Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Fund Raising Affair for Indiana Democratic Candidates in South Bend, Indiana

October 10, 1976

Thank you so much. All I want you to do for me in the Third District is to give me half the margin of victory that you gave John Brademas. And to help Vance Hartke and all the other Democrats who are running to represent you as best we can.

One of the good things about this campaign, among many others, is that I don't have to raise any money for myself. Our campaign is being financed by 44 million Americans who over the last 4 years have contributed $1 per person per year when you filed your income tax returns. And that's the way I like it. It's very good for me. But I see very clearly that this doesn't help the candidates for Congress or U.S. Senate or governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor. They need your help. And quite often people have backed off and have not been as eager to contribute simply because they can't contribute directly to the Presidential campaigns. And I hope that we'll all remember that we as Democrats have a great responsibility to one another.

There are only two basic things that we need in government. One is competence. Can the government be managed properly? Can it be efficient, economical, purposeful? Can it be open so that people can understand and control it, so it can represent what we are? Can this be possible in our own country? I think so. I'm a farmer and a businessman; I'm a nuclear engineer and a physicist; I've served in local government and I've been able to manage my own affairs and the affairs of Georgia's government in a tough, businesslike way, with personnel management, electronic data processing, tight organization, and I believe this is the only way that people can have access to government.

In our own state now, you can make one telephone call, at state expense, and get the answer to any question about government. If you, for instance, didn't get your Social Security check on time, you can call that WATS line, with a federal problem, and when the person who answers it finds what district you're in, the phone is automatically transferred to Washington to your congressional office, and you say, I didn't get my Social Security check, and it will be taken care of in Washington, with one telephone call. Or if you go to a local grocery store, and you buy chicken and they charge you for three pounds, and you get home and find you've got two and a half pounds, or you can go and dial the same number at no expense to you and say I got cheated at the local grocery store. And while you hold the phone, they can transfer you to the person in charge of weights and measure for grocery stores and you can register your complaint. This is the kind of check, and it will be taken care of in Washington with one telephone call. So competence is one aspect.

And the other component part I think would be compassion. The need for government to understand those who don't make decisions for themselves in politics. Everyone in this group I would guess, suffers very little if we have an inefficient welfare system, or if the employment security agency doesn't function well, or if the criminal justice system is not fair. We are the kinds of people who have been blessed by God with superior opportunities. We are leaders, economically, socially, politically. And quite often when we make mistakes in government we don't, suffer from those mistakes. Our families are not the ones who stand in line, when the unemployment rate goes up, to look for a job. And ours are not the ones who suffer when the welfare system is inequitable. And our families are not the ones who are deprived of adequate health care or dental care, if the public health system breaks down. And our families are not the ones who ordinarily would see our children go to prison if they are caught with a little too much marijuana, or if they engage in a hit and run accident. We can probably talk our way out of it or say, judge, this is a good boy, I'm a local attorney or local businessman, engineer, or teacher, and I'll be responsible for my son. You just let him go, in my custody. But many families in this country don't have that right And that child, if they're caught with a small amount of marijuana, or engaged in a hit and run accident, they're going to prison.

So the thing that we ought to remember is that in addition to the competence of government, it ought to be compassionate. It ought to be concerned about those who don't ordinarily find themselves involved in the decision making process.

And we ought to remove that distinction that separates the different levels in our society. We don't do it deliberately. We don't deliberately create an unfair criminal justice system. We don't deliberately create an inequitable tax program. We don't deliberately create an ineffective delivery of welfare services or health services. But it happens.

And I think the political structure, the humbling campaign requirement, is one of the characteristics of the Democratic Party that's kept us strong. We ought not to forget those two things.

Competence and compassion are not incompatible. As you well know, someone who is strong and sure and powerful is in a much better frame of mind to reach a helping hand to someone who is weaker. But if you are insecure and not quite so powerful as you would like to be, your inclination is to struggle and to step on others. So compassion is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength.

I just made a speech over at Notre Dame about international human rights, and the use of many more volunteers in the future among our own private citizens to help alleviate the problems of our own country. But I'm grateful that you've been loyal to the Democratic Party. And I think you've seen a surge upward in this state in respect of what our party is and what it stands for. And I want to make sure that we correct our mistakes and answer those difficult questions, and bind ourselves back together in a spirit of unity of purpose in the future. And to forget about the devastating blows that have hit on our consciousness in the last eight years, with Vietnam, Cambodia, and Chile and Pakistan and Angola and Watergate, CIA and FBI and Medicaid scandals. Those things have hurt us very badly. But they are not characteristic of our country. And if we can just unify our own capabilities, in a spirit of freedom, and common concern, we can correct those mistakes and we can once again prove to the rest of the world. That's very important, but more importantly, [we can] prove to our own people, in this country, that we still live in the greatest nation on earth.

Thank you very much for letting me come.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Fund Raising Affair for Indiana Democratic Candidates in South Bend, Indiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347570

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