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Newark, New Jersey Remarks to Local Ministers and Community Leaders.

October 29, 1980

Thank you, Governor Byrne.

Senator Bradley, Congressman Rodino, Congressman Minish, Mayor Kenneth Gibson, Dr. Scott, my good friend Reverend Howard Woodson, brothers and sisters:

I've always known I had the little people of the Nation with me, but it's real good also to have one of the really big people of this country with me and that's Rosie Grier. [Laughter] And I'm not talking about just physical size. I'm talking about heart. I'm talking about soul. And it's good to be in a town run by. a long-distance runner.

It's good to be in a church that's in a beautiful new building, but it's one of the oldest places to worship God in this country and one of the oldest communities in this Nation, filled not only with political leaders, mayor of East Orange and other great cities, but also filled with ministers of the Gospel, who bear so much of the responsibilities on your shoulders to decide the outcome of elections, to decide the daily and weekly lives of your people, to hold people to their true beliefs that never change, the best instincts that sometimes have to resist temptation with your help, of sustaining people in times of need, of giving guidance, not only to those who are poor or meek or black or who don't speak English well but also giving guidance to those who lead who might forget those who are poor or black or who don't speak English well. And I don't know any other group in this Nation that has done such a good job during the last years in which I've lived, in the last 30 or 40 years, than the black ministers of this Nation, who have kept in the forefront of what our Nation stands for.

The civil rights movement changed the South, it changed this Nation, and after we got to the point of having people like Andrew Young and Don McHenry speak for our Nation, it's changed the image of this country in the eyes of the entire world. And a lot of that credit goes to people like you throughout this Nation, the black ministers of America, and I thank you for it. And I might say also that our Nation has also got to keep its eyes upward and forward.

Sometimes we stumble. Sometimes we go through disappointments, trials, tribulations. Sometimes we have temporary inconveniences. Sometimes we have frustrations. Sometimes things don't move as fast as we'd like for them to move. And it takes an inner spirit and an inner faith and an inner commitment and some deep, personal courage to retain leadership in times like that. I think that Howard Woodson is a man of that kind.

Not too long ago he was in the White House with me. He flew back with us on Air Force One to Philadelphia. He's been an adviser for me not only in a spiritual way but also when he was Speaker, now working with the Governor. And many of you, like him, have kept a proper balance between a deep religious faith, the service of those who look to you for leadership, and a direct involvement in politics, particularly when election day approaches. And that is one reason that I came tonight—to talk to you about that.

Newark, Essex County represent the kind of challenges that I share as President of this country, serving in the Oval Office, looking at its hopes and its potentials, its needs and its problems, because many of the programs that my administration has initiated has been targeted to the needs of this very city and other cities in this county.

Newark, for instance, has received the second highest number of Urban Development Action Grants, UDAG grants, of any city in this Nation, regardless of size. Essex County has received the single largest grant in the country under my new urban parks program, and Essex is second only to Cook County, where Chicago's located, in the total urban parks funding. But I know and you know that we ought not to stand here and brag on what has been done. Let's look to the future about what we're going to do together. And I want to make a personal pledge—not under any pressure, because nobody asked me to to do it—to enter into a new and a full and a greater partnership with the city of Newark, with the county of Essex, with the State of New Jersey, so that we can make a real difference here in the years ahead.

Ken Gibson, Brendan Byrne, representatives of the private sector, officials such as Peter Shapiro, Peter Rodino, Joe Minish, who are here, Senator Bradley, and others are working together in a constructive way in this city. And they've come to me with a coordinated plan, a concept whereby the Federal Government, the State government, the local government, the private employers, and the people who work here spell out for this community a much better and a brighter life. I'm not going to list for you all the different projects and programs that are already underway, but if you think back 4 years ago when Brendan Byrne was beginning to change the concept of New Jersey about itself and build a new sense of pride and partnership and progress and idealism and confidence, I'm very proud to have been part of that change.

I want this group to come to Washington after the election and work, to meet to see what we can do in the future as an even stronger team, because I see a determination here on the part of the mayor and the Governor and others, and I'm determined that my administration will be a genuine part of this effort.

