Nashua, New Hampshire Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting With New Hampshire High School Students.
MAYOR AREL. Mr. President, Senator McIntyre, Senator Durkin, members of the Board of Aldermen, students, ladies and gentlemen:
My name is Maurice Arel, and as mayor of Nashua, it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to our city for today's historic New Hampshire town meeting.
We in Nashua have been visited by Presidents of the United States before, but never before have so many of our citizens had a chance to share their views with the Nation's Chief Executive.
So we are proud, Mr. President. We are proud not only that you are here, but that you have come to meet in a special open forum with the people of New Hampshire.
Ladies and gentlemen, I can think of no more appropriate person to introduce the President than our own senior United States Senator, Thomas J. Mcintyre. While serving New Hampshire for more than 15 years in Washington, Tom McIntyre has come to represent the essence of the New England town meeting tradition-an honest, open, courteous way of doing business.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to present to you United States Senator Tom Mcintyre.
SENATOR MCINTYRE. Mr. President, Senator Durkin, ladies and gentlemen, students and teachers, special guests and dignitaries:
Today we welcome Jimmy Carter back to New Hampshire. In a sense his visit is a homecoming, for it was just 2 years ago this month that the voters of our State provided the first indication that he would win the Presidency some 10 months later.
This was not the first time New Hampshire voters of one party or the other anticipated the eventual outcome of the Presidential election. Indeed, our first-in-the-Nation primary has been an unfailing bellwether in seven consecutive primaries dating back to 1952. Today, the man we foresaw into the White House long before many others did has come back to New Hampshire. He has come here to engage in a public dialog with the young people of our State. But before I invite the President to the podium, I'd like to say a few words about him, about the people of New Hampshire, and about the format of this program.
The first thing I want to say is that I believe Jimmy Carter's performance as a President has vindicated New Hampshire's judgment of him as a candidate.
We all know you've had some disappointments in your first year in office, Mr. President. Not everything you set out to do has been accomplished. But I think you should know this about the people up here. They are realists and they are fair-minded. They don't expect miracles from their Chief Executive, any more than they expect to agree with him on every point and every issue. What they do expect of their President is this: They expect him to love justice and to hate iniquity and to stand for the very best that is in us as a people.
You have met those expectations, Mr. President, and that's why my readings up here show that there is a wide and a deep reservoir of good feeling for you among the people. We like you, Jimmy Carter, and with all our hearts we want you to do well.
We are especially pleased to have you meet with us in the context of one of our honored traditions, the New England town meeting. Here in New Hampshire, we still believe that the town meeting offers the most democratic, direct, and elective means of conducting the course of government, because the decisionmaking process involves the entire community. Those decisions are made after the free and open exchange of views, and this is what we seek here today.
Now a word of explanation about the procedure we will follow. The President believes, and I share that belief, that we must do all that we can to encourage the involvement of young people in the process of government. With that in mind, he suggested that a representative cross-section of the high school students of New Hampshire be invited here today to ask questions and exchange views with the President of the United States.
More than 500 students were invited. And after his opening remarks, the President will respond to the questions they have prepared. That said, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. It's good to be back in New Hampshire, back in Nashua. The first time I came here as a candidate, the crowd who met me was not quite so large as this. [Laughter]
We had a political rally in a small front living room, and there were a lot of empty seats that faced me that evening. But as I campaigned for months here in your State I not only made many dedicated friends who later gave me a victory in your crucial primary, I not only learned a lot about New Hampshire, your special attitudes and your special hopes and dreams, but it gave me in microcosm a good preview of what I was to face in the 29 other primaries that I entered in 1976.
Here is focused in an unprecedented, unequaled way, a sense of person-to-person campaigning. Your demands on candidates even for President are quite severe, because you want to know in detail stands on issues, personal characteristics, and the dedication that that candidate has to win an ultimate victory in spite of tremendous, adverse odds.
The first time I came to New Hampshire was in 1974 to campaign with Norin D'Amours. We walked the streets and shook factory shift hands, and I learned then about the intense, personal commitment of New Hampshire people toward government.
You have very good political judgment. The election of Congressman D'Amours then, and again in '76, your long-time commitment to the superb leadership of Senator Mcintyre, the recent election of John Durkin, and last but not particularly least, your support of me in 1976—thank you for it. I'm glad to be with you.
THE COAL STRIKE
Just before walking into this auditorium, I received a report from Washington that the coal mine operators and the coal miners are willing to continue their negotiations today. This is a very difficult negotiating process. It has broken down on several occasions, but the constant involvement of Secretary of Labor Marshall has been successful so far in at least continuing the discussions, the dialog, the probing for an agreement.
If no agreement is reached, it would be a severe blow to the miners themselves. It would be a severe blow to the coal mine operators and owners. It would be a severe blow to the collective bargaining process and, also, a severe blow to our country.
We hope and we pray that we can be successful. The prospects right now are not particularly encouraging. But we are dedicated to continuing that process to avoid much more serious intrusion into the free enterprise system by the Federal Government through various means.
So we will be continuing today and tomorrow, if necessary, these discussions. It's just a late news item in which I thought you might be interested.
I'd like to make a brief statement on an issue that is important to you here in New Hampshire and around the country, and then I'll start answering questions for roughly an hour and 15 minutes. I have heard through the grapevine that you've been carefully preparing your questions.
I don't know what any of them will be, but I'll try to do the best I can to be frank with you. Young people don't like evasion, they don't like equivocating, and I know that my own standard of performance as a President is going to be judged by you according to how well and how truthfully and how frankly and thoroughly I answer your questions.
FEDERAL CIVIL SERVICE REFORM
When I came to Washington, a little more than a year ago for the first time, I was surprised and pleased to find how good our Government was. But I'm still not satisfied, and I believe it can be better.
One of the ways it can be better is through Government reorganization and, specifically, through civil service reform. For more than half our Nation's history, the Government was changed almost entirely and completely from top to bottom, every time a new President went in office.
The party that won the election would kick out all the old officeholders and replace them with new ones—maybe or maybe not qualified—who were loyal to the victorious candidate for President.
