabinet Room in Washington. And if anybody in this Nation has any question about education, from kindergarten all the way up to graduate school, there's one person, Secretary Shirley Hufstedler, responsible for education.
We have increased Federal funds for education 73 percent since I've been in the White House, and we've done it with a commitment that's very dear to me. I do not want to see the Federal Government's nose in the affairs of the local school systems. That ought to be by the local people and the State legislatures and the State Governors. We need to preserve that, but at the same time there are areas of our Nation that are in need and that allotment of funds for special education, for retarded children of all ages, the correction of defects in an education system run by and controlled by the local people is important.
I had another goal in mind that we have reached. Most of the time a President can't reach his goals. But one that we've reached is this: There is no need in the United States of America for any young person who finishes high school, who's able to do college work, to be deprived of a college education because of the poverty of a family.
I guarantee you that for the first time in the history of our Nation, any young person who's academically able to do college work can get a college education—I don't care how poor that little kid's family might be—through grants, scholarships, loans, or work-study programs. Now, I'm not claiming that if a young person refuses to work at all on a part-time job that they're going to have their way paid through college. But through a work-study program, loans, grants, or scholarships, every single child in the United States can now get a college education. That's a good achievement, and we've got a lot more to do.
SOVIET BRIGADE IN CUBA
Q. Mr. President, I'm Mike Leahy, from Christian Brothers High School here in Memphis, and I'd like to ask this question. Concerning the Soviet brigade that still remains in Cuba, you promised extensive military maneuvers in the Caribbean and in Guantanamo Bay. Does the poor showing we made during these maneuvers reflect our present military capability, and if so, why hasn't anything been done to alleviate this problem?
THE PRESIDENT. All right.
As you know, about a year or two ago, there was a great deal of publicity about the fact that a Soviet brigade did exist in Cuba. As a matter of fact, when John Kennedy was President, early in the 1960's, I think 1962, the Soviets had a major military force in Cuba. They began to put into Cuba missiles that could reach and attack our Nation. John Kennedy demanded that the Soviets remove those weapons—they had nuclear warheads-and the Soviets did so.
At that time, they left in Cuba a brigade, maybe more than one, but they've cut it down lately to about 1,500 men. We monitor that brigade very closely, almost on a daily basis, from our satellite observation stations that go around the Earth all the time or from other means. We know what the brigade consists of; we know what its capability is. That brigade of Soviet soldiers ought not to be in Cuba. Like the Berlin wall, like the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, it's not acceptable to us. We'll never say that it's acceptable to have that brigade in Cuba.
The brigade has no offensive capability that could threaten us. It has no missiles that could reach our shores. It has no ships or amphibious forces that could launch an attack against the United States. It has no airplanes, nothing that could reach us. It's there primarily, I believe, for two reasons. One is to make sure that Castro, who receives several million dollars worth of aid from the Soviet Union every day, is watched by the Soviets in Cuba. And secondly, I think it's there, maybe from the beginning of Castro's administration, his regime, to support Castro if his people started to turn against him. That's not a likely prospect now, but it's there.
We will continue to monitor the Soviet brigade, and we will not permit that brigade to mount any threat, any possible threat of an attack on us. We have formidable naval forces, we have strike forces in our country, in Florida, in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, that could attack that region if we had to defend ourselves. We do mount major naval exercises in the Caribbean region regularly, sometimes secretly, sometimes in a highly publicized way. We have had a major amphibious landing force exercise in Guantanamo itself, as you know, since this high-publicity item became aware in the American people's consciousness.
And so, we're doing the best we can to protect our interests, to reassure America, to let the Soviets know that they cannot mount for even locate an attack force in Cuba against us. That would not be something that we would abide. And the Soviets have agreed that they will not increase the force in Cuba in such a way that it would comprise an offensive threat to us.
But I don't want to mislead you, Mike. It would require, I think, a very serious misjudgment on the part of any President to try to send American soldiers into Cuba to try to root out a small brigade of Soviet troops that don't harm us. We don't have that legal right. But we do have the right to defend ourselves and to protect us against any threats, and we will honor that right to protect our Nation and its interests.
Thank you very much.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Mark Levine. I'm the rabbi of the—[inaudible]—congregation here in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. President, the American people know that there is only one country in the Middle East that is not a totalitarian dictatorship or a fragile feudal monarchy. American people know that there is only one state in the Middle East that shares our own American democratic ideals, our democratic form of government, our democratic institutions, including exciting elections like the one we're presently engaged in. That state is the state of Israel.
The highlight of your Middle East policy was the Camp David agreement, which resulted in the peace between Egypt and Israel, for which we're extremely grateful and thankful. However, we are concerned and confused by signals that have emerged from your administration that have signaled the Arabs that in a second Carter administration you would be more forthcoming in pressuring Israel to make a concession that would be detrimental to its very existence, that would result in the emergence of another Palestinian terrorist state, a platform for Soviet intentions in the Middle East, and ultimately harmful to our own aspirations in the Middle East as Americans.
My question to you is: These concerns have been reinforced by reports emanating from Arab capitals that your signals, either through your failure to veto in the United Nations votes that were detrimental to Israel as well as private assurances received from your emissaries, that indeed in a second administration you would bear down hard on Israel. Mr. President, can you assure us, either way?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I'd be glad to. This will be the last question I'll have a chance for, but let me reply very briefly.
