Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks in a Question-Answer Session on Women's Issues in Los Angeles, California

October 07, 1976

First of all, I want to say that I've enjoyed this visit to California very much. The debate last night was delightful. As a matter of fact, I've enjoyed the last 21 months. I've had the chance to learn a lot about this country. And as I said at an airport rally a few minutes ago, after coming in from Salt Lake City, Utah, there's one thing that concerns me very deeply above all others, I believe. And that is that American people—men and women, North and South, rich and poor—have been deeply wounded in the last eight years. There have been hammer blows falling on us that have been disillusioning. And it's caused us to be alienated and excluded, and embarrassed, and sometimes ashamed of our own country.

When I began to campaign for President 21 months ago, I didn't hold public office. I didn't have very much money. I think I had $43,000 for the campaign. I didn't have a campaign organization. Not many people knew who I was. I doubt if one percent of you had ever heard my name. And I come from a small town of only 683 people. But I and my wife and my family members and a few volunteers began going from one home to another, one factory shift line to another, one labor hall to another, one meeting to another, with only 10 to 15 people, that's all that would come. So we went into die shopping centers, and the beauty parlors and barber shops, we talked some and listened more. And in the aftermath of Vietnam, and Cambodia, and Chile and Pakistan and Angola, and Watergate, and CIA and FBI and the Medicaid scandals and unemployment and inflation, there's a natural inclination on the part of our people to say, "Nothing can be done."

But I don't feel that way. And I'm thankful that you've come here today representing many others who look to you for leadership. Being discouraged about the constant, undeviating, historical discrimination against women, but you haven't yielded, and you still have hope for the future.

And I hope and believe that I'll be part of the realization of that hope. I don't claim to know all the answers, but today you've given me some questions, I want to give you the answers as best I can. And I'd like to spend following that about ten minutes, I can't spend more, answering additional questions that you might have, and I'll let the presiding officer recognize who we choose.

The first question is about ERA. [applause] In the first year of my term, 1977, we've got to get ERA passed. That's all there is to it. I said today to about 16,000 people in the Salt Auditorium in Salt Lake City, and I've said many times in Alabama, and Mississippi, and Georgia, and Louisiana, that the best thing that ever happened to the South was the passage of the Civil Rights Act. And that granting the black people a chance to vote, to hold a job, to buy a house, or to go to school, and to participate on an equal basis in politics, this not only liberated blacks, it liberated whites. And when women achieve equality, it will not only liberate women, it will liberate men, too from a lifetime of prejudice [applause].

We've got four states to go. And as you know the Democratic Party platform is committed to the passage of ERA. And I'm committed to the passage of ERA. So are the members of my family; so are you. But we've got to exert a concerted effort in 1977 so that the time won't end on us with a lifetime of discrimination still there.

The second question is concerning employment opportunity for women in public jobs. We've now got 21 agencies of the federal government that are supposed to be responsible for equal opportunity of employment of women. But there are years of backlogs, because although Presidents Kennedy and Johnson put those laws on the books, in the last eight years they've not been enforced. And as you know, when a complaint is filed under the Equal Employment Opportunity statutes, if the delay is 2, 2 1/2, 3 years, the original complainants lose their enthusiasm, the original witnesses are gone, the case bogs down, nothing is done. As I committed myself in a meeting to the Women's National Agenda group this past week, Bella Abzug was there, I intend to enforce those statutes, cut down on the delay, and I will give the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adequate women on the commission, adequate staff to enforce the laws—and you can depend on that, too. [applause]

Among the so-called superjobs, the ones at the highest levels of federal employment, only 3 percent are women. There already is an Executive Order, Number 11246, which I intend to enforce, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment, including training for the higher jobs. In addition, the Civil Service Commission presently provides training for upper and middle level employment. Several other government training programs are already set up in the law. The staffs are there. The law requires that women have equal treatment. I pledge to you that I will ensure, as President, you need not look any further than the White House; I will be sure that we have an active recruitment program. Long time discrimination against women in those top jobs will be eliminated.

Do you favor federal financial assistance to women-owned business? I went home from the Navy in 1953 in the winter. I didn't have any money, I lived in a government housing project. Rosalynn and I had three little boys. The oldest one was in the first grade. I started a business by myself. I didn't have any employees the first year. I didn't make enough total profit to pay my house rent which was $31 a month. The next year my wife became a fulltime partner of mine, and she is now a partner in my business, my farms, and my political life as well. [applause]

But I got a loan from the Small Business Administration. My family was a prominent family in Plains, Georgia. And I didn't have any trouble getting a small business loan; when it came, I had to wait eight years to qualify. The SB A guaranteed 10 percent of the loan, the local banks the other 90 percent But when I got that loan, I not only got the money, but I got the service. They were determined that I would not fail. And they would send into my own business qualified senior executives to consult with me. How are you handling your accounts receivable? How are you keeping your books? What are you doing to hold down inventory? What is your accountability? For instance, the detection of profitable and unprofitable aspects of your business. They tided me over a period when I needed help. That kind of commitment to women entrepreneurs has not been available. It needs to be.

