Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at the Annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Portland, Maine

October 28, 1978

Senator Hathaway, Senator Ed Muskie, Chairman Hal Pachios, Joe Brennan, John Quinn, Mark Gartley, Chairman John White, fellow Democrats:

I feel at home in Maine.

I'm your President, and I have the deepest feelings about those who serve with me in positions of major importance, positions of public trust. I remember history as well. Hal Pachios said that he wasn't sure whether or not I was familiar with nature food. I grew up on a farm during the Hoover Depression. [Laughter] I'm quite familiar with hickory nuts, persimmons, and boiled rabbit. And later, when the Democrats came in, I graduated to buttermilk, Maine potatoes, and peanuts.

I don't have much time with you. I wanted to talk soberly and frankly tonight. I don't care whether you applaud or not.

I didn't come up here to waste my time. I've had a long week. The duties of my office are sometimes burdensome, sometimes create loneliness, always serious. My decisions affect the future of our Nation, in fact, many other nations around the Earth. This could have been my 1 day off this week, but I wanted to come here, because I, as the President of our country and as the leader of the Democratic Party, am very interested in what happens in. Maine 10 days from now on November 7.

I can't carry an election for you. I can't stay here and hold your hand to make sure that Bill Hathaway is the next Senator from Maine or that Joe Brennan is the next Governor, Mark Gartley and John Quinn your next Members of Congress. I can't do that.

I thought a lot about Maine. My son's been up here to campaign for these candidates. He didn't have to. The Vice President's been up here to campaign. He didn't have to. My wife has been up here to campaign with Bill Hathaway and with the other candidates. She didn't have to. We believe in them.

I have a great admiration for the character and the spirit of the people of Maine. I believe that Ed Muskie and these candidates on my right exemplify that historical attitude and spirit of the people of your State.

Bill Hathaway is perhaps not a very good politician. He doesn't brag on himself. He's not a flashy person. He doesn't dwell on press statements. He doesn't attack a serious problem in a superficial way. When there's a serious matter that affects Maine, like the Indian claims question in which I have been deeply involved since the first week I was in the White House, I've never observed nor ever expected Bill Hathaway to demagog that issue or to try to get a single vote out of it.

He's worked quietly behind the scenes, effectively. He has known the attitude of Maine people. He's known the attitude of Maine public officials. He's recognized that there is a sharp difference of opinion, even between him and some of the other Democratic candidates. Sometimes I did not agree with Bill Hathaway's approach to this question. But he didn't particularly care, because he was searching for a permanent solution that would be good for the people whom he loves. And I think he deliberately was willing to sacrifice perhaps some of his own political benefit in order to serve you well.

I don't quite know what you call that. I don't call it being naive, because he knew what he was doing. I don't think he was trying to be a martyr, because obviously he did not want to sacrifice himself. I call it integrity and courage.

My own opinion, as one who's visited here, I think, five times, is that that is what Maine is, what your original pioneers were, what you believe in, how you feel—whether you're a Democrat or Republican, that doesn't matter. There's a certain staunchness and courage and quietness about a resident of Maine. At least that's my opinion as someone from Georgia observing what you are. I believe I'm right.

His fellow Senators, in 6 short years, have recognized what Bill Hathaway is. He serves on the Finance Committee, and everyone who serves on that committee or the Budget Committee, like Ed Muskie or others, know that there is one man who cannot be swayed by a powerful chairman, who cannot be swayed by sometimes a demagogic majority to violate in writing the tax laws in this country what's best for the average working family of our Nation. And that's Bill Hathaway. He has never changed. He believes in tax reform, whether it wins him a vote or not.

And I'll bet you that you will not see a single powerful, selfish lobby making a major campaign contribution to Bill Hathaway. And there's a good reason, because he's protecting your interests and not the special interests.

He has a couple of special subcommittees where he devotes the focal point of his time. One concerns employment, and the other one concerns small business. It would not have been possible for us to bring down the unemployment rate 25 percent in just 21 months, never before achieved in this country, had it not been for people like him. And he hasn't been one who wanted to create an enormous number of Government jobs, to take your tax money and pay someone else to work for the Government.

