Jimmy Carter photo

Rochester, New York Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.

October 29, 1980

Governor Hugh Carey, Mayor Tom Ryan, Mayor lira Griffin, County Chairman Larry Kirwin, my good friends from northern and eastern New York:

How many of you believe we're going to whip the Republicans next Tuesday? [Applause]

I've come here to form with you a partnership during these next few days to give the Democrats a tremendous victory, which this Nation needs and which our people earned. There are a lot of cities that I could have been visiting today during these last few moments before the election, but I said to myself, "I would rather be in Rochester." You voted for me in 1976. You voted for me this year in the primary, and I want you to keep up that great tradition on November the 4th, okay? [Applause]

I'm glad to come here to John F. Kennedy Square, with a sculpture built in his memory, because it's important during these last few days before a great election when you, in the solitude of the voting place, will decide the future of our country, to remind yourselves and each other of the great tradition of the Democratic Party, which has meant so much to this country. We are a party of builders; we are a party of partnership. We're a party which believes in the future of this Nation and never doubts it. We're a party that believes in unity; we're a party that believes in strength; and we are a party that has proven that we believe and can maintain peace in this country and around the world.

As I'm sure you all know from watching the debate last night, that the choice next Tuesday is not just between me and Governor Reagan, it's not just between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party; it's a choice between two vastly different concepts or beliefs concerning what this Nation must be. It's a choice between two vastly different futures for America. The meaning of that choice is not just in what he and I say but in the consequences of our words, the consequences of what we believe, the consequences of what we will do. The choice is crucial, and the consequences to your life, to the lives of the members of your family, and to those that you love, are very grave.

The President of the United States is not just a servant of the present, he's also the guardian of the future. His actions echo down through the ages in the judges he appoints, the regulatory board members he names, the legislation he gets passed through Congress, the ideals established in the hearts and minds of the American people, and the agenda which he sets for the Nation's future. When he sits as one negotiator at the head of state with other national leaders from around the world, he must be careful, because his words weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of people everywhere. He represents what this Nation is and what this Nation can be. He must be sensitive to the concerns and the ideals of America, and he must be adamant in his protection of America's interests.

Never does a day go by, in my duties in the Oval Office, when there is not some serious trouble somewhere on Earth. A President must decide, sometimes alone, what are America's interests, what degree of involvement should be our role. As Commander in Chief, the President of this country has within his power to unleash the most awesome, destructive military force in the history of the world. If he is skillful, if he is wise, if he is thoughtful, if he is moderate, if he is careful, if he is courageous, if he remembers America's beliefs and character, it's a task which I pray God will never have to be performed. We must not get ourselves in a situation where the horrible power of atomic weaponry. is unleashed on this world.

As President I have had to make some difficult decisions, thousands of them, and as I said last night, with each one of those decisions, I learn. I learn about this Nation, its strengths, its needs. I learn about our people and the possibilities for an improved life for them. I expect to make many more decisions. I've fought some bitter fights, as you know, against special interests. I carry some political scars because of those fights, and I carry those scars with pride. I've made some mistakes, and I've taken the heat for them, and I've learned from them. And because I have learned I'm a better President now, and I'll be a better President in the next 4 years.

A President in these modern times must have patience. A President in these modern times must have compassion. When the toughest decisions are made, a President cannot rely upon advisers, because the most difficult decisions will often find advisers divided 50-50 on both sides of an issue. He cannot rely on ideology, and he cannot rely on maxims or sayings or memories from the distant past. He must have sound judgment to act, when necessary, alone, and that's why this campaign must focus on the real issues and their consequences for the future for every human being on Earth.

We have got serious problems these days, problems that involve economics, but the outlook is improving, as you well know. The shocks that hit this Nation in 1974 because of OPEC oil price increases caused the deepest recession since the Second World War. We've just been through the smallest and the shortest recession, because we had planned for this eventuality. In 1979 oil price increases were greater in one year than they had been since oil was first discovered in the 1800's. The inflation rate has been high lately, yes—earlier in this year, 18 percent, and then later, the second quarter, 13 percent; the most recent quarter just ended, 7 percent. Inflation is still too high, but I'd like to remind you that in the past when our Nation has been tested we have never failed the test.

Just in my lifetime I remember the Great Depression. I remember the Second World War, the Korean war. I remember the social changes that took place in our Nation, very difficult changes, when we gave equality of opportunity and voting rights to our black citizens and others. And I remember the divisiveness of the Vietnam war, the tragedy and the embarrassment of Watergate. All those problems that I've just named were much greater in scope than anything we face today. But when our Nation is united, when we analyze our blessings, when we remember what God gave us, this Nation has never failed to answer any questions. This Nation has never failed to solve any problems, and this Nation has never failed to overcome any obstacle, no matter how great it might be. We've got a great nation, the greatest on Earth, and in my belief, we'll have a greater nation in the future.

Let me comment on just one other specific thing that was covered really for the first time in the debate last night. It involved the most important issue of all-lifting the shadow of nuclear terror from this Earth. Last night Mr. Reagan flatly denied that he had ever made the statement that nuclear proliferation is none of our business. Let me read you something verbatim from the New York Times of February 1st this year, and I quote, "Ronald Reagan indicated today that he believed the United States should not stand in the way of countries developing their own nuclear weapons, saying, and we quote Mr. Reagan, 'I just don't think it's any of our business.'"

This issue is the most important single issue in the campaign this year. Inflation is important. Unemployment is important. The progress of our Nation economically is important. Education is important. But the most important single issue is the control of nuclear weapons. Every President since Harry Truman has worked under the most difficult circumstances to negotiate with the Soviet Union balanced, controlled, observable agreements to limit atomic weapons with the hope of reducing those weapons in the future.

The treaty that I have negotiated was begun by President Nixon and continued by President Ford. It's now before the Senate. It's not yet come to the floor for a debate or a vote. Governor Reagan has said, let's throw that treaty in the trash and not let the Senate debate 'this important issue. Let's put forward a nuclear arms race and demand nuclear superiority in hopes that we can get some better deal from the Soviet Union.

This approach of his is a radical departure from the most serious commitment that all my predecessors in the Oval Office have had since the Second World War. And combined with his belief that it's none of our business if a radical and terrorist nation like Libya has the atomic weapon, this particular issue on nuclear arms, nuclear weapons, atomic bombs, is the most serious of all.

In closing let me say this: I've described the election of 1980 to you as a choice between two futures. Here's what I see in the future that we are fighting for together. I see a nation strong and at peace. I see a nation secure in the pursuit of progress for all people; a nation where everyone can have the dignity of a decent job, where new industries create a new generation of American buildings and American vehicles that will house us and move us in comfort with a lot less energy, and that energy that we use coming from America itself; a nation where children are educated to their maximum potential, where the elderly are treated with respect, which they've earned, where families are strong and intact and secure. I have a vision of a nation free enough to attract and strong enough to welcome the deprived from other parts of the world, a nation of liberty and justice and love.

I need your help to make this vision a reality. Together let us make the greatest nation on Earth even greater in the future. You help me and we will do that together.

Thank you very much. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 3:35 p.m. at John F. Kennedy Square.

Jimmy Carter, Rochester, New York Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251758

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