Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Dallas, Texas

October 31, 1976

Dolph Briscoe, Governor Briscoe has said that the Democrats are expecting to do the impossible in Dallas County, Tuesday. The last time he ran for governor, he did the impossible, and I believe that this crowd indicates that Tuesday night there's going to be a lot of shocked and surprised and disappointed Republicans in Dallas County. [applause]

It takes a few things—it takes a deep dedication to a cause, to an ideal, to a principle, to a way of life that has been exemplified in the past by great Presidents who were Democrats: Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and your own Lyndon Johnson. And I hope to carry on in that tradition. [applause]

It takes a spirit of unity, and I believe that I have never seen in my own life the degree of cohesion and unity and a common concern that has been brought to bear on this election under the leadership of Bob Strauss as we have today and for the next 2 days. {Applause.]

It takes a strong ticket and the Members of Congress who are here, those who are running for the first time, particularly Senator Bentsen, I'm sure will let me enjoy riding on their coattails in Texas because he's so popular here. [applause]

Now Dallas is a special case in the country. I don't think there is any place that has a stronger history of Republican voting in Presidential elections in the whole United States. And there's something else special about Dallas. A vigor, an accommodation of change, a willingness to face the future with confidence, and a heavy emphasis on businesslike tough management principles. There is no incompatibility between compassion, concern, understanding, sensitivity, brotherhood, love on the one hand—as was exemplified so well by President Johnson, and on the other, tough, competent management principles. [applause]

I came home in 1953 from the Navy and formed a business. There was one employee—Jimmy Carter. We lived in the government housing project. And we paid $31 a month rent. The first year, 1954, I didn't make enough profit to pay my house rent. And the next year my wife went to work with me. The next year we hired our first employee.

And I learned about business the hard way. But I've also learned about politics the hard way. And every 4 years this nation makes one choice, a choice of leadership.

Now the Congress is great. Made up of 535 people who are concerned about our nation. But the spirit, the idealism, the hope, the inspiration, has got to come from the White House. In the absence of that leadership, there is no leadership.

And when there is no leadership, the country drifts and as you well know, for the last few years the country has been drifting and its time to stop that.

And we're going to stop it next January. [applause]

The sign of a leader is the ability to get along with other people who share a common responsibility. When Lyndon Johnson was President, John Kennedy was President, and others, there was a close working relationship between the White House and Congress. They didn't always agree. But they realized that Members of Congress, the President, governors, mayors, all represented exactly the same people.

That spirit of cooperation, and mutual trust, and competence, and consultation, and respect has been broken down under Gerald Ford. We've had the worst relationship between the President and the Congress in the history of our country, and that must be changed. [applause]

When I was in late grammar school and early high school and studied civics, I learned about a word called federalism. Federalism means that in our system of society in this country, democracy, that local, state, and federal governments have to cooperate.

In past administrations, there was an ability of a mayor who had a problem, or a governor who had a problem, to go to the White House and say, "What can we do to work out this problem because we all represent the same constituents. " In Houston, or in Dallas, or in Plains, Georgia, that has been destroyed.

There is also a system in our government of measuring leadership, about cooperation of different elements in our society—business, government, labor, industry, agriculture, science, education.

We've got the strongest nation on earth. But there is no way to harness our purposes and our strength toward common goals. What is our nation's policy on energy? We have none. What is our nation's policy on education? We have none. What is our nation's policy on transportation, or agriculture, or health care, or the elderly? We have none. The country is looking for goals in every area of our life toward which we can work in cooperation.

We must take each one of our individual strengths as human beings and, to the extent that we agree with the goals, work together.

We have a nation now—not of unity, but of division. And a lot of that responsibility falls on the President who must inspire the people; who must say, "This is what we hope to accomplish at the end of the year, 2 years, 5 years, sometimes 20 years."

This hasn't been done, as you know, and it saps away [the strength of] our country. The measurement of leadership is taking responsibility for what goes on.

