Jimmy Carter photo

Paris, France Remarks at the Palais des Congres.

January 04, 1978

Mr. Foreign Minister, presidents of the organizations who daily work to ensure friendship between our two countries, ladies and gentlemen of France and the United States who have come this evening:

This afternoon I laid a wreath, along with the President of France, on the grave of the soldier who commemorated the bravery of the French people. And standing on my left was a group of men in the same regiment who fought with George Washington at Yorktown 200 years ago.

When our democracy was born, France was there. And for more than 200 years, our two nations have shared the same ideals and the same culture.

There is one belief above all others that has made us what we are. This is the belief that the rights of the individual inherently stand higher than the claims or demands of the state. This is the message that the American and French peoples, each in turn, carried forward to the world two centuries ago, and these are the values which the world still depends upon us to affirm.

Democracy was then a new and an untried concept. Now it is a standard for our Western civilization. The American Declaration of Independence inspired so greatly by French philosophy, spoke of the unalienable rights of persons, of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights were controversial then, and now they are the measure by which the faithfulness of governments is tested. Democracy is indeed a compelling idea, an idea so attractive that even its enemies now attempt to cloak repression with false democratic labels.

But our democratic order has come under challenge. There are those who question whether democratic values are appropriate for contemporary circumstances. Voices in the developing world ask whether notions of free speech, personal liberty, freely chosen governments should not be pushed aside in the struggle to overcome poverty. Voices in the industrialized world ask whether democracy equips us for the frenzied pace of change in our own modern lives.

We've heard warnings that a democratic society cannot impose on itself the restraint and self-discipline which is necessary to cope with persistent economic problems. We've heard that the disparate elements of our societies cannot cohere in a democratic system. Governments everywhere have begun to seem remote and impersonal, incompetent. Many people question whether any government can hear their distant and solitary voices.

These problems are real, and we must admit their existence. But we must also bear the burden that democratic society imposes on those like us who are part of it. That is to proclaim our unshaken faith in the values of our democratic nations and our belief that those values are still relevant—to the rich and the poor, the North and South, East and West, as constant now as they were when our forebears signed the Declaration of Independence and your forebears proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

We defend these values because they are right, because there is no higher purpose for the state than to preserve these rights for its citizens. But we defend them also in the faith that there is no contradiction between preserving our democratic values on the one hand and meeting challenges which face our modern societies.

It's precisely when democracy is up against difficult challenges that its leaders must show firmness in resisting the temptation of finding solutions in nondemocratic forces.

This week, in India, I discussed our belief that only through respect for individual liberties can developing nations achieve their full economic and political potential. That is our faith. And India, the world's largest democracy—they are proving that it is still true.

Here in France we meet as industrialized powers to affirm that our confidence in a democratic future for these developed societies is equally strong.

Democracy is not merely right and just. It's also the system that is the most consistent with human nature. It's the most effective way to organize society for the common good.

Where the state dominates everything, only the narrow talents of the bureaucrat are free to flower. But the pluralistic society that exists within a democracy allows for a broad range to succeed—in government, in the arts, in labor, in technology, in the sciences, and in the marketplace as well.

Democracy unleashes the innate creative energy of each of us. We need look no further back than the last three decades to see unparalleled success. These years have been extraordinary in the time for France, for Western Europe, the United States, and other democratic nations.

France and its partners in Western Europe rose from the destruction and the turmoil of World War II to build economies and societies more thriving and productive than ever before and to regain positions of world leadership very rapidly.

Never have so many new jobs and so much new wealth been created or so much change in people's lives been managed so effectively and yet with so much freedom.

All of this is no accident. Nations with other political systems, in spite of their great human and natural resources, have not done as well.

And democracy protects us also against the excesses of modernization. It helps us constantly to reduce the rising complexity of modern life to human terms. At a time when the computer makes total state control more possible than ever—processing people like numbers democracy stands guard, protecting the uniqueness of the individual.

This is why the great trend of emigration is from those states which deny basic rights to their people and toward the free nations of the West. That's why India, under the greatest trial and tension, has reaffirmed its commitment to rule by the people, and that's why Portugal and Spain and Greece have rejoined the ranks of Europe's democratic nations.

We do not fear the challenges which test our chosen form of government.

But today we need a new agenda for democracy.

The first task on this agenda is to devise ways in which government and social institutions can better and more quickly respond to the higher standards of leadership and service which are now being demanded by our people.

It's a time of testing. Already the varied experiments are underway, according to the unique traditions and needs of each individual country. In Western Europe successful sharing of the fruits of economic growth at all levels has provided a way to help in society overcoming mounting social problems.

