Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for the Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia

September 16, 1980

Thank you, Mayor Maynard Jackson and Governor George Busbee.

It is a distinguished gentleman who has come to visit us—Fritz Hollings. He's welcome as a friend and a neighbor and a great leader, but he's also welcome as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. A lot of people think Georgia has only 10 Congressmen. We actually have more than 10. Butler Derrick is with him. He serves just across the line in South Carolina. He's just as interested in the future of Georgia as he is in the future of South Carolina. Butler, I'm very proud to have you with us, too.

I see in the front row, also, some of the great men with whom I served in the State senate and a fine young man, one of the finest people I have ever known—Doe Davis, sitting in the front row. Doc, will you stand just a minute?

With people like this, the future of the South and the future of our Nation is ensured. But it hasn't always been that way.

When I was running for Governor and later serving as Governor, when I was running for President, I promised myself that one of the first things I would help with was the improvement of the Atlanta airport. I don't know if you know of where I learned patience and restraint and tenacity; it was in the old airport. And I don't know if you all know where I learned how to jog; it was in the airport.

And now with the tremendous leadership of Maynard Jackson, this has become a notable example of progress and faith and cooperation and decency and social progress and pride. And I'm very proud to be part of it and to be the first passenger to depart, in just a few minutes on Air Force One, en route to our sister State, South Carolina. I'm proud that all Atlantans and all Georgians and our neighboring States have joined in this tremendous effort, because Harts field Atlanta International Airport has meant and will mean so much to us all.

No city that I know has been more intimately identified with this airport than has Atlanta, and I think no airport symbolizes the spirit and the growth and the confidence in the future of a city than does this one. Mayor Hartsfield many years ago made a famous statement that Atlanta was a city too busy to hate. That was a time when there was indeed a lot of hatred, and it was a remark that swept through the South and made possible many of the achievements that have led to this great day. There's no better way to remember him and to characterize what he meant and what Ivan Allen meant and what Sam Massell meant and what Maynard Jackson means than to name this airport after him.

He would have been pleased that the project came in ahead of time and on budget. And I know Fritz Hollings is smiling, because he shares with me the hope that many more can learn from this great experience. You've added these splendid works of art, which show that there is no incompatibility between efficiency and a functional commitment in a project, and beauty and an enlightening of the American human spirit.

And I think he would have been pleased, as am I, that about one-third of the total construction and concession contracts went to minority contractors. As a matter of fact, the minority contractors-I just rode out here with Herman Russell-but the minority contractors on this airport comprise 80 percent of all the minority contractors on all the airports in the United States combined. This is a good achievement, and the quality of the work proves that this is also a sound investment.

Well, I just finished touring this facility. It's beautiful, simple to operate, convenient, exciting. And I am very proud that the many years that went into this project have now come to fruition. I'm glad that some of the dreams that I had as Governor and as a State senator and as a candidate and now as President have come true.

It's hard for a politician to admit that he wasn't the best that served in the office. I thought I was a good Governor of Georgia until I've watched George Busbee. He's a much better Governor than I ever was. I admit it, and I admit it with pride.

I spent the night with him in my old house— [laughter] —and we had a chance to talk about the international aspects of this airport. We were blocked 4 years ago. We could not get through the administration in Washington a single approval for a single international flight out of Atlanta. That was one of my commitments. George Busbee, Maynard Jackson, many of you, have made that commitment easy for me to keep. And now there is a growing number of international flights from Atlanta to the major industrial and political centers of the entire world.

I'm very proud of this, because I think it's not only a true recognition of Atlanta but of the importance of this entire region and the diversity of the offerings and the quality of life that exists throughout our country. I'm very proud, too, that ambitious young people are now flooding back to the South. And I believe that this achievement is a forerunner of what is happening throughout our country.

We've had difficult times in the last few years, since I've been in the Oval Office, dealing with unanticipated increases in the price of oil and heavy dependence on foreign oil. Now we've got intact an energy policy on which we can build as a foundation an exciting American life, typified in my judgment by the design and construction and functional characteristics of this fine airport.

We've had many lessons to learn. You can't do something great quickly. It requires confidence, commitment, courage, unity, and the use of America's ingenuity and the free enterprise system with minimal interference from Washington. Those kind of things have been demonstrated here in this airport and throughout this region. And I think that our Nation now is ready to embark, in the 1980's, on an exciting decade of achievement, progress, and also the realization of the dreams on which this Nation was originally founded.

In closing, let me say that this did not happen in just one place. It's happening in the hearts and minds of Americans coast to coast, in large and small communities, in the sunbelt and in the snowbelt. But once we've gotten started in rebuilding our cities, our transportation system, our housing system, in deregulating airlines and trucks and financial institutions and, in a few days, rail and, later, communication, these kinds of things have opened up an opportunity for us that will indeed inspire Americans again to reach for greatness.

There's no doubt in my mind that we can outproduce and outbuild and outcompete any nation on Earth. We still have the most productive workers in the world. The American worker produces more per hour or per year than any other workers on Earth. But that productivity has not been increasing lately, because our American workers now are saddled with tools and factories that have not kept pace with innovative developments in the use of research and development and technology. But now we are ready to embark on a tremendously improved industrial complex that will make use of America's characteristics that have been so beneficial to us in the past.

Let me say that I'm proud to be here. This is a great city in a great State in a great region in the greatest nation on Earth.

We'll invest heavily in the future in our human resources. We've got to make sure that our workers are able to accommodate inevitable change. Our country has never been afraid of change. And we've got to provide jobs and better education and better training for our young people as they approach maturity, because we want to remove the depressing element of a person ready to enter adult life who doesn't have a chance to use the ability and talent and the ambition with which God has blessed that young man or that young woman. We want each generation to be better than the ones before.

We want our Nation to be strong militarily. We want our Nation to stay at peace. We want our Nation to honor civil rights for ourselves, human rights throughout the world. We'll keep the banner raised high. And I would like to remind you that our Nation has been inordinately blessed with rich land, with natural resources, with freedom, with the cherishing of the worth of each individual human being, with equality of opportunity, with confidence and unity. And whenever we face a difficult question or an obstacle to be overcome or a problem to be solved, this Nation, if united, has never failed.

Now we face, sure, problems; obstacles, yes; questions, of course; but primarily opportunities. And I'm determined, along with you, using this tremendous airport as kind of a new inspiration, to make the greatest nation on Earth even greater in the years to come.

Thank you. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:20 a.m. in the airport's main terminal. Prior to his remarks, he was given a tour of the airport facilities.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for the Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251145

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