Jimmy Carter photo

San Antonio, Texas Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.

November 01, 1980

Senator Bentsen, Congressman Henry Gonzalez, Congressman Kazen, distinguished friends from San Antonio and around this part of Texas:

I am very glad to be back here, because I never am permitted to forget about this district and what it means to the rest of the Nation, because Henry Gonzalez and Chick Kazen just won't let me forget about you.

In the best Democratic tradition, Henry Gonzalez has worked to improve the quality of life for all people in San Antonio, and while he's done very much for the business of this community, by bringing it the world's fair in 1968, helping to keep it crowded with conventions today, he's done even more to bring dignity to the lives of all Americans and to gain equality of opportunity for all our citizens. And I thank him on behalf of the people of this Nation. And I also want to express my thanks to Congressman Kazen, who comes from a Lebanese-American family, who spoke Spanish before he did English, because he represents the fact that this area is rich in its diversity, it's rich in its patriotism, it's rich in its commitment to a better life for all Americans, and I thank him too.

It's always good to be introduced by Lloyd Bentsen, a great Texan and a great American, a man who understands the past, present, and future of our Democratic Party and of our country, but it's particularly pleasing to me to be introduced in this historic site, a site which exemplifies not only the history of our Nation and its development but also epitomizes basic human courage. As a matter of fact, this historic site is a tourist attraction that helps to keep San Antonio prosperous and gives the world a chance to see what you have to offer here. But the Alamo will soon be seeing new action, redevelopment. It'll be linked to another historic site, the San Antonio River.

As you know, with a grant of $6 million from my Urban Development Action Grant program, we have been able to bring $48 million in private money to San Antonio. More than 800 permanent jobs will be created here in addition to many small businesses. And I'm very glad to say that there have been tens of thousands of new jobs created in San Antonio, almost a million new jobs created in the State of Texas since I was inaugurated President, and we're going to keep that progress going.

Lloyd Bentsen mentioned Republicans who try to masquerade as Democrats just before election day. If you've been listening to the Republican candidate for President, then you know he is trying to wrap himself in the mantle of great Democratic Presidents. Let me ask you a question: Have you ever heard a Republican candidate for President quote a Republican President?

THE PRESIDENT. No. And there's a good reason for it, because their past record which will be the same as their future record if they get in the Oval Office, is not something to brag about.

Can you imagine Ronald Reagan, making a speech at the Republican Convention, when he quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt, quoting Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon?

THE PRESIDENT. It always happens. Here's what Franklin D. Roosevelt said about that back in 1944. He said about the Republicans that change their tune late in October, early November: "The whole purpose," he said, "of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels." Sound familiar? "Now imitation," he said, "may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm afraid that in this case what it is is just common or garden variety of fraud." And Roosevelt was not the only one that said something about that.

John Kennedy predicted back in 1960—here's what John Kennedy said: "They're even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt." And Kennedy said, "Twenty years from now, the Republicans might even speak a good word about Harry Truman, but I guarantee you that Harry Truman will not say a good word about Republicans." As you know, that prediction came true. And I want to make a prediction to you today here in front of the Alamo. I predict that 20 years from now, Republican candidates will be saying nice things about Jimmy Carter's second term.

Standing here reminds me of courage. Standing here reminds me of the dedication of brave men. Standing here as Commander in Chief, it would be inappropriate for me not to comment on the Kelly Air Force Base, which has the largest concentration of Air Force personnel anywhere in the world.

