Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks on Starting Formal General Election Campaign Activities in Warm Springs, Georgia

September 06, 1976

Warm Springs is a place of history, of healing and of leadership. With me today are many friends like David Webb, Eunice Fiorito and Jim Gashel who are physically handicapped but who have still been able to forge enjoyable and full lives of public service. Other patients here are now preparing themselves for similar courageous achievements.

Today I would like for us to remember the most famous of all patients who came here looking for a new life.

Fifty years ago, in 1926, Franklin Roosevelt purchased Warm Springs, including the historic ground on which we stand. He lived here, worked here, and here he spent his final days. Roosevelt first came to Warm Springs because he was physically handicapped, and the warm waters gave him strength and hope, just as later he gave strength and hope to an afflicted nation when he was President.

Although born into a family of wealth and prominence, Franklin Roosevelt yet understood and served well those millions of American families who were left jobless, hungry and filled with hopelessness and despair by the Great Depression.

His opponent in 1932 was an incumbent President, a decent and well-intentioned man who sincerely believed that there was nothing our government could or should do to attack the terrible economic and social ills of our nation; he was leading a Republican Party which lacked the strength and vision to bring us out of those dark days.

But Roosevelt knew our country could be better, and with bold and forceful action he restored confidence in our economic system, he put our nation back to work, and he unified our people.

On Labor Day it is also important to remember that this strong leader in the White House restored the quiet dignity and self-respect of the working men and women of America. With such programs as rural electrification, minimum wage laws, Social Security and the Civilian Conservation Corps, our wounded national spirit was healed.

In 1960 another Democratic leader came to Warm Springs. As a candidate, John Kennedy was considered an outsider because of his youth and relative inexperience and because of his religious beliefs. No Catholic had ever been elected President. But Kennedy came here to ask us Georgians for support, and we gave him more than 62 percent of our vote, an even greater victory than he received in his home State of Massachusetts.

This year, as in 1932, our country is divided, our people are out erf work, and our national leaders do not lead. This year, as in 1960, our nation is drifting, without inspiration and purpose.

As in those critical years, it is time to restore the faith of American people in our own government, and to get our country moving again! This is a year for new ideas, and a new generation of leadership.

How can we restore confidence in our government?

We must carefully decide what government can and cannot do.

People should control government, and not the other way around.

We need a minimum of government secrecy and a maximum of personal privacy.

We should decentralize power, eliminate the trapping of authority, and remember that public officials are not bosses, but the servants-of those who put them in office.

When there is a choice between government and private responsibility, the private role should have priority.

When there is a choice among governments, the responsibility should be assigned as near as possible to the individual citizen.

When there is a choice between welfare and work, let's go to work!

We must always be careful not to over-promise, but we also should never underestimate our potential in our nation to correct our mistakes, to root out hatred and discrimination, to enhance equality of opportunity, to insure personal freedom and to carve out for ourselves and our children a better life.

We must always be careful not to over promise, but we also should never care, a completely reformed welfare system and educational opportunities for our people. The weak, the elderly and the disabled must have special care.

Families and neighborhoods must be strengthened and protected.

But all of this requires strong leadership. Political leaders must be willing to tackle economic problems head on, without timidity or fear. We must not lower our standards to accept high inflation, high unemployment, and huge deficits as a normal circumstance.

Under Johnson and Kennedy, the inflation rate was 2 percent—and when Truman went out of office, the inflation rate was only 1 percent Unfortunately, under this Republican Administration, the inflation rate has averaged more than 6 percent.

When President Johnson went out of office, unemployment was less than 4 percent, and at the end of Truman's term less than 3 percent of our people were out of work. But the unemployment rate today is 7.9 percent. Under this Republican Administration the unemployment rate has been the highest since the Hoover depression.

Under this Republican Administration annual deficits have averaged more than $24 billion, 600 percent more than under Kennedy and Johnson. The present White House incumbent has recommended annual budget deficits averaging more than $50 billion. Under Harry Truman, by the way, there was not a deficit but an average surplus of more than $2 billion a year!

It is obvious that good leadership makes a difference, and it is also obvious that if our government is concerned about all our people instead of selfish special interests, then the whole nation prospers. The Democratic Party has traditionally given that kind of leadership.

Harry Truman summed up the difference between our two political parties with these words:

"The Republicans believe that the power of government should be used, first of all, to help the rich and privileged people in this country. With them, property comes first

"The Democrats believe that the powers of government should be used to give the common man more protection and a chance to make a decent living. With us, people come first"

Mr. Truman's words are still true today.

We must also eliminate waste in government Scandals and mismanagement have hit us like hammer blows. The latest one is in the Medicaid program. Designed to give our people better health care, 25 percent to 50 percent of the billions of hard earned tax dollars are being stolen or wasted. Who is responsible? No one knows!

When Harry Truman was in the White House a sign on his desk said, "The buck stops here." There was never any doubt about who was captain of the ship.

Now no one seems to be in charge. No one is responsible.

Every time another ship runs aground—CIA, FBI, Panama, unemployment, deficits, welfare, inflation, Medicaid—the captain hides in his stateroom while the crew argues about who is to blame.

We must have an effective and efficient government—with tough management and careful planning leading to a balanced budget Each year the confusion has been getting worse.

We must have fair taxes for a change, and shift the excessive burdens off the shoulders of our working families. Each year the tax system has been getting worse.

Crime must be controlled. There is a constant threat to our property and our lives. Each year the crime rate has been getting worse.

We are a powerful nation, but we can be more powerful. We must have a strong defense—tough, muscular, simple, well organized, supported and appreciated by all Americans—with waste and confusion eliminated, and with a sharply focused purpose—the ability to fight. With this ability will come the best guarantee of peace.

We have learned some hard lessons in international affairs because of mistakes made by powerful officials acting in secret.

We have learned that our people and the Congress should be involved in shaping and carrying out our country's foreign policy.

We have also learned: that we must coordinate domestic and foreign policy; that we cannot control the internal affairs of a foreign nation; that we cannot buy the good will of other countries; and that quiet strength is the best avenue to lasting peace.

We must face the Soviet Union with the hope and expectation of a struggle without the use of arms—of continuing peaceful competition. The best way to meet this inevitable competition is to make our system work at home!

We need not be afraid. Our economic strength, our system of government, and the freedom and character of our people are all tremendous resources waiting to be tapped.

But now our country is stagnant, divided, and drifting.

It is time for a change. It is time for leadership. We must be united and strong, and we must get our nation moving again.

I will try to be a good candidate and, if elected, a worthy leader of our great country. During my lifetime, from farm boy to nominee for President, I have always been close to the working families of this nation.

As a political candidate, I owe special interests nothing. I owe the people everything.

We are beginning our campaign here not many miles from my own home. My family and friends and I have already covered much of the nation (luring the spring primary elections. We listened and we learned. Our political success has come directly from the voters. We have not depended on powerful intermediaries for victory.

To whatever degree I can stay close to you, and learn from you, and derive my opinions, advice and criticism from you and millions of other Americans like you—to that degree my campaign for President of the United States will be successful

We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go. I thank you for your past support. I will need your continued help and advice and tough criticism throughout the campaign and, if I am successful, as President I will always try to be worthy of you.

As in 1932 and 1960, the choice before our people is dear. Are we Americans satisfied with a divided nation-.......-one of timidity, confusion and


Most of us believe we can do better.

We will be proud to work hard—together—and to sacrifice if necessary— to achieve once again a united nation—a nation of faith and vision, of courage and greatness.

Thank you.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Starting Formal General Election Campaign Activities in Warm Springs, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347660

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