In France you are making a young constitution work in balancing authority between the executive and the legislature.

In some countries, like Germany and Scandinavia, there are continuing experiments in new forms of interrelationship between labor and management.

The member nations of the European Community are planning to hold direct elections among the nations for the European Parliament.

In my own Nation, we are trying to reduce government regulation in areas better left to private enterprise or to the individuals.

And in several nations, including some of our own, there is emphasis on strengthening the role of local government, on decentralizing power, and on working through voluntary associations to meet particular problems and needs.

In these and other ways we can make government more responsive, accountable, and also closer to the people, fostering a renewed sense of confidence in our national and in our local communities.

We can also find new answers to the old problems of combining freedom with responsibility. As President Giscard d'Estaing wrote in his book, "Towards a New Democracy," "The pluralism of power guarantees freedom .... Democratic progress does not result in disorder, but in a better balance of order within freedom and responsibility."

The second item on the new agenda for democracy is the economic challenge. We must not only restore growth, control inflation, and reduce unemployment; we must also demonstrate that our democratic economic system can adapt to the demands that are constantly changing and placed upon it. This means proving again that we have the self-discipline to pursue our future, no less than our current interests, so that contending domestic groups will not produce chaos and discord, but a new harmony of effort for the common good.

It means increasing our efforts to ensure that the fruits of economic growth reach all parts of society, so that each individual will share in the benefits of economic progress. And it means using our resources to promote human development-not just growth for its own sake.

Our democratic economies now have unprecedented strength to meet this challenge. We have skilled work forces. We have productive plants and equipment, effective management, and the will and the means to cooperate closely with one another—both within nations and also among nations.

And in the free market we have a means of matching production to human needs that is swifter and more subtle than any computer, more sensitive to society's requirements than any state committee.

My country is able and willing to join with its partners in building on that strength, to put the global economy on the path to growth and to rising prosperity.

America's efforts will be directed toward maintaining the strength of the dollar, continuing steady progress against unemployment and inflation, and stimulating private investment.

This year we will cut taxes substantially for both business and consumers, and we'll take these steps primarily because they are in our own interests, but also because we recognize the importance of continued noninflationary recovery in the United States to the economies of the rest of the world.

We are working with our economic partners also in the Geneva trade negotiations to reach rapid agreement that will improve the open trading system, expand commerce, and create new jobs.

And following the French example, we are hard at work on a comprehensive energy program which will lessen our imports of foreign oil, reduce undue dependence, and cut the deficit in our balance of trade.

France and America and the other industrial democracies are emerging from the economic recession of recent years. Some of us can turn our attention at once to noninflationary growth, like the United States. Others must first take painful measures simply to reduce inflation. As more nations are able to pursue higher growth, our economies will create more jobs, and unemployment will go down.

Confidence in steady growth will reduce pressures for trade restrictions, protectionism, make it easier for us to adapt to changes within our societies, help us to make more efficient use of energy, and make it easier for countries with payments surpluses to open their markets to developed and developing nations alike.

But there are also many other economic needs today. The economic institutions that served us well in the past need to be strengthened. We must reach a better understanding of basic economic forces so that we can solve the problems simultaneously of inflation and unemployment. We've not yet been able to do this.

We must devote much greater effort to further advances in high technology to help all our nations compete effectively in tomorrow's markets.

We must develop new and productive industries and services so that we can moderate the impact on our peoples of change imposed by increased global competition for jobs and markets that's sure to come. And we must solve the problem of youth unemployment. Unless we do, an entire generation could be estranged from our democratic societies.

We must take steps to avoid exporting our economic difficulties to other nations, whether rich or poor. And we must use the tools of shared freedom to increase the choices and opportunities of our economic system. We can share our experience in social development, in education, health care, social services, and the organization and management of farms and factories.

At the heart of all these efforts is continued cooperation along with our other economic partners in such ways as the economic summits, which were first proposed by France. This cooperation should recognize the individuality of each nation, while acknowledging that ,our economic well-being will rise or fall together.

The third task on the new agenda for democracy is to provide for our mutual security.

I come to France today recognizing that our two nations share a basic commitment to preserve our hard-won freedom. We are able, with our allies, to keep our freedom precisely because we are militarily strong.

Our central security system today and our central problem is maintaining our will to keep the military strength we need, while seeking at the same time every opportunity to build a better peace. Military power without detente may lead to conflict, but detente would be impossible without the NATO alliance and popular support for a strong defense.

