Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks to Employees of Startex Mills in Starrex, South Carolina

September 16, 1980

Senator Hollings, Governor Riley, Congressman Derrick, Congressman Holland, Mitchell Allen:

It's good to be in—[inaudible].

I think all of you know that in this very mill behind me, a great American statesman and a very fine senator, Ollin D. Johnson, worked in the mill, and now his daughter, Senator Liz Patterson, represents you so well in the State legislature. I'm proud to be here under conditions like that.

It's been a pleasure for me to have a chance to go through this modern mill and to recognize that when anyone drives down 1-85 that they know that this area is booming with industry, all kinds of new industry, and also that this is the center of America's textile industry. And I say that even as a Georgian.

Since I've been President and during the campaign, when I worked with John West as fellow Governors, I've always heard a lot about the textile industry from your own leaders. Governor Dick Riley, Senator Fritz Hollings, Butler Derrick, Ken Holland, State Senator Liz Patterson have all made sure that when our Nation makes their decision on any matter concerning the textile industry that your voice is heard in Washington.

Mitch Alien tells me that your new card room here is the most modern equipment available anywhere in the world and that Spartan [Startex] Mills is constantly modernizing and improving productivity. I'm very impressed, too, that you were able to preserve the original building while renovating the inside with the most modern equipment that can be bought. I was also told that all the equipment used in this building is made in the United States of America. I like that. So, you've kept intact the traditions represented by Ollin D. Johnson and the building behind me, but you've also kept up with the times, putting together more efficient tools that can be used by the most productive workers in the world, the workers in America.

From my own experience as Governor and in Sumter County, Georgia, where I first started my own political career, I know the importance of textiles, and I know the political importance of people whose families have kept this textile industry so strong in America. It's not an accident that I came here to be with you. As a matter of fact, one out of eight of all manufacturing employees in the United States work in the textile and apparel industry. There are over 2 million jobs at stake, about 150,000 of those, maybe more, in South Carolina. But I also know from personal experience about the way of life that this mill represents.

Many of you come from farms. Many of you still farm part-time. I know, because I've seen a lot of pickup trucks parked around this mill, and I know they're used for making a living in other ways as well. Many of you come from families that have worked in the mills for two or three generations. You've seen them grow. You've seen times of prosperity; you've seen times of disappointment and despair. And I know you realize, as well as I do, that the economic health of a textile industry in a community like this determines the economic life or death of the community itself.

Modernizing, keeping up with competition everywhere in the world is part of the American character. We've never been afraid of change. We've never been afraid to meet competition. Freedom and the free enterprise system is important to us. And God-fearing, hard-working families can earn a bright future by hard work if investments are made back in the plants and factories where we have to earn our living in this generation and in generations of the future. It can mean whether or not young people can finish high school, go on to college, have a great career; whether they can make a decent living if they decide to stay here or whether they have to move out of a community and go somewhere else. That's why, when I went to Washington, I was determined to sustain and improve the textile and the apparel industries of our Nation.

In March 1979, after close consultations with both industry and labor, I announced a new comprehensive textile program. Senator Fritz Hollings, many leaders that you know in the textile industry-workers and management—were in the Roosevelt Room, next door to the Oval Office, when that white paper was decided upon to make sure that the interests of the textile industry were honored in every decision made by the Federal Government. This has paid rich dividends. This comprehensive new textile industry has removed the cloud that hung over our heads for so many years prior to the time that your neighbor from Georgia became President of the United States. And in the last 2 years we've made good progress, with your help.

Fritz Hollings, Dick Riley, Senators Holland, Butler Derrick, and others have made sure that I never forget what I promised to do. And we've paid rich dividends to you in the last 2 years. Tomorrow, for instance, after difficult negotiations, we'll sign an orderly marketing agreement with the People's Republic of China. This has been part of our effort to increase American exports of textile goods overseas and at the same time to reduce foreign imports coming into our country. We have increased exports since 1978 alone by 70 percent. This means $2 billion worth of American textiles made in plants like this are now sold overseas. That's completely different from what it was before I became President. At the same time, we have reduced imports coming into this country by 800,000 square yards of material since 1978. That's the kind of trends that you've made possible.

Let me hasten to add, before you say it yourself, it's not my achievement; it's not even the achievement of your Governor and those who represent you in Congress. This is your achievement, because if it wasn't for the dedication and hard work and courage and confidence and the efficiency of American workers, with the intense competition from places like Taiwan, Japan, China, Korea, Sri Lanka, India, we couldn't do what I've just described to you. This is your achievement. And on behalf of all the people of the United States, I want to say thank you for what you've done for our country.

