Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks in Mobile, Alabama

September 26, 1976

Thank you very much, Congressman Jack Edwards, Governor Wallace, Congressmen Dickinson, Buchanan, and of course your great coach, Bear Bryant, and all of you wonderful people from Mobile and the State of Alabama:

What a grand conclusion of a super day, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I especially want to indicate my gratitude, Governor Wallace, for your accepting my invitation to come to Mobile and to give me a welcome in front of your wonderful friends from the State of Alabama. I have known Governor Wallace ever since I was the minority leader. He was your Governor. We worked together then; we. worked together when I was Vice President.

I have attended a number of conferences where Governors and the President were in session, and our working relationship in trying to solve problems-regardless of whether Governor Wallace is a Democrat and I am a Republican-that was the aim and the objective of our relationship. And I can say without hesitation, I have never known anyone who I could work better with in that relationship, and I thank you very, very much.

You don't know how pleased I am, how honored I am with the comments by my long-time friend, Bear Bryant. He is right. We graduated--he from the University of Alabama, and I from the University of Michigan. He got into coaching, and I did. He did a lot better in coaching than I did, but let me say that I am a good Monday morning quarterback when it comes to reading the paper and seeing what ball teams win and what ball teams lose.

I don't offer the advice because I played and coached, and I found that, you know, there is nothing like the coach who is there and the players who have to play. But I have great respect for the players that are successful and the coaches who are successful. And I want to commend all of you here in the great State of Alabama for not only having a great university and a great university at Auburn, but I want to commend you for having, I think, one of the outstanding coaches, not only from the point of view of technically being a great coach but being a great leader of men, and that's what really counts. Thank you very much, Bear.

When I made the acceptance speech in Kansas City, I made a pledge, and I used these words: I said that I will not concede a single State, I will not concede a single vote. I was going to travel this country from the snowy banks of Minnesota to the sunny plains of Georgia, and that I was going to cut across this country North, South, East, and West--we were going to have a national campaign.

And in the last 2 days, I've traveled by riverboat, I've traveled by car, by plane, and it's been a tremendous experience. We have been in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and we are going to Florida after we leave here tonight.

But what impresses me is that we come to these wonderful States, where I think we have great support, and I think with all the enthusiasm and drive and the right principles we are going to surprise some people down here in these States.

Let me tell you why. As Coach Bryant said, on August 9, 1974, when I became President, there was a pretty dark cloud in this country. We had gone through some traumatic experiences. The people were divided. There was great unhappiness. We had had riots in our streets and riots on our campuses. We were facing a serious economic problem. There had been a loss of trust and faith in the White House itself. We were still involved in Vietnam. It wasn't a very pleasant time.

As Coach Bryant said, we were back about on our own goal line. But we found in the next 2 years that the American people had the kind of character, the American people wanted to work together, and that we had the kind of government that gave to us the opportunity to bring our country forward.

And what has happened? We have restored faith and trust in the White House. We have turned the economy around from inflation of over 12 percent to under 6 percent. We have added 4 million jobs from the depth of the recession in the last 17 months, meaningful jobs with a chance for advancement. We are going to do better. And I won't be satisfied, as your President, until we get a job for everybody who wants to work and will work and will look for work.

Then we have extricated ourselves from Vietnam. We have peace. We have the military strength and the diplomatic skill to keep the peace. We don't do it through the draft, we do it through an all-volunteer military force. And we are going to keep the peace not only at borne by doing a better job in solving our problems of crime but we are going to give the leadership throughout this whole world to keep the peace that is so essential so the blessings of America can be spread beyond our own shores.

But let me make a comment about our military strength. And I am so pleased that in the background, if the light was such, that we could see the Coast Guard Aviation Training facility. You should be complimented on the fine job they do, and we are proud of them.