A large part of every President's time and energy was spent just taking up personnel matters. Abraham Lincoln said that it was the most difficult thing that tie had to contend with as President. This system inevitably led to government by favoritism, it led to corruption and incompetence. There was no room there for evenhanded, highly professional, competent, professional managers, independent of either party.
Plenty of people know how bad the system was. But it took the tragic assassination of a President, James Garfield, by a disappointed officeseeker who had not been appointed, to provide the push that led to the creation of a professional civil service. This was done in 1883, when Chester Arthur was President. In the 95 years since then, the huge bulk of Federal officeholders have been professional civil servants. Only a few thousand jobs, much less than one percent, are still filled by Presidential appointment.
Creation of a permanent, professional civil service was a major Government reform. There's no question about that. And yet in some ways, that very system has become over the years an obstacle to what I want to see—the very best possible government for our country. The Federal civil service is still basically sound, but its machinery has grown old and complicated and rusty.
Too often nowadays, the system stifles individual initiative and protects the cozy jobs of even those within the system who don't do a good job. Too often, the length of time that the employed person has served is automatically rewarded, as if you were automatically promoted from one grade to another in school whether or not you passed any of the courses in which you were enrolled. No one is more frustrated by this situation than our thousands of hard-working, competent, and dedicated public servants themselves. I found this to be true on the State level when I was Governor of Georgia. People told me ahead of time that if I tried to reorganize the State government, the civil servants would be opposed. But by and large, I found to my surprise that they were the ones that wanted most to have a good government in which they could do their life's work with effectiveness.
We need an improved civil service on the Federal level, a system that rewards those who serve well, disciplines those who are inefficient or incompetent or irresponsible, and gets rid of those who can't do their jobs well at all. We must restore the merit principle to the civil service. By early next month, I expect to announce full details of such a plan and submit it to Congress for approval. This plan will create stronger safeguards against the abuse of official power. It will reward merit, not just longevity. It will reduce redtape and delays. It will simplify and speed up the way we handle employee grievances and disciplinary actions. It will make it easier for women and for members of minority groups to get ahead or get fair treatment in the Federal Government. And it will allow every single department of your Government in Washington to meet the needs of the public with more efficiency.
I hope it will help us to make a government that people like you will want to work in, the best and the ablest young people in our country. If you should choose Government service—and I hope many of you will—I want you to find yourselves in a system that allows you to give our country your best.
Thank you very much. Now, I'd be glad to answer your questions.
MIDDLE EAST ARMS SALES
Q. I am Cass Spanos from Stevens High School in Claremont, New Hampshire. Mr. Carter, President Sadat of Egypt has shown a great deal of courage in initiating peace overtures in Israel. Do you think you have done anything to negate or to disrupt these negotiations by agreeing to send fighter planes to Egypt? And further, do you feel that by taking this action the Israelis will be pressured into making more concessions with Egypt?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't. I have met already with Prime Minister Begin, personally, on two occasions, and he will be coming to our country next month on the 14th and 15th and 16th to meet with me again.
Every time I've ever met with him, either privately or within a small group, his first request has been to go ahead and approve or recommend to the Congress approval of the sale of very advanced fighter planes, the F-16's and F-15's, our best planes of all, to Israel.
The previous administration and I have promised our long-time friends and allies, the Saudi Arabians, to sell 60 F-15's to them. The Egyptian request was much more modest—to sell them the F-5E's, which is not a very advanced fighter plane. It's of fairly short range. And to be perfectly frank, in a combat situation, they would not be a match for the F-15's.
I thought it was proper and advisable and hope the Congress will approve the sale that I have advocated to the Israelis, the Saudi Arabians, and the Egyptians. It will not upset the balance of strength in the Middle East. I would say that the Israeli Air Force will still be the dominant and the most efficient and effective air force there by far.
One reason that I wanted to honor President Sadat's request is that a few years ago, Egypt was closely allied with the Soviet Union and was completely dependent upon Russia to give them their military weapons. Since then, Egypt has moved toward us, and now Sadat and I have the closest possible personal relationship, and Egypt is one of our own closest possible friends. So, we cannot leave Egypt defenseless.
I don't think there's any likelihood at all of a war between Egypt and Israel. They're well on the way toward peace. But Egypt is still threatened by some of their neighbors. Libya has heavy shipments of arms coming in from the Soviet Union; Ethiopia, the same; Iraq, the same; Syria, the same; Algeria, the same. And Egypt has got to be able to defend themselves. The weapons that they did buy, years back, from the Soviet Union are now becoming obsolete.
And so I think this is a well-balanced package. It does contribute to a greater sense of security in the Middle East among our own friends and neighbors, and I think it also does not upset the balance of military power in the Middle East. I might close by saying this: I pledge myself each year while I'm in office to cut down on the volume of sales that we make to nations of this kind. And we will reduce our sales.
We've also begun to discuss this issue with other arms suppliers, not only France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, and so forth, but also the Soviet Union. And we hope that we can get a worldwide commitment to lessen or reduce the sale of those conventional weapons at the same time we work to reduce and then, hopefully, to eliminate nuclear weapons in the future.
Thank you very much.
TAX REDUCTIONS AND THE BUDGET
Q. Mr. President, my name is Ken Estey. I belong to Calvary Christian School in Derry, New Hampshire, and I live in Brookline, New Hampshire. My question is, during your campaign for the Presidency, you expressed a desire to balance the budget by 1981 and reduce the size of the Federal Government. How can this be accomplished in the light of the fact that you approved a budget of over $500 billion, which is a sizable increase over the last budget?
THE PRESIDENT. The budget that I've recommended to the Congress has the least increase in spending of any budget that has been produced in the last 4 or 5 years, only a 2-percent growth in the budget itself. Obviously, the programs that have already been approved by the Congress and by my predecessors in the White House have to be financed.
We had a substantial economic stimulus package that was passed in 1977. This has had very good benefits for our country and, in the long run, will pay rich dividends even in balancing the budget. For instance, in New England, just a year ago, the unemployment rate was 8 1/2 percent. At the end of the year, the unemployment rate in New England had dropped to 5 1/2 percent, a full 3-percent reduction in the unemployment rate.