My background, my training, is as a professional military officer. I went to the Naval Academy, and I served 11 years in the Navy. I was an officer in the submarine force. I want to point out to you what has happened about defense in recent years. As long as I'm President, we will have a strong nation, because I know that only through strength can we have peace. In the last 50 years, no President has been able to make the statement that I'm going to make now. In my term of office, we have not had war. We have stayed at peace.
AUDIENCE. Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. Okay. I accept. [Laughter]

And the reason that we're going to have 4 more years and also 4 more years at peace, is that we have corrected the neglect of our Nation's defense establishment that I inherited after 13 years of Republican misrule. In 7 of those 8 years, under Nixon and Ford, when Republicans were in the White House, we had a decrease in real terms for our Nation's defense. Since I've been in office, though, with the help of Lloyd Bentsen and the Members of the Congress, we've had a steady, orderly, and effective increase above and beyond inflation every single year for a strong defense for the strongest nation on Earth, and we're going to keep that up.

When I came into office, there was no long-range cruise missile program. Now we have one. We'll be producing 40 highly accurate, advanced cruise missiles per month. When I came into office, there was no new battle tank. Now we have one. There was no modern armored fighting vehicle to carry personnel; now they're in production. There was no answer to the potential vulnerability of our ICBM's, our missiles located in silos. Now we have an answer, the mobile MX missile. And listen to this: Under those Republican Presidents, our purchases of Army equipment, jet fighters, and attack aircraft had dropped by two-thirds in the 13 years before I became President. Since then, we have increased those purchases by 50 percent.

We know that the purpose of a strong defense is to keep our Nation at peace and to protect American interests and the interests of our allies around the world. Every day that I've been in office, we've had trouble places somewhere in the world. Armed conflict has broken out in different locations between nations six or eight times since I've been President. The judgment that has to be made is what are America's interests? What degree of involvement should we exercise? How should we use our tremendous strength?

We'll keep the most modern weapons. We'll keep the highest trained military men and women to serve our Nation. But I'm a father of young sons, and I have grandchildren coming along as well, and I always will remember, as President, that the best weapon is one that does not have to be fired in combat, and the best soldier is one that doesn't have to lay his life down or shed his blood on a field of battle.

I believe the mothers and fathers of this Nation and I believe the young men and women of this Nation will remember Tuesday, when they go to the polls to vote, that Presidents, in dealing with difficult times, have been contradicted by Governor Reagan on several occasions. He has called for the sending of American military forces to fight in many areas around the world in recent years, not just since I've been President, when this year he called for the sending of American troops to Cuba and to Angola and to other countries, Pakistan, but in the past to North Korea, to settle a fishing dispute in Ecuador. This year he wanted to send American military forces to establish a blockade around the island of Cuba. He wanted also to send American military forces to Cyprus, to Rhodesia, and to the Middle East.

Presidents have to make a judgment when troubled times arise, when crises come to the Oval Office. If a President handles them well our Nation's interest can be protected, and you may not even know how serious that crisis might have been. But if a President makes a misjudgment that crisis can affect your life, and it can affect the life of this Nation and perhaps the peace and security of everyone on Earth.

Peace, war, crisis are important issues in the lives of every person. But there are other humane things at stake as well. Think back on the difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties. When has your life been benefited? Where did the great progress come from? Just since I've been old enough to remember-I grew up on a farm—we got REA, the TVA program, electricity on the farms, by Democrats, over Republican opposition. We got the minimum wage, which at first was only 25 cents an hour. The Republicans opposed it, because they didn't think that an able-bodied man or an able-bodied woman was worth 25 cents an hour. I got my first job as a high school graduate working 10 hours a day at the new minimum wage of 40 cents. I had to furnish a car and pay all the expenses in the process. But that 40-cent wage, guaranteed by the Democrats, was opposed by the Republicans.

Social security—the Democrats put it forward; the Republicans called it socialism, communism. Medicare, a Democratic program—my opponent got his start in politics campaigning all around the country speaking against Medicare, calling it socialized medicine.

The Republicans and the Democrats historically have had a different attitude toward progress or lack of progress. One of the key issues in this election is concerning social justice. At stake is whether we continue to build a society committed to equality of opportunity and social justice. I stand for vigorous enforcement of our civil rights laws. When Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Congress were passing the Civil Rights Act, Ronald Reagan said, "That's bad legislation."