He believes in the free enterprise system of this country in its finest and most decent and most open and most competitive form, creating jobs that are permanent, because there's nothing more debilitating to a young person or an old person than to know you've got one life to live on this Earth and to see your God-given talents being wasted because you can't produce something and earn a living for you or your family. And the small business people of this country—I was one of them—very seldom have a true champion. We've had one in Bill Hathaway, not because he seeks votes, because he never publicizes what he does. But whenever I have a difficult issue that addresses itself to these two particular problems, I don't have to worry about the motivations or the final vote of Bill Hathaway.

He's a man with a heart. He exemplifies one characteristic of the Democratic Party, and that's compassion. We've never been one to turn our backs on those that are poor, unemployed, illiterate, without influence, black, or perhaps not able to speak English well. We don't consider ourselves reaching down to somebody to give them a chance. We reach out to them and say, "Join us in a society and use your own talent and ability, stand on your own feet, meet your own needs, contribute to a greater nation." That is the attitude that Bill Hathaway exemplifies in his service.

He's an expert on the problems of the elderly. There are some who work on the same committee that constantly publicize to the organized groups representing the elderly in this country how much they do. As I said before, Bill Hathaway is not a good enough politician to make it a major commitment to publicize his own achievements. He's a man who understands that we've got to have a strong nation, a strong defense. And if there ever has been one effective protector of the defense contribution of Maine to the rest of the Nation, in all forms, it's been Bill Hathaway.

He's never tried to violate what was best for our country to put Maine before other nations, to make us waste money, but he has been there in a careful, persistent way, saying, "This is what I think, it's best to make our Nation strong."

Sometimes the polls have not looked good for him or for some of the other candidates on the stage with me. If I had been worrying about polls, I'd still be growing peanuts. Two weeks after I announced my candidacy for President, Gallup ran a public opinion poll on the next President. There were 38 names on the list. Mine wasn't even on the list. [Laughter]

And I might say in closing about Bill Hathaway specifically that he's a gentleman. When I rode back from the 1974 Maine Democratic convention with him, and he said, "What are you going to do after you quit being Governor," I said, "I'm going to run for President." He never said a word. He looked up at the ceiling, shook his head a little bit, but he never embarrassed me by saying a word, and I appreciate that. [Laughter]

But I remember when Bill Hathaway ran for the Senate. The seat was held by a Republican. I don't believe that there had ever been an elected Democratic Senator to hold that seat. I doubt if 5 percent of you thought he had a chance when he began to run. But he brought that seat to the Democratic Party, and he has used it well for you and for the rest of the country.

There is a difference between the two parties. I inherited the White House after a long campaign about 21 months ago. Ten million Americans didn't have a fulltime job. The budget deficit was $66.6 billion. The average American was embarrassed about our own Government. Every time the United Nations convened in the fall, I, as a Governor and a candidate for President, shrank inside, because I knew that my country, which I love, was going to be the butt of every joke, the target of every attack by two-thirds of the nations in the entire world.

It was an embarrassing thing. We were looked on as warmongers. Our Government put its arms around every tinhorn dictatorship in the world, to the embarrassment of our friends and allies and the American people as well.

Our farmers were facing a new depression. Their income was going down; prices were below the cost of production. There was a problem with exports. The Government had its nose too deeply into the affairs of the farm families. The wild fluctuations in prices were exacerbated by embargoes against the sale of American farm products to foreign countries, not just the Soviet Union but countries like Japan. The farmers didn't know where to turn.

Human rights was a phrase that could not have been used without laughter by some of the high officials in our own Federal Government. There was waste, corruption, a steady stream of top Republican officials going to jail. Civil servants who give their whole careers to serving others were not able to do a good job for us because of a bureaucracy that was strangling them.

The Congress had passed laws concerning education, housing, highways, and the Republican administration would subvert the will of Congress, impound money required to be spent for the benefit of us all by law.

The so-called free enterprise system was increasingly deprived of a key element, and that was competition. That is what the Republican Party meant to our country. No person can change it. I don't claim to have changed all that, but I do tell you that a Democratic team—the President, Vice President, Cabinet members, reinspired civil servants, Members of Congress, Governors, mayors, county officials, and average American citizens—have begun to change some of those aspects or characteristics of our Government.

I believe it's now attaining a reputation of a government that's clean and decent and honest, and that accurately represents the principles and the ideals on which our Nation was originally founded. We've got a long way to go. We are the strongest nation on Earth militarily. We're going to stay that way. But we're trying to use our strength not to push other nations around.

