Jimmy Carter photo

Miami, Florida Remarks to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

July 04, 1980

Let me say first of all that it's great to be here. As you can see, I did not have any trouble accepting my invitation to come to the NAACP convention. And the reason for that is that I know what NAACP stands for, and I also know what the NAACP organization in the last 80 years has meant to this Nation and has meant to my life as an American. It's important for me as President to extend my congratulations and my support to this organization, because you still mean so much to our country.

While I'm here, I want to add my voice to yours to help assure a very strong, vital, well-financed, well-supported NAACP in the future years. And I'm eager to help you. You will have a friend in the Oval Office, and you can depend on that.

I want to thank you, Kelly Alexander, and Margaret Bush Wilson, my good friend, Dr. Montague Cobb, Dr. Benjamin Hooks, members and friends of the NAACP.

I've tried as much as I could as President to consult with people from all walks of life on important issues, and for that reason I have especially valued Benjamin Hooks' opinions, because they save me a lot of time. I get the views of all walks of life, of a preacher, a lawyer, a judge, an FCC Commissioner, a civil rights leader all at the same time from one man. And I might say I get this opinion very often and very strong— [laughter] —and so you can depend on his voice being well expressed in Washington, in the Oval Office, for you.

As you all know, 204 years ago today America declared its independence with a truth that still sets people free throughout a troubled world, that all people are endowed with rights that cannot be bought or sold, rights that no power on Earth can justly deny. But the Declaration that we celebrate unfortunately avoided another truth. When Jefferson condemnation of the King of England for refusing to end the slave trade was struck from the final draft, Thomas Jefferson said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." All of us know how violent were the wounds that this contradiction caused; 200 years later we're still working to heal them.

America's first great moral struggle was to free the slaves, and it took nearly 90 years, but our Nation won. And the next great moral struggle took almost a hundred years—to end legalized segregation. That's the basic reason the NAACP was formed, and you were in the forefront of that fight. You fought for progress through long years of crucial legal procedures and historic legislative battles. You held us to our Nation's highest principles. And again America won, because of you.

Today we're in the midst of America's third great moral campaign—fighting to extend equal justice and equal opportunity to every human being in this society. This is my responsibility as President, and it's also your responsibility as leaders. We must not and we will not fail in this effort.

I wish I could come here to you tonight, as President of the greatest country of all, to say that this battle for moral justice was over, but it's not, not while groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the self-proclaimed Nazis and others still encourage racial hatred and religious hatred, not when minorities still fear police harassment, when children are not getting the education or the health care they need, when too many young people cannot find jobs, when too many mothers and fathers cannot support their families, and when too many people are still afraid, in the greatest country on Earth—too many people are still afraid of the present and of the future.

I'm not here to tell you that we've reached the promised land. We cannot undo 30 decades, 300 years of discrimination in 3 or 4 years. But we're on the right road, and we'll stay on the right road until we reach the promised land, the goal that God set for us. To lose sight of that promised land is to lose our sense of direction. But we have had some victories, and it's a mistake for the NAACP to deny itself credit for those victories, because to deny ourselves the sustenance and the encouragement of what we have done is to deny the inspiration and the support required to continue the struggle.

Everything in this Nation is not black and poor. Many people obviously are black and poor, but we've got a future ahead of us and a present life that's the envy and the admiration of almost all other people on Earth.

The walls built around totalitarian countries are not designed to keep free people out. I've been in Berlin, and I've seen the wall. It's designed to keep the people in East Berlin, under communism, prisoners. And you don't see boats trying to leave this country going to Southeast Asia or to Cuba. And you don't see people trying to get into Afghanistan so they can suffer under totalitarian subjugation. Our country is still the admiration of the world, and it's a mistake for us when we only look at the gloomy side of what we are and what we have done.

In the last few years we've looked at the real needs of our urban centers, and we've provided more than $25 billion for State and local governments. We've not yet revitalized every city in the United States, but we are succeeding in ways that would have been undreamed of 3 1/2 years ago. When you go to a meeting now of local officials, mayors, or county officials and talk to them, you see a new hope and a new expectation and a new sense of accomplishment that was not there just a few short years ago.

Unemployment, and particularly black unemployment and particularly black young unemployment, is far, far too high. But we've created more new jobs in the last 3 1/2 years than at any other time in history, even including the years of war. One million more black Americans hold jobs today than they did in January 1977. Employment, even among black teenagers, has risen dramatically, and in the spring of this year, for the first time in 7 years, black teenage unemployment even went down.