I'm for the open housing amendment now before Congress, and I'm for the equal rights amendment to give women equal treatment in this country. And I might add that for 40 years, for 40 years, the Republican Party platform always supported equal rights for women until Ronald Reagan came along. Six Presidents before me in the White House supported equal rights for women. My mother was a working woman. She was a registered nurse. She worked 12 hours a day when I was a child for $4, and sometimes she nursed 20 hours a day in order to earn $6. Nowadays when a man and woman do the same work a man gets paid a dollar; a woman only gets paid 59 cents.

What the equal rights amendment says is this: that equality of rights—this is the whole thing—equality of rights shall not be abridged or taken away by the Federal Government nor any other State government because a person is a woman. What it says, in effect, is quit cheating women.

I might add in closing that I'm for a strong public school system. I'm for the youth bill now before the Congress, already passed the House, that will provide 600,000 jobs for our young people. I'm for tough safeguards to protect our environment. I'm for protecting consumers so you won't be cheated. Those are the kinds of positions that Democrats have always supported and Republicans now and in the past have always opposed.

I've described this election in 19130 as a choice between two futures. Now, this is what I see in the future that we are fighting for together: I see a nation at peace. I see a nation strong. I see a nation secure. I see a nation dedicated in its pursuit of equality of opportunity and progress for all people. I see 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 with less energy, but energy that comes from the United States and not overseas.

And I see a nation where children are educated to the maximum potential that God gave them, where elderly people are treated with the respect that they've earned with a dedicated life, where families are strong and secure and intact. 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, of justice, and of love.

I've been President now for almost 4 years. I've made thousands of decisions, and each one of those decisions has been a learning process for me. Every decision I make leaves me better prepared for the next one. What I've learned has made me a better President and will make me a better President in my second term. I consider myself—

AUDIENCE [chanting]. We want Jimmy!

THE PRESIDENT. You got me. Thank you.

I consider myself to be in the mainstream of the Democratic Party and also in the mainstream of the bipartisan Presidents who have served [before]1 me. There is a radical difference, a sharp difference between myself and Governor Reagan on most every major issue that will affect your life. The Presidency is a good job, but it's a lonely job. But, with the involvement of the American people as partners under our democratic system, it's a gratifying job.

1White House correction.

Now, I face lonely decisions, but so do you. At this moment, looking for the last few hours before election day on November the 4th, you've got a decision to make. Your coming here is good. Your voting for me on November the 4th is good, but there's a lot more that you can do. Between now and then, there's nobody in this crowd that can't contact 100 people, some of you 1,000 people, maybe those with more influence, 10,000 people. Think about the consequences in your own life if Wednesday morning you wake up and you face the prospect of a Republican being in the Oval Office for the next 4 years.

You might say one person can't make much difference, but just remember in 1948 that a few votes changed would have meant that Harry Truman would never have been President. And in 1960, if 28,000 people in Texas had voted differently and just a few in Illinois, then John Kennedy would never have served as President, and perhaps Lyndon Johnson would never have been President either. Those elections came out well. But 1968 is another example when Democrats didn't work hard for the nominee the last few days. If you and I had worked a little more and recognized the consequences, Hubert Humphrey would have been President, and Richard Nixon would never have served in the Oval Office.

To close my remarks, I want to quote from another Democrat who never became President, because he was killed a few days before the end of the primary season. Senator Robert Kennedy made a speech on his last day of what was to be his final campaign. It was in the Presidential primary in California in 1968. And I would like to share his closing lines with you. He said, "I ask you to recognize the hard and the difficult road to a better America. I ask you to vote for yourselves. The people must decide this election. They must decide so that no leader has any doubt about what the people want. For your sake and for the sake of your children, vote for yourselves."
Thank you very much. I need you. Viva San Antonio!

Note: The President spoke at 12:57 p.m. outside the Alamo.

Jimmy Carter, San Antonio, Texas 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/252123

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