New York, New York Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Dinner.
Chairman George [Weissman], who's done such a good job in helping me at this crucial time; my good friend Ted Kennedy, who has been campaigning around this Nation with me, at my side, reminding Democrats in Los Angeles and in Massachusetts, in New Jersey, in Washington, in Ohio, later in Texas, of the finest traditions of the Democratic Party, which his family represents; Governor Hugh Carey, who has been such a staunch supporter of the principles that I myself espouse, and a strong leader in every element of the life of New York State; Ed Koch, ,who's been a staunch defender of New York's right to exist as a viable, ongoing, happy, dynamic, and united city, and all of you who've come here tonight to make this a success:
It is really great for me to be back in New York again. I should remind some of you that I haven't stayed here fulltime. I have been going back and forth. [Laughter] I'm sure you can tell from all these frequent visits that it's not Georgia that I have on my mind. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, I've been here so often lately that the FAA wants Air Force One to get a shuttle license to and from Washington. [Laughter]
This is a time of analysis and inventory of what the outcome of an election can mean, not just for myself but for those who represent what we believe. Liz Holtzman is not here tonight, but it's crucial to me as the future President and to your future as Americans to do everything you can the next 2 weeks to make sure that we have Pat Moynihan join with Liz Holtzman, another Democratic Senator, to represent New York State in the next 6 years.
I thought tonight since Hugh Carey and Ted Kennedy and others have outlined basically what is involved in this election, that I would speak a few minutes extemporaneously about my duties, not delineating what I've accomplished with your help in the last 4 years, but looking to the future.
It's my responsibility to make sure that this Nation is strong, that our alliances around the world are strengthened, that the integrity of our country is never in doubt, that when I speak, I speak not as a lonely voice just from the hollow shell of a room called the Oval Office, but from the hearts, as accurately as I can mirror them, of 230 million Americans. It's important for me to remember that the strength of a nation is the best guarantee of its ability to preserve the peace.
I have no apology to make about advocating a strong military force. During the 8 years before I became President, our commitments to military spending went down 37 percent—in 7 of those 8 years, down. Since then we've had an orderly, methodical, substantive, well-planned increase in real dollars, above and beyond the cost of inflation, in our Nation's defense.
I intend to maintain that record through the next 4 or 5 years and have presented my plans to the Congress. This is not militaristic in nature. It comprises about 5 percent of our gross national product as an investment in our Nation's security, my highest duty and responsibility.
I say often that Americans need not be ashamed of modern weaponry and a strong military establishment. The best weapon is one that's never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one that never is called upon to lay down his life on a field of battle. I recognize that you can't fly an airplane with only one wing. And a strong military, no matter how crucial it might be, is not an end in itself. We must combine it with a constant search for peace and settle differences, which are inevitable, through negotiation and diplomacy and a calm assurance that we need not prove America's might through combat.
I also realize the importance of controlling nuclear weapons, because here, several decades after we dropped two atomic weapons on Japan to end the Second World War, Americans are inclined to become a little callous about the power of atomic bombs. Those were 20,000 tons—20 kilotons. Now we talk about megatons—arsenals under my command, under the command of President Brezhnev in the Soviet Union. A megaton is a powerful explosive. If you put 15 tons of TNT in each one of a series of railroad cars, the train would be over 200 miles long and would require 400 diesel engines to pull it—one megaton. Some missiles that we and the Soviet Union have are several tens of megatons. That is a responsibility that I share with you.
And every president since Harry Truman has recognized that awesome power and has tried to do everything within his human capability of having a balance with the Soviet Union, controls, mutually agreed and carefully prescribed observation techniques to assure compliance with our strategic arms limitations.
Lately, that commitment has been abandoned in the heat of a Presidential campaign. I waited last night to hear the speech that Governor Reagan made. I was hoping that he would disavow his promise to tear up the SALT treaty, which, as been pointed out tonight, was negotiated under three Presidents. And I was hoping that he would disavow his previous statement that we should inject an arms race, a nuclear arms race, into our relationship with the Soviet Union. I was hoping that he would change his mind about seeking so-called nuclear superiority.
That sounds good on the surface of it, but put yourself, for a moment, in the shoes of the Soviet Union and its leaders and private citizens. Suppose Brezhnev had made a speech last week and said, "I'm going to tear up the SALT treaty that's been negotiated under three American Presidents and throw it in the wastebasket. And the Soviet Union is going to strive for nuclear superiority, and we are going to have an arms race as a possibility to threaten the United States into complying with better terms for the Soviet Union in a SALT agreement." What would our reaction be? Exactly the same as the Soviet reaction would be.
