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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Remarks to Members of the Polish Community.

October 30, 1980

Thank you, Representative Bill Borski, for your warm introduction. It's an honor for me to be with you. I was informed by my distinguished escorts on the way from the Fairmont Hotel here that I'm the first President who's ever been to Polonia, and it's a great honor for me to come and be with you this morning.

I've had a good time in my visits to. Philadelphia lately, meeting with Mayor Bill Green, and having my wife come here, and my son, Chip, come here, and the Vice President come to Philadelphia. It's a wonderful year to congratulate Philadelphia, because you've won it all, I think. The Phillies won the World Series, the Eagles are doing okay. You've won the Saratoga. The Forrestal is next. It's just a good year all around.

There's one more victory that I want to see you win, not only for Philadelphia but for Pennsylvania and the whole country. Does anybody know what that is? [Applause and cheers] Right on. Next November the 4th, next Tuesday, you will make a decision that will affect your own lives, the lives of your families, the life of this Nation.

I also want to thank another guest, Stanley Walesa, who's here with me this morning. As you know, he too is associated very closely with the recent victory, a human victory in Poland for all mankind. I know you are very proud of what his son has accomplished. His commitment to the rights of working people has been and is an inspiration to the entire world.

As you know, the Republican leaders have criticized my commitment on behalf of this Nation to the principle of protecting human rights, not only in our own country but in other nations. This is a deep commitment of mine, but they seem to think it's naive for America to stand up for freedom and to stand up for democracy. I disagree with that very strongly. If we in the land of freedom do not stand up for human rights, then what is it, what is the meaning of America? What should we stand for? What should our commitment be? Just ask the Polish workers who are struggling for human progress. Ask them if America should stand up for human rights.

I come to you today in Philadelphia, the city where our American rights were first ratified. I come to you as a leader of the Democratic Party, a party that has embraced human rights since the time of Thomas Jefferson. I come to ask your support on November 4th, because we share the same values and the same commitments. For almost two centuries the Democratic Party has opened its arms, as you know, to every American of every culture, every background, every religion. When I form the policies of our Nation in international affairs these days, my two closest advisers represent families who came here from Poland, Secretary of State Ed Muskie and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

It's important that we remind ourselves that ours is a nation of immigrants; we're a nation of refugees. And when every new wave of refugees or immigrants came to this country it was the Democratic Party that opened its arms and its hearts to them, gave them a role to play in shaping of our country and in the hammering out for all Americans strength, but the preservation of those precious, individualistic commitments of religion and family and heritage and blood kinship.

The Democratic Party has been on the cutting edge of change and tolerance. When people said that no Roman Catholic could be President, ours is the party, the Democratic Party, that nominated and then elected John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We've come a long way since 1960. Twenty years ago the enemies of that Roman Catholic Democratic candidate said that if John Fitzgerald Kennedy were ever elected President, the Pope would someday stand on the steps of the White House. Those critics were right. They were a little off on their timing, though- [laughter] —because Pope John Paul II arrived at the White House in 1979, and I'm proud to say that he was welcomed there by a Southern Baptist.

We have come a long way. America has a Southern Baptist as a President, now elected with the support of northern Catholics, and the world at last has a Polish Pope. Who would have predicted either of these things 20 years ago?

It's important for us to consider, too, in this election year some special characteristics that are important for us all to remember. I've been listening to the Republican candidate. Then, you know, he's trying to wrap himself in the mantle of great Democratic Presidents. But it happens every election year. Here's what Franklin Roosevelt said back in 1944 about how Republicans change their tune at election time. I quote President Roosevelt: "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels," he said. "Now imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm afraid that in this case it's the most obvious common garden variety of fraud." And now the Republicans have the nerve to quote Franklin Roosevelt himself.

John Kennedy predicted it back in 1960, when he said of the Republicans, and I quote John Kennedy, "They're even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now, they might even speak a good word for Harry Truman, but he won't say anything good about them." [Laughter]

As you know that prediction has come true. And I predict that 20 years from now, Republican candidates might even be saying nice things about Jimmy Carter's second term.