This is because we were able to give about $6 billion in tax reductions. We were able to provide jobs and training for young people and all those who were unemployed, and we were also able to give many other services to the people. These are temporary programs, but I will send to the Congress next week a recommendation that this $13 billion investment in education and training for those who are unemployed will continue.
Obviously, the Government saves money in the long run by having a million people working and paying taxes than if they are on the welfare rolls or drawing unemployment compensation.
We could have had about a $20 billion reduction in the amount of the deficit this year if I had not wanted to give a tax reduction. But I've advocated to the Congress reducing the net taxes on all our people by $25 billion this year. Again, that's an investment in the future. I think the Government ought to cut down on the amount of money that we collect from people and then spend on Government programs.
I still am committed to do my best to balance the budget in 1981. And we'll have a much less deficit next year than the budget that I just presented. Our projections now show that if the economy does stay strong, which it is at this moment, we still have an excellent chance to get the budget balanced. But we are holding down the growth in Government.
Tom Mcintyre is the strongest advocate in the Senate of taking care of, for instance, small business leaders and giving tax reductions to them and cutting down on paperwork and unnecessary regulation by the Federal Government.
I think that we can make our free enterprise system work. And we are strong in moving toward the goals that I described to you during the campaign. We're making good progress. That progress will continue.
NATIONAL HEALTH CARE
Q. Mr. President, my name is Ann Sheahan from Dover High School in Dover. On June 12, 1976, you stated that our present national health care system is in need of drastic reorganization and that our Nation lacks a workable, efficient, and fair system of health care.
In your press conference on November 11, 1977, you said it was too early to lay down a schedule on the issue of a national health insurance. When will we see a schedule, and will the bill be introduced to Congress early enough for it to be acted upon?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I will present to the Congress an actual bill, after hearings all over the country and after congressional committees have hearings themselves, before the end of this congressional session.
One of the things that I have learned is that the Congress doesn't move as fast as I had anticipated. And one of the reasons is that certain committees in the House and Senate have extraordinary responsibilities. For instance, in the Ways and Means Committee in the House and the Finance Committee in the Senate, they have responsibility for the economic stimulus package, for tax reform, for tax reduction, for the welfare system, for health care, plus the very important elements of energy and other matters. And there's a limit to how much they can consider at the same time.
So, this year they are working on energy. They're working on tax reduction and tax reform. They're working on welfare reform, and before the year is over, before they adjourn for next fall, they will have a completed bill recommended by me to them for a comprehensive nationwide health care system.
PRESIDENT'S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Q. Mr. President, my name is John Bryant, and I attend Conant High School in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. What I'd like to know is what do you think about the Bible prophesy in Isaiah 19, verses 23 and 24, apparently being fulfilled in our times, when Egypt and Syria will be aligning themselves with Israel in the last days? And in what way has being a born-again Christian affected your role as the President?
THE PRESIDENT. Very fine. I believe that one of the great, positive factors in eventually finding a resolution of the differences in the Middle East is the deep religious conviction of both Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat.
They and we, as Christians, worship the same God. Our religious beliefs differ in some degrees. But there's a special interrelationship between the Arabs in Egypt and the Jews in Israel.
They recognize Abraham as a common father of them all. And I think they understand, as you say, the prophesies in Isaiah as applying to both peoples, that peace between Egypt and Israel is foreordained by God, and that they play a role in carrying out God's purposes.
The second part of your question about my being a born-again, devout Christian and how it's affected my public life is one that I've had to address many times. There was a great deal of doubt in the country when I began my campaign because I am a devout Christian.
I've never found that this interfered with my performance of duty as a Governor or as a candidate or as President of our country. I recognize very clearly the prohibition in the Constitution about an unwarranted intrusion of the state or the Government into religion or vice versa.
I worship daily. The last thing I do every evening is to have a private worship service with my wife. We never fail to do this. I pray frequently during the day. I seek God's guidance. I don't try to use the power and prestige of my office to cause other people to adopt the same faith that I happen to have.
I don't think this is contrary to the tropes or the expressed beliefs of our Founding Fathers. In the Constitution of the United States, we recognize God as the guiding leader of us all.
We leave people a right to either worship Him or not, or to worship whatever form of God they choose. But I found it very beneficial to me to have something in my life that never changes.
In the face of constantly changing political and military and economic circumstances, my religious faith doesn't change. And it's a stabilizing factor in my life. It binds me closer to the members of my family; it gives us something in common. And I believe and hope that our Nation's deep belief in God will be a stabilizing factor in generations ahead.
So I would say it's very good for me. Thank you.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT'S CAMPAIGN PROMISES
Q. Mr. President, my name is Bryan Gifford. I'm from Concord, New Hampshire, and I represent Concord High School. After reading several evaluations of your first year in office, one underlying point that I seem to notice throughout .all of them was that you may have promised a bit too much during your Presidential campaign. You said, quote, on December 28, 1977: "I think my biggest mistake has been inadvertently building my expectations too high." My question then, sir, is looking back on your first year in office and in light of this, what are you looking forward to in this coming year?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me say that I still stand by all my campaign promises. There are two factors that made me make that statement. It was the night before I left on my around-the-world trip. One was that, as I've described earlier about the national health program, that the Congress can only deal with so many issues simultaneously because, quite often, one or two committees in the Congress have to handle a series, a wide range of issues, and the Congress has simply moved slower than I had anticipated.
The energy question is one. We've never had a national energy policy. And I proposed an energy policy on April 20 last year. The House of Representatives passed my proposal, basically intact, before the recess in August. The Senate later passed a completely different version of an energy policy. And since the late fall, the House and Senate conferees have been trying to resolve their differences, so far unsuccessfully.
We haven't given up hope there. This is an issue that's been before the Congress for more than 30 years. The first natural gas deregulation bill was vetoed by Harry .Truman, I think, in 1950. So we are dealing there with an issue that's almost the most difficult domestic issue that the Congress could possibly face. We're both a major oil producer—one of the greatest producers of oil in the world; we are also the greatest consumer of oil in the world. And those conflicts are slow to be resolved.
The same thing applies to many other issues. We've made our proposals to the Congress, and I don't think we've proposed too much.