The first time I met with the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Rabin led the Government there. Just 2 or 3 weeks later I met with President Sadat. I told them both that the dream that I had as President was to have a major Arab nation, Egypt, recognize Israel's right to exist-none ever had; engage in direct negotiations with Israel—none ever had; recognize Israel's right to be secure—none ever had; to work for a peace treaty possibly, with open borders, exchange of tourism, recognition diplomatically, and exchange of Ambassadors.
President Sadat said, "That's a good dream. It'll never happen in my lifetime." All those dreams have now come true. And although Israel and Egypt had four wars in 25 years, the latest one in 1973, they now engage in discussions not about war, but about peace. They face each other not across barbed wire with bullets and tanks, but across a table, through negotiators. We've been a part of it.
In 1973 when Israel was in danger because of the Arab invasion, a Republican administration announced that we were reassessing our policy toward Israel and withheld, as you know, crucial military aid which Israel needed. We've never done that, and that will never be done as long as a Democrat serves in the White House.
We have one thing to contribute in pursuing peace in the Middle East, and that is the trust that the Arabs and the Israelis have in me. If I should ever betray that trust, if I should ever tell a lie, if I should ever make a misleading statement to them or go back on a promise, then my role as a mediator would be gone. I could not serve any more in that good office.
I look on the Mideast peace agreement not as a favor to Egypt and Israel, but as an investment in the security of my own country, because I see the fact that Israel is there, is secure, is democratic, is committed to peace, is strong, as a direct bulwark in the strength and the peace of my own Nation.
I will never support a PLO state. I will never negotiate with nor recognize the PLO until after they recognize Israel's right to exist and assume that 242 resolution is the basis for Middle East peace.
I will never cause any reassessment of our policy toward Israel in military or economic aid, as was done under the last Republican administration. As a matter of fact, in the last 3 1/2 years the amount of military and economic aid that we have given to Israel, with the support of Congress, has been as much as all the previous administrations in history since Israel first became a state.
I will never permit the other nations of the world, including the Arab nations, to isolate Israel in the world community. And if in the United Nations Security Council there should be an effort to expel Israel, I will veto such a resolution, if there's a resolution passed in the General Assembly to withhold the credentials of Israel. I see no way that my country would participate any further in the deliberations of the United Nations General Assembly.
Another point that I would like to make in closing is this: We've not sent any signals to the Arab countries. I don't deal with other nations in that fashion. Every posture that I have maintained in the Middle East has been well understood by the Jews in Israel and around the world, well understood by the Arabs in Egypt and the other countries. I don't have any secrets with Begin against Sadat. I don't have any secrets with Sadat against Begin.
We'll continue to work for a Mideast peace, for a secure Israel, for a Jerusalem that's undivided. And the ultimate legal status of Jerusalem in the community of nations will be determined by negotiations, and the conclusion of those negotiations will have to be acceptable to the Government of Israel. That's my assurance to you. I will not violate the commitment that I make.
That's a good question.
One other comment, and I'd like to close. I've enjoyed having the questions. They've been very interesting and, I think, very stimulating—one on religion was the first time I've had. I'm glad that I had the chance in the South to reply.
Keep this in mind: There's a lot at stake next Tuesday. Many of your lives have been changed by what Franklin Roosevelt did in the Depression years with TVA, REA, over the opposition of the Republicans. Many of your lives have been changed by the establishment of the minimum wage, 25 cents only. Republicans opposed it, called it socialism. Many senior citizens lives have been changed by social security. Republicans were against it. Medicare, Republicans were against it. The change in the tone of relationships among white and black citizens has helped the people in the South.
A commitment to strong defense has been a habit of southerners, who've always been the first ones to volunteer, have been willing to lay down their lives for the defense of our country.
When I went into the Oval Office, as a professional military officer, having served 11 years in the Navy, in the submarine force, for 7 of the previous 8 years our defense commitments had gone down, 37-percent reduction in the 8 years before I got there. We've had a steady deep commitment to an increase above and beyond inflation ever since the day I was in office. I've used the strong military capability not to inject our military forces into war, but to maintain the peace. And that issue is important next Tuesday.
Every President since Harry Truman has committed himself to controlling nuclear weapons with balanced, controlled, confirmable agreements between ourselves and the Soviet Union. Governor Reagan has abandoned that policy. Our Nation has always been in favor of keeping the radical nations, Libya, Iraq, and others, from having atomic weapons. This year Governor Reagan said if one of those other nations wants to have an atomic weapon, it's none of our business.
Those issues are very important to you and to your families, to the people that you love, to the people who look to you for leadership. That's what's at stake next Tuesday.
I believe in a strong country, a country that's fair and just, a country that gives our children a better chance in life than we had, a country that's united, where people share experiences and share confidences and share commitments in the years to come. And I believe in a strong defense. But I also believe, as I said in the debate the other night, that the best weapons are the ones that are never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one that never has to shed his blood or give his life in battle. Remember that when you go to the polls next Tuesday.
Thank you. God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 2:52 p.m. in Hangar 6 of the Federal Express Complex at Memphis International Airport.
Jimmy Carter, Memphis, Tennessee 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/251993