For working families, there is a special message in this election. Five decades, 50 years, the Democrats have fought for the rights of working people. We enacted the minimum wage over Republican opposition. We enacted unemployment compensation over Republican opposition. We enacted social security over Republican opposition. We enacted laws that gave the right of people to form unions and participate in collective bargaining over the opposition of Republicans. In the last 3.5 years, we've fought together for common situs, for labor law reform, and against the repeal of Davis-Bacon—in each case over the opposition of Republicans.

My opponent's views are a matter of record. He described people drawing unemployment compensation as, and I quote, "freeloaders wanting a prepaid vacation plan." And last year when it was proposed that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration be abolished, that protects the safety and health of workers, his reply was, "Amen." This year he said, and I quote, "The minimum wage has caused more misery and unemployment than anything since the Great Depression."

These issues are extremely important. He says he wants to abolish the minimum wage, and if he can't do that, then, as he said in our debate, he wants to exempt young workers from the minimum wage. That would threaten the jobs of adults, as you know, who now rely on the minimum wage for protection, for a basic standard of decency with displacement by a new subclass of workers without the protection of the minimum wage. We Democrats oppose that. We've not lowered the minimum wage; we've raised it.

The man who said these things is proclaiming himself now a friend of the working families. He likes to put on a hard hat and quote Franklin Roosevelt. It's a new script, but to Republicans in election years, it's an old part. As you know, this is the candidate who is my opponent who says that the basis for the New Deal was fascism.

In an election year it's important for us to remember not just current events, not just the sharp differences that exist between two candidates—and the differences between myself and Governor Reagan are extremely sharp and accurately, now, defined—but the historical perspective of what our Nation is, what it has been, points very clearly to what it can be. You who are as old as I am, who remember the Great Depression years, the great changes that took place in our lives under Democrats, under Democratic leaders, have a clearer concept, perhaps, than some of our younger children, who haven't known those difficult days and seen a new life open up for us all.

Now I want to point out in final terms some special things about Poland. We have a good friendship with Poland. When I became President, my first [state]1 visit outside this Nation was to Poland. We have strong ties of understanding, and the connections which exist between families like you and the homeland of your ancestors or, perhaps, the homeland of you yourselves are very strong.

Recently I ordered quick approval of Poland's request for new credit guarantees for American grain. It was the largest such guarantee ever made by our country to any other nation. I wanted to demonstrate our admiration for the way the Polish nation is conducting itself in this time of change. I wanted to show our desire for better relations between our people, to strengthen even further the human ties between our two countries. The shipyard workers in Gdansk, the coal miners in Silesia, the store workers in Warsaw, have sent a powerful message around the world. Poland has reminded us that the desire for human rights and human dignity is universal. I want the people of Poland to know that we heard their message, that we observed and admired their courage. I want the people of Poland to know that the human rights in America is a commitment which is still alive and that we hold the banner of human rights high, as a nation with deep and unchanging commitments.

This morning I pledge to you that as long as I am President, this Nation will stand up for its beliefs, will stand up for our ideals, will stand up for our values, because my values, as President, are the same as yours. And in this last few days of the Presidential election of 1980, I'd like for you to think on those values, what they've meant to you in your lives, what you want them to mean to your children and your grandchildren, the historic thrust of our Nation, what it has been in the past and is now, what it can be in the future.

In many ways my political future is in your hands, but even more importantly, the political future of our Nation, its ties with Poland and with other ancestral countries that are so important to us-those ties that bind us together can be preserved by you. And I ask you in this next few days to make a sacrificial effort to show your commitment to our Nation, what it stands for, what it has been, and even more importantly, what it will be in the years ahead.

Thank you very much. God bless you.

1 White House correction.

Note: The President spoke at 8:35 a.m. in the main hall of the Pilsudski Club.

Jimmy Carter, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Remarks to Members of the Polish Community. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251823

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