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National 4-H Club Remarks to Delegates Attending the Club's 50th Anniversary Conference.

April 17, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Hi, everybody. How many of you know how long the 4-H has been in existence?

DELEGATE. Since 1902.


I'm very grateful to be with you today, here in truly an historic place. As you know, all the Presidents who've served this country have lived in this house behind me except George Washington, and the White House was finished when the second President was serving his term. I'm delighted to have the representatives here of the 4-H, who represent 5 1/2 million young people and more than a million others who work closely with the 4-H members themselves.

As I began to think about what to talk about, coming out here to meet with you young people, who represent such a fine character of American life, I thought about the long time—this is your 50th anniversary—I thought about the long time that you've represented unchanging American values in a changing world-values like learning from doing, values like cherishing a family, values like caring for a community, values like leadership, regardless of age, and values like honesty and decency and integrity and compassion and concern.

Those things don't change. And they're particularly kept alive, in my judgment, by young people who are bright and fresh, not burdened down with doubt and concern, but have a fresh hope for the future. And those who are burdened down with concern and who are discouraged are wrong. Those who have a bright hope for the future, particularly in our county, are right. I know that about a fourth of the members who are represented at the conference are from urban areas, but those same values are extended in those environments, just as they are on the farm.

As a farmer myself who now lives in an urban area— [laughter] —I would like to point out that of all the success stories I know in our country in economic terms, the number one success story is in agriculture. God has blessed us, as you know, with unbelievably fertile land and with natural resources far beyond the dreams of any other people on Earth, and we've taken good care of that land over which we have stewardship. We have the best diet, the most plentiful supplies of food. We also serve as a benevolent distributor of food and feed products, of fibers, wood products, to other people throughout the world.

I've seen good progress made in recent years. In the last 3 years, since I've been here, farm income has gone up tremendously. We have set world records for export of American agricultural products to foreign countries every year since I've been in office. We've taken the Federal Government's nose out of the affairs of farm families in an unprecedented way. And we've had an opportunity also to let farmers control their own business, to store their own products on their farm, in an unprecedented fashion, and then to market their products when it is most advantageous to them, rather than being at the mercy of the middlemen, who sometimes take advantage of changes in the market, when the farmer has, in the past, had to sell their crops just during the harvest time.

I don't want to mislead you. As you well know, we've got problems in our country, serious problems for agriculture. Farmers are faced with very high inflation rates, like all of us are, and they're especially burdened with extremely high interest rates. We're doing all we can about it.

The Federal Reserve Board, for instance, today acted to make sure that they're extending seasonal credit to farmers on an extended basis in banks of all sizes. And this will help farmers to get credit, as it goes up and down with the seasons, in a much more effective fashion than we had anticipated. We've approved lately $2 billion in emergency loans, which is being administered now in a very fast fashion. And we're taking other action to make sure that the farm families are protected as much as possible from this blight of inflation and high interest rates that really permeates almost the entire world.

I would like to point out to you that a President and every member of 4-H and your families and counselors and those around you have to make difficult decisions in times which try our patience and times which try our courage and times which test American unity.

I spend a lot of time, day and night, worrying about the 53 Americans who are held in Iran and trying to deal with the changing circumstances there to ensure that we protect our national honor and the principles of our Nation and also protect the lives of those hostages and work toward a thing that we value very highly, and that's freedom.

We're also concerned recently, from Christmas Day, with the unwarranted invasion by the Soviet Union of the small, relatively defenseless, freedom-loving, deeply religious country of Afghanistan. We've tried to marshal support for political and economic action, not only in our own country but also from around the world, to prove to the Soviet Union that they cannot invade a country like this without suffering very serious adverse consequences. We've taken some powerful action, along with other nations, but we've done it in a peaceful fashion.

We've not only kept peace for ourselves, but we've tried in the Mideast, for instance, to bring two people formerly filled with hatred—Egyptians and Israelis—to a spirit of friendship and cooperation and a mutual search for accommodation, with open borders and trade and tourism and exchange of their leaders. Week before last—last week, as a matter of fact—President Sadat was here meeting with me, as you know, and this week Prime Minister Begin was here meeting with me. And it is in our interest to have peace in the Middle East.

But the point is, we can use the power and the prestige and the strength of our Nation as a superpower to feed other people, to keep our own people strong, to keep peace on Earth, to protect principles that are dear to all human beings, and to bring peace to others.

I know you face the next few years with a concern about the problems, but this is not anything new. Those, when I was a child, who faced the 1930's saw coming the worst depression this Nation has ever suffered. Those who were your age in 1940 were faced with the Second World War, when literally millions of people were killed in a brutal battle that lasted 4 years.

The 1950's—we were faced then with a war in Korea and with the times that tried us. In 1960 racial disturbances tore our cities apart and separated the North from the South and blacks from whites, and we had extreme violence; 1970-the highly divisive Vietnam war that separated not only people in Vietnam but separated one American from another, as we searched for a way to keep the peace and to repair the damage that had been done by that war, and then Watergate later on.

These kinds of things have tested every generation of young people, and the present problems are not as bad as any of those that I've outlined to you as we enter the year 1980, not as bad as '70, '60, '50 '40, '30.

And I would like to point out one last thing. When our Nation has been under the most difficult circumstances, that's when our strength has been most apparent. When the American people are united and can see a challenge clearly, we have never failed to answer a difficult question, to solve a difficult problem, or to overcome an apparently insurmountable obstacle. Our country is so strong and so blessed that we ought to be on our knees thanking God for what we have in this country.

And there's one final blessing that I haven't mentioned strongly enough. Some of you've seen actually or seen the pictures of the wall that separates East Berlin from West Berlin. You've seen boatloads of people leaving Vietnam and other parts in Indochina; you've seen people crammed, 10,000 in the Peruvian Embassy in recent days in Cuba—all trying to find one thing. Does anybody know what it is?


THE PRESIDENT. Freedom, trying to find freedom. And the thing that makes our Nation strong is that we have that freedom. It's the freedom to differ; it's the freedom that comes with the emphasis placed on individuality; it's the right for us to use whatever talent we have as we see fit. It lets us accommodate change rapidly; it lets us roll with the punches and come up again to fight for an even greater future for our country.

I'm grateful to you for coming here. I'm also grateful to you for the outcome of the public opinion poll that I read about Monday. [Laughter] Ten to one, you know, is pretty good. [Laughter] And I'm also grateful for the fact that I share a lot with you in my own past, when I was young, and I'm also grateful that as President I share a future to make the greatest nation on Earth even greater in the years ahead.

Thank you very much. God bless all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:24 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House.

Following the President's remarks, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jim Williams spoke to the group. Delegates Kenneth Guin of Alabama, Carol Noble of Nebraska, and Robert Sherrad, Jr., of North Carolina presented the President with a report prepared by 4-H members, a commemorative plate, and a T-shirt for Amy Carter. Their remarks are included in the transcript.

Jimmy Carter, National 4-H Club Remarks to Delegates Attending the Club's 50th Anniversary Conference. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249521

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