Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at an Airport Rally in Newport News, Virginia

October 21, 1976

First of all, let me say that it's overwhelming to have you come out in the middle of the night to welcome me back home to Virginia. It's good to be back. [applause]

This is such a great country, and as you know our early Presidents came from your state and it's very nice to have the prospect of having another President that doesn't have an accent in the White House. [applause]

You may or may not know that my own ancestors came from Virginia and went down to North Carolina, and about 200 years ago went on into Georgia. And this was my home in Virginia when my wife and I were first married and as you possibly also know my oldest son was bom in Portsmouth. So I'm glad to be back home. [applause]

Tomorrow night, we'll have a third debate between myself and President Ford. I look forward to it and I hope you'll all be watching. I'm going to try, as I did in the first two debates, on domestic and defense and foreign affairs, to spell out my vision of the future of the greatest nation on earth.

We still have within us the capacity for excellence, for greatness, for legitimate pride in what our country is and what it can be. And the last eight years, although we've been deeply wounded, and hurt, and sometimes embarrassed and ashamed, this is not compatible with the character of the American people. We still believe in self-reliance, we still believe in idealism, we're still hopeful about the future, we're eager to work with one another, and restore unity to our government, and between our government and our people.

I've been campaigning now without stopping for 22 months. And I've learned a lot about our country. And everything I've learned has made me prouder of it, and I believe it has also strengthened my own faith that we can correct our problems and answer the difficult questions, and bind ourselves together and approach the future with legitimate confidence in ourselves. This is not a time for discouragement; it's not a time to be withdrawn. It's not a time to turn against our own nation's government just because of Vietnam, or Cambodia or Watergate or the CIA revelations. It's not a time for divisiveness.

I've enjoyed the campaign. It's not been a sacrifice or an ordeal to me. It's been a matter of great inspiration. And if I can just tap, as President of our country, the great strength of the American people, then I don't have any doubt that I can do a good job. But it's not going to be easy. And it would not be fair for me to mislead any of you about what we face in future years. We've got a horribly disorganized federal bureaucracy that's waiting to be made effective once again. And we've lost our basic commitments to human rights and decency and honesty as an international leader, and we've also seen a wall built between the White House and the people of this country and between the White House and the Congress. And those walls need to be tom down. But the American people are ready for it, and I'm ready for it. [applause]

How many of you think it's time for a change in the White House? [applause] How many of you are willing to help me about ten days from now? [applause]

You'll never know how grateful I am that you came out in the middle of this night to make me feel welcome here, and if you'll help me, I'll love you too. [applause]

And if you'll help me on November 2 then I'll help you next January [and] for the next four years to restore what we've lost and to make sure that we repair our wounds and heal the damage that's been done to our country and once again set a standard for ourselves to make the whole world proud of us. This is a country that is the only legitimate leader of the community of nations. And I believe that we are now prepared to prove to the rest of the world, and perhaps, more importantly, prove to our own people in this country, that we still live in the greatest nation on earth. [applause] Thank you very much.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at an Airport Rally in Newport News, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347583

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