The first time I voted was in 1948. I was in submarine school in New London, Connecticut, and there were 61 of us young naval officers learning how to run submarines. Sixty of them voted for Thomas Dewey, and I voted for Harry Truman. [applause]

Harry Truman made his mistakes, as you know. But there never was any doubt when he was in the White House who was the President. [applause] He had a sign on his desk. Anybody remember what it said? Everybody knows, "The Buck Stops Here." Well, nowadays as you know, the buck can run all over Washington looking for a place to stop. Nobody's in charge. [applause]

Next January, that sign's going to go back in the Oval Office. [applause] I think President Ford is an honest and decent man. I have nothing against him personally. He was in the Congress 26 years. Have you ever heard of a bill passed in those 26 years of Congress with the name Ford on it? [No.] Gerald Ford has been in the White House almost as long as John Kennedy was President. Can you think of a single program that he's put forward that was accepted for the American people? Can you think of a single thing? [No.]

Only unemployment for millions and inflation. But he has a record as President. The number of bankruptcies of small businesses have doubled. In the last 2 years alone, 2J4 million Americans who did have jobs have become unemployed. In the last 4 months, 500,000 American families have become unemployed. The budget deficits under Gerald Ford—the one he's asked Congress to pass—have averaged over $50 billion dollars, which means every week we go into debt a million dollars. Last year alone, [a] $65 billion deficit, more than all 8 years combined under the previous Democratic Administration. And under Nixon and Ford, the cumulative deficits of our nation have been greater than all 192 years of our history before Richard Nixon went in the White House.

Inflation—the highest we've seen in many years. Interest rates—highest since the Civil War. We've had in this country a burgeoning of the bureaucracy. Red tape, paperwork—87 new agencies formed in the federal government since Gerald Ford went in the White House. Any businessman or woman who had an executive like this would fire him on the spot. And that's what the American people are going to do next Tuesday. [applause]

I just want to say one other thing in closing. I don't claim to know all the answers. Nobody could. I've worked all my life. Mostly manual labor. I know what it means to have to balance a budget, to meet a payroll, to make careful plans, to work in harmony with those who share with me a responsibility. Also to accept the blame when things go wrong, and the credit when things go right. I know what it means to inspire people in Georgia, when we were trying to overcome the problems of racial discrimination and say let's work together, the time for racial discrimination is over. [applause] There must be a restoration of leadership in the White House. Now as I say, I don't know all the answers. It's not going to be easy in the future. I don't make idle promises. I'm very cautious about what I as a politician should tell the American people during the campaign, because we've been hurt too much. We've been promised too many things that were never done. The problem with the administration has not been that the American people have lost confidence in government. The problem has been that our top officials have lost confidence in the American people. [applause] This has got to change.

I'm not afraid to be President. I'm an average American just like you. [applause] I feel secure about it because my strength and my support and my advice and my counsel and my criticism comes from people like you all over the nation who don't want anything selfish out of government but just want to be treated fairly, want to have a chance to hold a job and not go on welfare, want to have a chance to own a home, who don't want to be robbed every week with inflation, who want to see unity come to our nation's consciousness instead of division and hatred and doubt.

We believe in hope and not despair. We want to control our government and not let it control us. We want to strengthen our private enterprise system upon which our nation was founded. We believe that things should get better in the future and not worse. We believe that in our country we can have two conflicting things brought together. One is individual freedom and liberty, and the other one is equality of opportunity.

We're the first nation on earth that ever tried this. Because quite often if you have freedom, the powerful overwhelm the weak. Or if you have complete equality, liberty has to be taken away.

But our country is still young. We're struggling to achieve both. Freedom and equality of opportunity. [applause]

I see a nation, to close my talk, whose strength has got to be derived from you and from hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people around the country who care enough to fight politically and who care enough not to lose faith in our own ability and in the greatness of our country.

I see a nation approaching the future unified, competent, filled with hope, believing, as I said last night in San Antonio, in the majesty of our Constitution and the simple decency of our people. This is what we can have next year if you'll help me next Tuesday. We're in it together. [applause]

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Dallas, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347593

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