Newington, Connecticut Remarks and a Question-and-answer Session With Hospital and Community Volunteers.
VOLUNTARISM IN AMERICA
THE PRESIDENT. It's a pleasure to be here. I want to say, first of all, that I particularly appreciate Governor Ella Grasso and Senator Ribicoff and Chris Dodd for riding out here with me to this beautiful place.
I don't believe there's anything I could have done this morning that would start my day off better than to walk through the halls of this beautiful children's hospital and see the young people who've been afflicted with physical disabilities, some extremely serious, but who are responding with the utmost use of the talent that God's given them toward a life of hope and gratification, filled with love.
There are a lot of things that government can do, as you know, to make the afflictions of life be eased. But the most important contribution that can be made for those in need is the volunteer help that they get from hearts filled with love and from minds that understand, in a special way, the needs that can't possibly be met by any government agency, no matter how dedicated and efficient it might be.
I realize that in order for volunteers to have your effectiveness magnified, there must be facilities and tools and equipment and books and teaching aids and services. A lot of those do come from tax money paid in through the Federal, State, local governments and back, but a lot of it comes just from direct contributions from generous Americans. Our Nation is almost unique in its contributions through public service and dedication. Americans give, outside of government, about $42 billion every year to help people, quite often to help people to help other people.
It's a similar thing with a President. Your life is filled with generosity. I don't claim the same, but my life is also filled with a responsibility to help others. And the epitome of American service is through the White House and through the Oval Office and through our governments at all levels, designed to help the elderly, to help the handicapped, to help the sick, to help those who are poor, those who speak a different language, those who are newcomers to our country, those who've been suffering in the past from discrimination who want to have a better life, those who see the vision of what America can be and have not yet realized that vision.
It adds a new dimension or a different dimension to the life of a campaigner for office or a President responsible for national defense and foreign affairs, to walk through the halls of this hospital and be able to pick up in one's arms and feel the tender love of a little child who has already benefited from your generosity. I know you've come here from volunteer organizations throughout this area. Not all of you are devoting yourselves specifically to health care. That's just one element of the wide range of volunteer services that you've offered.
But on behalf of, I guess, 230 million Americans, as President, I'd like to thank you for your volunteer services on behalf of many millions of volunteers all over this Nation who can't be in this room this morning. My heart goes out to you in gratitude and my heart also goes out to you in a spirit of love and affection and a sharing of the generosity that makes our Nation such a great nation.
I have time for a few questions, if you'd like to ask them. I'll start in the back. Yes, ma'am.
WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON AGING
Q. Welcome to Connecticut, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I feel welcome.
Q. I'm very lucky to have gotten to work with older Americans, and the White House Conference on Aging is coming up in 1981. Right now, there's a grassroots effort to determine what the issues are. There are many conferences going on across the Nation, and I wondered if you could share with us what you think the issues are for older Americans for the next 10 years, and how you think government and private sector and voluntary sector can work together to address those issues.
THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I look forward to being there. [Laughter] I think it's been about 10 years since the last White House Conference on the Aging, and it's time now to reassess what we have done, to see what faults we've committed inadvertently, to see what omissions there are in the care for the aging.
I won't try to presuppose what the White House Conference will do, because I think the innovations coming from throughout these local meetings all over the country that will culminate with me in the White House ought not to be disturbed. I think the thrust of the program will not be specifically to government services that care for relatively incapable elderly. I think the thrust in the future will be how those who have retired voluntarily can live a more fruitful life.
I see the reservoir of the retired Americans as not yet adequately being tapped. I've seen in my mother's life, for instance—she's 82 years old. My father died in 1953. I was in the nuclear submarine program at the time and went home. And my mother was devastated for a few months because of the loss of my father, but then she actually started a new life and in 1968, she—I mean, when she was 68 years old, in 1966, she volunteered to be a Peace Corps worker, went to India, spent 2 years and came back. And she's had a broad gamut of opportunities to serve our country.
I think this is typical of what older people can do at the age of 68 or 70-now she's 82—to live a better life. I see the opening up of many part-time careers for the elderly in public service, even beyond and above what they do now—maybe in health centers like this one helping with other elderly who can't help themselves, or working as teachers' aides, working in the elements of life that relate to their former careers in local, State and Federal Governments. So, I think this is one area that can be emphasized at the White House Conference.
