Jimmy Carter photo

Secaucus, New Jersey Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Reception.

October 15, 1980

I'm deeply grateful to Senator Kennedy for the warm words of support and the introduction that he gave to me and for a chance that I had to be with him this morning in Massachusetts and again here tonight in New Jersey. If I can just have all the support on November 4 that he got here in the primary, I will be very happy and we'll go over the top, there's no doubt about that.

As I look around this room I'm very grateful too to be here with all you candidates for Governor of New Jersey in the upcoming election. [Laughter] And I'm particularly glad to be with my charisma instructor— [laughter] —Governor Brendan Byrne, and with Bill Bradley and with Congressman Rodino, Congressman Bob Roe, and other distinguished members of your delegation.

Tonight I'd like to talk to you seriously for a few minutes about the Presidency itself and just two or three issues that I'll outline briefly that I think are important to you and important to the future of our country.

The office of President is one that's revered by the American people, in a strange, sometimes esoteric way, difficult to express. It's the highest elective office in any democracy in the world. It's an office which has tremendous power and responsibility and also very severe constitutional limitations. It's an office where troubles concentrate and where difficult questions must be answered. It's the problem that comes to my desk that can't be solved anywhere else and the questions that can't be answered anywhere else. If a problem or question can be resolved in your own life or in your family or county courthouse or city hall or State legislature or Governor's office, it doesn't come to me.

And I live in the White House, where all the Presidents except one have lived, and serve in the Oval Office, where many of my predecessors have served, and I'm reminded every day of the enormous responsibilities and support and challenge that rests on my shoulders. I share a lot with the Presidents that Senator Kennedy has named—with Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson. There's a continuity within the Presidency, and particularly within the Democratic Party, of which I'm an integral part.

I represent you in trying to shape a better life for Americans, trying to heal the differences that lie among us, trying to express as accurately as I possibly can the image that we have of ourselves, trying to protect moral commitments and family structures in the heterogeneous nature of our country built on a nation of immigrants which still is united, to try to express as best I can, on a daily basis, a certain confidence without being overconfident, a certain strength without abusing our great strength, recognizing that we have hopes and aspirations not yet realized and that we have been blessed above all people.

God has been good to us, and as we look back on previous generations, it puts in 'better perspective our present circumstances in life. We hear a lot on the evening news, as we read the morning papers, about the differences among us—the debates, the dissensions, the temporary and transient inconveniences that afflict any people on Earth. But we sometimes lose the overlying perspective historically of what we are and what we have. When compared with the Revolution or the War Between the States, the Second World War, the First World War, the extreme divisiveness of the Vietnam war, the Watergate embarrassments, the Great Depression, the sociological revolution that afflicted this country when we gave blacks and other minority groups equal rights, our present challenges fade into relative insignificance. But still Americans have to stop every 4 years and inventory what we are.

Ours is a nation of sound beliefs and a sure and certain future. We're not awed or fearful about the years to come, because we can look back and say what we've accomplished and the origins of the progress that we've made. We look at OPEC oil and say the Arab countries have a great lock on the economic future of the world. Collectively, they control about 6 percent of the world's energy resources. Our country alone controls 24 percent. Oil, gas wells—we'll drill more this year than ever before in history. Coal—we're producing more American coal this year than ever before in history. We've got three times as much oil in our shale alone than Saudi Arabia. And more coal than we have shale. Arab oil, yes; American soil, much more.

Ours is a country that has a certain unity of purpose that transcends the decades and generations. We make steady progress. We receive each year, in this country, over $5 1/2 billion in payments from other modern countries just to use American patents, and that figure grows annually. The Japanese pay us untold billions of dollars just to use the new ideas that still spring forth from the ingenious minds of Americans. We say, "Well, nowadays it's a little worse." The last 3 months only, we've had a greater increase in our economic indicators than we've had in the last 31 years.

Other nations look on us with admiration. I don't know of a single nation on Earth, no matter what its basic philosophy might be, that wants to emulate the Government of the Soviet Union. But we've seen, just the short time I've been in office, keeping high the banner of human rights, that many other countries are abandoning military dictatorships and totalitarian commitments and moving toward democracy. We're opening up vast areas of the world to friendship and trade and better economic lives for us all and better peace and stability and to enhance our security.

