Jimmy Carter photo

National Federation of Democratic Women Remarks at a White House Reception

April 28, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much for coming.

How many of you think we're going to have a tremendous Democratic victory in 1978? [Applause] How many of you helped us have a big Democratic victory in 1976? [Applause] Thank you very, very much.

Well, the National Federation of Democratic Women has meant a lot to me even before anyone knew I had any plans to run for President. In May of 1974, I made a speech in Omaha, Nebraska. Was anyone here there? [Applause] Very good. And a little bit after that, three women drove all the way from Kansas down to Atlanta to ask me if I would run for President in 1976. And, as you know, I took their advice. [Laughter] And I've been taking the advice of Democratic women both before and since, and your advice turned out, at least for me and, I think, the Nation, to be good.

Is Margaret Hobelman here, or Marie Vickers, and Harriet [Terry]? Very good. Well, I thank those three women and all of you for being so vital to me in my own campaign and to the country.

Let me say just a few things that are of importance to you and to our country and to me. I believe in the United States and what it stands for, and I believe in the Democratic Party and what it stands for.

For 8 years, as you know, in this house, the White House, we didn't have a Democratic vision, we didn't have a Democratic conviction, we didn't have Democratic leadership and Democratic Party ideas. But all that time, the essence of what our Nation is, what it stands for, what the Democratic Party is, what it stands for, was living in the hearts and minds of a majority of the American people and was nurtured and kept alive by you and those like you who never gave up hope for seeing our programs and our commitments realized in this great country.

There are more than 200,000 women listed as members of this organization. About 40 States are represented here this afternoon. And we have begun to put into effect, with the help of an excellent Democratic Congress, those things for which our Nation yearned for all those years.

This time last year the overwhelming concern of the American people, myself, the Congress, all of you, was to put Americans back to work. We added more than 4 million net jobs in the United States in 1 year, thanks to you, thanks to the Democratic Congress. And we saw the unemployment rate drop from about 8 percent, now to just one-tenth of a percent above 6. And there's a renewed hope and confidence among American people that Democrats can provide jobs for those that want to work.

Now we've got another problem, equally important, that needs to be addressed with the same degree of commitment, confidence, and tenacity, and that is to control inflation, which is tending to sweep across our country. And with tough, sound management and a commitment by industry, business, and labor and government to deal with this difficult issue, I believe we can also hold down inflation. Do you all agree? [Applause]

We've tried to revive, through leadership in the White House and from the Congress, a realization of what it is that makes Americans proud. We've suffered a great deal in recent years from the Vietnam war. We've suffered from the embarrassment of Watergate, from the revelation of illegalities in the CIA, and Americans had kind of lost their spirit. But after 2 years of campaigning with the help of many of you, and because of the advice of many of you, we've raised a standard now around the world which is rallying people in all nations to recommit themselves to freedom, to individuality, to democracy under the broad banner of human rights.

That's what our Nation stands for; that's what we're going to stand for as long as I'm in the White House and as long as you give me your support.

One of the tough things that I have found to deal with in Washington is the Federal bureaucracy. It's a lot worse than I thought it was, and we are trying to do something about it.

One of the things that you helped me with already this year is to restore the stature and the mutual trust that exists and can exist even more vividly between our own Nation and the developing nations of the world, particularly in Latin America. You helped me with the Panama Canal treaties. We won a tremendous victory, and I thank you for it.

Now we've got another domestic assignment, and that is to reform the civil service system. We want to have a government where the very fine and dedicated public employees who have one life to live and who have chosen to make their career in helping other people through government processes a part of the democratic system. In the past they have been hamstrung by a mechanism or bureaucracy that doesn't work, and we are trying to reform that system. And I need your help on that as well, and I hope you will give me that help.

Please contact all the Members of Congress that you know—and that's probably every one of them—and make sure they help. It'll be a good thing politically. It'll be a great credit to the Democratic Party. It'll make my job easier and make our own government more responsive to the people's needs.