The other things at stake in this election, in addition to a better life, better jobs, more employment, less suffering, better education, better housing, better transportation, better cohesion among people who are different from one another, better understanding, better progress, more equality—these kinds of things are part of our national consciousness. But also at stake in this election is whether we'll continue to build social justice in our country. It's clear that there's a sharp difference between the longstanding, historical commitment of the Democratic Party, on the one hand, and the very sharp, differing commitment or lack of commitment in the Republican Party.

All you've got to do is sit here in the quietness of this sanctuary and think about the changes that took place under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. And I think the last 3 1/2 years is part of that Democratic mainstream of progress and compassion and concern and good management. And I think about the other times when Democrats were not in the White House and what the cause of the outcome of those elections was. I'll mention that in a few minutes.

But I think you know that Democrats and I stand for vigorous enforcement of our civil rights laws; for open housing amendments to make sure that we do not have any longer discrimination in where people have a right to live; for the equal rights amendment, to give women a chance for equality under the Constitution of the United States; for national health insurance; for the strengthening of social security; for the preservation of minimum wage to apply equally to all people; for aid to cities, where the central part of the cities might have been deteriorating in the past; for aid to our public schools; for the youth bill that will give 600,000 new young people jobs at a cost of $2 billion over the next 2 years; for tough standards of quality for environment; and for strong protection for consumers of all kinds. That's what I stand for. That's what the Democratic Party stands for. But my opponent's positions are just as clear, and they could not be more different from mine.

I didn't come here tonight to spend my time criticizing him. But I think it's important to remember that 16 years ago, he launched his political career, contrary to some of the comments that he made last night, as a spokesman for the American Medical Association and the anti-Medicare lobby. He campaigned all over this Nation trying to kill Medicare. And he has called repeatedly for making social security a voluntary program. Last night he stated—I don't know if you noticed it—that for a young person to contribute to social security is a bad investment. That's not true, and that's typical of what he has been saying over many years. It's an outstanding investment, no matter what the level of income of an American citizen might be.

Today he says, and I quote him, "I am firmly opposed to national health insurance." What we want is a health insurance program that will have an emphasis on prevention of disease, an emphasis on treating of patients outside the hospital whenever possible instead of inside the hospital, a commitment to controlling hospital costs so they don't go up so high that people can't afford them, an emphasis on medical care and proper diet for women who are about to have little babies and for those little babies once they are born, for catastrophic health insurance to make sure that a family doesn't get wiped out economically with an unexpectedly high medical bill. Those commitments, as part of this program, will be an. extension of social security, an extension of Medicare, and will give the American people better health care at a much reduced cost.

Fifteen years ago he said that the Civil Rights Act was, and I quote, "a bad piece of legislation." And this year he says, and I quote him again, "Urban aid programs are one of the biggest phonies that we have in the system." This year, as you know, he blamed pollution on trees and volcanoes, and then after taking three or four different positions in the same day, he flew home to Los Angeles to rest. And as you know, his plane couldn't land at the airport, because the smog was too thick. [Laughter]

Well, the pattern that I've just outlined—a few examples shows the difference. The choice on November the 4th is not just between me and Governor Reagan, it's not just between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The choice is between two clear beliefs about what America is, two clear commitments, sharp, different, about what America ought to be, two vastly different futures for our country. And as the time for the election approaches next Tuesday, it's important on every one of you as a leader in your own right, who can reach a thousand or perhaps 10,000 people between now and election day to think about how this difference might affect you personally, the members of your own family, the people that you love, or the people who love you.

The consequences of what Governor Reagan believes, what he says, what he will do in the Oval Office is what makes the choice so crucial. Governor Reagan said last night in the debate that when he was young, and I quote, "This country didn't even know it had a racial problem."

AUDIENCE MEMBER. He had to be real young. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Governor Reagan may not have known, but to millions and millions of Americans, including some in this congregation, who suffered racial prejudice and racial injustice for 300 years, it was not simply a problem; it was a lifelong disaster.

