Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Appearance in Salt Lake City, Utah

October 07, 1976

Thank you, everybody.

Madam President and Senator Ervin, Mayor Wilson, my good friend Calvin Rampton, Senator Moss, Elizabeth Vance, and all the great people of Utah who have come to comprise what Senator Moss and Governor Rampton tell me is the largest political gathering that's ever been assembled in the State of Utah. It's a great honor for me and I thank you for it. [applause]

The political debates kind of grow on you. I enjoyed the one last night, much better than the first one. [applause]. And I'm looking forward to the next one. This gives the American people a chance not only to make an assessment of the candidates but also to make an assessment of what our country is, and what it might be in the future. My first participation in public affairs was as a member of the Sumter County School Board. I later became the chairman of it. I ran for the Georgia Senate, to prevent the destruction of the public school system in Georgia. When I got to the Georgia Senate my only request was that I be placed on the education committee. I was chairman of the University Committee in the Georgia Senate as a freshman Senator. And helped to write the comprehensive minimum foundation program for education in Georgia.

I've been close to young people. We've had eighteen-year-olds voting in Georgia since 1945. During the Second World War we felt that if a young person was old enough to fight he was also old enough to decide who his political leaders ought to be. [applause]

One of the good programs that we instituted while I was active in Georgia government was what we called the Georgia Governor's Honors Program Every year we select from throughout the state with competitive examinations the 400 brightest high school students in the state, and during the summer months, for 8 weeks, they go to Wesleyan College campus in Macon, Georgia, to receive advanced instruction, far beyond what the. would get in high school. One day, out of each eight week session, is set aside for career training, because we want to make sure that when those bright young children arrive at the college year that they know what their planned life's work ought to be. So we set aside one day and we bring onto the college campus airplane stewardesses, school teachers, nurses, doctors, farmers, engineers, business leaders, lawyers, and we let students meet with them to very carefully prepare to make a right decision about their life's work. Because when they get to college, we don't want to see their brilliant minds wasted and the tax money wasted, and the parents' money wasted, as they change from one course of study to another.

I was invited to come in for the banquet session my first year as governor, to kind of wrap up what they had heard that day about planning their out career. And the young man who introduced me had done a great deal of research on my background, and he got up and said, "We're very proud to have tonight Governor Jimmy Carter come and explain to us how to plan our life's career. He was born and raised in Plains, Georgia, where he finished high school. He went to Georgia Southwestern College, where he studied chemistry. And then he went to Georgia Tech, where he studied engineering, and then he went to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he got a degree in marine science, and then he went to Schenectady, New York, to Union College to do advance work in nuclear physics, and now, he grows peanuts for a living, and he's here to tell us how to plan our life's career." [applause and laughs]

Well, I never got my audience back until the speech was over. But today I've come to talk to you about two things, both education and our country. I'm particularly honored to be on the same platform with Senator Sam Ervin. [He is] a man who, in a time of torment and trial, embarrassment and shame, brought to our country a sense of decency, commitment, unswerving adherence to the Constitution, what it stands for, the Bill of Rights, what it says, and to what our country ought to be. And Senator Ervin, I thank you personally for what you did for us. [applause]

I'm glad to be in Utah also because you have a state that has deserved and has the admiration of the whole country. You stand number one in the percentage of your citizens who finished high school. You stand number one among all 50 states in the length of education that's been received by the adult citizens of your state. You're one of 22 states, along with Georgia, who has passed comprehensive legislation to ensure that children get an equal opportunity for education, regardless of the wealth of the community within which they live. This foresight and commitment to the enhancement of opportunity and the stretching of one's mind and heart in the educational process, is a great credit to you. We now face a time in the evolution of our country, when concepts of education are changing.

Our nation has sometimes been characterized as a melting pot, because we have so many different kinds of people come here to live. That's not an accurate description, because a melting pot means that everybody kind of gives up what they used to be and gets mixed up all together and become the same. That's not the way in our country. We are much more easily categorized as a beautiful mosaic with individual citizens of our country, individual groups in our country, retaining our own self-character, a pride in our ethnic background and heritage, our special commitment to religious principles, that we fit together in a way that lets us work in harmony, search out the best that's within us, and capitalize on the opportunities that we each individually adopt.

This brings us to education, to responsibility, to individualized instruction, to treat each child as a special person. The philosopher Kierkegaard said, "Every man is an exception," and we all know that every human being is an exception, every child in a classroom is an exception.

In Georgia we had to deal with this in the last 10 or 15 years, because of the complete integration of our black and white students in the same classes. We had not known this in generations past. But we weathered that test, and it's been very difficult for us, but it's a source of great pride.