Now, there are a lot of parts of that reorganization. I'd just like to mention one of them to show you how difficult this is politically, but how important it is to our country, and that's the subject of veterans preferences. I'm a veteran. I served 11 years in the Navy. My father was a veteran. He served in the First World War. My son is a veteran. He served in Vietnam. But we have too long had veterans preferences in government hiring' that were much greater, much more stringent than the Congress ever originally intended.

The purpose of the veterans preference was to help those who offered their lives and their time to serving our country in a time of danger, but they've been abused because of the great political influence of the veterans organizations-and I belong to the American Legion. But now we have a provision whereby an officer can serve in the Navy at a very reasonable salary these days, can retire after 20 years of service on a very healthy pension, and when he comes to get a job in the Federal Government, he has preference over anyone else who applies if he has a reasonably good score on the test. And many times there are qualified women and others who make 100, who make a perfect score on the competitive test, who cannot even be considered for a job.

So, what we want to do is to keep the veterans preference for those who have served in the Armed Forces for the last 10 years. That will get all the Vietnam veterans and those who are disabled and let the rest of the veterans compete with you for jobs in the Federal Government. That's one of the things we want to do.

But you can see that if you are quiet or timid or don't much care, then, .of course, the veterans organizations and others are going to keep those preferences that they have. So, we need to have you fight hard to make these changes.

Among the top civil service grades, the managers, 65 percent of those are male veterans; 3 percent are women. That needs to be changed. And if you'll help me, we'll change it.

Let me just say one other thing. This is going to be a difficult political year, because we've addressed some highly controversial subjects that had never been dealt with in a forceful and aggressive way before. The Panama Canal Treaty is just one of them.

We're looking for a comprehensive, permanent peace in the Middle East. We are expanding our interests into Africa. We are looking for a SALT agreement, a comprehensive test ban. We are trying to bring a settlement to the Cyprus question, many other very controversial foreign affairs questions that we are dealing with.

We're looking for a comprehensive energy policy, and I think you all know that every time you address one of these longstanding, political questions, you arouse opposition from those who have benefited in the past from dormancy. And when you address something like tax reform, you really shake up people that, because of influence and privilege, get some special preference in the tax codes, and you know who pays for it is Democrats. The Republicans are the ones ordinarily that get the benefits. The Democrats are the ones that pay for it. We need to change that, right? [Applause]

Well, we were partners in 1976, when I was elected President. We'll be partners again this year in electing Democrats to the Congress. But the most important partnership of all is the one that must exist between organized Democratic women and the administration here in Washington and in the statehouse as well, who try to serve our country in an effective way.

So, I hope you will get involved directly in the campaign contest during 1978. It's crucial that we show the Nation that we stand for the principles that have always been important to our party, that we are effective in administering the affairs of elected office, that we can work in harmony even in very controversial times, and although there's a slight malaise and a distrust of government left over from the previous administration, we Democrats are going to correct that if we work together in the future.

Thank you very much, God bless you.

One other thing I want to say: I love every one of you.

Thank you very much.

MRS. CARTER. I just want to welcome you to the White House and tell you how glad I am that you're here.

I look around and see so many faces of people that I walked up and down the streets with and campaigned with. And I want you to know that this house belongs to you as much as it does to us, and we know that we wouldn't be here if it had not been for your help.

Another thing, as Jimmy said, we need your continuing help, because you can not only influence your representatives in Congress but you can help us influence public opinion, the people around you. You're organized, you're strong, and we have to have the public opinion on our side as we work together to make our country a better place to live and to work and to play. So we need you, we need your help. And welcome to the White House.

THE PRESIDENT. Joan Mondale has already made a talk to you, but I want to let you know that we've been blessed here in the White House and in the Oval Office with the best pair of partners that anyone ever had. There is no decision that I make that's not shared with Fritz Mondale. There's no information that I have about the most top-secret international and sensitive issues that he doesn't share with me completely. I have never had a meeting since I've been President from which he was excluded, and he has never disappointed me at all.

One thing that I would like to see us all do together this year is get the equal rights amendment passed. Okay? [Applause]

Goodbye, everybody. See you all later.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:48 p.m. in the East Room at the White House to delegates to the National Federation's 1978 convention.

Jimmy Carter, National Federation of Democratic Women Remarks at a White House Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245465

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