Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Harlem, New York City

October 19, 1976

Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here this afternoon in Harlem with my friends. I need you in two weeks. Will you help me on November 2? [applause]

I believe it's been 8 years since a candidate for President came to Harlem to let you know that he cares about you. I care about you, I need your help. Will you give it tome? [cheers]

To Basil Patterson and Percy Sutton who met me at the airport, to Congressman Herman Badillo, to David Dinkin, and Mayor Abe Beame, to Governor Carey, Congresswoman Bella Abzug, and all of you, I'm glad to be here to talk to you for a few minutes about some of the things that are so important to us.

In the last 8 years, a lot of people have decided that it's not worth the effort to try to be involved in politics, to vote and to try to change this country. How many of you believe it is worthwhile to change the President and to have a good country once again? [cheers and applause]

I want you to think back for a few minutes about two dates. One of them is 1960 when John Fitzgerald Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon for President. The margin of victory for Kennedy over Nixon was very narrow. Had just a few people not voted for John Kennedy, we would never have had the Civil Rights Act, we would never have had the Voting Rights Act, our country would have been different, and none of you would have had the freedom that you now have. So that election was very important.

And the next election that was important was 1968, when the election went the wrong way. And I think you all know [cheers] that in 1969, in January, Lyndon Johnson left the White House; Richard Nixon moved in. The laws didn't change. The Congress didn't change. But the country changed. Right? [cheers] It changed because the President changed.

Now it's time to have another change in January to get Gerald Ford out and to get a Democrat back in the White House. [cheers]

In the last 2 years, since President Ford has been in the White House, we've had 2 1/2 million Americans become unemployed. In the last 4 months, we've had 500,000 Americans who've become unemployed. In the last 8 months now, the inflation rate has doubled. The growth of our country has been cut in half. We have an unemployment rate of 8 percent among all Americans, 15 to 20 percent among black Americans, 60 percent among young Americans who speak Spanish or are black. We've got to change that and put our people back to work.

As I drove into Harlem from the airport, I saw a lot of houses empty, I saw a lot of buildings that have been tom down to build houses. While Richard Nixon was President, he stopped the housing program. We've now got 136,000 residents of New York City who have made applications for a home and can't get a home. In the last 8 years, the price of the average American home has doubled and people who want to rent houses now can't get them. We need to put our housing industry back to work, our people building houses back to work, and American families back in their own homes, and we cannot do that with a Republican in the White House. I need you to help me change that. Okay? [cheers and applause]

Now there is a very important thing to remember. Making these changes is not going to be easy. I don't want to mislead you about it. We can't change them overnight. But we can make a start. And all of you know that it wasn't easy when Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell and many others started seeking the right of black people to have a chance to vote. And nowadays, you have a legal right to vote. In your area you registered 400,000 new voters. But the one thing that we still haven't got yet is the people's commitment to go out on November 2 and cast their vote to change this country. As I say, it's not going to be easy. I want to form a partnership with you. You help me on November 2, I'll help you next January to get some jobs, to get some housing that you need. [cheers]

As all of you know, in the communities of our country all over the nation where the unemployment rate is highest, that's where the education system is the worst. And that's where the housing is the worst. That's where health care does not exist. And that's where the crime rate is the highest. Most of the crimes are committed against poor people. And unfortunately by poor people. Now one of the main reasons for the increase in the crime rate is our young people don't have jobs. And obviously the best way to control crime is to put our young people back to work and that will be one of my major objectives next year. [cheers]

This is a country that believes in obeying the law. But we've got to have strong families. In the last 8 years we've seen a breakdown in the family structure. When government had to come in is when the mother and the father and the children don't have a tight knit, family organization within their own apartment or within their own home. And when a young person is forced out on the street, 18 or 19 years old, because they don't qualify for welfare, they don't qualify for unemployment compensation, they don't qualify for Social Security. Even if that's the best young person in the world, they are led, quite often, to a life of crime [cheers]. Now unemployment is not an excuse for crime, but it's a reason for crime. And I believe that you know in Harlem, that one of the worst things we have that affects our young people is the drug problem [cheers]. Ninety percent of all the heroin in our country comes in from Mexico. In the last few years, we've not had a good relationship with South and Central America. We've not had a good relationship with the President of Mexico, Mr. Luis Echeverria Alvarez, because President Nixon and President Ford didn't care about South America, didn't care about Central America, and the friendship that we used to have has been lost. We have a new President coming into office in Mexico. He's going to be sworn in in December. His name is Mr. Jose Lopez Portillo. We also have a new President that's going to come in in January in the United States, his name is Jimmy Carter. If you'll help me [cheers].