Now the SBA is shot through with corruption. There have been 20 convictions in the last 6 years in the management of the Small Business Administration. This has got to be corrected. And I'll be sure to work with you to make sure that women business leaders have that service that I got myself. [applause]

The next question is concerning the right of women to have federally funded child care services similar to those previously sponsored by Senator Mondale.

It wasn't an accident that I chose Senator Mondale to be my running mate. And I'll just read a paragraph excerpted from my speech this past week to the Women's Agenda.

I am committed to join in developing a comprehensive child care program which will help to fund state and local programs and provide subsidies or scaled fees for employed mothers from low and moderate income families. This will help restore the dignity of work to welfare families, and the rights of gainful employment to all parents. I don't believe that women will ever have a chance for equal opportunity or job training and job holding and full employment until an adequate child care program is available in our country, and I and Senator Mondale are committed to it. [applause]

The next question, I'll answer it, I don't think it ought to be a major part of the presidential campaign, but I said I would answer your questions.

Should abortion be a matter of personal choice?

I'm going to give you my answer on abortion. I have memorized it. I know every word [laughter] and you probably won't even like it. I think abortion is wrong, I don't think the government should do anything to encourage abortion. I favor a nationwide, comprehensive program—sex education, family planning, access to contraceptives for those who believe in their use, better adoption procedures, to minimize the need for abortions. I believe that abortions are evidence of a.failure to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It's obvious. I am not in favor of a constitutional amendment on the abortion issues. [applause]

The next question is about a national health care insurance program. I've made a comprehensive statement on ensuring that America will have a nationwide, comprehensive health care program. It will have to be phased in sequentially. We cannot afford the total cost of that the first year. The establishment of new programs will come as they are most needed. In the first place, we need to straighten out the horrible bureaucratic mess that presently exists. We've got about 75 different agencies of the federal government that now are responsible for adequate health care. Medicaid is in one agency; Medicare is in a different agency; neither one of those have anything to do with health by the way. The assurance of quality is in a different agency. It doesn't have anything to do with health.

We need to put all those programs together to make sure that what we do accomplish at the federal level is well coordinated. Another thing we need to do is to make sure that we have some means to hold down excessive costs. You've just seen, for instance, a measurement of increasing hospital costs, with the 19 percent addition to Medicare charges that was announced last week by the Ford Administration. A 19 percent increase in the cost of medical care in hospitals in one year. That needs to be addressed. We also need to make sure that we have prospective health cost assured by hospitals and doctors. Legislation exists in the Congress now; it hasn't yet passed, but I'll help to get it passed. Catastrophic coverage would come very quickly. Also coverage for prenatal and postnatal care for pregnant women and for small babies would come next. By the time we get through with the entire process, the coverage for health care will be comprehensive. And I would like to have your help in phasing in those programs. The basic question that you asked me was about cutting down costs, and about comprehensive health care, and how it would relate in a priority scale to the care for prospective mothers and young children.

Another question that was asked, that I can't answer: what specific changes would you propose in the current Social Security laws to guarantee the participation of homemakers. I don't know. I haven't had a chance to look into that. This would be a drastic change in the Social Security laws. If you have specific suggestions, I would like to have them from you.

Another question about the Democratic National Convention. Delegates to this year's national convention were comprised of about two-thirds men and one-third women. A drop in participation of women from our previous convention of 1972. A minority report was squashed and a compromise was agreed to. What would you do to ensure that in the next convention that women would have adequate representation.

This was one of those times when I met again with Congresswoman Bella Abzug, and others, perhaps many of you, to work out this language. My commitment is to make sure that I work harmoniously with you, the Chairman of the Democratic Party, and as President and titular head of the Democratic Party, to ensure we go back to an adequate representation of women. The one thing that I did not want was a specific quota. The proposal was that all states would have to elect on separate ballots, men and women, with 50 percent being men, 50 percent being women. I did not agree with that. But short of that specific quota, I'll do everything I can to assure that we exceed the ratio of women that we had in 1972, as we go to the 1980 Convention. I hope that I will be the President, when this decision is made, I hope that I'll be the nominee of the party in 1980.

The other question is about representation of women in Cabinet posts, White House staff, judicial appointments, diplomatic posts, administrative jobs.