Another, of course, is to make doubly sure, as I have tried to do the last 3 1/2 years, that the social security programs, the Medicare programs, are extended in the future to a broader range of services and more deeply embedded into the consciousness of America on a bipartisan basis.
Another element, and this will be the last point that I will make, is to make sure, in addition, that we have a nationwide health care service. National health insurance has not yet been adopted as a political given in our country. My Republican opponent says that he's against national health care.
It's important to me to have that program embedded in the consciousness of America and passed by the Congress and placed on the law books of our country, with the emphasis on out-patient care, an emphasis on long-term care, perhaps, in the patient's homes, with an emphasis on prevention of disease, with an emphasis on the kind of immunization programs for young people that would prevent disease in later life.
I've just signed this week, this past week as a matter of fact, the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which is the greatest mental health program that I've signed into law in my term, better than anything since John Kennedy and the Mental Health Programs Act of 1963. So, these are the kind of things that I see that can be done in the future—a better life for able-bodied senior citizens, an extension of existing programs, national health care, more emphasis on prevention of disease, better treatment, for instance, in mental retardation and other mental problems, plus disabilities.
I'm looking forward to that Conference. It's going to be an exciting thing. And as you know, the former White House Conference literally transformed the attitude of Americans about the elderly, and I think it's made our whole country a better nation. I see the same thing in the future.
You might be interested in knowing that in the 1980's, the largest growing segment of the American population will be those above 70 years old. And we cannot afford to have them live a disabled life in a closet somewhere, just caring for them. They have got to be given the opportunity to contribute to a greater America, and they've got experience and sound judgment and time that can be a major contribution to our Nation's life.
I'll try to keep the other answers shorter. [Laughter]
PRESENTATION OF A BOOK TO THE
Q. Mr. President, I am Madeline Marston, a volunteer from Newington Public Hospital. I appeal to you for the-[inaudible]—and for all special education programs in order to uphold the—[inaudible]—investment. Your help and support are essential to our investment. I would like to present you with this book, a history of Newington, which contains factual information about the development and growth of Newington and of its extraordinary—[inaudible].
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I love you. Thank you. Thank you, Madeline. I've gotten a lot of questions. I think that's the nicest question I ever got. [Laughter] Thank you very much.
SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM
Q. I saw you about 4 years ago at the civic center with Ella Grasso, and I see you again. You're looking good. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I'm feeling good.
Q. Why is it every time they have an election, they always pick on the senior citizens? [Inaudible]—going to cut the social security—
THE PRESIDENT. I know.
Q. —they're going to take all your money for senior citizens. They're going to do it for that. We can't take it. We're old. We were wondering, who was that-[inaudible]. It must be the wrong party, or something like that. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. That's right. You're absolutely right. I'm glad you brought that up. [Laughter] I'm glad you brought that up. You know, this election is one that will perhaps have the sharpest difference between two candidates that I remember in modern times. My opponent, Governor Reagan, on several occasions, for instance, in the last number of years has advocated making social security program voluntary, which means that people that want to withdraw from social security can do so, which would wipe out social security as a program.
This is nothing new, because I remember during the Depression years when Franklin Roosevelt proposed social security, the Republicans opposed it. And I remember that when the Democrats put forward a 25-cent minimum wage to eliminate the sweatshops and give working people a chance to earn a decent living, the Republicans were against it. My first job was at 40 cents an hour, minimum wage. That increase from 25 to 40 cents was put forward by Democrats. It was opposed again by the Republicans.
When Medicare was proposed to give older people some health care, my opponent, Governor Reagan, began his political career going around the Nation speaking against Medicare. And recently he's said that he's absolutely opposed to a national health care program. These kinds of sharp differences between the Democrats and Republicans and between myself and my opponent ought to be emphasized. But I can guarantee you that as long as there's a Democrat serving in the Oval Office, the senior citizens in this Nation will not be abandoned and they will not suffer.
Q. I'm from Women in Crisis. We're with the criminal justice system. And we would like to know, since Congress has cut funding for—well, we're funded by LEAA. And since Congress has cut the funding, is there some program that's going to be set up to fund such programs in the future in criminal justice?
THE PRESIDENT. Would you describe to me a little more specifically about what this particular program does—the Women in Crisis?
Q. Women in Crisis?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. We are an agency of families, whose husband or son has been incarcerated.