We could have made a great deal out of punishing the people of Panama. I could have got a lot of votes by doing that. We could have been a bully and gotten away with it, and a lot of folks would have said, "We've a great President now, because we've shown those Panamanians that we are indeed a powerful nation." But we have not used our power in an abusive way. We have used our power, our influence, our strength to enhance peace.

I thank God that since I've been in office, not a single American soldier has lost his life or shed blood fighting in a foreign country. I hope I can go out of office saying the same thing.

But we've not only tried to provide peace for ourselves; we've tried to use our good influence along with our allies and friends, not by ourselves—we've worked with Great Britain to try to bring peace and democratic government, one person-one vote, majority rule to Rhodesia. We're trying to do the same thing in Namibia.

We've lessened the tensions, strengthened NATO, removed disharmonies, and taken a step toward peace with Turkey, Greece, Cyprus. We're trying to restore normal relations with some of our former adversaries associated with the Vietnamese war.

We are negotiating every day to bring a new SALT agreement between ourselves and the Soviet Union to lessen the fear of world destruction with nuclear weapons. The Congress passed a new law, nonproliferation bill, that prevents nations that don't have atomic explosives from ever having them. It has not been an easy thing.

I called Sadat and Begin to Camp David to try to induce them to utilize their great courage and vision, representing their own people's hunger for peace to come closer together. We've made some progress. We've got a long way to go. But the point is that we've turned 'our Nation around now, and we have goals of which we can be proud.

I need help in the Congress, Democratic help. There are 435 Members in the House. Do you know how many votes we get on an average bill of the kind I've just been talking about from the Republican side? Sometimes as many as 3, sometimes as many as 12. There's a great difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. If there wasn't, I would not be here tonight.

We've got 10 days to go before the election. It's going to be a tough campaign. Our candidates don't have enough money. You've paid only $15 to come here tonight, I see—most inexpensive Jackson-Jefferson Day banquet I've ever come to. All of you can afford more. There's not a single person in this room that couldn't contribute a hundred to a thousand dollars to the candidates on this stage on my right.

You could not possibly make a better investment in the future of your family, your State, or your country. There's no one here who couldn't expend, in the next 10 days, 40 hours to help the candidates that you have come here professing to support.

I don't doubt your seriousness or your dedication, nor your loyalty. I don't believe you would lie to a President, and I would like to ask every one in this room—think about it a few minutes-who will work on the telephone or handing out pamphlets or in the headquarters or among your neighbors and family and friends, all of you who will devote 40 hours between now and election day to help the Democratic candidates win, would you please rise? [Applause] That makes my trip to Maine worthwhile. And I thank you for it.

Let me close by saying this: We are partners. We are partners. In the past, our Nation has sometimes been divided on issues. At one time, it was divided by war. Your ancestors in Maine were on one side, my ancestors in Georgia were on the other. But our Nation was united, and we need to make sure that it stays united and also strong, that it represents what we are.

When Sadat and Begin were at Camp David the last 10 days, they never saw each other except for a visit to Gettysburg. And we agreed before we left that we would not talk about the Middle East, because they were in such disharmony that I thought it would exacerbate and be an obstacle to a peaceful agreement. But we went to Gettysburg, and while there, we read about a man from Maine. His name was Joshua Chamberlain. He fought in the war, and later he served as Governor of your State.

More than a hundred years ago he wrote, "A government has something more to do than to govern and to levy taxes. It is something more than a police to arrest evil and to punish wrong. A government must also encourage good, point out improvements, open roads of prosperity and infuse life into all right enterprises. It should combine the insight and the foresight of the best minds of the State, for all the high ends for which society is established and to which man aspires. That gives us much to do."

Those words mean a lot to me as a Georgian. Those words mean a lot to me as President. We live in the greatest nation on Earth, economically, militarily, politically, socially, I hope morally. With your help, as teammates of mine, along with Bill Hathaway and the other Democratic candidates, we can make our great Nation even greater in the future. That's my prayer.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:43 p.m. at the Stevens Avenue Armory. In his opening remarks, he referred to Harold Pachios, State Democratic Party chairman, and John C. White, Democratic National Committee chairman.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the Annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Portland, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243712

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