One of the major assignments that I've given to the 51.3 organization, which now comprises literally thousands of women all over this country, is to give me a list of women who are qualified to fill specific posts. I'm going to make you proud of me as President, when I make these appointments. [applause]

And I want you to be very aggressive in giving me proposed and qualified names. I'm convinced that there are an adequate number of qualified women in this country to fill those posts. And I want to be sure that when I go out of office that I will have done even more in establishing the rights of women than any President has ever done before, including even Johnson, Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln, in destroying discrimination that existed in the past. But I need your help in that, and it's not an idle promise that I've made; and I'll depend on you to give me those lists of specific recommendations, and I'm already accumulating a large number of them now. If the election is successful in November, then I will move to make those selections very rapidly, for Cabinet posts and other major positions.

Let me say this in closing before I answer a couple of questions that you haven't submitted to me in writing. These questions address women and your problem specifically. The overall concept of government in our country is one that helps us all. In the last two years we've had 2 1/2 million additional Americans become unemployed. In the last three months, we've added 500,000 Americans to the unemployed lists. An announcement this morning about the wholesale price index showed that the inflation rate now is approximately 11 percent per year. We've had secrecy surrounding government; we've had a lack of accountability of government to our people; we've had an exclusion of those who suffer most from the decision making processes.

I believe that our country can be strong. I believe that we can have a comprehensive national health cate system. I believe that we can have revisions of the tax laws so the income tax structure can be fair.

I believe that we can have a welfare system that's compassionate, that will keep families together, and that will encourage part-time or full-time work. I believe that we can have a change in work schedules to permit part-time employment and more flexible work schedules to accommodate parents who have children and who can't leave eight hours at a time every day.

I believe that we can have a government that's open and not secret, and I believe that we can have a government that's well organized, efficient, economical, purposeful, and manageable. I believe that we can reduce drastically the unemployment rate, which hurts primarily those who are hired last, and fired first. You know who they are. And I believe that we can control the inflation rate which falls most heavily on those who live on fixed incomes, retirement checks, Social Security, and again, you know who they are. So the broad scale of government, if corrected and managed property, and if it becomes again sensitive to our needs, can help women, perhaps even more than the specific questions that you asked me about this afternoon.

As I said before, I don't claim to know all the answers; I would like for you to be part of the electoral process, and part of the next administration.

I haven't given up on this country. I've been hurt, too. I've been disillusioned, too. I've been alienated, too. I've been discouraged, and embarrassed, and ashamed, also. But I'm willing to fight to correct our defects. And I'm willing to fight to eliminate discrimination, hatred, and division.

And I'm willing to fight to win the election so that I can manage the government properly. And I'm willing to fight to give Our people good health care, and fair tax structures, and a good educational opportunity, and to eliminate discrimination.

I hope you'll join with me. Even though there may be some things about me that you don't like, even though you may say, Jimmy Carter doesn't know all the answers. I don't. But my heart is with you, and to the extent that you can join in, and sometimes in an unselfish way, sometimes even in a sacrificial way, in this next four weeks, we can turn this country around. We can correct our mistakes and make us proud once again. [applause]

I'd like to ask if you have any questions to give me.

Q. [Three asked] ... a movement that has been happening with women, Mexican American women have been left out of the fight.

I hope that in your cabinet we would not forget the senior citizens, older women who need to be represented in the Cabinet.

Governor Carter. I had three questions on housing, the one on minority groups, particularly those whp speak Spanish, and the senior citizens. I think that's about alj I can take. That's a pretty good coverage. I'll take all of those, O.K. I think that will be about all I can handle.

Minority women.—There are only four nations in the world now that have more Spanish-speaking citizens than the United States. And we've too long excluded both women and minority groups from the decision making process. I'm white, male, not poor, have a good home, have a stable family, have a job. It's difficult for someone like me to know the special problems of those who are women, who don't speak good English, who may be black, who don't have a good home, whose families may be divided, and who don't have a strong voice. On the White House staff I will have representatives to make sure that I never forget the special problems of those who speak Spanish, of those who are women, of those who are elderly. I want to be sure that whenever I make a decision, about housing, taxation, Social Security, pollution control, about welfare, education, health, transportation, that a major factor in my decision is how to deal with the special problems of those who suffer most One thing in serving in government is this. Quite often the ones who make decisions in government never suffer when they make a mistake. [applause]

And I'm determined to correct that defect.

We've seen the cost of housing up in the last eight years $16,000 per home. We've seen interest rates go up over 50 percent. It costs more than twice as much now to make a monthly payment on a home as it did eight years ago. Between 1960 and 1970 we increased the percentage of families able to own a home to more than 50 percent. In the last eight years,.we've seen the percentage of families able to own a home drop to less than one third. This needs to be restored. Mortgage guarantee, private and public mortgage guarantors. The restoration of the 202 program for senior citizens. We must have low rent housing for those who can't afford to buy a home under any circumstances.