The best thing that ever happened to the South in my lifetime, was the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the granting of the black people the chance to vote, to hold a job, to go to school, to buy a house, and to participate on an equal basis with white people in shaping their own lives, their own destinies, their own future. [applause]

My children have always attended the public schools. My little girl, Amy, is in the fourth grade. She gets a good education, about two-thirds of her classmates happen to be black. I think this is another symbol of progress, but it also presents us a great challenge because children who come into the classroom with different backgrounds, different economic status, different opportunity to learn before they get to school, present a great challenge to a teacher, and to the educational system. Many children go to the first grade, without ever having heard a bedtime story, without ever having read a book, perhaps never having heard the English language spoken properly, perhaps not even knowing their own last names.

Many in this country, as you well know, can't speak English at all. But they are crammed in the classroom with the same hopes and dreams and aspirations and fears as other children, and they must be treated as individuals. And whatever public officials can do at the local, state and federal levels, whatever teachers can do, and administrators can do in the education system, to deal with children as individuals, different from one another, will help us have a better chance for all of them in life.

In Georgia, if a child can't read and write, we have special remedial reading programs for them, to take them out of the regular classroom, teach them to read and write, before they're put back into the competitive system of the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. There is nothing that destroys a child more than to sit in a classroom day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, with other children, learning about civics, history, social sciences, mathematics, English, literature, and that child not being able to read and write.

We give the children another test—every child in Georgia at the seventh grade level—so that they can prepare to shape their own career instruction among the optional courses in high school. And again at the eleventh grade level, all children in Georgia have a comprehensive test given to them to decide what kind of post-high school career they should follow.

We need in our own country to have a much closer correlation between the analysis of jobs that are available, and the educational process that's given to a person as they prepare to graduate from high school, a vocational school, or college course. We have very little opportunity now to have jobs matched with talent. Among young people these days the unemployment rate is about 20 percent. Among young people who happen to be of a minority group, the unemployment rate is quite often 40 percent.

This hurts our whole society, in many different ways, in crime escalation, in the breakdown of the family structure, and also in the respect of citizens for our own government. We've shown a great growth lately in the cost of education. In the last 8 years the cost of education has almost doubled. But the portion of educational costs paid for by the federal government, with the progressive income tax structure, has dropped from 10 percent of the total down to about 7 percent of the total.

We've also seen a proliferation in federal programs. We now have about 400 different programs at the federal level of government, administered by 70 different agencies. And we've had kind of a merry-go-round in Washington recently with administrators. We've had 6 different Commissioners of Education, three different Secretaries of HEW, in the last 4 years.

This matches, as you know, three Vice Presidents, two Presidents, with only one election. We need to change this, stabilize our government, and approach the future with more substance and confidence.

Our country has suffered in many other ways. In the last few years, the people of this nation have been deeply hurt. In the aftermath of Vietnam and Cambodia, Chile, Pakistan, Angola, Watergate, CIA, FBI, our people feel that we've lost something precious. We've lost a stability in our lives. We've lost a standard of morals and ethics. We've lost a commitment to excellence, and greatness. We've lost the inspiration of government. We've lost the participation and openness that lets us control and make decisions for our nation. But this is not a permanent aspect of American society. It's a temporary aberration. And there's a thrust in politics this year, [and] in the minds and hearts of millions of Americans, to restore those precious things, tear down the walls that have separated us from our own government, and tap the tremendous strength that exists among the more than 200 million Americans who haven't lost our idealism, who haven't lost our patriotism, who haven't lost our commitment to strong families, who haven't lost our commitment to stretch our minds, to stretch our hearts, to learn more about God's earth, to learn more about our fellow human beings. [They] can only be provided to us in a good, comprehensive education system.

When we have difficulty in our society, education is much more valuable. We now have 7.9 percent of all our people unemployed. In the last two years, 2.4 million more people have joined the unemployment roles. In the last three months, 500,000 Americans have become unemployed. This is the worst unemployment record of any developed nation in the world. But we need not despair because within us there is still the capability to learn and to work. It's been derived from an educational system that hasn't been damaged as has the economic system of our country.

We Americans are fair. We don't have a fair tax structure. Our income tax structure in this country is a disgrace to the human race. [applause]

The surest income to be taxed is the income earned from manual labor. There are not any hidden secret loopholes for someone who draws a paycheck every two weeks, or a retirement check every two weeks. But there are hidden secret loopholes for everyone else. This is not right; it must be changed. In the last reporting period there were 3,200 Americans who made over $50,000 a year in income and paid not a nickel in income taxes. There were over 800 Americans who made over $100,000 a year, over 240 Americans who made over $200,000 a year and paid not a nickel in income taxes. When they don't pay their taxes, you know who pays it for them. So we need comprehensive all-inclusive income tax reform. That's what we're going to get next year, because that's what the American people are ready for.

