Jimmy Carter photo

Plains, Georgia Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters.

May 31, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. I think the best thing to do would be to just respond to questions. I don't have any statement to make.

Q. Do you have any feelings about your reception this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'm always grateful to come back to Plains and to see the people with whom I grew up. I believe it is accurate to say that the reception has been good. But I'm not surprised. I love them just as much as they do me.

Q. What about how the town has changed since you first began to---

THE PRESIDENT. I'm very pleased at the way the town has been kept as it was. It's almost more than 600 people can do to handle literally thousands and thousands of tourists and still be friendly and hospitable and to preserve the basic nature of this tiny community.

But I think they have done an excellent job, and I am very proud. I hope that when I'm out of my present position as President and come back home to Plains, it will still be just like this. I am very proud of it.

Q. President Carter, have you appointed a trustee yet for the peanut business?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Kirbo is the trustee for my whole estate, including the peanut business.

Q. There is not going to be any change in that?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not that I know of.

Q. [Inaudible]

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't asked Mr. Kirbo what he has in mind. My instructions that I gave to him before January 20 was to handle it as he saw fit without consulting with me.

Q. Now that you are back in Plains, is there anything that you would like to do that you can't do because you are President?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think that I can do almost anything that I would like to, not with very much privacy. But I believe that the tourists and the press have been very accommodating this morning in letting me go into the stores and speak to my friends and my relatives.

I'm going to have lunch with my mother. Amy made a list of the people that she particularly wanted to see, some of her classmates and friends. And they'll be at the Pond House to play with Amy this afternoon.

And then Billy and I are going over to one of our farms during the afternoon. I'm going to get some wild plums--this is the plum season--and just look at our farms.

We have had a terrible drought here. And this is probably one of the worst crops we have ever had this time of year. But I think, in general, I feel unconstrained about moving around. I don't mind meeting people and having them shake hands and talking to them briefly.

When I leave this place, I am going over and vote. We have an election today in Sumter County about some tax matters and some free port zones. And I will be visiting my wife's mother, who is helping to run the polls today.

Q. President Carter, have you heard from your wife?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I talked to Rosalynn this morning about 7:15. She called me from Jamaica. She spent about 3 1/2 hours yesterday with the Prime Minister, Manley, and with some of his government officials.

She was very pleased at the conversations that they had. She said that all the studying that she's been doing for the last number of weeks paid off, that they went into quite some depth and specificity on questions that affect our relationships with Jamaica. She was very pleased at the response.

We have been quite concerned in recent years that we had lost a lot of the friendship that used to tie us very closely to the people of Jamaica.

She was getting ready this morning, early, to go out to one of the plantations, and she'll be there with the Prime Minister again, and this afternoon will leave for Costa Rica.

Q. Mr. Carter, to go back to Plains, what about the problems in your church here? I know you are aware of them. Are you planning to go back to the church at all and try to help out in that situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, it's my church, and I don't ever intend to leave it. While we are in Washington, as you know, we transferred our membership to the First Baptist Church there. But when I come back to Plains, the Plains Baptist Church will be my church.

They have had some very difficult times. And there is still some misunderstanding, even some animosities in the church, unfortunately. Bruce Edwards, our pastor, is out in Hawaii this week, I think, with his wife. He was invited by one of the churches out there to come out and preach what the Baptists call a trial sermon, and they'll be looking him over. But I think he's had several opportunities for a new position. He's a fine young man. And I think this is just one of those things that have been brought on our church by the publicity that surrounded my presence there.

I feel responsible for it in a way because it was a very disruptive thing to have enormous crowds coming to the little church. But I believe that God will take care of it.

Q. Mr. President, when you are up at the White House, what do you miss most about Plains, now that you are back?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, obviously, I miss the friends and relatives that are so close to me. I had a very fine career in the Navy. I guess I had just about the number one position of a naval officer of my rank at the time. And I gave all that up to come back to Plains because of the strong ties that I have here.

I'm still a farmer at heart, and I miss the planting season and the crops being produced. I had a chance to go with Billy this morning down to our peanut shelling plant. And it's just a basic part of my life.

I don't find any conflict between an affection for Plains and also a gratification at being President. But just the community, the attitude, the closeness, the sharing of a common life in a small group of people--and I guess between Rosalynn and me, we are akin to an awful lot of the people in Plains. But I feel at home when I am here. This is my home.

Q. Mr. President, yesterday you hinted at some positive movements in our relations with Cuba. Can you be more specific? And does that movement include the possible exchange of ambassadorial representatives?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't see any prospect immediately in the future, within the next number of months, of full diplomatic recognition which would involve the exchange of Ambassadors. But we have made, I think, good progress, primarily as a result of negotiations and discussions on the part of Mr. Todman,1 representing the State Department.

1 Terence A. Todman, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, and U.S. Coordinator, Alliance for Progress.

I'm not prepared now to make any announcements. We have an agreement with the Cuban officials that we'll keep the discussions about the private negotiations without revealing them to the public.

But I have been encouraged. As I said yesterday, we still have a lot of differences between us. And the basic ones are the ones that I mentioned at the airport: the inclination on the part of Cuba to send military troops and advisers to Africa, which I think is a destabilizing factor, and also the large number of political prisoners that are being held in Cuba for a number of years.

But I believe that there is an inclination on the part of the American people to continue to move toward a full friendship with Cuba, and I have that as an ultimate goal. But I can't report any specific additional progress at this point. One more question.

Q. Mr. President, have you ever communicated directly with Mr. Castro, either through letter or diplomatic communications?

THE PRESIDENT. Not directly. Through intermediaries, we have communicated. But I've never had a chance to communicate through an Ambassador since we don't have relations with Cuba.

I've never sent him a personal letter, but I've sent him my best wishes for a successful conclusion of our negotiations by representatives, directly from the State Department. And he has responded accordingly.

Q. Mr. President, one more question. Did Jody tell you he "out-fished" you yesterday? [Laughter]


Thank you.

REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The question-and-answer session began at 12:30 p.m. at the depot.

Jimmy Carter, Plains, Georgia Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243335

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives