Jimmy Carter photo

"Message From the Next President" in the New York Times

October 29, 1976

Plains, Ga.—The most important skill for any President is leadership. A national leader, to be effective, must have the ability to lead this country and the vision to know where it must be led.

We do not have that kind of leadership now. What we do have—government by veto, government by negativism, government by deadlock—is not the kind of leadership our country needs, wants, or deserves.

Any administration that finds 6 percent inflation encouraging, that finds 7.8 percent unemployment acceptable, that can produce a $65 billion annual deficit, and add 2.5 million Americans to the poverty rolls in one year—and then say it is proud to run on that record—lacks concern for people, lacks vision, lacks leadership, and lacks any understanding of the inherent greatness of this country.

As President, I believe I could lead our country. I know, for example, that most of our people who are able to work want to work. We can bring together business leaders, labor, and government officials to explore and expand employment opportunities. We can cooperate with our private enterprise system and with local and state governments to create meaningful jobs. We can expand productivity and hold down interest rates and tax rates, while still keeping a tight rein on inflation.

The first victims of inflation are those who have little influence with government—the poor, the unemployed, the elderly. We must insure that the economic activity of this country benefits all of our people, not just a fortunate few.

The President has a responsibility to develop specific goals in energy', government reorganization, transportation, housing, health care, agriculture, tax reform, crime control, and the correction of our urban crisis, and then harness the tremendous resources of our nation to meet those goals.

I believe we can reestablish a sense of morality and purpose in our national character in both domestic and foreign affairs, and be bold in our search for world peace and the protection of human rights.

But leadership and goals are not enough. There must be vision.

For the last 23 months I have been traveling across America, talking to our people, listening to our people, and learning from our people, and my vision of what this nation is and what it can be has grown and ripened on the basis of that experience.

I have never had more faith in America than I do today. We have an America that, for all its trials and tribulations, still has the great resources of a courageous people, and the best system of government on earth.

We can have an America, if we will work for it, that turns away from scandal and corruption and official cynicism and is once again as decent and competent as our people.

We can have an American government that does not oppress or spy on our people, but respects our dignity and our privacy and our rights to be let alone.

We can have an America in which the bond of trust between those who govern and those who are governed has been restored.

We can have an America that provides excellence in education for every child, and that provides first-rate medical care for every citizen.

We can have an America that provides equal justice for all, the poor as well as the rich, an America in which the public official who betrays the people's trust is treated as severely as the petty thief.

We can have an American foreign policy that is both realistic and idealistic, one that reflects the character and the compassion and the common sense of our people.

We can have an America with a strong economy, one that meets our people's legitimate needs and still maintains a balanced budget.

We can have an American military establishment that has eliminated waste and become lean and tough again, and that can protect our security against any threat.

We can have an American President who does not govern with negativism and division, but who has confidence in the future, who can heal our wounds and bring us together, a President who is not isolated and timid, but takes his strength and wisdom and courage directly from our people.

That is the America I see in our future. We face a historic choice in this election. We must choose between the acceptance of mediocrity and the challenge of greatness. Our people are ready to move ahead again, to put our troubled past behind us, and to call forth vigorous and competent leaders who can tap the wisdom, the courage, the idealism, and the dedication of the people of America.

Jimmy Carter, "Message From the Next President" in the New York Times Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347596

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