Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Alexandria, Virginia
Thank you very much. I noticed a sign over here on my right that says "Miss Lillian for First Grandmother" and how many of you think you'd like to have Rosalynn for First Lady of our country? [applause and cheers]
When we first went home to Plains from the Navy, we had three sons. The oldest one was in first grade. He was born in Virginia, when we were at Norfolk. We lived in the government housing project. The rent was $31 a month. And the first year we were home, 1954, we didn't make enough total income to pay our house rent. But we formed kind of a family partnership, as Rosalynn has described, and it's lasted ever since. And now we have campaigning all over the country not only Rosalynn and myself, but my oldest son and his wife and my second son and his wife and my third son and his wife, my sister Ruth, my Aunt Sissie. Momma campaigns every now and then, she's going to Massachusetts very shortly, she just came back from Florida. Amy campaigns some [laughter]; she goes over to the Grand Old Opry in Nashville and performs—she's a clog dancer. And we get a lot of benefit from our family.
In the last 22 months our campaign organization has grown. Today, we have about 500 Georgians, who are working people like many of you, who at their own expense have gone all over the country to talk to Americans about me, about my record in Georgia, and about their and my and your vision of what our country ought to be.
Our nation's been deeply hurt in the last eight years. With the terrible war in Vietnam, the secret bombing of Cambodia, the insensitivity in Bangladesh, and the attempted war in Angola and our involvement in Chile. And the disgrace of Watergate, the resignation of the President of the United States, and also the resignation of the Vice President of the United States, both in disgrace.
These kinds of things have never happened to our country before. And the American people have been deeply wounded by the loss of something precious. A sense that our government was clean and decent and open. A sense that our nation was well-represented. A sense that we had access to the decision making process. That here was a minimum of secrecy and a maximum of personal privacy. That the CIA and the FBI set an example of professionalism and close attention to the law. We've lost those things.
But I think there is also a resurgence in our country of a desire to restore the greatness and the standard of excellence and high ideals and moral character that still exists in the minds and hearts of American people in our own government. It would be a serious mistake if the 50 percent or so of those who say they are not going to vote a week from Tuesday didn't go to the polls and vote, just because they have been disappointed with some of the things that have happened in recent years. Our country is still strong.
Economically, we're the strongest nation on earth. God's blessed us with wide open fields and great land and mineral deposits and access to the oceans, and pure streams, and good harbors, and pure air. And God's blessed us too with the finest system of government on earth.
It hasn't been damaged by Richard Nixon or by Watergate. Nor even by Vietnam and Cambodia.
Our system of government is still clean and decent. It's the basis on which we can predicate answers to complicated questions and bind ourselves back together and correct our mistakes, and in a spirit of unity tap the tremendous resource that exists above all else among the 215 million Americans who still believe in hard work, and self-sacrifice and who are basically unselfish, and who have a desire for a sense of unity, and who are still patriotic and still idealistic, and still compassionate and still looking for a way to set an example of hope and freedom and individuality and equality of purpose for the whole world to emulate. Those inclinations still exist among American people. And as we've traveled and campaigned in the last 22 months around this country, I've seen expressed to me in thousands of different ways from tens of thousands of different people, that they hope and you hope and I hope that we can be proud once again.
Now, I don't claim to know all the answers. I'm just an average person like you who went as a farm boy and got a good education at public expense. And then went home and started a little business at a farm, then got involved in public affairs like many of you have become involved. I did it not to make money but to serve my country. And also because I enjoyed it. It's never been an ordeal or a sacrifice to me. Its always been kind of an inspiration.
And although we've worked very hard the last 22 months, I've never felt that I was sacrificing. I've been inspired. We began our campaign, as Rosalynn said I did, on the 20th of January, 1975. Not many people knew who I was. I doubt if one out of a thousand of you had ever heard my name. And we didn't have a built in campaign organization. And we didn't have much money. I come from a small town—683 people. And I didn't hold public office. But we began campaigning for President just like you would if you wanted to run for public office. We went to rooms, living rooms, of friends in a neighborhood, and we'd invite everybody to come in, and maybe three or four people would show up. We'd go to a labor hall that would hold 200 to 300 people; maybe ten people would be there. So we walked the streets. Went into barber shops and beauty parlors and restaurants. Went into factory shift lines, shopping centers, county courthouses and city halls, livestock sales barns and farmers' markets, to talk a little and to listen a lot. And then we formed kind of a partnership with American people, and our family kind of expanded in a way, you might say.
And then when the returns started coming in from the primaries, many people were surprised. Because I came in first in Iowa, and came in first in New Hampshire, and first in Florida, and North Carolina and Illinois, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. And it was because we formed a close relationship with people.
I've never had the opportunity, never had to depend upon, powerful bigshot special interest groups, to put me in office. This is something that has let me be a free agent to search out as best I could the needs of the people of our country that were not influential, that were not rich, not powerful. Because those of us who make decisions in government quite often don't feel the pain of a mistake. Our families are not the ones who stand in an unemployment line looking for a job. And ours are not the ones that depend on a welfare check, and find sometimes it's not enough, or gets there late.