I don't know what you're going to do the next 5 days. It may be that you'll go back to your home or to your church and say, "I went to a rally at Bethany Baptist, and I think I've done enough because my presence there added esteem or prestige to the congregation." And you might say, "I'm sure the rest of those ministers and the rest of those public officials are going to take care of the election. And if they work hard, New Jersey will be in the Democratic column, so I don't need to do very much." Or it may be that you'll say, "This is the most important decision that's been made politically in my lifetime, and what I do might make the difference between who is elected President, who will serve the next 8 years or perhaps the rest of this century, which party will be in power in the Oval Office."

I believe in the Democratic Party myself. I believe in the legacy that I've inherited from the Presidents that have served there before me. I believe in the mission of the Democratic Party. Every great advance that's taken place in this country in this century that has affected your lives, from collective bargaining to the minimum wage, to social security, to Medicare, to Medicaid, to civil rights legislation—every single one of those has been made possible by Democrats, almost invariably over the opposition of Republicans.

Our party stands for progress. Our party stands for justice. When workers sought to organize, they looked to the Democrats. When older citizens said they needed security in their retirement years, they called on the Democrats. When Americans wanted justice and opportunity and basic rights, they turned to the Democrats and the Democrats always came through.

Today Americans are once again looking for the Democrats, not in the past, not even in the present, but in the years ahead, for national health insurance, for jobs and training for our young people, for a strong, new economic future, for human rights and equal rights. And with your help the Democrats are going to come through on November the 4th, and we're going to whip the Republicans again in New Jersey.

You might say one person can't make a difference. I want to repeat something I said last night, because I would like for you to carry it away in your mind and in your heart. One person can make a difference. In 1960 if 28,000 people had voted different in Texas and just a few thousand had voted differently in Illinois, John Kennedy would never have been President; likely, Lyndon Johnson would never have been Vice President or President. The Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, would never have come into being in this law of the land, and our country would have been a different land, for you and for your families. That's a story with a good ending.

In 1968, if just a few more Democrats had done our duty, things would have been different. Who put Richard Nixon in the Oval Office in January of '697 It was not the Republicans, because they are supposed to and they're expected to vote for their nominee. The people that put Richard Nixon in the Oval Office instead of Hubert Humphrey were the Democrats, not the ones who voted, but the ones who didn't vote and didn't work.

You remember that year, and Rosie Grief remembers vividly the personal tragedies of that year. The election returns were one of those personal tragedies, but I remember that Senator Robert Kennedy made a speech on the last day of what was to be his final campaign, in the Presidential primary in California, in 1968. And I would like to share with you, to close my remarks, the closing lines of that speech that you can carry away from here in your hearts, and I quote Robert Kennedy. He said, "I ask you to recognize the hard and difficult road ahead to a better America, and I ask you to vote for yourselves. The people," he said, "must decide this election, and they must decide so that no leader in America has any doubt about what the people want. For your sake and for your children," he said, "vote for yourselves."

You devote your time and your talents and every last measure of your strength to show them that you as children of God, as leaders who are trusted, who are put here for a purpose, that each one of you has a precious life to contribute to the service of others. Every Sunday morning you preach to those who will listen. Every one of those people who listen to you counts, and it matters to you and to all of us if they're weak or if they're strong, if they're blessed or if they suffer. But it's in our hands about what kind of life they will have on this Earth in the future.

I need you to be my partners in this next 5 days, to make an effort, above and beyond what you intended to make when you came here. It's not enough to just be a Democrat. It's not enough just to have a good voting record. It's not enough just to preach a sermon on Sunday outlining the differences that will be decided on Tuesday. I'd like to ask you to leave here with the commitment in your heart and mind to do everything you possibly can to make sure that every single registered person votes on November the 4th. And if you do, we'll have a better life in this Nation; we'll continue the progress that you've seen under Democratic Presidents. And we'll have a nation not only great, as we've seen it already, but even greater in the years ahead. That's what I want from you.

Will you do it for me? [Applause]

Note: The President spoke at 7:01 p.m. in the sanctuary of Bethany Baptist Church.

Jimmy Carter, Newark, New Jersey Remarks to Local Ministers and Community Leaders. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251776

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