The other point I'd like to make is that when I made those promises to the American voters, I never said that I would accomplish everything the first year. I've only been in office 13 months, and I've about 3 more years to go. And there has been some patience exhibited by the American electorate and also by the news media, but when you get to the end of the first 12 months and say that you haven't done everything that you promised to do in 4 years, that's not a fair way to measure what I and the Congress have been able to do together. There's a very good sense of partnership and mutual responsibility now that exists between the White House and the Capitol Hill Members of Congress. And I think this has not been the case in the past.
So I'll stand behind my campaign promises. I think the American people have to realize the difficulty of some of these issues, be patient with me and the Congress, recognize what we have accomplished, and I'll be much more careful in the future about the rate of recommendations to the Congress to accommodate their very careful, very beneficial process for passing major legislation.
Q. Good morning, Mr. President. I'm David Carle from Contoocook Valley Regional High School in Peterborough. The CIA has been run by a civilian all its history, except for at its birth and now. Why do you have Stansfield Turner, a military man, running the CIA, with all of his ties to the Pentagon?
THE PRESIDENT. The legislation that originally established the CIA specifically authorized the leadership of either military officers or civilians. The only prohibition is that both of the top two people cannot be military officers. Stan Turner is one of the most competent and brilliant and forceful leaders I have ever known. He happens, coincidentally, to have been a classmate of mine at Annapolis. I never knew him then personally. He was so far above me in academics and in leadership that I just admired him from a distance. He was a star football player. He was the top officer in the Naval Academy Brigade of Midshipmen, and he was right at the top in our class.
He was a Rhodes Scholar afterwards and had a brilliant career in the Navy. He was one of the first members of my class who ever made admiral and then made four-stripe admiral. He was the leader, a president of a Navy War College in Rhode Island, and completely transformed a relatively dormant organization into one that is vibrant and aggressive and very beneficial now to the Navy, to the Armed Forces, and to our country.
Because of those reasons, after considering many people, I thought that Stan Turner was the best person to lead the intelligence community. I still think so.
As you know, by far the majority of total employees involved in the collection and collation, dissemination of intelligence are in the military. They collect information on a tactical basis that's used every day by me, the State Department, and by the Secretary of Defense and others.
And so far, I am completely and totally satisfied and pleased with the performance of Admiral Turner. He obviously has a very difficult and sensitive job to perform. The CIA had very low morale when he came there. Its trust by the American people had been damaged because of the revelations of past illegalities. And he's worked closely with me, with the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, the new committee in the House, to evolve a structure for the entire intelligence community which gives him a much more important job than he had in the past.
Now we have what we call a tasking committee to decide what the major responsibilities of collection and dissemination of intelligence information are. He'll be in charge of the whole thing now. He'll be in charge of the entire intelligence community budget, both that in the CIA and that in the military as well. So, because of the recognition of his good leadership qualities in the past and since he's been head of the CIA, there's no doubt in my mind that he is the right man for the job.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Karen Thompson. I'm from Epping High School. And I'd like to know, do you feel that the design of the plants like the Seabrook nuclear plant sufficiently protect the resources of the ocean?
THE PRESIDENT. Karen—is that right?
HE PRESIDENT. As you know, the Federal courts and State courts have been involved in the Seabrook plant discussion for, I think, about 3 years. At this point, all the Federal agencies have determined that there is no prohibition against proceeding with the Seabrook plant.
They don't have a license yet from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but I think that's a likely prospect. In the last few hours, there's been another court ruling issued that temporarily delays the issuing of that license.
My own background in graduate school is as a scientist, in the early stages of nuclear power development and use for peaceful purposes.
While I was Governor, I approved the construction of a major nuclear powerplant in Georgia and approved another one that has not yet been built. I think there's a legitimate place in our country for nuclear power. The environmental considerations that have been the major obstacle at the Seabrook site is a matter to be resolved by the people who live here in this State and by the Federal courts that provide a voice for people who are dissatisfied. As far as the technical elements that are under my own responsibility, directly or indirectly, the Seabrook powerplant design meets those requirements.
New England, as you know, is heavily dependent on uncertain supplies of energy. In this whole region, you rely in an extraordinary way on imported oil. Georgia produces 85 percent of its electric power from coal, and we import very little oil. I think that there needs to be a coordinated approach here in this New England area, in New Hampshire, to make sure that offshore oil drilling is permitted, that oil can be imported and coal can be imported without delay, and that nuclear power can be produced.
Whether or not the Seabrook plant is the best site for a nuclear powerplant, I can't decide that, and I don't have the authority nor the desire to do so. Some States, as you know, through referenda or through action by the State legislatures, have put very tight constraints on the location of powerplants and whether or not they could be built at all. In some States, it's illegal now to build a nuclear powerplant at all.
I think the nuclear powerplants are safe. There has never been and cannot possibly be an explosion of a nuclear powerplant. It's physically impossible. And the safety record there among nuclear powerplants is far superior to the safety record of powerplants that are fueled by oil or by coal.
So, I think that we have a problem concerning environmental quality, the protection of your beach or seashore areas, that addresses itself to the people here with an ultimate voice in the Federal courts. Technically, though, the Seabrook plant is qualified. And I think there is a legitimate role in the future as there is in the present for nuclear power.
My first preference is for permanent energy sources, like solar energy. The foremost proponent of solar energy in the Congress is Tom Mcintyre.
Wood is a major, replenishable supply of energy that's growing by leaps and bounds in its use in New England and also in my own State of Georgia, where twothirds of the State is covered by forests. We have wind power that can be introduced, a form of solar power, as you know.
You have tremendous tides up here and ocean current gradients that can be used in the future. Domestic oil and natural gas need to be distributed here. The new energy proposal will help you get natural gas on the same price level as exists in other parts of the country, which will be quite a change for the better. We hope to increase the production of coal.
But after all those possibilities are explored and exploited, there is still a need in the foreseeable future for nuclear power. And I think New England is one of the areas of our country that needs nuclear power perhaps better than some others.
