Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Democratic Party Campaign Fundraising Affair in Los Angeles, California

October 07, 1976

It's nice to be back in California. I was here last night; I've been in Utah today. I had a very pleasant evening. These debates kind of grow on you. It's a pleasure to be here with Alan Cranston and John Tunney and Senator Bennett Johnston, and with Jim Coleman and with all the great leaders who represent us in the Congress. I'm going to speak very briefly. But I wanted to say just a few things that we ought to remember. We're in it together.

Sometimes we Democrats are inclined to want to fight each other. And in the process we lose what we stand for. And we mark time for four more years, and we lose again. In the last 24 years, we've had Republicans in the White House 16. And the country's suffered from it. I, like Jim Coleman, didn't know what was going to happen in 1924, in 1928, in 1932.

As I said in my acceptance speech, I've never met a Democratic President.

But I've met a lot of people in this country who remember them. People in the coal mine area around Pittsburgh, where the unemployment rate is very high. They recall vividly what it meant to them when Roosevelt whipped Hoover. And I stood in a steel mill factory shift line with Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., and, as we shook hands, they, sometimes with tears in their eyes, said how much Franklin meant to them.

In the last two years, we've added 2 1/2 million people to the unemployment rolls. We in this room, almost without exception, don't have to worry about unemployment in our own families. We don't know what it means to be out of a job. Having worked 15 or 20 years, and all of a sudden drawing unemployment compensation for 6 months or a little longer. And then going home and having to cash the first welfare check.

But that happens to a lot of families. In the last three months, 500,000 more American families don't have anyone in them with a job.

The personal aspect of it can only be felt in a campaign, when you leave the cocoon of privilege and pleasure and security and influence and meet those who don't have those advantages.

There is another aspect of our country that has concerned me, and it's become vivid in my knowledge of the last two years. And that is that those of us who do make the decisions in government very seldom suffer when we make a mistake. We have good health care; millions of Americans don't. We have our children go to good schools; if we don't like the public schools, put them in the private schools. A lot of people can't do that. We very seldom suffer from an unfair tax structure. A lot of people feel they get cheated, and they do.

These kind of things are a responsibility of all politicians. But historically in our country the Democratic Party has been the one that assumed that responsibility. We make a lot of mistakes. Our mistakes are out in the open. When we give an interview to a magazine [laughter and applause] ... when the wrong paragraphs are publicized [laughter] everybody knows about it.

But my normal day consists of seven, eight, nine, ten sometimes, eleven speeches, with questions afterward. And four or five times a day there are cross-examinations by the news media.

So when I make a mistake in my campaign, everybody knows about the mistake. On the other hand, I'm learning, and I'm getting close to people, and I'm preparing myself to be a better leader of this country. My opponent hides in the White House and comes out into the Rose Garden two or three times a week and recites a nice, set, memorized speech, and that's what's on the news that evening. [applause]

Or perhaps he signs a bill in the Oval Office that he's ought against for the last two years and he takes all the credit for it. [applause]

But he doesn't learn in the process. And I think the closeness that I and Jim Coleman and John Tunney and many others feel to the American people is a source of political strength, yes. But it's also the source of sound judgment in the future.

This country has been deeply wounded in recent years. And a lot of people have been turned off. And a lot of people have been alienated from government. And politics. A lot of people said, it doesn't matter whether I participate or not. About 50 percent of our people say, I don't care to vote this year.

I care enough. I care enough to fight to win in November. I care enough to fight to see Democratic candidates win to go to Congress. I care enough to fight to have a well-organized, efficient, economical, manageable government. I care enough to fight in the future for a fair tax structure. I care enough to fight for a welfare system that cares about people, that emphasizes work opportunities. I care enough to fight to put our people back to work. And I care enough to control inflation. And I care enough to open government and not have it secret. And I care enough to protect people's private affairs from the intrusion of government. And I care enough to strengthen our free enterprise system. And I care enough to have a government to make us proud once again.

These things are important to us as powerful, influential people. But they are much more important to those who look to us for leadership.