And we've got to cooperate with infrared photography we can identify all the poppy fields in the hills and mountains of Mexico where heroin is grown. And if we had a good relationship with our friends in Latin America, we could hold down on the drug thing, tie our families together and have a good relationship within the community with our police officers.

The other thing I want to mention is this, and that's education. We'll never have a strong change in the lives of people who need improvement most until we have a good education program for our children [cheers]. Now my daughter's name is Amy, she is 9 years old, today's her birthday as a matter of fact, and I'm going to see her tonight [cheers]. Amy goes to a typical school in south Georgia. She has about 20 black classmates; she's got about 10 white classmates. She's getting a good eduction. But in many ways, particularly in our urban areas, President Ford and President Nixon have cut down on the federal contribution to the education system. Eight years ago, the federal government paid 10 percent of the cost of education. These days, only 7 percent. That's a 30 percent reduction in education help from income taxes in the last 8 years. And that means that many of your schools are being closed and we need to have a good relationship between the federal, state and local levels of government to give you good education in your communities where it's needed most. [cheers]

I want to ask you a couple of questions and I want you to tell me the truth. How many of you believe that our country's strong enough to have jobs for the people that want them. [cheers]

How many of you believe that we can continue to seek out basic human rights and basic civil rights that ended when Lyndon Johnson left the White House and Richard Nixon came in. How many of you believe we can do that? How many of you believe that we can put our construction industry back to work and start building houses for our people once again? [cheers] How many of you believe that we can have the kind of foreign policy that will make us proud once again, have majority rule in South Africa, and also have a foreign policy that will make us proud of our country once again? Let me hear you. [cheers]

How many of you believe it's important enough, to take an interest in government in the next few years? Now I'm running for President and I don't intend to lose. But it's just as much your country as it is mine. And if there are things about our nation that you don't like, if we've made mistakes in the last 8 years that you don't want to see made again, if there are difficult answers to questions that you'd like to see worked out, if there are hopes and dreams in your own lives that you'd like to see realized, if there are changes that need to be made in Washington to give you a better chance in life, and your children a better chance in life, how many of you will join me on November 2, go to the polls and get your people to go with you? [cheers]

Now I know and you know that we don't know all the answers to the questions that face us. But we've got a partnership in this country. This year is an important year like it was in 1932, when Franklin Roosevelt whipped Herbert Hoover and started to turn the depression years around. This year is important like it was in 1948 when Harry Truman became President. This year is important like in 1960 when John Kennedy became President, or in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson became President. 1976 is another important year when we are going to get rid of the Republicans in the White House, put a Democrat back in who can work with Congress, work with your governor, work with your mayor, to give you a better chance in life and you can depend on that if you'll help me. Will you help me? [cheers]

Let me say this in closing. You're nice to come out and let me be with you this afternoon. We've still got a strong country. I hope you won't give up on it. We have been deeply hurt in this country in the last 8 years. We've sent many of your young men to Vietnam and Cambodia. We've also seen the Watergate disgrace, we've seen the CIA plotting assassinations, we've lost the respect of many of the developing nations of the world. And we've seen a lot of our people put out of work, the inflation robbing them, old people not cared for, inadequate health care, not enough housing, not enough transportation, not enough police protection, and these can be changed if we work together. It's not going to be easy. But I need you to help me these last 2 weeks. It's your country, just like it is mine. And I hope that you'll get your neighbors and your friends and your kinfolks all over the country to vote with you on November 2.

Now I'd like to say just one other word in Spanish, and I speak a little [about four sentences in Spanish]. I need your help, will you help me? I need you. [cheers]

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Harlem, New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347576

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