So, that describes as best I can my attitude on the subject. If the courts rule that the people's interests are being met by continuation of the Seabrook plant, in spite of my own record as a very devout environmentalist, as President, I would approve its construction.
Q. Mr. President, I am David Young from Fall Mountain Regional High School in Alstead, New Hampshire. My question to you is this: The Soviet Union and Cuba are supplying Communist influences in south African nations with arms, technical assistance, and troops. Why is the United States not being a political and military leader and just being a political liaison?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you probably know, up until just recently, our country played no significant role .at all in Africa. Since I've been in office, we have greatly increased our interest, involvement, and influence in Africa—southern Africa, to which you refer, and also the rest of the continent.
I would say that on the West Coast of Africa or among the black nations, the most heavily populated, the most powerful, the most influential, perhaps the richest, is Nigeria.
Earlier, when Secretary Henry Kissinger tried to go to Nigeria for a visit, they refused to permit him even to come into their country. Because of the superb leadership of Andrew Young and his trust throughout the continent of Africa, we now have a very good friendship with Nigeria.
During the Easter recess of the Congress, I intend to go to Nigeria, to Lagos, to meet with the leaders there. We have formed with the British, French, Germans, Canadians, a five-nation bargaining committee who are now working between the Southwest Africa People's Organization—we call it SWAPO—and the South Africans to resolve the questions in Namibia.
Just this past week—this week, as a matter of fact, Cy Vance, our Secretary of State, was in New York at the United Nations meeting with the Foreign Minister of South Africa and the leader of the SWAPO organization to try to provide majority rule in the territory in the southern and western part, formerly known as Southwest Africa.
In Rhodesia, again, we have joined with the British, who legally still have responsibility for Rhodesia, to bring about a resolution of those differences—a peaceful resolution of those differences—based on majority rule, based on the right of any person more than 18 years old to vote to choose the leaders who present themselves in a free, open, and democratic election, to try to assuage the legitimate demands of the blacks who live there under the domination of a very small group of whites.
We look upon South Africa and their form of apartheid as completely contrary to the principles that Americans have always espoused. The only American leader that I know who's endorsed, in effect, apartheid and condoned or approved the attitude of the South African Government is your own Governor here in New Hampshire.
But there is a growing realization throughout Africa, I believe, that the United States is a strong and formidable force. I might say that we have not been successful in Angola. There is a government there headed by Mr. Neto, who is not a friend of ours. There is still a guerrilla movement there under the leadership of a man named Savimbe, who still struggles for ultimate power in Angola. He is supported by several of the European nations, directly or indirectly.
But I don't know of any instance in South Africa in the last 2 years where our own influence has not been increasing. I know of no place where it has been decreasing. And we've tried to spread our influence not on the basis of military intervention as a single nation, but we've tried to bring in other leaders both in Africa and the black nations, the Organization of African Unity, and the European nations and Canada, to join with us to bring about a peaceful progress of majority rule, independence, and democracy in South Africa, and to minimize the influence of the Soviet Union and Cuba, which was increasing very rapidly up until a year ago.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
STANDARDS OF GOVERNMENT
Q. Good morning, Mr. President. I hope you enjoy your visit in our State. My name is Keith White. I attend Manchester West High School. I live in Bedford.
Your position as a Christian was probably a very major element in your winning campaign. I'm curious, what do you think the Government's responsibility to the spiritual and moral development of its people should be? What do you think it is? And since you have been President, how have you tried to meet that responsibility? I think this is a very pertinent question to the youth here, because in our times, there is a great deal of misleading forces in the world.
THE PRESIDENT. Keith, that's a good question, and I'm glad you referred to youth. I think if there is one group in our Nation who is the most alienated and disillusioned when public officials do not exemplify decency and morality and humanity and sensitivity and compassion, it's young people. You've been in the forefront, you and others who are now older who were your age, of trying to restore morality to our country within our Nation and on international affairs.
When we were struggling in this country to give black people and other minority groups equal treatment under the Constitution—the simple right to vote, to go to school, to have a job, to own a home—young people were the ones who were courageous enough to endanger their physical health or even lives to strive for an unpopular cause.
When our Nation was involved in the war in Vietnam, the ones who first spoke out and said, "This is a war that's not compatible with the principles of America" were young people. At first it was a tiny group. Then it grew and grew, primarily through people your age or perhaps college age. And eventually the older people, the parents said, "Well, maybe my child is right." And ultimately, we withdrew from Vietnam because of the influence in young people demanding that our country stand for the same principles on which it was founded and which made it great.
I sensed, as I campaigned throughout this country for 2 years, that there was a frustrated feeling and a sense of despair and even embarrassment about some of the things that had been happening in Washington: the Watergate revelations, the breakdown in compatibility and partnership between the President and the Congress, the constant blaming of one another for mistakes that were honestly made, the revelations about illegalities in the CIA, and involvement in the Vietnam war, as well.
And I think that we felt that on an international basis, that our country had abandoned those principles. We espoused any sort of totalitarian dictatorship if it furthered our own interests temporarily in different parts of the world. And we forgot about trying to spread what we stand for among the other nations of the world.
In my own acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, in my inauguration speech, I promised the American people that when I was President that the principle of human rights would again be raised as a banner behind which American people could rally and of which American people would again be proud.
And this is what we have tried to do. It's a difficult and sensitive issue, because it's easy to say you're for human rights but it's difficult to force other nations over whom you have no control to honor the principles of human rights. We've made very good progress.
I welcomed the new Ambassador, for instance, the other day, from Indonesia. This past winter, this winter, I think in December, Indonesia released 10,000 political prisoners. Some of the countries in South America who have been dominated by military dictatorships have now committed themselves to have democratic elections.
I don't believe there's a single leader in a country in the world who doesn't think frequently, or even constantly, about the question of human rights: "How is the world going to judge me in how I treat the citizens who are ruled by my administration?" We've made good progress already. But I think the restoration of that decency and common sense and humanity and morality to our own Government is the only thing that can hold us together.