I believe in a competent government, and I believe in a compassionate government. I come from an area that is very poor. Perhaps more poor than any community in your own state. I believe in a good welfare system. We don't have one. We now have about 12 million Americans who habitually draw welfare payments. About 1.3 million of those are fully able to work. There's nothing wrong with them physically, mentally, they're not too old, they're not blind. They ought to be removed from the welfare system altogether, placed under the responsibility. [applause] They ought to be placed under the responsibility of the Labor Department, the Education Department, given job training, literacy instruction if they can't read and write, the services of private and public job placement services, and matched with a job, offered a job. If they're offered a job and don't take it, I would not pay them any more benefits. [applause]

The other ninety percent can't work full-time. We ought to treat them with respect, and we ought to treat them with compassion. [applause] There ought to be a fairly uniform nationwide payment to meet the basic necessities of life. We ought to have a built in incentive for part-time work, and we ought to remove the aspects of the law that force or encourage a father to leave the home, or pretend to leave the home. The present welfare system is anti-work, and anti-family. It ought to be changed. It must be changed. Next year, it's going to be changed. [applause]

I just want to make one other point. I come from a state in many ways like your own. We are fairly conservative. We believe in hard work. We believe that anybody who's able to work ought to have a chance to work. I grew up on a farm. I managed my affairs very carefully. My family budget was kept in balance. When I ran my farm, my farm budget was balanced. I was Governor of Georgia four years, the budget was balanced. And we had a substantial surplus every year. If I'm elected President, and I intend to be, a major commitment of my term will be that before the first four years are finished, the budget of the United States government is going to be balanced, and l am committed to that. [applause]

I believe that if a choice exists between the government performing a function, and the private sector performing that same function, that the choice should be with the private sector. I believe that if there's a choice between the federal, state and local levels of government having responsibility, the responsibility ought to be placed as near as possible to the individual citizen. I believe that if there's a choice between work and welfare, the choice ought to be work. And I believe that we ought to meet the legitimate needs of our people in every possible way. We ought to have a minimum government secrecy, a maximum of respect for personal privacy, this has not been the case in our government in the past, and as I pointed out in the debate last night, I believe our foreign policy ought to be one to make us proud and not ashamed; it ought to be predictable; it ought to be honorable; it ought to be truthful; it ought to be compassionate; it ought to be strong.

Let me just say one more thing in closing. I don't claim to know all the answers. I'm just an average American citizen like you. I've had a good education because I was lucky. My people have lived in Georgia 200 years, two hundred and 10 years now. No one in my family ever had a chance to finish high school before I did. But I had a chance to go to the Naval Academy at public expense, and to learn. Twenty-one months ago, I began to campaign for President. I didn't hold public office, I didn't have very much money—I had $43,000 to run a Presidential campaign. I didn't have a nationwide campaign organization. Not many people knew who I was. I doubt if one percent of the people in this auditorium had ever heard my name before last January, 1975.1 come from a small town, 683 population. But I and my wife and my children and a few volunteers began to go from one home to another. We would invite everybody from the neighborhood to come in. Maybe three or four people would show up. We'd go to a labor hall that would hold 200 or 300 folks, maybe 12 people would come. So we began to stand in factory shift lines, and go to farmers' markets, to livestock sale barns, to walk up and down the street, to go into barber shops and beauty parlors, and restaurants, to stand in front of revolving doors and shopping centers, to meet people, to talk a little, to learn a lot. I'm proud of this country. I believe in its future. I believe we have a strength that hasn't been permanently damaged. Our economic strength is the greatest on earth. Our system of government is still clean, decent, a basis on which we can predicate answers to complicated questions, and bind ourselves together, correct our mistakes, face the future with confidence, [and] stand on our own feet, not ever deviating from the principles in which we believe. So our country's strong. But the strength must come from you.

I'm running for President; I believe I'll be elected. But it's just as much your country as it is mine. And if there are things that you don't like about it, if we've made mistakes that you never want to see made again, if there are hopes or dreams or aspirations, in your own lives or in the lives of your children that you would like to be realized, I hope that this will be a time of testing and commitment and even sacrifice for you. To help shape the opinion of those who look to you for leadership. To bind ourselves together in a spirit of unity and purpose. Unselfish, yes; idealistic, yes; committed to unchanging principles, yes; strengthening families, yes.

We've always seen in our country a dependence upon the educational process when changes are required.

When the social changes took place in the South, it was not the churches, it was not the business structure, it was not the political structure that made those changes. You know who made the changes? School teachers. That's what happened. And it was made well. [applause]

Because in the classroom we not only learn about the history of our nation, we not only learn about economics, we not only learn about the beauty of art and music, and we not only learn about government, but we learn about each other. And as we know each other better, it lets us set a standard for the future. I believe in my country. And I hope you will join with me in the next 4 weeks, hopefully in the next 4 years, to tap the tremendous resources of our great nation and to try once again, as I said often in the primary years, to have a government that's as good and honest and as decent and truthful and fair [and] as compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people. I believe we can do it. The time has come for it to be done. [applause]

Thank you very much. God bless all of you.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Appearance in Salt Lake City, Utah Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347670

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