We don't say that to minimize the challenge and the problem that we face, but the fact is that because of your good work, joined by many others who share the same goals with you, our existence, your existence is worthwhile. And if every American knew what you have been able to accomplish, working through government, working with the private sector, your rolls and your contributions would be growing by leaps and bounds, and I urge you not to hide your light under a bushel.

Economic justice means more than just jobs for minorities; it also means a chance to build minority-owned businesses. With the support of the NAACP, we are making progress. In the last 3 years, for instance, Federal deposits in banks owned by minority Americans have more than doubled. And as Benjamin Hooks knows so well, communications, especially radio and television, are critically important in our society. But when the radio and the television licenses were handed out, not many blacks were in any position to apply. Because of initiatives over the last 2 years, there are now exactly twice as many minority-owned radio and television stations as there were 2 years ago.

We've already tripled the dollar amount of Federal contracts with minority businesses, something unheard of in the past. When Congressman Parren Mitchell first proposed a 10-percent mandatory set-aside for Federal contracts to go to businesses that were owned by minority groups, nobody thought that there would even be enough minority-owned businesses that could qualify for that much business. But they were quickly proven wrong, and we've far exceeded that by 50 percent above what was ever thought about as being possible.

And the Supreme Court decision this week upholds this law requiring that 10 percent of all Federal contract money goes to minority-owned businesses, and at the same time, as you know—and the issue has been in doubt—the Supreme Court approved affirmative action to eliminate the results of past discrimination. This is the third time we've acted together, my administration and you, to defend major affirmative action programs before the Supreme Court, and we've won—Bakke, in higher education; Weber, in employment; and now this case involving minority business.

We've targeted economic aid to encourage private sector jobs for the hardcore unemployed. Resources for youth employment in the last 3 1/2 years have increased from 2 1/2 billion to 4 billion dollars, and this year the major domestic program that we've put before the Congress, that I believe will be passed, is to add $2 billion more for permanent youth employment and training programs. This is above and beyond the 1 million summer jobs that will be provided for unemployed youth and all the youth programs that presently exist on the books and which are being fully financed. Fighting to create these new jobs is my responsibility as President, but it's also your responsibility. And together, if we work together, we can win this fight as we've won so many others.

With your help, since I became President funding for teaching basic skills to disadvantaged children has more than doubled; Job Corps is up 157 percent; CETA programs, up 115 percent; food stamps, up 99 percent, and no longer do poor people have to pay for food stamps with cash money. Funding for women's, infants, and children's programs is three times as great as it was in 1976. Despite our continuing effort to control inflation, we are protecting such programs that are important to you as social security, Aid for Families with Dependent Children, and we're greatly increasing subsidized Government housing and programs like Head Start.

As you know from your long struggles on civil rights, one of the most important powers of any President is the power of appointment. Presidents come and go, but those appointments quite often stay on, and they determine the policies of our Nation that affect the lives of everyone, not just Cabinet, administrative officials, as crucial as they might be, but U.S. attorneys, members of regulatory boards, and Federal judges.

I have appointed people like Drew Days and Eleanor Holmes Norton to administer the laws that enforce civil rights. I have put black people on regulatory boards of all kinds, and I've also always insisted on affirmative action. The results speak for themselves. I won't quote the statistics, in order to save time.

I've only served 3 1/2 years as President, but I have already appointed more blacks, more women, and more Hispanics to the Federal bench as judges than all other Presidents in the 200-year history of this country. And I'm not through yet. And I might say I've done it in such a way, with your help, that we have brought credit to the Federal bench. I have proved, with your help, that you don't have to lower the standards on the judicial bench when you fulfill the obligations to the black citizens of our Nation that had been deprived for so many years.

If you don't listen to anything else I say tonight, I want you to hear the next few words: These Federal judges serve for life. They will be interpreting your rights, the rights of our children, and the rights of our children's children into the next century. Young people born this year will become adults in the 21st century. And I want you to consider very carefully and very seriously how this Nation's future will be affected by the appointment of the next three or four Justices of the United States Supreme Court.

Just stop a few moments and think about it, because you know, in looking back over the previous years, that when local school boards and mayors, State legislatures and Governors, Presidents and the Congress have not been willing to give the rights to Americans that had been withheld, the United States Supreme Court has been the final bulwark of freedom.

