Remarks on Signing Into Law the Age Discrimination in Employment Act Amendments of 1978
THE PRESIDENT. This is a cool spring morning with a lot of smiles on faces in the Rose Garden, and I think it's a time for smiles and for congratulations to many of you who are assembled around me for this historic occasion.
In December of 1967, Lyndon Johnson, who was then President, signed the age discrimination in employment legislation. It's been the basis for decision in our country for the last 10 years.
When I campaigned around our Nation for President, it was obvious to me that many things needed to be done to give senior citizens an equal opportunity in life and to correct some of the remaining defects in the Federal law and administration that worked against the best interests of these valuable assets to our national scene.
The Congress has courageously, at some political cost, acted to ensure the basic integrity of the social security system, which a few months ago was in serious doubt, with bankruptcy facing two of the reserve funds on which retired people must depend.
We've moved to increase greatly, with congressional support, money for the Meals on Wheels program, which is very good. In the legislation that was passed concerning social security, a permission was granted to retired people to earn more money and still draw their social security payments, legislation that I think was long overdue.
We've also proposed to the Congress legislation to control the unwarranted and very rapid increase in hospital costs, with the hospital cost containment bill. Many of the beneficial interest groups are helping with that legislation. It's difficult politically, but I think it's a necessary precursor to the passage of comprehensive national health insurance in the future.
I think all of you know that when we take any action here in Washington, senior citizens are quite often acutely affected. We are trying to hold down the inflation rate, which is a particular burden upon those who are retired, with a fixed income, quite often measured in so many dollars per year. And they're slowly robbed as the inflation rate goes up.
Energy legislation has been designed specifically to protect interests of senior citizens and those who live in the homes with a fixed income.
Today, thanks to the excellent work of men and women in the Congress—long before I became President, by the way-we are here to sign into law a new, important revision of the age discrimination in employment legislation.
Senator Pete Williams, Congressman Carl Perkins, Gus Hawkins, Paul Findley, Congressman Claude Pepper, and others who are assembled here around me have done notable work. This has not been easy legislation to pass. It was quite controversial. And I believe that the Congress, although the vote was overwhelming in the end, dealt very responsibly with this complicated subject.
I know during the campaign Senator Frank Church was one who repeatedly brought up the subject of the needs of senior citizens.
This legislation will remove any age limit on employment in the Federal Government. And we hope this will be a good example for the rest of the Nation to emulate. And it also extends the age of protection against discrimination from 65 up to 70 in the public sector, in the private sector. We are encouraging State and local governments to follow the lead of the Federal Government.
And we also have initiated two major studies to assess the impact of this legislation, perhaps leading to further revisions in the future.
Special needs have been accommodated, and I want to congratulate all those who are assembled behind me for their good work.
There's one person here who is not yet a Member of Congress, who might very well be in the future, who gave some sterling testimony in urging the passage of this legislation, and that's Kathryn Morse. She was Amy's age—10 years old—when she gave her testimony, which was very effective, all the Members of the Congress tell me. And she's now 11 years old, rapidly approaching the time of retirement— [laughter] —as am I and all of you.
I think her testimony vividly demonstrates that this legislation is not just beneficial to those who've already retired or who are already 65 years old, but it's beneficial to people my age and even to people who are the age of Kathryn and Amy.
It's a good step in the right direction, and I'm very proud now to sign into law House bill 5383, which provides fairness and equity in protecting our older citizens from discrimination in employment.
[At this point, the President signed the bill.]
I know that everybody would like to make a statement today, but I would like to call upon the man who arranged for me to meet with a special committee on this legislation and who's been in the forefront in his public activities and who will soon reach the age where this legislation applies to, although he's immune in the Congress, and now in the Federal Government, and that's Senator Claude Pepper.
REPRESENTATIVE PEPPER. Thank you very much, Mr. President. This is a happy day for all of us, and we're sure it is for you because of your long commitment to the cause of the elderly.
We want to thank you and Mrs. Carter for all that you've done to bring about this happy event that we are celebrating here today. It's a day of elation for many millions of our fellow citizens, because when this bill becomes effective, they know that when Providence blesses them with their 65th birthday, it shall not be a death day for the end of their working life; they can continue to work and contribute to their country.
From the dedication that you have and so long cherished, and that of the Congress, as evidenced by its action in this matter, we know that the elderly of this country can look forward to more occasions when you and the Congress will recognize the needs of the elderly of this country and provide even more perfectly for their health and happiness, for their contributing to the growth and greatness of our country.
So, it's a happy day for the elderly. We thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Claude Pepper, like my mother, is much younger than I am and seems to grow younger every day. [Laughter]
Senator Pete Williams, would you say a word?
SENATOR WILLIAMS. Thank you, Mr. President. It's another happy occasion here. We are making progress. Our Committee of Human Resources in the Senate, Education and Labor in the House, we seem to be here at this desk and watching you sign so many measures into law that expand opportunities for a full life for people, protections where they need it. I want to thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.
There's one other person on whom I want to call to make a statement, who has been a key factor in the successful passage of this legislation, that's Carl Perkins.
REPRESENTATIVE PERKINS. First, Mr. President, let me thank you for the active support that you have given to this legislation ever since you came to the White House. But for the support, the active support, of the President due to the Presidency and Senator Claude Pepper, I don't think we would have been here today.
This is a happy day for the elderly people in this country. We're all happy about the passage of this legislation, and I certainly want to thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. Paul?
REPRESENTATIVE FINDLEY. Mr. President, Paul Findley of Illinois. In 1974 I introduced the first bill to outlaw mandatory retirement. There were then just three cosponsors. It's become a very popular idea, I'm glad to say.
I consider your signature on this legislation to be the most notable act to advance social justice in at least 10 years.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. Well, I want to thank all of you for coming. I know that we had to restrain the participants this morning because of the capacity of the Rose Garden. But this is the kind of legislation that will have a direct impact on literally millions of Americans. And although it was a tough battle and a long battle to get it passed, the people around me deserve a great deal of interest. And on behalf of the American people who are not here, I want to thank all of you.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 10:17 a.m. at the ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.
As enacted, H.R. 5383 is Public Law 95-256, approved April 6.
Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Age Discrimination in Employment Act Amendments of 1978 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244973