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Providence, Rhode Island Remarks at a Reception for Senator Claiborne Pell.

February 17, 1978

Senator Poll and Governor Joe Garrahy, distinguished members of the State house, senate—I don't know if the Congressmen are here or not. Oh, good, there they are. [Laughter] Congressman Beard and Congressman St Germain, all the wonderful people from the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, I'm glad to be here.

Looking at your fine Governor, your Members of the Congress, your U.S. Senator, and the results of the general election in 1976, I can tell that you have excellent political judgment. I had a slight doubt there for a few days at the time of the Democratic primary, but it was soon alleviated completely. [Laughter]

I am very proud to be here, to visit with my friends, to let you know of my deep interest as President of the United States in you and in your State, to express my admiration for what you have done during the last few days in setting an example for the Nation of courage and tenacity and of cooperation and good will under very adverse circumstances. I think you've demonstrated what's made our country great, and I'm very proud of you.

You may not have thought about it before, but this is an election year. [Laughter] And I would like to say a few words this afternoon about a special friend of mine, Senator Claiborne Pell. He's a close friend and a partner of mine, but he has, as you well know, a mind of his own. He knows your State and he cares about you. He has had a remarkable record even before he went to the United States Senate. And since then his experience has given him a profound knowledge of our Nation, both in domestic affairs and also in foreign affairs. He had perhaps more experience in the diplomatic service than almost any Member who's ever served in the Senate. And as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he's grown day by day.

He's a good adviser for the Secretary of State. He's a good counselor for other members of the Foreign Relations Committee. And he's a good adviser for the President as well.

I think you all know that he's the head of the Subcommittee on Arms Control. And this year, we hope and we pray that we will have a successful conclusion to the SALT negotiations with the Soviet Union. This is good for our Nation's security. It's good for the attitude of the whole world. And it's good to ensure the deepest hope of all humankind that we can have international peace. It's also incumbent on us to have strong men like Claiborne Pell who believe in a strong defense. And in the negotiations with the Soviet Union, which are going on every day, on a comprehensive test ban, and on limiting and then reducing and hopefully, God willing, in the future completely eliminating atomic weapons from the face of the Earth, he occupies a crucial position.

And it makes me feel much more sure of myself to know that he is one of the key Members of the Congress with whom I have been and will be consulting in those crucial times.

As a Coast Guard officer, he knows the seas, and I feel a special kinship with him there, because for 11 years, I was in the U.S. Navy. And this is a time, I think, that he additionally serves in exploring how best to utilize and to protect the riches of the sea. We're engaged in tough negotiations in how to harvest the minerals and the fishes of the sea. And we also have difficult decisions to be made with a rapidly growing technological world on how to preserve the purity of the oceans and their openness to the use by all nations. And he has that special responsibility in the Foreign Relations Committee.

He specializes in Europe, among all the nations of the Earth. And as you have noticed, I'm sure, in analyzing the priorities that we've placed in our budget proposals, we're trying to strengthen our ties with the historic friends and relatives, blood relatives, where our ancestors lived in the nations of Europe.

NATO is one of our most important alliances. We're not granting favors to other people when we strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We're defending our own country. And it would be a devastating blow to have any hope engendered in the minds of potential enemies of our friends in Europe because of a lack of strength on our part.

And so we're trying to increase the spirit and the hopefulness and the confidence and the cooperation that exist among us. And there is his special focused responsibility.

There are a lot of things that I could talk about in foreign affairs, but I know you are interested as well in domestic matters. Claiborne Pell has been an innovator. I was at one of the first examples of a health maintenance organization today. And I saw people going to get medical care, not after they became sick, but to prevent sickness—tiny children and grown people, as well, who form kind of a family with medical personnel at a very low cost to get good health care.

Our Nation now spends more of its gross national product, we spend more per person on health care by far than any other Nation. And we still don't have good health in our country. We rank 18th among nations in life expectancy, and 14th or 15th or 16th in other measures of good health care, like infant mortality and the incidence of severe diseases.

And we have to explore new ways to provide better health care. And Claiborne Pell was the author of the legislation that set up this new approach to good health care. I think we've caused too serious an economic problem among the middle-income families of this Nation. And because of his innovation and hard work, we are now proposing a drastic improvement in college loans, college grants, and workstudy programs for students, to help the middle-income families of the country. And the whole Nation can thank Claiborne Pell.

I don't want to brag on him too much, but I would like to say just one more thing.

I became President probably because of the election or campaign reforms that were initiated by Claiborne Pell, to try to prevent in the Presidential elections the outcome of the contest being determined by who had the richest friends. And with a limit on contributions and the broadening of support among millions of people and not just a few thousand people, the democratic process was enhanced. And I think this is very good. And I thank him personally for helping make me the President of the United States.

Well, he's a gentle man and a kind of a quiet man. But he's experienced and he's strong and he has courage and he has a lot of foresight. And it's just a pleasure to work harmoniously with people like Claiborne Pell.

I think that you all know that this election year is going to be very difficult. The Democratic Party and what it stands for is what I believe in. It epitomizes what our country is, and it shows us in the future what our country can be. And I know that Congressman St Germain, Congressman Beard, and others will be out this year seeking reelection, and as a Democrat, I hope that you will help us all even to strengthen the principles of our party as they are exhibited both here in Rhode Island and also in Washington.

I want to again thank Ed Garrahy for his tremendous demonstration—Joe Garrahy for this tremendous demonstration of leadership in this State.

I think I will come out to the crowd. Thank you again, everybody.

Note: The President spoke at 4:15 p.m. at the Cranston Hilton Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Providence, Rhode Island Remarks at a Reception for Senator Claiborne Pell. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244477

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