Jimmy Carter photo

Orlando, Florida Remarks at the 1980 Democratic Victory Fund Barbecue.

October 21, 1980

Governor Bob Graham, Senator Lawton Chiles, Bill Gunter, who's the next U.S. Senator from Florida, distinguished members of Congress and State government, and my good friends and neighbors from Florida:

It's always good to come home, and as you know, I feel at home here with you. Doyle Conner once told me when I ran for Governor of Georgia in 1970 that I did so well in south Georgia that I carried four counties across the State line. [Laughter] And since then, I've felt like I'm part of your State.

I've come home to remind you that we've only got less than 2 weeks to decide what kind of nation we'll have in the future and on November the 4th to whip the Republicans from the courthouse all the way to the White House. That means getting out the votes for me and for Bill Gunter and for your next Congressman from the Fifth District, Dave Best—you think you can do that?—for Congressman Bill Nelson. And I know that all of you believe and know that we will have Claude Pepper there to help us all do a better job for the people of Florida.

I'll never forget what Florida did for me in 1976. As I told a small group a few minutes ago, we came to your State, our neighbors, when I didn't have any friends in this country, very few people knew who I was or had ever heard of me. And we went from one courthouse to another and one small radio station to another, one of your homes to another, met with just a few friends, visited in your churches, in your Lion's Clubs, in your schools, talked to you, and learned and listened. I went in one direction; my wife went in another. And that was the basis for my success later on in 1976.

The contest here in your primary, I think, was the turning point in the entire election. It focused attention not only on you Floridians and your judgment but also on the fact that my campaign did have some strength. It made a great impact on the rest of the Nation. 1976 in the primary was a very gratifying gift that Florida people made to me. Later it was generally assumed that Florida, because of some of your past voting mistakes, might go Republican in November. [Laughter] But when the returns came in, the Florida electors went to Jimmy Carter and to Fritz Mondale. That was in '76 in November.

Again this year, if you remember back in November, it was generally thought throughout the country that if Senator Kennedy announced that he was a candidate for President that Florida would certainly go for him. We campaigned down here among you. You had confidence in me again. When the returns came in, you were in my column.

I'm a southerner, and I believe in tradition. You've established a good tradition of supporting Jimmy Carter for President. I want you to help me again on November the 4th. Okay? [Applause]

There are a few things that I want to mention to you. You've been very gracious and very generous to come out here today to meet with me. As we approach the last few days of the campaign there are some memories that ought to be impressed on our minds.

I grew up not far from the Florida line on a farm. I was born in 1924. When the Great Depression came, I was a young, impressionable man, a boy. I remember what Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Party did to change my life and the life of my family. We didn't have running water in our house. We didn't have electricity. The Democrats thought that REA would be good for farmers; the Republicans were against it. They called it socialism for the Federal Government to help build dams and generate electricity for farmers.

There were a lot of sweatshops in our country, and young people about Amy's age, 13 years old and younger, boys and girls, were working under uncontrollable and embarrassing conditions. Working families didn't have a right to earn a decent living to finance their homes. And the Democrats proposed a minimum wage, 25 cents an hour; the Republicans opposed it. The Democrats finally prevailed and gave working people of this Nation a better life.

I graduated from high school in 1941, my first job at a minimum wage, 40 cents by then. That increase from 25 to 40 cents was a great thing in our lives. Democrats sponsored it; Republicans, they were against it.

Democrats saw that older people were living in poor folks homes, we called them, without any self-dignity, without any security, having slaved away all their lives to make this a better country. So, the Democrats said, "We need something to give that security to older people," and put forward the idea of social security; Republicans were against it. Social security passed.

Later, I won't go into all the details, but Democrats, again, put forward Medicare to give older people a chance to have a better health care after their retirement age. My opponent, Governor Reagan, got his start in politics working for the American Medical Association, traveling around this country speaking against Medicare.

You might say minimum wage is ancient history, but he says the minimum wage has caused more misery and more unemployment than anything since the Great Depression. Democrats have always been interested in people that were temporarily out of work and need a way, during those trying times, to feed their families, to keep their children in school. Unemployment compensation was devised by Democrats. Recently, my opponent said that unemployment compensation was just a prepaid vacation for freeloaders.

This general sense, that started in the 1930's or before and has come all the way up to this time, to modern days, separates one party from another. I've had major responsibilities on my shoulders as a President to honor your expectations to keep our Nation as you want it.

The 13 years before I became President, under two Republican administrations, spending for defense went down 7 of those years. Defense budgets went down 37 percent the 8 years before I went into the Oval Office.

Since then, we've had a steady increase, predictable increase, sound increase every year in defense expenditures. I don't have any apology to make for it. I'm a military man. My background is as a naval officer. I was a submarine Officer, as some of you know. And I believe that the best way to keep our Nation at peace is to keep it militarily strong. As long as I'm in the White House, we're going to do that.

Those of you who are deeply committed to peace, don't worry about that, about military strength. Our weapons, our military forces, men and women, will never be excelled by any other nation on Earth. We're in the cutting edge of progress. And our strategic nuclear weapons and our conventional weapons, our Navy, our men and women, are strong, and they're going to stay strong. But an airplane doesn't fly on just one wing. With that powerful military strength, you've got to have two more things.

One is a commitment to arms control, because we don't want to have a nuclear arms race in this world. Every President since Harry Truman has insisted upon balanced, equivalently equal, controlled, observable arms control treaties. Recently, as you know, my opponent said, let's throw the arms control treaty in the trash, and let's start an arms race or threaten an arms race against the Soviet Union, to play a trump card against them. That's a radical departure from what all Presidents have done, Democratic and Republican, since the Second World War.

It's important to us as a nation, it's important to our allies and friends, like Israel and the Middle East, to make sure that Iraq and other countries of a radical nature do not have military weapons that are nuclear explosives. We've had a very strong nonproliferation policy under Democrats and Republicans, but Governor Reagan says that nonproliferation is none of our business.

The issues are clearly drawn, not only about the past and present but also about the future. We now have a sound energy policy to give us a basis on which to revitalize American industry, to have modern tools and modern plants for American workers, to put all our people to work; to have better health care for our citizens, more preventive health care, catastrophic health insurance, better care for pregnant women and little babies, better care for elderly citizens, more outpatient care rather than inpatient, the holding down of hospital costs. These changes in our health program can be implemented with a national health insurance plan. I'm for it, Democrats are for it; Governor Reagan's against it.

And the last two points I want to make are these.

My background since I got out of the Navy has been as a farmer. I'm very proud that you have given me some good, well-trained Florida leaders to come and help me.

Reubin Askew is one of the best public servants I've ever known, and he's our Special Trade Representative. Since he's been there, we've made remarkable progress. This year we'll have $40 billion worth of American agricultural products sold overseas. That's an $8 billion increase over last year, and 1979 set world records. 1978 set world records. 1977 set world records.

Another man you've given me is Jim Williams. We will have these first 3 years, with the help of him and others, the highest gross income and the highest net income for farmers in our Nation's history.

We've made good progress in getting Government's nose out of the private affairs of American citizens. We've deregulated the airlines, the railroads, the financial institutions, trucking, working on communications. And those of you who live in the Orlando area know that airline deregulation has been good for you. Before it took place, there were 4 flights coming in here; now 15. That increase has been very good for the entire country. It's put the competition back in the free enterprise system, let our Government work like it ought to.

And finally, let me remind you about the importance of you as an American citizen. Your coming here and contributing financially is very beneficial to us. We couldn't get along without it. We've been counting on you, and you haven't disappointed us. Richard Swann's done a superb job, and all of you've joined in. But I'd like to remind you that that's not enough.

If you believe in the greatness of our Nation, if you believe in the principles of our party, if you believe in the importance of democracy and the partnership that must exist between the White House, the Oval Office, the President, and you personally, if you care about your own family and the people that you love outside your family, I'd like for you this next 10 days to work as hard as you've ever worked before to try to shape this election so that we can be victorious.

You might say one person can't make much difference. I remember in 1960 if 28,000 people had changed their votes in Texas and a few thousand in Illinois, John Kennedy would never have been President.

In 1968 if all of the people assembled here and a few like you around the country had had the confidence in the Democratic candidate to go out and work hard for him, Richard Nixon would never have served in the White House, and we would have had a great Democratic President, Hubert Humphrey, to carry on the principles that I've described to you.

But when you think back on Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Johnson, Kennedy, those memories, for working people, for people who believe in a strong defense and for peace, for people who believe in a brighter future for our country, better education for our children, self-respect for the elderly, dignity for those who are black or who don't speak English well, but might speak Spanish, are very important.

And our country has taken the leadership in recent years in trying to bring peace not only to our own Nation but to others. I've been proud to represent you in negotiating with President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to bring peace to Israel. And I see this not just as an achievement for Israel, to make sure that they are secure and strong and democratic and free and at peace, but that investment there by the people of our Nation, with me as your leader, has given our own Nation more stability, more security, more chance for freedom and for peace, and has stabilized a very troubled area of the world. These kind of strategic common relationships that bind us together with foreign countries are important to us all.

I'm grateful to you for what you mean to me in the past and in the present, and I'm even more grateful for what you're going to mean to me 2 weeks from now when you have helped to elect me and Fritz Mondale to another term in office.

Thank you very much. I love you all. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 4:39 p.m. in the main picnic area at Turkey Lake Park.

Jimmy Carter, Orlando, Florida Remarks at the 1980 Democratic Victory Fund Barbecue. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251490

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