And when you think back through history, even the most unpopular Presidents now are the ones that are identified as being the greatest. And they were the ones that made difficult decisions based on the principles of religion that you described. Abraham Lincoln was probably excoriated or criticized most by the press of almost any President who ever served, but he did what he thought was right. Harry Truman's popularity went down to 23 percent—the lowest that any President has ever had—but he did it because he thought it was right to begin giving black people a chance to have equal treatment in the Armed Forces, not popular in the South.
He wanted to restore Europe with a great financial aid that came from the taxpayers' pockets in this country, not a popular thing at all. He gave aid to Turkey and Greece. He organized the United Nations. And now, I think it's generally accepted that Harry Truman is one of our great Presidents.
I don't consider that they were great because of something within them, and the same thing applies to me. But I think the greatness comes from accurately exemplifying, in the White House, the highest principles of the American people. And the demands that you make, the direct involvement that you have as young people in government, will help to restore those standards, make them more rigid and more demanding. And I think whether or not an incumbent officeholder is a mayor or a Governor or a Senator or a President, Democratic or Republican, that you ought to demand the utmost in ethics, integrity, and morality from them. If they don't measure up to your standards, I hope you'll work as hard as you
can to put somebody else in office.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
NATIONAL ENERGY PLAN
Q. Good morning, Mr. President, and welcome to New Hampshire. My name is Carol Ann Mongeon, and I'm from Newmarket, New Hampshire, and I go to Newmarket High School. My question is, Mr. President, do you feel that in 1978 an adequate energy program will be passed, and if so, could you please explain why?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I believe that an adequate energy program will be passed. I've described earlier the difficulty of it and the intense lobbying that is going on constantly on Capitol Hill.
The oil companies have enjoyed a position of privilege in our country for too long. We've not had a fair distribution of natural gas or oil throughout our country. There have been wide variations in price, which prevents the natural gas companies from wanting to send that fuel to New England. Your fuel costs in this region are about 45 percent higher, on the average, than the rest of the country. And if, for instance, a large conglomerate corporation has 10 different factories and they have a drop-off in sales of, say, 10 percent, and they have to close down one of those factories, and all other things are equal as far as competence of labor and wage rates and so forth, but energy costs are 45 percent higher, then you labor at a disadvantage in trying to keep the job opportunities here in your region of the country.
There's another problem in that we have not adequately addressed research and development and a spreading of our use of energy to other sources that are more plentiful or even renewable. That's got to change.
I think we're becoming more and more aware that our whole economy is dampened because we import now, last year, $45 billion worth of oil from overseas. It makes us vulnerable to interruption of those sources.
We need to emphasize conservation, to start building and repairing homes, to get more savings in the rapidly increasing price and cost of energy.
So, in research and development, increasing production of oil and gas and coal in our own country, fairer distributions, more equitable cost or prices, the increase in the security of our country by reducing the threat of interruptions of supplies—all those things combined together are part of our energy package. And the need is so urgent that I sincerely believe that the Congress will successfully resolve this issue. And those are the reasons that I believe so.
But in the confusion with television advertisements and so forth, quite often American people don't get aroused to demand from their Members of Congress that they take immediate action. In the meantime, the oil companies and others are aroused and their lobbyists are working day and night. And quite often, a doubtful Member of Congress only hears one side of the question.
So, I hope that you and all your friends will let your Members of Congress know how important this is. The Democratic Congressmen and Senators have been very helpful in areas that don't produce oil and natural gas. Some of them even in the oil-producing States are now seeing the need and the advisability in the long run to pass an energy package. So, I just hope that we can get this done before we have crises that really hurt us to demonstrate how serious the need is. So, those are the reasons that I think an energy bill ought to be passed. Those are also the same reasons that I think the Congress will pass one.
Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Carol Ann.
PANAMA CANAL TREATIES
Q. Mr. President, my name is Dean Eggert. I represent Lebanon High School and live in the city of Lebanon. Do you feel that the recently proposed changes and amendments to the suggested Panama Canal Treaty are necessary, and if so, would you please tell us why?
THE PRESIDENT. The Panama Canal treaties have been tinder negotiation now for more than 14 years. These treaties were originally signed in the early part of this century, between the United States and a Frenchman who benefited greatly from the treaties themselves.
No Panamanian ever saw that treaty before it was signed, and no Panamanian has ever signed the treaty either. We are not ashamed of having signed that treaty or built the canal. It's a source of great pride to me, as President, to know that American engineers were able to bring the canal into being. It's been helpful to our own country, to Panama, and to the rest of the world.
Those people have known in Panama that the terms of the treaty were not fair to them. As a matter of fact, Theodore Roosevelt, who was then the President, Secretary, Hay, who was Secretary of State, said publicly, "These treaties are highly favorable to the United States. They are not favorable to Panama."
Over that whole 75-year period, the Panamanian people have been expressing their displeasure. And back 14 years ago, when President Johnson was in office, there were outbreaks of violence in Panama by dissident groups who wanted to have control of their own territory and a stronger voice in the operation of the canal.
The canal is important to our country. Our security, our economic well-being is dependent upon a continued operation of the Panama Canal that we can use. We have never had sovereignty over the Panama Canal Zone itself. That has always been under the sovereignty of Panama. We've paid them rent on that zone every year from the very beginning, beginning with $250,000 and increasing as we've gone on. This is an issue that I think is very important. It's obviously of crucial importance here in New Hampshire.
We have to get, as you know, a two-thirds vote in the Senate. There is no political benefit to be derived by me or any Member of the Senate in voting for the canal treaties themselves.
I think the canal treaties negotiated are good. I think they are better for our own country—- [applause] . Thank you. They're better for our own country. They're better for Panama. They preserve our permanent right to use the canal. They preserve our permanent right to defend the canal. They preserve our permanent right to go to the head of the line and use the canal expeditiously if our warships need to do so.
And I hope and I believe that the Senate, in a great demonstration of patriotism and courage, will ratify the Panama Canal treaties.
Thank you. [Applause] That made my trip worthwhile. Thank you.
PRESIDENT'S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Q. Mr. President, my name is Bruce Prevost. I attend Hillsboro Deering High School in Hillsboro. You've mentioned in two previous questions your sincere beliefs in the Bible and God. And in relation to this—and in the Old Testament it mentions many times where God has called the nation to repentance for their immoral actions and things they have done.