We'd been through 8 years, before I came in office, of appointments to the Supreme Court. The Republican administration under Richard Nixon made a profound impact on the attitude and tone of that court. It's still a good court, because we got a good ruling this week. But you just think about what will happen with another three or four appointments.

We're waging important. battles right now, today, in the Congress that affect your lives, for the confirmation of Federal judges that I have sent to the Hill that have not yet been approved, for welfare reform, for fair housing legislation, to make sure that we take the '68 act, which was good and which has never been enforced, and have enforcement powers. We got that bill to the legislature, to the Congress and the House, with your help, and now we're struggling to get it out of the Judiciary Committee in the United States Senate. And then we might face a filibuster in the Senate.

This will be the most important civil rights legislation of the last 10 years, and I'm very grateful to have the NAACP at my shoulder as we fight this battle over the next few weeks. It's my responsibility and it's your responsibility to see that discrimination in housing, which exists today throughout our country, joins other outmoded concepts, like separate but equal schools, as just a notation in the old, dusty history books of our country.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy." And that's true not only for a man; it's true for an organization like yours, and it's true for a nation.

This is a decade of decision. It's our responsibility to defeat those forces which threaten the progress that we have made and cloud our hopes for the future. There's a general acknowledgement that the battles that we have won in recent months and recent years have been very difficult. Anybody who looks at the attitude and tone of the Congress knows that this is true.

We cannot solve any of our problems by pretending that they are not there, and we also cannot solve any of our problems by pretending they're so great that they can't be solved. If the NAACP had given up 50 years ago just because people were discouraged, you would not be sitting here tonight, and I would not be talking to you. But we've seen the unfortunate results of that kind of an approach in past administrations in Washington, in blocking equal opportunity and equal justice.

This week I signed into law a bill which you may not have noticed much, but which will affect your lives—the largest peacetime program in the history of our country, the Energy Security Act, to develop alternative forms of energy and to end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and, in the process, to give tens of thousands of new jobs in an exciting new opportunity for progress in our country in the years ahead.

It's been hard for our people to understand that when we talk about energy problems, we're not just talking about the price of gasoline, we're not just talking about the price of heating our own homes; we're talking about the price of food, and we're talking about running our industries, we're talking about expanding our economy, we're talking about financing our schools, we're talking about providing jobs and careers for Americans and decent standards of living everywhere, and we're also talking about peace in the world, and we're talking about the security of our country.

The security of our economy is my responsibility, and it's also yours. I've taken the dangerous and the difficult steps to control inflation and to cut down interest rates, and these measures are working. This will increase buying by you and by others, and then producing those products that are going to be bought and employing people to do that production, to put our factories back to work.

We have programs in place and also in the works in Congress to help ease the burden when serious problems do arise in a family's life, but we must remember no matter what I do or what any President could do, no matter what you might do, that five out of six jobs in this country are in the private sector. Inflation has been eating up the dollars needed to create those jobs, but most of all, inflation has been robbing the poor, the elderly, the young, and others who already suffer from discrimination, who have to trade at the corner grocery store, where the prices are probably twice as high as they are in a supermarket out near the beltway or the circumferential highway. The poor are the ones who can't buy things wholesale, and the poor are the ones that can't move to another distant location, and the poor are quite often the ones that are not educated enough to shop around for different kinds of jobs.

Those are the ones that have suffered most from the ravages of inflation, and we cannot reignite the fuse of inflation. The current politically inspired efforts in the Congress, that you've read so much about lately, to tack what amounts to a 30-percent tax cut over the next 3 years on totally unrelated bills in the Congress, so they won't have to have public hearings, would do just that. You need to understand what this could mean to you if the effort is successful.

By the year 1985 it would cost us $280 billion per year. It would set off a new round of inflation that would quickly erase any benefits to taxpayers. And that disaster would come at the expense of the poor, the elderly, the sick and disadvantaged, our cities, jobs, the kinds of things that the NAACP has struggled to achieve during the last 80 years of your life. Programs designed for social programs would have to be robbed more than $200 billion worth. And the proposal, as you can well imagine looking at the origin of it, certainly won't make the rich lose. Those making more than $200,000 a year would get a tax cut 80 times bigger than the family making less than $10,000 a year.

Just as we must not abandon our efforts to regain control of our economic destiny, we cannot abandon our fight for fundamental human rights and for peace around the world.