We need to have interest subsidies. So that if the interest rates go up above a fixed level, as the interest rates are now, our monthly payments can be kept within the bounds of the income of the family involved. We need to remove the corruption in the Housing and Urban Development Department In the last five years there have been 500 indictments in HUD. There have been 200 convictions. HUD has now become the world's greatest slum landlord. [applause]

I can't think of anything, parenthetically, where the government could spend less actual money and derive a greater economic benefit than to put our housing industry back into a strong state. Last year, we only built 1.2 million homes. It's been 35 years since we had that few built in the United States. Another very devastating thing is this. With a shortage of homes being constructed, with an inflation rate that doubles the price of everything every 6 to 10 years under the Republicans, property taxes skyrocket. It doesn't help a family who lives in a home permanently to have the value of the property double every 6 to 7 years, property taxes double every 6 to 7 years, and that robs the family of their substance. I would restore the integrity of the housing industry....

I was the first candidate for President who came out completely in favor of the National Women's Agenda. I don't make promises. I'm not bragging, but I don't take promises lightly. I intend to carry out all die commitments in the National Women's Agenda. I'll need your help to do it. There are a lot of technicalities involved. There's going to be a lot of obstacles involved. But if you'll work closely with me, no matter whom you vote for on November the 2nd, we'll do it together next year. I want to thank you for letting me come, to be with you. [applause]

You want to ask a question about the handicapped?

Q. [First part of question inaudible] We can't begin to talk about discrimination while anyone in this country who is discriminated against in regard to jobs today, people that are blind, that are physically disabled they cannot get jobs; they can't get the jobs they want. I have a degree in music; I happen to be considered a very fine singer; I am very highly respected by the ... and the L.A. Philharmonic. No one will give me a job. If you jit down and watch anyone on any real television show, you will not see any person in a wheel chair, as an actor or an actress... [Inaudible]

Governor Carter. You know, I got a very fine statement, with an implied question from someone, over at my left, who is in a wheel chair, and when you go down the litany of needs, all of us think we are so bad off, because we are women, because we are black, because we don't speak English and so forth. We live in a country that has a potential of compassion for one another. That has a potential unselfishness. That has a potential sense of mutuality of commitment. And a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. And I believe that all of us had better stop, myself as a candidate for President, all of you leaders in the so-called women's movement, and say how can we join in without pride, without a commitment to selfish hopes, for the benefit of healing our nation's conscience. I think the time's come for it. I made my kick-off speech for the whole campaign in Warm Springs. I went there deliberately. Fifty years ago this year, Roosevelt bought Warm Springs. He had been rich and strong and powerful. He was stricken by polio. He went down there to heal himself, physically and mentally, and he acquired in his physical state a sense of compassion for those who were handicapped because they didn't have jobs. He was the guy that first thought that a man and woman ought to be paid a fair wage for work. And he put forward a 25 cents an hour minimum wage law. He had a hard time getting it passed. Over 90 percent of all the Republicans in Congress voted against paying a man or woman adult 25 cents an hour for manual labor. He saw the need for security in one's old age, and he put forward the idea of Social Security. There were 95 Republicans in the House of Representative; 94 of them voted against Social Security.

Later, Harry Truman came along, bethought we needed some kind of health care. And it was not until Johnson in 1965 that we got Medicare. Gerald Ford voted against Medicare. Ford has voted against a minimum wage seven different times. The Congress last year, 1975, passed a bill to help i handicapped people be trained and provided with job opportunities. Gerald Ford vetoed that bill. There was only one Republican Senator who voted to uphold that veto. There were only seven Members in the House of Representatives who voted to uphold that veto.

I don't know how to answer all the questions. You can think of questions all night. But I want to be sure that our government does open its arms to those who need help most.

When I became Governor of Georgia, the handicapped people were a special problem in our state. We didn't have a good handicapped program. Now I think we have one of the best in the country. Anyone who knows Geoigia realizes it. The state has taken over Warm Springs; we've opened it up, expanded it greatly, and we've had a comprehensive statewide program to search out places where handicapped people might serve.

This woman has a singing talent. And I think a President can do a great deal to encourage perhaps the networks or others to make a special case for handicapped persons to sing, or play a piano or violin. And I believe that you can help me in this way, and many other ways. [applause]

So thank you for letting me come. Maybe we can do it together!

Jimmy Carter, Remarks in a Question-Answer Session on Women's Issues in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347564

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