I want to add one other word, because I think it's important to put it in perspective. We haven't had easy times the last 3 1/2 years. With the tremendous pressure put on us by OPEC oil prices, we've had to hammer out, under difficult circumstances, a national energy policy. We were importing too much oil, buying oil from overseas. The last 3 years before I was inaugurated President, we increased oil imports by 44 percent. Since I've been President, with the help of these men on the stage with me, we have decreased imports by 24 percent. Today, and every day in 1980, we are buying 2 million barrels of oil less from foreign countries than we did the first year I was President. That's a great achievement, and we're proud of it.

The thing is that when we import oil, we not only import that product but also we import inflation and we import unemployment. And cutting down all we buy overseas and building up the productivity of American workers is a major responsibility that I have for the future. What's been happening behind me in the Startex plant—modernization—makes sure that American productivity stays competitive in the years ahead.

We've solved now, in my judgment, the problem of having an energy policy for our great country. That was done in the late 1970's. In the 1980's we have an equally good chance to solve that problem of keeping America's plants and factories competitive and keeping American workers employed, to give us a firmer family life, better opportunities for our young people, better education, better transportation, better quality of life for us all.

It's not going to be an easy time. There's no way for me to stand here and tell you that the problems are solved overnight. You know it takes a while. But our country has never failed. When the American people could understand a question or a problem or an obstacle and we were united, in times of war or peace, depression or prosperity, the United States of America has never failed. And we will not fail to meet these dreams that I've described to you in the years ahead.

You might be interested in knowing that this year we have more oil wells being drilled in the United States, more gas wells being drilled in the United States than any other year in history, and we are producing more United States coal than any year in history. What I want to see is not just textiles but all the other elements of American production improve in the future. I want to see OPEC oil replaced on the energy markets of the world with United States coal. That's what I want to see done.

Well, I think I'll close my remarks by saying this: I could outline to you a lot of things of which I'm proud, but I think the thing that stays on my mind most-as I look in the faces of southerners—husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, young people—bright with hope, confident of what you've achieved, grateful for the opportunities in this world—I'm determined to keep our Nation at peace. We've been at peace now for 3 1/2 years. If I'm reelected, we're going to stay a peaceful nation for the next 4 years.

The Southland has always been in the forefront of patriotism, courage, and dedication. When you look down the list of those honored for heroism, the South is at the top. When you look at the list of those who gave their lives in action to save our country and its freedom, the South is always in the front. We're the ones who know how important peace is, because I don't want my sons and my daughter or your sons and daughters to have to give their lives to defend our country.

But the most important way to make sure that we keep our Nation at peace is to keep our Nation militarily strong. It's something I learned at Annapolis. It's something that I learned in submarines as an officer. It's something that I've shared with Fritz Hollings and others. And I guarantee you that as long as I'm in the White House, our country's defense will be second to none in the United States.

The last point I want to make is this: I've talked pretty much about material things, and they're important—weapons capable, mills modernized, trade expanding, homes built for people to live in. But the most important thing is our human resources, human beings—how we relate to one another and what kind of life we have.

I've had a great admiration for what's been achieved in South Carolina. You led the way, and we followed because of great Governors like Fritz Hollings, Dick Riley, John West, and others, Bob McNair. We learned from you. You've had an ability to see the worth in your young people and prepare them for a productive career. Your education system, your training schools, educational television has just been remarkable, and other States throughout the Southeast and indeed throughout the Nation have learned from South Carolina.

And you've been able to see to the inevitability of change. And when a new plant comes into a community, you've had those workers there trained, ready to move into the new plant when it opened, at no expense, quite often, to the people that own and have invested in that new work opportunity. For that reason, foreign investors-and I hate to say this—when they were choosing between Georgia and South Carolina, often came to South Carolina.

Now we know that the time has come for the entire country to do what South Carolina has done so well and what the Southland has done so well, and that is to rebuild the industrial base of our country, but to build it on the basis of a better life for human beings, better education, better training, better health care, better housing, better recreation opportunities, clean air, clean water, freedom, strength, peace. Those things are important to me as President, and they are important to you.

This is going to be a very important year, because the future of our Nation is at stake. You think back to the depression years and you think back to some of the changes that have taken place for you because Democratic candidates have been successful, with your help, in holding office and compare how you feel about the matters that concern you and your family, and you can see that the future of this Nation depends on what happens on November the 4th, 1980. I believe we'll have that bright future. I feel like I'm a partner with you, and I'm determined, with your help, to make the greatest nation on Earth even greater in the years to come.

God bless you all. Thank you very much, everybody.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. outside Startex Mills. Prior to his remarks, he was given a tour of the mill's facilities.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks to Employees of Startex Mills in Starrex, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251153

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