Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Portland, Oregon

September 27, 1976

Congressman Les AuCoin, Congressman Bob Duncan, Senator Betty Roberts, and to all the distinguished leaders of Oregon who are with me and to all of you who have honored me by coming to meet in this beautiful place, beautiful state, beautiful nation, with pure air, lovely surroundings.

How many of you want to keep this air pure? (Applause.]

If you do, we're going to have to kick some Republicans out of the White House and put a Democrat in, right? (Applause.]

In the last few years, we've seen our country go down hill. Not only has there been no attention given to the quality of air, land, water, but there's been very little attention given to the quality of human lives. We've had in the last 3 months, 500,000 Americans go on the unemployment rolls. In 2 years since Mr. Ford's been in the White House, the unemployment rolls have grown 2 1/2 million. I believe we can do better than that in this great country. And I'm going to change it next year. [applause]

This is not just a large figure—2 1/2 million—it's a large number of families in our country where a mother or father in the past, maybe 20, 25 years, has had a job. And they've been able to hold their families together with respect for one another, and respect of the children for the head of the family. But now 2J6 million Americans, maybe some of you, no longer have a job, who had one 2 years ago. That's not part of the character of our country. It must be changed. We've now got 6 1/2 percent inflation—average for the last 8 years. Under Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, the inflation rate was about 2 percent. This is not just a figure; it's a constant daily robbing of those who are retired, who have fixed incomes, who have a savings account at 5 percent interest, who see their earnings shrink one percent a year 6 percent inflation minus 5 percent interest, is a 1 percent loss. We've seen the cost of homes double in the last 8 years; we've seen interest rates go up 40, 50 percent. And this hurts the people of our country.

We've lost the spirit in our nation. A spirit of youth, vigor, a spirit of confidence, self-reliance, a spirit of work and not of welfare, a spirit of caring for one another, a spirit of unity between the President and the Congress, between federal, state and local levels of government. Between government itself and our great private enterprise system. Labor, management, agriculture, science, education, industry. This has been lost, and that's not part of the consciousness or character of the American people. We've seen a loss of morality in domestic and foreign affairs. We've seen a forgetting about human rights, and we're ashamed of what our government is as we deal with other nations around the world, and that's got to be changed, and I'm going to change it. [applause]

The value of a working family's paycheck is less now than it was in 1968. The number of bankruptcies in small businesses is double what it was 8 years ago. The average profits for business are down. The number of people on welfare has doubled. These kinds of statistics again sound very bad in a debate or in a speech, but the devastating impact of them is on the businessman who went broke, and on the person who had never before drawn a welfare check, but now has to stand in line for food stamps. We've got an income tax structure that's a disgrace, it's got to be changed. And beginning next year, it's going to be changed. [applause]

The Democrats have always believed and have proven that we can have low inflation rates and low unemployment at the same time. The Republicans have demonstrated again and again and particularly recently that you can have high unemployment and high inflation rates at the same time; that's the Republicans out next January. [applause]

Poverty creates crime. A family who has to push an 18 year old man or woman out of the home, maybe a law-abiding person, because the welfare payments and the unemployment compensation, Social Security, don't apply to an 18 year old, and when that young person wanders up and down the street for a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, without a chance for a job, there's a push toward shoplifting, breaking in automobiles, selling numbers rackets, prostitution, drugs.

Poverty is not an excuse for crime. But it's a reason for or a cause of crime. So what this Republican Administration has done to our country is not only devastating in economic terms, but its devastating in human terms. And it has sapped away the aspects of our nation that have always made us proud. We now have been disillusioned in recent years, in the aftermath of Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Pakistan, Angola, Watergate, CIA, FBI, Medicaid. Those things [applause] have hurt us.

We now have no sense of unity. The American people want to get along with one another. There's no reason for us to be divided along racial lines, or along sectional lines, or partisan lines, between government and private industry, between the President and the Congress, between black and white people, those who speak English, those who don't, those who've been here 2 years, those who've been here 200 years.