And we have a dual system of justice and taxation. When the tax laws are not fair, quite often we benefit. We don't suffer. And when the court system decides between the powerful and the poor, our kids don't go to prison. If my three boys were caught with marijuana in their possession, or involved in a hit and run accident, you can rest assured that they would not go to prison. But if my next door neighbor in Plains, Georgia, who happens to be black, if their sons did the same thing, they'd be gone to prison. It's time to do away with the dual system of justice in our country and treat everybody fairly for a change. [applause]
We've got ten days left. I think it is good for us to reassess what's occurred. In the last two years alone, we've had 2 1/2 million Americans become unemployed. In the last four months, five hundred thousand American families have become unemployed. The inflation rates that have been extraordinary in the last eight years rob all of us. Under Kennedy and Johnson the average inflation rate was about 2 percent. Lately, they've averaged 6 percent. The wholesale price index for February showed 11 percent That means that a family can't plan for the future. And families need security. Eight years ago over half the American families could afford to buy a home. Now less than l/3 of the American families can afford to buy a home. You know why? Because the average home now costs 100 percent more than it did eight years ago. The interest rate is up 50 percent. If you have a savings account at 5 percent interest, you lose money. The dollar goes down more than the interest brings in. And that's a quiet thing, but it's felt by people who go to the grocery market, or who go out for the first time to buy a home, and property taxes skyrocket. It's not because of local officials, because most times local services have had to be cut down. It's because of inflation.
Now, I believe in balanced budgets. My family budget has never been unbalanced. Rosalynn keeps the books. She sees to that. [laughter] My business has never been unbalanced. I was Governor of Georgia for four years; we always had a balanced budget. We left a surplus in the treasury every year, a cumulative total of $496 million in surplus. But we met the services of our people because they were at work. We'll never have a balanced budget in this country, which I would like to see, or an end to the inflationary spiral, as long as we have 7 or 8 million people out of work, who are looking for jobs.
So we've got priorities established for us. But I want to say this. Our country is strong. And I hope that nobody gives up on it because we've failed in the past. I hope those 50 percent of the people who in the past have said "We're not going to vote," will change their minds.
I'm running for President; I don't intend to lose; but it's just as much your country as it is mine.
I hope next January 20th that I'll be a neighbor of yours, and I hope that those of you who work for the government will understand that we're going to form a close partnership. We'll be in it together. We'll be dedicating our lives or a major portion of our lives to serving other Americans who look to us to take whatever talent or ability we have, and to exert it to the utmost of our capabilities to make our country great, to deal with the sensitivities and the needs of those who are not powerful, to treat the people fairly, to have a tax structure in which we can have confidence, to have a foreign policy that will make us proud once again, to insist on human rights, to deal with people at home and abroad as we would like to be dealt with ourselves, and to restore those concepts of government that have been so great in the past.
As you know, I'm a Democrat. And I'm proud of it The first time I voted was 1948 for Harry Truman. [applause]
And it's not an accident that in the debate last night, and in the other two debates, that Gerald Ford and I disagreed. As I said last night, I think he's a decent man; I don't have anything against him personally; but he's continuing the same policies that failed when Herbert Hoover was here as President. He's continuing the same policies that failed when Richard Nixon was here as President. And if you think back, those of you who are as old as I am, about the differences in the attitude of our country, the spirit of our country, when Franklin Roosevelt was President, when Harry Truman was President, when Lyndon Johnson was President, when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was President. There was a different attitude, a different atmosphere. [applause] And I want to restore that to the White House next year. [applause]
Two years ago I came in to this area of Virginia several times to work and help elect Joe Fisher and Herb Harris. And I've been proud of them and hope you'll help them this year too. [applause]
And I'm also proud of my good friend, Bud Zumwalt, who headed the Navy and who now wants to go to the Senate.
But the point I want to make this afternoon is this. We're all in it together. It's our country. It can be great, or it can be mediocre. We can challenge ourselves to strive for excellence, or we can whine and moan and withdraw when we have inevitable failures. I think the spirit of our country is one to meet challenge head on, not to be cowardly. To be tough and resilient. Self-reliant. To believe in our nation and to believe in ourselves; to bind ourselves together. Not to be afraid. Not to ever lower our standards. Because the rest of the world is looking for leadership. Right now there is a vacuum in world leadership.
Now I'm a physicist, an atomic engineer, and I'm also a politician. And I know that when a vacuum exists, it's going to be filled. I want that vacuum in world leadership to be filled by freedom and not slavery. I want it to be filled with hope and not despair. I want it to be filled with democracy, and not totalitarianism, and I want you to help me next January 20th and for the next four years to restore those precious things we've lost and to let our people feel once again that we have a government of which we can be proud.
And the next ten days are crucial.
How many of you believe it's time for a change in the White House? [cheers] Right on!
Well if you'll help me the next ten days, you'll have Jimmy for the next four years; we'll be in it together; we'll make our country great once again.
Thank you very much. I have love for you all.
Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Alexandria, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347584