The greatest black nation on Earth, Nigeria, 4 years ago wouldn't let the Secretary of State of the United States cross their borders. Now they're among our staunchest allies. Their President was here not long ago—elected in free and open democratic elections with a government patterned after the Constitution of the United States. And recently, we've opened up a new trade, new advice, new counsel, new cooperation, in a peaceful way, 1 billion people in the People's Republic of China, the largest nation on Earth. And we haven't lost, at the same time, trade advantages which are growing by leaps and bounds with the people of Taiwan.

We've seen a harnessing of new concepts brought about to us by the new energy challenges. That has not struck, again, awe or despair in the American people. Not too long ago, as you know, in the revolution of Iran the world lost about 4 million barrels of oil per day. We had long gas lines, and the American economic system was placed into consternation. A lot of political furor was apparent in the communities of our country. Recently, because the Congress has acted so courageously in giving us an energy policy, for the first time, we lost 4 million barrels of oil again when Iran and Iraq began their conflict. There was hardly a tremor in our country because in that short interval of time, we have slashed imported oil. In the last year alone, we have cut our oil imports over 35 percent, and today we're importing 2 million barrels of oil less per day than we did just a year ago. That's tremendous achievement.

That's tremendous achievement, brought about not by me, not by the Congress, but by you. And it gives us not only economic security, but it gives us political and strategic security, because we are less subject now to blackmail and we are much more able now to shape our own foreign policy, cementing our ties with Israel and other allies around the world, without the fear of influence by those on whom we've excessively depended in the past for their oil.

Finally, let me say this: Ours is a country where people have a chance to participate in government. The stark differences that exist between myself and my Republican opponent in my lifetime have never been equaled. Those differences exceed even the ones, in my judgment, between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson in 1964. I won't go down a litany tonight of those sharp differences concerning the minimum wage and social security and the control of nuclear weapons and the general concept of what our Nation ought to be, about afflicted people and older people and people who need health care. You've heard it before, and I've said it several times during this day. But I would like to point out to you that just a small investment of your time and effort can change the course of this country in less than 3 weeks from tonight.

In 1960 if 28,000 people had voted differently in the State of Texas and just a few thousand had changed their minds or not gone to the polls in Illinois, John Fitzgerald Kennedy would never have been President of our country. And in 1968, if just a few thousand Democrats like you around this country had given more support to a great Democrat, Hubert Humphrey, and if the issue hadn't been clouded by third party candidates or candidates with no party, then Richard Nixon would never have been President and Hubert Humphrey would have carried on the great tradition of Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. We've got a similar situation this year, where well-meaning people have not yet faced the awesome responsibility on the shoulders of those whom commitments and principles are compatible with the Democratic Party.

Three weeks from tonight our country will make a judgment. One of those profound judgments is the most awesome of all: What will be done with nuclear weapons? Every President since Harry Truman has moved steadily forward with SALT agreements to have equal, limited, confirmable, and gradually reducing levels of atomic arsenals.

My Republican opponent has said let's withdraw the SALT treaty that has been negotiated by myself and by Gerald Ford and by Richard Nixon, and he advocates the possibility of a nuclear arms race and the playing of a so-called card against the Soviet Union. This statement causes me deep concern, because it changes the basic attitude of American people, if implemented, from one putting a lid and a commitment to reductions of nuclear weapons into one that's a radical departure from the philosophy of every President who's served since the Second World War.

The issues are profound, and the future of our country will be affected profoundly by the decision made in just 3 weeks.

I've come here tonight to thank you for your investment in this campaign, in the future of the Democratic Party, and in the future of this country. You will help to shape the kind of life that will be lived by the people that you love and by the Nation that we all love. I'm grateful to you. You're my partners. I will do the best I can the next 3 weeks to win, but I cannot win without you. As generous as you've been tonight, that is not enough. There is not a single person in this room that can't shape the opinion and inspire the participation of hundreds, perhaps thousands, even tens of thousands of residents of this State of New Jersey in the next 3 weeks.

My hope is that you will commit yourself to this political campaign above and beyond what you've done tonight financially. Many of you have a long history of support and participation, sustaining and guiding and carrying to victory the Democratic Party. There is no doubt in my mind that if you'll do the same thing the next 3 weeks, and a few others like you around this Nation, when the returns come in on November 4, we'll have a bright future ahead of us, a future based upon the principles which you and I espouse. And we will whip the Republicans as they've never been whipped before in this general election to come.
Thank you very much. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:54 p.m. in the Meadowlands Ballroom at the Meadowlands Hilton Hotel.

Following the reception, the President returned to the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Secaucus, New Jersey Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Reception. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251191

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