There's no reason for these divisions. We need to unify our nation. Not because of an absence of differences among us individually, but with a common purpose to correct our mistakes, to bind ourselves together to ask the difficult questions, and to have once again a spirit that's endemic of our people and that's been absent in our government—a spirit of hope and truth and compassion and love and brotherhood and competence for a change. That's got to come. It's going to come next year. [applause]

I've worked all my life, most of the time on a farm. I grew up during the depression years. We didn't have electricity; we didn't have running water; we didn't have indoor plumbing. And I saw the devastating effects of the Hoover Administration. And then came Franklin Roosevelt who was a rich man, but he understood poor people. He was afflicted himself, as you know, by polio. And he could see in people's lives, the need for self-respect and a decent job. Franklin Roosevelt said we ought to have minimum wage laws. So he put to the Congress the proposition, "Let's guarantee that a man or woman who works an hour gets paid 25 cents at least." The Democrats supported it. Ninety percent of the Republicans in Congress voted against paying a man or woman 25 cents an hour for hard manual labor. Franklin Roosevelt said we need electricity in farm homes, and we need to give all the people a chance to live in security and self-respect in their retirement years. And he put forward the idea of Social Security. Ninety-four of them voted against Social Security. And then came Hany Truman. A common man, yes. One of us. But he was an uncommon leader. He was a leader. We knew' who the President was w hen Harry Truman was there. He had a sign on his desk. In the Oval Office. Does anyone remember what it said? ''The buck stops here." Nowadays, the buck can run all over Washington looking for a place to stop. There's no leadership; there's nobody in charge. We need somebody in charge once again. [applause]

And then came John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy came down to the South to campaign. His advisers told him not to come. They said, "Senator, the southern states are conservative, a lot of them Protestants, don't go down there." But John Kennedy came down to Georgia, he made one speech at Warm Springs. He said, "I need your support and your help." And when the returns came in in November of 1960, John Kennedy got his bigger margin of victory, not in Massachusetts, but in the State of Georgia. And we're proud of that. [applause]

It showed that the quality of American people is often underestimated by the news media, by political scientists, and even by politicians. We don't have within us the inclination toward separation from one another, we have within us a spirit of forgiveness, of understanding. We have within us an inclination to seek common ground, and to bind our hearts together and approach the future with a common purpose. That change has taken place in America, and I'm going to expedite that change when you elect me President next January. You can depend on that too. [applause]

This is not going to be an easy campaign. Twenty-one months ago I started running for President—January of 1975. I didn't hold public office. I didn't have much money. I didn't have a nationwide campaign organization. Not many people knew who I was. Maybe not one percent of those in this crowd knew who I was 2 years ago. We began to campaign, my wife and I, our family and a few volunteers. We went from one home to another, and invited the whole neighborhood. Maybe three or four people would come, and we'd listen and talk. We'd go into a labor hall that might hold several hundred people, 10 people would come. But we'd talk and we'd listen. We went into factory shift lines, beauty parlors, barber shops, restaurants, shopping centers, livestock sale barns, fanners' markets, court houses, to talk a little and to listen a lot. And we've built up this campaign organization just among people. And it was a growing thing. And it was strong. And long before the convention took place in an unprecedented political development, I was assured the nomination of the Democratic Party. At that time, now, in the future, I owe special interests nothing; I owe the people everything, and I'm going to keep it that way. [applause]

Yesterday, I was in California. Before that I was in Texas. I've been campaigning full time, meeting people like you, letting you get to know me, talking about the issues—economics, environment, welfare, taxation, transportation, foreign affairs, health care, elderly, human rights, many others.