THE PRESIDENT. I see.
Q. They are not to be penalized—the families. They are not to suffer-[inaudible].
THE PRESIDENT. I know. [Inaudible]-Senator Ribicoff could help me.
I think there has been a move in Congress to eliminate unemployment compensation when a person was in prison. Chris, do you or Senator Ribicoff know about that, or any of the Congressmen over there? Toby?
SENATOR RIBICOFF. I didn't hear the •
THE PRESIDENT. The question was about Congress attempting to eliminate funds, I think unemployment compensation or disability insurance, when a person was in prison.
Q. No, no, no.
THE PRESIDENT. No?
Q. Cutting off the LEAA funds.
SENATOR RIBICOFF. Law Enforcement Assistance—
THE PRESIDENT. I know what LEAA is. This is apparently a program for women in crisis who have a husband or a son in prison.
SENATOR RIBICOFF. That is true. I think that was a Republican-sponsored accomplishment— [laughter] — which, I regret to say, a number of Democrats joined in.
May I make this one comment now that I'm getting out of Congress-[inaudible]—I have found that year in and year out any President, be he Democrat or Republican, has been more concerned with the national interest than the Congress has been.
Now, we have a President, Jimmy Carter, who has a good, constructive record, and a real leader, who is trying to fight tooth and nail for constructive principles and constructive programs. The frustrations are congressional frustrations and not the frustrations brought about by the President of the United States.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
I'll probably need to get more answers for you because I don't know. Has that cut already passed through the Congress or is it just something that has not yet passed but you're afraid will pass? Does anybody know? Is Stu Eizenstat here?
GOVERNOR GRASSO. Mr. President-[inaudible]—million dollars from LEAA. I think Women in Crisis is a good program. And you would have supported it, and I would have supported it. But our friends in the Congress—but I would like to say that the Connecticut delegation did not vote for it. But there were enough votes, so that it's caused great disaccommodation, a great difficulty, and it, I think, will be part of the continuing frustration. But, you see, it's so easy when people ask questions to turn to you as the President, to turn to me as the Governor[inaudible]. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I'm not trying to avoid responsibility. I think that if cuts were made in the LEAA program it may have been proposed by me or passed by the Congress. One unique thing about the LEAA program is that a lot of the judgments about how to spend the money are made at the local and State level. So, I think that now that you've brought the thing to my attention and to the attention of your present and future Senator and also the Governor, I think we'll look into it a little more closely than we would have before, and I'll learn about this program before the day's out. [Laughter]
PROGRAMS FOR THE HANDICAPPED
Q. My name is Rachel Mosto, and my husband and I have 14 children, 11 of whom are multiple-handicapped. And I guess we see the courage and nobility with which our children tackle every day the-[inaudible]—born with. May we ask some of your attitudes on special education, Federal—[inaudible]—and advocacy for—[inaudible]. Can we just open it up, please for your attitude?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think it's accurate to say that in the last 3 1/2 years under my administration, with both Pat Harris and Joe Califano before her, we have done more for special education and also for the handicapped in general than has ever been done before.
We had a special White House Conference on the handicapped, as you may know. You may have been there.
Q. I was there.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, you were there. And I participated in it personally, because it's something that has touched my life as a Governor and also my wife's life as the First Lady of Georgia and this Nation. It's very important to us.
It's one reason I wanted to come here. As President, I could have been anywhere in the Nation this morning in this last few days of a crucial campaign. I wanted to come here, not to get votes, although that may be part of it— [laughter] —but also to let the volunteers of this Nation all over the country know how important their work is and also to let the Nation and the national press focus on the special problems of severely disabled children who are struggling to have a fruitful life.
There is no reason for you to worry about my attitude, about continuing to carry out the programs that we're already committed to do in the future. And my judgment is that the Congress is increasingly receptive to requests for additional funds to help the severely handicapped, the emotionally disturbed children, the mentally retarded children, and others who in the past have not gotten adequate care.
There's one additional point that ought to be made: The struggle that's most important of all is going to be in the next year or two on national health insurance, because there are various elements of that program that will be phased in year-by. year. One of the first things that we will do in phasing in national health insurance is to care for the mother during the prenatal stages and also the babies and little children in the first 2 or 3 years of their lives, to make sure that they get a good start in life and are not deprived inadvertently because the mother doesn't get the proper kind of diet and the proper kind of care before birth. That is a part of our health program in this country that is sadly lacking.
