Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at the White House Correspondents Association's Annual Dinner

April 30, 1977

I'm very grateful at the invitation that was extended to me to be here tonight. The invitation did say "Live Television." [Laughter]

But in any case, I'm glad I came because my heart was moved a few moments ago to see the transfer of command. I know that Paul Healy has done a good job, and Larry O'Rourke will be a fine, new president. Sometimes it's hard to understand who is president and who's not. [Laughter]

I know what it means to have a former president to give you sound advice and quiet encouragement and firm support. As a matter of fact, the recent stories about my relationship with President Ford have been taken completely out of context. I think the Vice President was quite presumptuous in making cornments about ex-Presidents. I have a complete determination when I go out of office to say what I damn well please-[laughter]--about my successor. I knew that if I gave Fritz an inch, he'd try to take a mile. [Laughter]

I've been to seven or eight news conferences, and I never knew there was so many White House correspondents before. [Laughter] You have my own White House staff outnumbered 10 to 1--using the campaign figures for the White House staff, of course. [Laughter] The way it's turned out, on a temporary basis, this is just about one for one.

We do have a lot in common, though. I understand that everybody on the White House staff and among the White House correspondents has had about a tripling in their salary since I came in office. I know you all appreciate the new arrangement that I've brought to the White House.

I appreciated, too, the remarks that were made about the new policy that we've tried to implement throughout the Government in 'bringing women and blacks into the Government. We've got a long way to go. I've derived a lot of inspiration from looking at the head table. [Laughter] If my black friends from Archer could just see this assemblage up here, they would be sure that their struggles over a long period of time were well worthwhile.

It is difficult to separate in a White House environment, fact from fiction, which reminds me of my good friend, Jim Wooten, here--[laughter]--the Erica Jong of the New York Times. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, the fiction and fact relationship is not what hurt me so much; it was the use of the phrase "cruel recluse." I have asked Jody Powell to find out who first used that phrase. He's interrogated all the White House correspondents and 23 White House staff members. If I find out who said it, I'll let you know. And if I'm not there, my new Press Secretary will let you know. [Laughter]

It's always good to have an experienced person at your side who can extricate you from one of those difficult situations.

I have thought that I knew my key supporters very well, who have been with me 8 or 10 years, but I've learned a lot about them since we've been in the White House.

I read a story not to long ago about Hamilton Jordan's---[laughter]--about Hamilton Jordan's--[laughter]--underwear. Of course, I don't have any way to know about the veracity of the story. I really didn't until the other afternoon someone hit a very hard tennis ball over the net and it missed Hamilton's racket and I found out that the story was true. [Laughter]

We all have to accommodate changing times. I've tried to bring to the White House the campaign commitments that I made, and carry them out. Obviously, when circumstances do change, you have to change with them.

I noticed that Paul mentioned the $50 rebate. This was a firm commitment of mine, as you know. And my economists, though, discovered that so many people spent the $50 before they got it, that we didn't have to give it to them. [Laughter] I can't understand why everybody else can't understand something like that.

Hamilton is in charge of appointments, as you know. And the other day a story, got out that we were considering three people for Ambassador to Nantucket. We want to be ready when the new nations are formed.

My brother, Billy, found out we were considering an ambassador to Martha's Vineyard. We had to explain to him that the name was derived a long time ago. [Laughter]

One of the things that the press has been very good about is to correct mistakes we've made and also to explain difficult questions. I know that all of you realize the complexity of the energy question. I knew it was complicated and confused. But I didn't really realize how complicated and confused till I read the newspapers the next morning.

We are planning, Jody and I, to give an award to the newsperson who can best explain our energy policy in clear and concise language. We have a cogeneration trophy to award as soon as the retrofitting of it is completed. [Laughter]

I've had a lot of setbacks and a lot of troubles, as you know, and you've been kind enough to make those clear--[laughter]--to the American people, which is legitimate and expected, and I don't have any reason to think that objecting to it would help. [Laughter]

I was quite at ease with the criticisms that were derived from the Republican leadership. I expected that, and I also expected to drop 10 percent in the polls, and I was not disappointed with that prediction. What did upset me, though, was the other day Jody called and said that he had arranged for a series of television interviews. I was quite pleased, until I found out that it was with David Frost. [Laughter]

It's difficult for me to describe the relationship that I have with you. I've tried to get it clear in my mind tonight. There is a great responsibility that we share to understand one another as best we can, to tell the American people the truth as best we can, to realize the tremendous joint responsibility that we have and the eagerness among the people of our Nation to know about their own Government-how decisions are made, the options that we have, the successes and the failures, the hopes and the dreams, the deep concerns--and to reveal the prejudices that still remain is a major responsibility.

Some times we feel a sense of antagonism and disharmony and a lack of adequate communication. But to a major degree, we serve together.

I'm very deeply grateful that you've given me a chance to come here tonight to meet with you.

In closing, let me say that Rosalynn and I appreciate very much the silver centerpiece, and I would also like to express my deep thanks to you for--I would like to express my appreciation to the White House correspondents for--the sense of gratitude that I have for--[laughter]--

Note: The President spoke at 9:12 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel. He was introduced by Paul Healy of the New York Daily News, the new president of the association. Larry O'Rourke of the Philadelphia Bulletin was the outgoing president.

At the dinner, members of the association presented President Carter with a silver centerpiece, commemorating the Nation's 201st year.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the White House Correspondents Association's Annual Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243831

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