Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Rally at the Atlanta Civic Center

December 12, 1974

If you'd give me your attention just a minute, I have a brief announcement to make. As of this time, here in the state that I love, surrounded by friends of mine from all over the nation, in fact even from the moon, I'd like to announce that I am a candidate for President.

Thank you. I want to say just a couple of other things. First of all, this will be an absolute and full commitment of mine. I'll be there when the last votes are counted. I'll work at it full-time. And I know that you realize it's going to be a very tough, uphill battle before we achieve the Democratic nomination and ultimately before I'm elected President.

I need your help. I'm going to be campaigning in the State of Washington; I'm going to be campaigning in the State of Texas; I'm going to be campaigning in the State of Alabama.

The country is eager to see a couple of things accomplished in government. One of them is to restore the basic integrity of our nation. And I believe that the time to begin that restoration is at the initiation of the campaign for President in 1976.

With the deep shame and embarrassment that has been brought on us in the last couple of years, and with the coming of the 200th anniversary of our great nation, I feel that the restoration of what this country has lost is extremely important.

I have to tell you with complete candor that being elected President of the United States is not the most important thing in my life.

There are many other things that I would not do to be President. I would not tell a lie; I would not mislead the American people; I would not avoid taking a stand on a controversial issue which is important to our country or the world. And I would not betray your trust.

Raising adequate funds for the campaign around this country for the next 18 months or so will be a difficult thing for us. I would not accept any contributions now that would be illegal after the first of January because I think that there is a standard of what's right and what's fair and what's open and what's honest that needs to be established at this very early date.

And even though very large contributions from very rich contributors are technically legal now, the passage of the new campaign finance law overwhelmingly by the House and Senate of our national Congress, and signed into law by the President, is morally binding on us all.

So restoration of the reputation of our country will be foremost in my mind every time I make a statement, every time I study an issue, every time I meet a person, every time I visit a state, every time I accept a contribution, every time I receive and carry out a suggestion.

The second thing that's important to me is to initiate ultimately in Washington tough and competent businesslike management of the American government.

There is nothing which the 200 million American people cannot accomplish if they have trust in their leadership, if this trust is never betrayed, if the goals and ideals, the hopes and aspirations, the purposes of our nation are clearly defined and if we adhere to the utmost standard erf excellence and even perfection. Because one of the most serious defects in public life in recent years has been a slow deterioration in our standards and a subtle acceptance of mediocrity or failure in government which would be contrary to the best hopes and ideals of individual human beings as they shape and reshape and reexamine their own lives in their homes among people that they love, in their places of worship where they reestablish their relationship with God.

And I want to see the government of this nation exemplify in the purest and highest way the hopes and ideals of the American people.

Today I made a speech at the National Press Club, and in about 25 or 30 minutes I spelled out in general terms what I think this nation ought to be.

I covered 30 specific issues in some superficial way, but clearly during the coming campaign, after I go out of office on the fourteenth of January, I'll spell these issues much more clearly and much more definitively and much more thoroughly. So that by the time the end of this campaign arrives, the American people will know not only what I stand for, but, I hope with my efforts and those of other candidates, what this country ought to stand for.

Our campaign will not be predicated on massive expenditures of money, nor [a reliance] on diverse large paid staffs. We can't afford it, and that's not the way we want it. My campaign will have to depend on people like you who have confidence in me, who have confidence in our country, and who want to participate in the evolution during the campaign and in subsequent months of the kind of government and the kind of purpose and the kind of nation of which we can all be proud. I need your personal help, actively, without my specifically asking you for it. There are 49 other great states in this country wherein you have relatives or friends, or acquaintances, or where you might want to go to make new friends. And I would like to have you go to those states, and tell them what you believe in, describe to them what you and I share together, and help me always to set a standard along with you for our nation of which all of us, and even the world, might be proud. Thank you very much. God bless each one of you.

(Shortly after completing his formal remarks, Governor Carter returned to the microphone, and added: "There is one thing I forgot to say and that is: I intend to win; I intend to be your next President.")

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Rally at the Atlanta Civic Center Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347614

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