That brings up the subject that I think is of vital importance. I am very proud of the fact that in the last 2 years I have submitted to the Congress and to the American people the two largest military budgets in the history of America--not for the purpose of making war, but for the purpose of preserving peace. And we have turned the situation around so that now Congress, after cutting defense expenditures for the last 10 years some $50 billion--we have convinced the Congress that it's important, it's vital, it's essential that America remain number one, that America will be number one so we can keep the peace, deter aggression, and protect our national security.

Well, I want to warn you about one thing. I am dismayed that my opponent thinks you can make a stronger Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps by cutting them $5 to $7 to $9 to $15 billion. You can't do it. He ought to know better. And under President Ford, we won't.

But as long as we build our military capability for the preservation of peace here and abroad, we have to do things to build up our economy so that we can take full advantage of the natural blessings that we have here at home.

I can recall hearing about the Tennessee-Tombigbee project when I first went to the Congress in 1949. Nothing has pleased me more than to see the construction that is underway for this great public works project. And let me say without hesitation that the Ford administration will make certain that it will proceed and proceed at full funding. In 1976, we recommended about $65 billion [million]. In 1977, it was about $85 to $90 billion [million], and the latest figures for planning for the next fiscal year, something over $100 million. That is the kind of support that the Ford administration gives to the Tennessee-Tombigbee--a good project which we want not just for you but for all America.

But we have to think in even broader terms than that. We have to think about the quality of life that we want for 215 million Americans for the next 4 years and the next century. What are those things? I mentioned earlier that we want a job for everybody who wants to work, who will work, and will look for work.

We want a home for every family that will work and save, and we want that home for them in a decent neighborhood. We will get that kind of a program and those kinds of homes under a Ford administration. We've built almost 3 million homes in the last 2 years under this administration, and we will be doing better in the next 4 years.

We all want the best in medical care, and we have the capability of doing it. And we want it so that the American people will have an opportunity to get that care. There is no reason in this country why a person should go broke just to get well, and they won't under this administration.

Then, every one of us for the last 4 or 5 years has worried about crime. The crime rate went up in 1974. It dropped off a little in 1975. We have some encouraging news in the first 6 months of 1976. It is down to a net gain of 3 percent. But we have to make certain, under our crime legislation, in the courts of this country, that the people who commit the crimes go to jail so that we can protect the innocent victims of crime in America.

Well, it's just great to be here in this wonderful State of Alabama. As I was coming into the airport, I was looking forward to seeing Governor Wallace. You know, in 1972 Governor Wallace went up to the State of Michigan. He got involved in the primary on the Democratic ticket. Everybody was saying he didn't have a chance. But you know what he did? He got 51 percent of the vote. I think I will take him to Michigan to help me in 1976.

We've had a wonderful Bicentennial anniversary. How many of you felt better on July 4 when we celebrated our 200th birthday? I know I did. I went to Valley Forge; I went to Philadelphia; I went to New York. I had the opportunity to see people of all walks of life in many States just get a new faith in America--a rebuilding, a rekindling of this great, great spirit that made America grow from 13 poor, struggling Colonies 200 years ago to a nation of 215 million builders, people who today--whether they live on the East Coast, the North or the South or the East or the West--we're builders, and we've got that spirit.

This is what made America great. This is what will keep America great. And each of us must pledge--regardless of our political faith or belief--our dedication to a better America. I know you will--I will--and I know that America in the next 4 years and the next century will be a greater and greater country just because of us.

Now just one final question. I've had a great time, and we came over from the Mississippi and Alabama line, saw so many friendly faces, and to see this tremendous crowd here--can I ask you a favor? We've got a big election November 2. I want your support. Can I have it?

Thank you very, very much. It's been great to be here. I won't let you down. Thank you Governor Wallace.

Thank you very much Bear. Thank you Jack Edwards. Thank you Bill Dickinson. Thank you John Buchanan. Elect them; I need them, you need them, we all need them in Washington representing you.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:13 p.m. at Bates Field at the Municipal Airport. In his opening remarks, he referred to Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, Representatives William L. Dickinson and John Buchanan, and Paul (Bear) Bryant, head coach of the University of Alabama football team.

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks in Mobile, Alabama Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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