Last night was a typical confrontation, I thought, between what we stand for and what the Republicans are. The debate was very revealing. Mr. Ford stood alone. He was making statements about foreign policy, not Mr. Kissinger. What he said outraged our allies, and disturbed our people in this country. There are three hundred thousand Soviet troops in Eastern Europe; there are two divisions in Poland. There are three or four divisions in Czechoslovakia. Eight years after the Soviet Union had promised to remove them. There are 15 divisions in Eastern Germany. They are now building an even stronger Berlin Wall. If they tear down the wall, which way will the people move? They're not free in Eastern Europe. In Hungary there are three divisions, twenty years after the revolution was snuffed out.

Mr. Ford said that he's always been for non-proliferation legislation. The Members of Congress here know that's not true. It's been opposed by the administration. Mr. Ford said he's in favor of an end to the disgraceful boycott, but his administration has moved to stop the revelation of this disgraceful pressure on American businesses who do business with Israel, who have American Jews on their board of directors, or as owners of the companies. These kinds of truths ought to come out in the election, and they change the consciousness of our country.

Another point I'd like to make is this. We have a tremendous responsibility on us. Sure this is the 200th anniversary of our country; it's the aftermath of some horrible, disgraceful action in Washington; we need to tear down the wall that separates us from our own government. We also need to remember what our country is and what it stands for. And this is a responsibility that I assume as a nominee of our party, with a great deal of assurance, and a deep commitment.

I hope that all of us will remember that although we do come here tonight to support our congressional candidates around the country, that we have an additional responsibility to join in this next four weeks. It's going to be tough; it's going to be a challenge; it's going to require individual investment of time, influence, intelligence, money. It's going to require a unity that quite often might disturb our own selfish inclinations, and our own individual aspirations. It's going to require sometimes to yield on what we think is most important for the common good. But this campaign is also going to be one that is gratifying.

I don't intend to lose in November. [applause]

I don't intend to see these candidates behind me lose either. As I said before, [applause] we are all in it together. I still believe along with you, that we live in the greatest nation on earth. I think I know this country. I know I know it much better than I did two years ago, when I began my campaign. I didn't hold public office; I didn't have much money. I had $43,000 in my campaign chest to run a campaign for President. I didn't have much of a campaign organization. Not many people knew who I was, maybe 2 percent of you had ever heard my name, if that many. But we began to go around the nation and learn. And I learned about the greatness of our country. Although we have been wounded, we have been disappointed, we have been alienated, we have been held at arms length. We have been embarrassed sometimes; we have been ashamed. We're still strong—inherently. Economically, the strongest nation on earth. Our system of government— best on earth. Richard Nixon hasn't hurt it. Watergate didn't hurt it. The CIA revelations haven't hurt it. The Vietnam War, the Cambodian War, the Angolan embarrassment, the Chile embarrassment didn't hurt our system of government. It's still clean and decent, a basis on which we can predicate answers to complicated questions and correct our mistakes and bind ourselves together and approach the future with confidence.

But the greatest resource we have in this country is the 215 million Americans who haven't lost hope, and who haven't lost a vision of what our country can be once again. I believe we can be even greater than we ever were before. There's a vacuum now in world leadership. And the rest of the countries in this world are waiting to see how that vacuum is going to be filled.

I'm a physicist and an engineer and a politician. And when a vacuum exists, it's going to be filled. And that political vacuum in moral leadership is going to be filled by either freedom or slavery; it's going to be filled by hope or despair. It's going to be filled by democracy or dictatorship. I want to see it be filled, as I said last night, by freedom and liberty and equality of opportunity and simple justice and a sense of commonality and brotherhood and common respect and compassion. I want to see it filled by what American people are. [applause]

As I said many times in my campaign, it's not naive to believe in those things because they don't change. A lot of things change. But those principles don't change. Freedom—Liberty—Equality—Truth—Brotherhood— Compassion—Love. They don't change. And I hope that I as a candidate, and I hope that the Democratic Party, can always maintain its commitment to excellence and to greatness and to moral standards that have made us proud in the past and that once again in the future can make us proud of living in what is still the greatest nation on earth.

Thank you very much. [applause]

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Democratic Party Campaign Fundraising Affair in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347563

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