And with hospital cost containment to hold down costs, an emphasis on prevention and immunization, the care on the prenatal and early years of the child's life and the mother during those times, and the emphasis on catastrophic health insurance, where if a family's wiped out financially by extraordinary medical costs—those will be the first parts of the comprehensive national program that would go into effect.
But I can guarantee you that one of the most important elements of it will be that early prenatal and postnatal care that will prevent a lot of disabilities, and we'll continue to increase the programs for special health care and special education for the children who are disabled.
We have time for one more question. I think the lady in the back.
Q. Mr. President, I'm fortunate to work with the State Planning Council for—[inaudible]—and Disability. But we all have disabilities.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I know.
Q. I have a concern for the —[inaudible]-volunteer army. [Inaudible]-understand you are planning or considering the possibility of—[inaudible]—business and industry to reward the person who takes time from their job to volunteer. I find the army is—[inaudible]— volunteer. I also have word you—[inaudible]—handle the Department of the Army. You felt that they'd give it[inaudible].
THE PRESIDENT. I thank you for it. One of the things that we have had at the White House, Rosalynn sponsored it primarily, is a meeting of all the nationwide volunteer organizations. It was in the East Room. I participated by making a speech to them.
The important thing that I noticed that day was that quite often the leaders of volunteer groups are the top business executives of our country. They're the ones who are the chairman of the board or the chief executive officer of the top insurance companies or manufacturing companies and others, and I think this interrelationship between those enlightened leaders who've already made it to the pinnacle of success in their own profession, now turning toward the marshaling of additional volunteer workers, is a step in the right direction.
I think they'll be much more receptive in the future to rewarding, through time off and through extra incentives, the enlightened volunteers within their own organizations, among their own employees, who do work like you do.
Also, of course, I think the fact that we do honor outstanding volunteers is a good program. Rosalynn is very interested in seeing this expanded in the future, too-to give a few certificates of award from the President for those who typify outstanding service. It's already being done, as you know, for the outstanding teacher of the year. I think it might also be extended to the outstanding volunteer of the year in our Nation in each different category of volunteer work. I think that would be a very good thing that would publicize what is being done. Thank you very much. I look forward to—[inaudible].
Q. Wow! Great! Thank you.
DIVERSITY OF SERVICES RENDERED BY
Q. There's an 80-year-old lady who would like to ask you a question. May she?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I've got to go now. I'm sorry. I'd like to answer more questions, but—I'm so sorry.
Would you let her ask one more question? I don't want to referee between the ones that just want to ask one more question.
Q. I'm Madeleine Culver from the Commission on Aging in the city of Hartford. I would like to ask you, could you send more dollars to do something—[inaudible]. We need the program—the elderly service and the—[inaudible]—service. The city of Hartford would be very grateful-[inaudible]. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. There was a question here concerning veterans. I think you can see from the breadth of the questions how important your work is and the diversity of interests in public service and how many different people you can care for-the severely disabled, the emotionally disturbed, the elderly, parents and spouses of people who are in prison, the veterans, the elderly. These are the kinds of questions that are ever present in your mind, and they're also the kinds of questions that are ever present in my mind every day that I serve as President, because I have not only to take care of common ordinary routine daily tasks, but also to look to 1981 and to 1982 as far as establishing priorities of the allocation of our limited Federal funds that you pay as taxes.
And I have to consult with Congress and consult with leaders in your groups to see how much do we put for the handicapped, how much do we put for the veterans, how much do we put for the elderly, how much do we put for health care in the Federal budget? And the amount of work that you do as volunteers, and with people contributing through churches and through benevolent organizations and directly to a goal that you have in your life as important, means that those limited Federal funds can be greatly magnified.
There is no way to put a price tag on the amount of volunteer work represented in this room. If the Federal Government had to pay every worker just the minimum wage that volunteers who work in this Nation or in this hospital, it would not be possible.
So, as the one in charge of the Federal budget, I thank you, and as one responsible for the needy people in this Nation, I thank you also.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 11:14 a.m. in the Newington Auditorium at the Newington Children's Hospital.
Jimmy Carter, Newington, Connecticut Remarks and a Question-and-answer Session With Hospital and Community Volunteers. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251201