We see bad news coming out of Washington every day. Yesterday, the headlines were that in 1975, 2 1/2 million people in this country went under the poverty line. When John Kennedy took office in 1961, 24 percent of our people were living in poverty. Every year that Johnson, Kennedy, even Eisenhower, were in office, the number on poverty went down. Now, it's climbing rapidly. In 1 year alone, the highest number in the history of our country went back on poverty. In 1 year, 2 1/2 million. These people were heads of families, men, mostly white. They are ones who have earned their living in the past. This is a new experience for them. To be out of work and not have a chance to contribute to the greatness of their own lives, the stability and hope of their families, the excellence of our nation. They want to work. But this administration is not an administration of work—it is an administration of welfare. And we need to change that consciousness in Washington, and if you'll help me in November, we're going to change it in January. And you can depend on that. [applause]

Now I believe in sound management. I've never run my family with a deficit budget. I've never run my peanut farm with a deficit budget. I've never run my small business without a balanced budget.

I was Governor of Georgia for 4 years. We had a balanced budget. And a surplus.

If I'm elected President of this country, and I intend to be, before I go out of office at the end of my first 4 years, we're going to have a balanced budget for our country. And you can depend on that too, and the [applause] reason is this—we'll never have a balanced budget, we'll never have an end to the inflationary spiral, as long as we have 8 1/2 or 9 million people out of work who are looking for jobs.

So the first and foremost way to balance the budget, to give us the services we need, is to put our people back to work.

When Richard Nixon took office, the budget was balanced. When Harry Truman finished his 7 years in office, we had an average surplus for the whole 7 years of $2 billion.

And if we can just put our people back to work, and tap this tremendous human and mineral and transportation and agriculture strength of this country, we can do this again.

We now have a bloated, bureaucratic mess in Washington. It's going to take an outsider to correct it. But if I'm elected President, as I intend to be, we're going to have an efficient, economical, purposeful, and manageable government for a change; and you can also depend on that. You help me, and I'll do it. [applause]

I want to close by saying this. The American people are fair. Our government is not fair. You can't expect any better from political leadership that's been bogged down in Washington for the last 25 or 30 sears, deriving their advice, their counsel, their financial support from lobbyists, and special interest groups. They go to the same restaurants, they belong to the same clubs, they play golf on the same golf courses, they communicate with one another, they support one another, in the absence of participation, understanding, control by the people.

We can't run this government or this administration or this campaign from those private clubs or from the White House Rose Garden.

We've got to run our campaign among people; we've got to return government to the people; we've got to have government working for the people; and we've got to have support, advice, counsel, criticism, and political strength directly from the people.

If you elect me, that's what we're going to have in our government next year. It's going to be quite a change, but a great change. [applause]

Now, I don't get my reports about unemployment, the impact of grain embargoes, the welfare problems, unfair tax structures, from the staff reports of the government bureaucracies.

I get mine directly from you. I learn about this country, what it is and what it can be. I've got confidence in the future of the United States of America. It's my country and yours.

I intend to be President.

But it's not my nation any more than it is yours.

We've got 5 or 6 weeks to go before November the second. I hope that everyone of you will take on your own shoulders the responsibility to correct our mistakes, to answer difficult questions, and to carve out a better nation and a better future. Make sure you are ready to vote, get your own friends to register to vote, explain to them the issues in the campaign. The difference between the basic philosophies of Democrats and Republicans. The sharp distinction between what our nation is and what it can be. We can have a government that's strong once again. If we are part of it. We can have a nation's government that's moral once again, that's concerned about people, once again, that's unified, once again. That's idealistic, once again. If we, the people, are part of it. We need to tear down the walls built around Washington and let us have access to what our government does. Strip away secrecy; respect the private individuality and privacy of our own people. These changes can be made only with you, if you help me, we'll do it together. How many of you think it's time for these changes to be made in Washington? [applause]

It's not an easy thing for an outsider like me to defeat an incumbent President.

We need a standard of ethics, a standard of excellence, and to make us proud once again. And demonstrate to our own people, and to the rest of the world, that you and I still live in the greatest nation on earth. [applause]

Thank you very much. If you help me, then I'll help you. [applause].

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Portland, Oregon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347674

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