The enormous responsibility of this duty and challenge is perhaps the preeminent issue in the 1980 election, a radical departure from the policies and beliefs and commitments of Presidents who preceded me in the Oval Office ever since the Second World War.
It's important for our Nation to have an energy policy in the future that steadily removes our dependence upon and our potential subservience to the Arab OPEC nations for our oil supplies. In 1979 OPEC increased the price of oil more than the oil prices had been increased since oil was first discovered in the 1800's. Americans have reacted well, and with the help of Senator Kennedy and others, we've broken a major part of the stranglehold on our Nation's diplomacy formerly threatened at least by countries in the Persian Gulf region.
Since a year ago we've reduced our dependence on foreign oil by a third, and today we imported 2 million barrels of oil less than we imported 12 months ago. We are doing this by increasing American energy production and by stopping the waste of energy. That process must continue. This year we'll produce more coal than any year in history. We're drilling more oil and gas wells in America this year than any year in history.
But Governor Reagan says let's repeal the legislation that has been passed. Let's let the oil industry make the basic decisions about American energy policy. Let's abolish the Department of Energy. I don't know who might be the next Secretary of Energy if there is a Republican administration, but it bothers me to think how that might be an avenue to eliminate the growing independence of our country as we shape our foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East and other crucial areas of the world.
Our country must continue to strive to root out discrimination and hatred and prejudice in our own country and terrorism around the world. It's not an accident that assigning citizens secondary status has a far-reaching and adverse effect on the consciousness of human beings. My last six predecessors in the Oval Office endorsed the equal rights amendment. Forty years the Republican Party had in its platform the approval of the equal rights amendment, which says that equality of rights shall not be abridged by the Federal Government or by any State, period. That's all it says. And for us to have a President who's against that simple proposition is an issue of importance to this Nation.
We must also revitalize the American economy. American workers are now the most productive on Earth. But their productivity has not been increasing. It's been going down a little bit, and they're becoming afflicted with obsolescent plants and equipment. And it's time now to start working on that.
With the energy policy as a good base, the future opens up vast vistas of progress and achievement and excitement and a better life for all Americans. This is something that we have in store for us in the future, with increased savings by American people invested back in our ability to produce; the prohibition against protectionism, which is a constant political pressure on an incumbent officeholder in Washington; the inclination on business, management and labor, and the Government to cooperate, as we are doing in the steel industry, the automobile industry, the coal industry, the energy industry; the withdrawing of Federal intrusion into the regulation of elements of the free enterprise system, to let competition have a chance and to make sure that we don't protect the rights of corporate powers to cheat consumers; the deregulation of the rail industry, airlines, trucks, financial institutions, now communications, energy prices, is a step in the right direction. Senator Kennedy has been one of the leaders in this effort.
We also must have an end to the massive Federal deficits and excessive Federal spending. This is important to me as a basic philosophy. At the same time, we've never failed to meet the needs of those who depend on the Federal Government for a chance to have a better life.
It grieves me to see young men and women out of work. Our party in which you believe, has always had a special concern about people who had to work for a living, with their hands and fingers. Ours was the party that advocated a 25 cent minimum wage to stop the sweatshops from cheating little children and grown people, and we steadily increased that minimum wage. And now we've established a formula, with the help of Chick Chaikin and others, to make sure that in the future those lowest paid Americans had a chance to feed their children and to house their families with an aspect of decency and self-respect. That progress must continue.
It's extremely important to our Nation and our conscience and our soul to treat the most deprived in a fair way. And I believe in the principles of the Humphrey-Hawkins bill, which says that the goal of our Nation to be avidly pursued is to give all able-bodied Americans, men and women, a chance to work, because there's nothing more debilitating than to have a certain amount of talent and ability and not be able to use it and to feel an alienation from society and then turning into anger and withdrawal and hatred because of deprivation of a chance to lead a productive life.
We've made good progress in the Middle East. Everything that I've done since I've been in the White House has been oriented toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and the preservation of the peace and the security of Israel and honoring those mutual principles that bind us together.