In Zimbabwe we stood firm for majority rule. We had tough battles in the Congress, as you well know, to maintain that .position, and NAACP was in there fighting tooth and toenail. And because we had the courage to hold out, others had the courage to continue. And I was glad to send Andy Young to represent me and you and all Americans at the celebration of the true independence in that long troubled African nation. Zimbabwe is now free, democratic, and independent.

We are struggling against international terrorism in Iran. And it's good on an Independence Day celebration to remember 53 Americans who are not free. They are innocent. They are kidnap victims by terrorists who have the support of their own government.

And because we're standing up against the Soviet Union, who have taken away the freedom of those who live in Afghanistan-and we'll continue that struggle-we're determined to prove to the Soviets that it does not pay to deprive freedom from people. Those freedom-fighters there have our admiration. They're struggling for national liberation. Over 800,000 of them have crossed the borders into Pakistan, another 100 or 200 thousand into Iran. If anyone on Earth understands what it means to lose that kind of freedom and the importance of struggling to restore it, it would be those in this room who are assembled here tonight.

We must continue to uphold for people and for nations and to work for peaceful solutions throughout the world. I cannot promise you everything will be better from this moment forward, that there will be no more sacrifice, because there will; no more delay in meeting treasured goals, because there's going to be delay. And I will not lie to you and say that all is right in the world, because it's not, or alright in our Nation, because it's not.

And I will not pretend to you that we can work miracles with mirrors to create full employment without a competitive economic base, because we cannot; or that we can force peace on an unwilling world, because we can't; or establish equal justice without further cost and without further sacrifice, because we cannot. We have never acquired an additional element of fairness and equity and freedom and justice without struggle and without sacrifice, and we'll never do it.

So, I just want to tell it to you straight. This is a time of controversy. This is a time of impatience. This is a time of pain. This is a time of struggle. But most of all, this is a time of making decisions.

Our hard-won gains face the most severe counterattack since the time of Brown versus the Board of Education. It's time to stand firm against any national retreat to dreams of a remembered rosy past, because you and I know the past was not always rosy. It's no time for selective amnesia. [Laughter]

And I'm not just giving you idle talk, because there are those who say that the way to solve our energy problem is for the Government to just leave us to the tender mercies and the humanitarian impulses of the oil companies. [Laughter] And there are those who look at youngsters who cannot read, and they tell you it's just the parents' fault, that Government can't do anything, that the best way to solve our education problems is to abolish the Department of Education. But they're looking at the bottom line for the rich instead of looking at the needs and hopes of those who have been too long at the bottom of the economic heap.

The directions that we choose this year will determine not only what happens in the next few years but for the rest of this century. This is no time for our courage to waver. This is no time to endanger a good, solid, common commitment and a partnership. At critical times such as this, the NAACP has always been in the forefront of every fight for freedom and for justice and for opportunity.

I cannot think of any more fitting group for the President of this country to join in celebrating the Fourth of July than the NAACP. Throughout this century—and you were formed at the beginning of this century—you fought to extend the principles of the Declaration of Independence to all of our people, in courtrooms across the land, in legislative chambers in the State capitols and also in Washington, and in day-by-day living, seeking always to uphold the original idea of our Nation, even when many more advantaged than you forgot or would not face the fact of what our Nation ought to be, that the purpose of government is to protect the inalienable fights of all its citizens.

The fight for justice must be renewed with each new day, with each new law, with each law enforcement action, with each ruling in the State and Federal courts, and with each dealing with an individual human being. On this 204th birthday of our Nation, let us rededicate ourselves to fight until victory is won. You've got a friend in the Oval Office who will join that fight with you.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 8:37 p.m. at the 71st annual convention-Freedom Fund awards banquet of the NAACP, which was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Fontainebleau Hotel.

Earlier in the evening, the President arrived at Miami International Airport following the flight from California and was greeted by U.S. Trade Representative Reubin O'D. Askew, Representatives Claude Pepper and Dante Fascell of Florida, Mayor Maurice Ferre of Miami, Mayor Stephen Clark of Dade County, and Rev. Theodore Gibson, Miami city commissioner.

Following the banquet, the President returned to Miami International Airport and boarded Air Force One enroute to Georgia. After a short stop at Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Ga., the President boarded Marine One for the flight to Plains, where he stayed until Tuesday, July 8.

Jimmy Carter, Miami, Florida Remarks to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250548

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