Both France and America prove that the peoples of a democracy can and will support these joint goals of constant strength and also a commitment to peace. The commitment of the American Government and the American people to the security of Europe is absolute. There should be no doubt that we will maintain in Europe whatever forces are needed to meet that commitment. We are also grateful that France maintains and improves its forces that are essential for defense.

But we also see the need to move beyond confrontation, to resolve the differences between East and West, and to progress toward arms control and disarmament.

We are determined to seek balanced and mutual limits on both qualitative and quantitative deployment of nuclear weapons, and then substantial reductions, leading to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons as a potential destructive force among the nations of the world.

We are determined to seek early agreement on a comprehensive ban of the testing of all nuclear explosives, both military weapons and also the so-called peaceful nuclear devices. And we are determined to seek a substantial reduction of the international commerce in conventional weapons.

We'll work with other nations to achieve the advantages which such agreements can bring. While the approaches of France and the United States to these issues may sometimes differ, our desire to build a more stable peace is one and the same. And in all these efforts, we will consult and cooperate closely with you and with our other allies, recognizing the independence of each nation but also our mutual interests and our mutual commitments.

The fourth task on democracy's new agenda is the effort of Europeans to shape your future. For the goal that you've set for yourselves, with your partners in the European Community, is nothing less than to transform—in an unprecedented fashion in history—and to improve relations among states with ancient traditions, unique histories, and legitimate pride in national achievement.

The United States will give its unqualified support to what you and your partners in the Nine are doing to strengthen European cooperation, for we see European strength and unity as a boon and not as a threat to us. The real threat to the interests of us all would be economic weakness and disunity.

The fifth and the final item on the new agenda for democracy is to cooperate among .ourselves in adapting to global change. The same factors which led to our economic successes over the past two generations science, technology, education, health, will, and wisdom of our people-have also altered the interrelationship between the industrial democracies on the one hand and the developing world on the other.

European nations, individually or together, also have an increasing role to play beyond this continent, particularly in reordering relations between North and South.

It was less than 100 years ago that the European powers met and divided the continent of Africa among you, and yet today colonialism has nearly ended. Before World War II, 80 percent of the world's land mass and 75 percent of its people were under Western authority, but today there are more than 100 new nations, each with insistent needs and insistent demands. A few years ago, the West made virtually all the decisions about the global economy, but now important resources are also under the control of the developing countries—as the energy crisis has made very clear. The councils of economic action can no longer be limited just to a few.

During this trip, I've seen how the developing nations are creating a new role for themselves in the world's economic system, redistributing global power, posing new global problems, and assuming new rights and new responsibilities.

We've long understood that greater individual equality can bring forth greater prosperity in our domestic societies. But now we also see how greater equality among nations can promote the health of the global economy, including our own. No nation, nor any small group of nations, can any longer shape its destiny alone.

In proposing the North-South conference, President Giscard spoke of creating new forms of international cooperation. What he said then stands as a watchword of all our efforts together, and I quote him again: "(This) should not constitute a victory for some countries over others, achieved by taking advantage of temporary power relationships. Rather it must be a victory of mankind over itself .... "

If we move in that spirit and direct our efforts together to solving the problems that face the nations of the world, then we shall surely gain that victory of which he spoke. We will vindicate our deep and abiding faith in the strength of democracy to grow and to develop with the times.

Six days ago, I left the United States on a tour whose constant theme has been the universal vitality of democracy. In Poland, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India, and now in France, I've emphasized that our modern struggle is not only to establish peace but also to protect the individual from abuse by the state.

Tomorrow, with President Giscard d'Estaing, I will leave Paris and visit the beaches at Normandy. If the names Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold, and Sword will always live in the memories of both our peoples, it's because they remind us at what cost our liberties have been purchased and what a precious heritage has been left for us to attend and to defend. These names remind us that liberty is not secured with just one defense but must be struggled for again and again and again.

Our ancestors made their defense with principles and with revolution. People of my parents' generation, and of my own, bore arms in the name of freedom. Many of them were left at Normandy Beach and at the thousands of other shrines to liberty across the world.

Though we will always be prepared, we pray that their sacrifice in battle need never be repeated. And we know that war need not come again so long as we transmit our devotion to those values of free people, strengthened and renewed, to each succeeding generation that comes after us.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:32 p.m. to members of French-American business, civic, and cultural societies. In his opening remarks, he referred to Louis de Guiringaud, Foreign Minister of France.

Jimmy Carter, Paris, France Remarks at the Palais des Congres. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243534

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