As I said earlier tonight, the first time I met with Prime Minister Rabin and President Sadat, and they said, "Mr. President, what is it that you want in your term of office?" and I said, "I want direct negotiations, which we'd never had, and I want a recognition of Israel's right to exist by her major Arab nations [neighbors],1 which we had never had. And I'd like an agreement of peace instead of war, and I would like to have open borders and diplomatic recognition and an exchange of ambassadors and free travel, for tourism and trade." And President Sadat replied, "That's a beautiful dream, but we'll never see it in my lifetime."
1White House correction.
All of that dream that I just outlined to you has already come true, but there are additional dreams. And the obstacles that still remain to the realization of those additional dreams for a permanent peace, permanent security, permanent agreement, a permanent recognition by the entire community of nations that a peaceful and secure Israel helps to provide strategically a peaceful and secure world, just as I know that it helps to provide a peaceful and secure United States of America—that is part of the dream for the future. And the obstacle to reaching it is not nearly so great as the obstacle we faced not much more than 3 years ago.
I'd like for you to inventory in the next day or so where we stand now in our relationship to other nations; the status of Israel; the relationship with Egypt; the opening up of the continent of Africa; the strengthening of NATO; the new friends, a billion Chinese, from whom we were previously alienated; the preservation of our trade opportunities and our friendship with Taiwan; the establishment of new democracies in this hemisphere; the elimination of military dictatorships; the honoring of human rights; the establishment of new democratic nations in Africa, Nigeria, the biggest and blackest of all, and the most powerful, and the wealthiest of all black nations, and Zimbabwe too, an epitome of what can be accomplished with diplomacy. These kinds of achievements can continue in the years ahead.
And finally, let me say about New York City, it's important to me, as I told Mayor Koch tonight, as I told Pat Moynihan and Hugh Carey on the way to Hofstra College on Long Island earlier, last week, every citizen of New York is just as much my constituent as it is any of theirs.
Shortly after the '76 election, after I had been victorious and before I was inaugurated, the mayor, the Governor, and others came down to Georgia. And we sat down in the privacy of a rest area that I had chosen, and we outlined among ourselves the goals that we wanted to achieve for New York City for the coming years. For this period of my office for the first 4 years, we've achieved almost all those goals. I can't say we've got 100 percent of what we asked the Congress to do, but we're still working on the remainder.
After this election, I want to be sure that your Governor and your mayor and your two Democratic Senators and others come to meet with me in a leisurely way, but a very committed way, to inventory what we must do to make New York City be an even brighter star in the firmaments of the major metropolises of this Earth.
The welfare burden is too onerous for local government to bear. Earlier this year, Governor Reagan said, "Turn welfare back to the States"—that's a direct quote. And on the same subject, a few days later, he said, "We don't need the department of Health and Welfare." Local welfare is a crushing burden on New York City.
As we meet with the elected officials after November 4, with Senator Moynihan, who pushes this idea every time I see him, with Governor Carey, an avid proponent of the same, and with Ed Koch, who never lets me forget it, we will meet and decide how to assume the burden in accordance with the Democratic Party platform, which was drafted and approved in this same city. That's a commitment I make to you. We'll work together to achieve that goal.
And finally, let me say that I'm grateful to you. This has been a long, difficult campaign. The issues are now being drawn sharply between myself and Governor Reagan, between the Republicans and the Democrats. But as I said in my acceptance speech, it's a choice between two futures. In 23 minutes tonight, I've outlined to you my vision of the future. An outline only.
The complexities of the questions that come to the Oval Office are almost indescribable. It's not an easy job. If a question's easy to answer, you answer it yourself or in your family or at the city hall or in the State legislature or the Governor's office. If it can't be answered there, it comes to me, and I work with the Congress to try to find a good answer.
But I'd like to remind you that even though the challenges before our country are great, and even though the disappointments sometime test us, and even though there are some transient inconveniences, if you look back in history, just in our lifetime, you see much more discouraging and disparaging times than anything we face today. The Second World War, the Great Depression, the struggle for civil rights, the embarrassment of Watergate, the divisiveness of the Vietnam war—those kinds of things have always been met by this Nation, when unified, satisfactorily.
I have absolutely no doubt that although the future is going to bring tests and disappointment and transient inconveniences, we Democrats, with the responsibility of leadership on our shoulder, you and I as partners, will never fail to make the greatest nation on Earth even greater in the future. That's my prayer. I hope you'll help me answer it.
Note: The President spoke at 9: 39 p.m. in the Imperial Ballroom at the Sheraton Centre Hotel.
Following the dinner, the President returned to Washington, D.C.
Jimmy Carter, New York, New York Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251431