And I would like to know, do you feel you are in a position to do this before the American people and before God, and would you do it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, my own religious faith is one that's much more personal. I feel that we have a direct access to God through prayer and that repentance is a personal thing. I don't believe that it's my responsibility to repent before God for what our Nation has done in the past or may do even while I'm in the White House. I think that's something that bas to be initiated and carried out by individual Americans.
Obviously, if I see a sinful act or an improper or heartless act being carried out by our Nation in the past or present or future, it's my responsibility as President to stop that action and to condone through action, for inequities or suffering that has been caused by it.
So, I don't know any better way to describe the question than that. I don't consider myself to be the spiritual leader of this country. I'm the political leader. I have a right, I think, and a duty to be frank with the American people about my own belief. And I'm not a priest nor a bishop nor someone who, you know, fills a religious pulpit and is authorized nor asked to repent for the whole country.
I've answered your question in a fumbling way. But that's the way I feel about it. And I recognize my own personal shortcomings and sinfulness. I do ask God to forgive me. I try to do better. And I think that the American people, whether they are religious or not, have the same strong inclination to correct deficiencies, to repair wrongs, to turn ourselves in a much closer way, personally and collectively, to exemplify the highest possible moral principles on which our Nation has been so great.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE COAL STRIKE
Q. Mr. President, my name is Jim Evans, and I attend Nashua High School. My question concerns the coal strike, and you talked about the negotiations currently going on. But what if they don't reach an agreement? Will you invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and, if so, when? Do you have like a deadline set in your mind at all?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me say that if any such action should be required in the future, an action by Congress or an invoking of the Taft-Hartley Act, it would be a major loss for our country. It would hurt me as President. It would hurt the mine owners and the mineworkers. It would hurt the status of the United Mine Workers union, which is already on shaky grounds because of divisions and intensely fought recent elections. It would hurt the entire bargaining process, where working people have a right to negotiate with their employers for fair working conditions.
There is also a history among mineworkers of intense independence and an aversion to the intrusion of the Federal Government into their own lives.
Obviously, as President, I cannot permit the country to stiffer from a delay in negotiations. Last night, we were at the point of narrowing down the issues between the owners and the workers to a very few but important points.
The way the negotiations .are taking place is that there is a negotiating team or committee representing the workers, that's nine people. The employers have a negotiating team of their own. And there is a so-called bargaining council of 39 people representing the workers.
We brought all of those now together in the same building, the Labor building, and the Secretary of Labor moves from one group to another. They are quite often separated from one another in different rooms, caucusing. And he tries to explore some common ground on which they might .agree.
The dissatisfaction with the present proposal is lessening. But there are some hard and firm positions that are difficult to change. So, we will continue, and so far successfully, to get the leaders of the workers and owners to continue to negotiate. And progress has been made. I can't predict success.
I'll be back in Washington this afternoon about 2:00 or 2:30, and on the way back on Air Force One, I'll get a telephone call from the Secretary of Labor describing to me what the current situation is then. We'll decide our own strategy, try to keep the parties involved in Washington. I will intercede personally, if necessary. It may be necessary for the Secretary of Labor to evolve a proposal that could be presented to both sides as his own. We don't know that yet.
But it's very doubtful, if the Taft-Hartley law is invoked, that the Federal courts could force miners to go in those deep mines and work. And then you are faced with the proposition of law enforcement officers on one hand and miners on the other, and possible violence, incarceration of the workers, continued loss in their salaries, no restoration of their pension funds, no restoration of their health care benefits, the mine operators losing money every day, the country suffering. And I don't want to face that prospect and neither do the miners or owners.
But if I have to, of course I will take such drastic action if the entire collective bargaining process breaks down. I don't want to predict that yet, because I still have confidence that the miners and owners and I and the country want to have the situation settled through collective bargaining. But that's always a possibility that's on my shoulders as a responsibility, and of course, I would not avoid it if I have to take that action.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Susan Bachelder. I'm from Pittsfield High School in Pittsfield. I just want to know, we are sending billions of dollars to help poor countries to feed their people. And I was wondering why we don't send food to help the nations instead of money, and this way we could get rid of some of the surplus food that we have that is making the farmers get such low prices for their produce.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good. For a number of years, we've had what is known as Public Law 480, which permits the transfer of food and feed grain products from our country directly to people who are hungry. We are expanding that program now, and both the Senators behind me on the platform are strong supporters of that particular aspect of our foreign aid program.
In other areas, we make long-term loans to countries to permit them to buy our own products, food and other products as well, which tends to keep American workers employed and increases our exports of goods produced in this country.
The amount of actual cash money that's given to another country is very, very small compared to those other programs that I've described to you. We have a mixture in our foreign aid program of that kind of humanitarian support-food, feed grains, loans, economic aid to let them build electropower dams, irrigation projects, highways, hospitals, schools—and the hard loans, so-called, where they have to repay just as firmly and with substantial interest payments as if your parents or you borrowed from a bank.
But we are expanding the very aspect of food distribution that you've described. That's an excellent thought that came from you, and I think it shows very good thinking.
We've now got substantial surpluses on hand of soybeans, corn and other feed grains, and wheat, for making food. This is an excellent idea that you've described. It's one on which we are already moving. And I think it's a much better way to distribute aid than the loans in the past. I have said often during the campaign that I'm not in favor of collecting taxes from the poor people in our rich country and giving that money to the rich people in the poor countries. And that's what we're trying to do in Government now.
Thank you very much.
Q. Good morning, Mr. President. My name is Anne Mary Dulski, and I am from Mount St. Mary's Seminary here in Nashua. I'd like to know why do you propose to establish a separate department of education, and would this mean that there would be more Federal controls on education in the future?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not, under any circumstances, willing to see the Federal Government have more control over colleges, high schools, grammar schools, kindergartens, or any other aspect of public education or private education in our Nation. The reason for advocating a separate department of education has nothing to do with control.
When I was Governor of Georgia, I spent about 25 percent of my time trying to have a better education system in our State. It was a constant challenge for me, and I was constantly involved in it, working with the State administrators in education, the classroom teachers, PTA groups, and others.
