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New York City, New York Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Former New York City Mayor Abraham Beame.

December 05, 1978

With me, Abe Beame stands very tall. [Laughter]

Several people have asked me why I would leave the White House and come to New York this evening. As a matter of fact, Alfred Kahn was supposed to come. And he got his invitation, and he called me and said, "Mr. President, I've just discovered that a meal and an opera ticket in New York is now up to $2,500. And I think this is one situation you ought to handle personally." [Laughter]

I've come because of my admiration and appreciation for Abe Beame. He joined in a unique circumstance that took place in New York City a couple of years ago, where great and profound decisions were made that benefited New York City and our country. The invitation to the Democratic National Convention to come here was one of those decisions, and the decision made by the Democratic National Convention after they got here was the other one. [Laughter] But I'm very proud of what you did for me.

I had a chance to visit with Abe Beame many times, both during and after that convention session. When I was a relatively unknown candidate whom no one had the temerity to support publicly, I had a warm reception from Abe Beame. And he was always willing to take a half hour or an hour with his top staff members, either at City Hall or in Gracie Mansion, to sit down with me, just on the chance that I might have some influence in the future, to explain to me the most serious questions on his mind. He is the most unselfish political figure that I have ever known. Never once have I ever heard him even insinuate a request for anything that would benefit Abe Beame. It was always New York City alone.

It was a very impressive performance, because he knew the dismal prospects at that time. He was frustrated when he turned his eyes and his heart and his hand to Washington. And I know that in those early days of the campaign, he not only talked to me but talked to other Democratic candidates as well about how desperately New York City needed a new partnership, not only with Albany but with Washington as well.

And then I was nominated, and then I was elected. And I think the first two visitors I had in Georgia were two desperate-looking men. Mayor Abe Beame was one; Governor Hugh Carey was the other. They came to talk to me about the prospects for the future. I said, "What can I do for you?" And they said, "Mr. President-elect, we need two things. We need $1,685 million, and we need two bus tickets back to New York." [Laughter] And I think after those trying and desperate and lonely days, the progress has been great.

I would like to pay tribute this evening, in closing, to a man whom I admire very much as a dedicated, sincere, competent, quiet, modest political leader who learned the intricacies of New York City's affairs under some of the most trying possible conditions. And when many people, even perhaps some of you sitting here, said "Bankruptcy is inevitable; we will never prevail," Abe Beame was staunch and strong and courageous and great. He's got a worthy successor, Ed Koch-and they worked in the transition in a very harmonious way—and a staunch supporter as well, as you know, in Hugh Carey, who's formed a good partnership.

We've still got a long way to go in making clear to the world and to the people here that New York City's financial condition is permanently sound. But because of this unselfish and dedicated and modest man, great strides have already been made that form a basis for inevitable future success.

So, I've come here to pay my respects as President of the United States on behalf of the American people and as a personal friend and admirer to a great man, a good man, a dedicated and unselfish man, Abe Beame. It's an honor for me to be here.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:23 p.m. on the Grand Tier level of the Metropolitan Opera House.

Following the dinner, the President attended a Metropolitan Opera production of "Aida." He then returned to Washington, D.C.

Jimmy Carter, New York City, New York Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Former New York City Mayor Abraham Beame. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244482

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