When I became President, I was deeply concerned about the quality of education in our country. We spend enormous sums of money. We have, in many instances, young people who graduate from high school who can't read and write. They know very little about the political structure of our own Government. They know very little about the principles on which Our Nation was founded.
Too many students who have an undetected problem at the third or fourth grade level are automatically promoted to the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade not being able to read and write. They obviously can't learn other subjects. And I just feel that there are many ways in which the Federal Government can work more closely and in harmony with the State, local governments and private institutions to give education a boost.
I haven't spent a half of 1 percent of my time since I've been President dealing with education issues. It rarely comes up in my weekly Cabinet meetings. When it does, it involves something concerning the Civil Rights Act or some legal aspect of education.
Twice, now, since I've been President, we've had all the State school superintendents come into Washington. The last time they met with me for an extended meeting at the White House, in the White House Mansion itself, to try to get some way where we could have a cutting down of paperwork requirements and a much more active and accurate way to channel available Federal funds into our education system.
I don't think we'll ever have the visibility for education, I don't ever think we'll have the personal involvement of the President and the Secretary at the Cabinet level in education to promote its good points, to correct its deficiencies, as long as we have the department of education buried underneath health and welfare. I just think it needs to be separate. Thank you.
I might say that there has been already introduced in the Senate, in the Government Operations Committee under Senator Ribicoff, a bill that would establish a separate department, and we will not introduce a separate piece of legislation. We will add our support politically from the White House and administration to the legislation already being considered by the Congress.
PRESIDENT'S PARTICIPATION IN TOWN
Q. Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning.
Q. My name is Susan Zaremski from Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire. And I was wondering, how seriously are you really going to take our questions and concerns said today?
THE PRESIDENT. I have only one profession that completely occupies my life, and that is to be a good President of the United States. And one of the constant fears that I have is that I will act in a way, as President, that's incompatible with and contrary to the concerns and hopes and dreams and aspirations of the American people.
This is the fourth or fifth townhall type meeting that I've had. I have no idea ahead of time what questions will be asked me. There's no way that I can brief myself before I come in here, predicting what your questions will be. And I have no influence nor do I want to have any on what you ask me. But I presume that after an hour and a half of this kind, when I analyze what the questions are, that fairly well represents what your interests might be here in New Hampshire.
I had a similar meeting, as you know, last night in Maine. I've had other ones in Mississippi; another one in Massachusetts. And I listen very carefully. The tone of the questions and the response of the audience is of profound importance to me and has a great effect on me. So, I don't know of any better way to get the sense of our Nation than to listen to your questions and to observe your reactions.
There is no possible way that you could affect the future deliberations of a President any better than through this kind of forum. So, I would say that your effect on me has been and will be very profound.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
GOVERNOR MELDRIM THOMSON, JR.
Q. Good morning, Mr. President. I'm Joseph Danko from Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook, New Hampshire. Two questions: How do you feel about Governor Thomson's recent trip to South Africa? Do you agree with his statements dealing with equal rights?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, he has a right to go to South Africa.
You know, I told you I was going to be candid with you. There are very few things on which your Governor and I agree. [Laughter] And specifically, his comments during and after his trip to South Africa, in my opinion, are completely contrary to what this country stands for. But at the same time, one of the things that this country stands for is the right of free speech. And he has just as much of a right to express his opinion as do I.
TUITION TAX CREDITS
Q. Good morning, Mr. President. My name is Beth Loy, and I represent Timberlane High School in Plaistow, New Hampshire. The tax break of $250 for college students is such a ridiculously low figure compared to the total cost of about $4,000 for a college year. How was this figure arrived at?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't advocate a tax credit as a means to help finance college education for the middle-income families. On the contrary, what we have proposed, and what I hope the Congress will approve, is a combination of direct grants to students whose families have a moderate or low income, loans to students in the low-, moderate-, and middle-income group, and work-study programs, where the student can receive part-time employment to help finance college education.
We will increase throughout our country the number of students who can participate in these loans by 2 million, which is about, almost, a 50-percent increase at one time, if my own proposals are put forward. They are much more narrowly focused on the student who actually needs help, and they are much less costly to the Federal Government than giving a tax credit. So, I do not favor the tax credit proposal. I think it's ill-advised. I think the combination of the grants, loans, and student work programs are a much better approach. And I will try very hard to get the Congress to approve those this year.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
PANAMA CANAL TREATIES
Q. Mr. President, my name is Donna Schroeder, and I am representing the Presentation of Mary Academy in Hudson. My question for you this morning is what action would the United States take if we sign the treaties and, once the Panamanians have control of the canal, they close the canal to our use?
THE PRESIDENT. This will have to be the last question.
There is no possibility of that. the Panamanian people would be much more inclined to want to keep the canal open if the treaties are approved than if they are disapproved, regardless of what the Panamanian Government wants. Even though they have been dissatisfied with the terms of the present treaty, they recognize that keeping the canal open is an important economic consideration for them.
We want the canal to stay open, but it's crucial to the Panamanians. The treaties specifically say that the canal will be kept open and available for use to ships of all countries. And if a need or emergency should arise, our own ships, our warships, could go to the head of the line, ahead of any ships, and go through the canal expeditiously.
We retain the right to defend the canal during this century and forever. And if the Panamanians should close the canal, I would take whatever action is necessary to protect the canal and to keep it open.
Let me say in closing that this has been a very good experience for me, and I hope it's been beneficial to you as well. The national news media will send actually around the world the substance of your questions and the substance of my answers.
I've never claimed to know all the answers. I have very good partnership with John Durkin and with Tom Mcintyre, with Members of the Congress and the Senate, and I believe I also have a good partnership with the people of America. And I hope that you will join me in being obviously and openly critical of the defects in our political system.
But I hope you'll be equally determined to point out to each other and to the world the fine aspects of our free enterprise system, the soundness of our Constitution and the principles .on which our country was founded, and remind each other and the rest of the world that you and I still live in the greatest country on Earth.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 10:30 a.m. in the gymnasium at the Nashua Senior High School.
Jimmy Carter, Nashua, New Hampshire Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting With New Hampshire High School Students. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244483