Jimmy Carter photo

Small Business Conference Commission Remarks at the Swearing In of the Commission's Membership.

February 28, 1979

This is, by far, the best organized group of small business leaders I've ever seen. [Laughter] And my guess is that after this, they won't be nearly so cooperative with each other, or orderly-I'm sure much more lively and committed to seeing beneficial change.

If there's one element of my own background as a human being that I value and have observed carefully to be beneficial to me as President, it has been my career as a small businessman. When I campaigned for President for 2 years, on every possible occasion when I had the opportunity to shake hands with employees in small and large plants, I always made a point to go in and have a private conversation with the owners, managers, operators of the business, and also with the representatives of labor groups, to try to discern at first hand not only the tremendous accomplishments of our free enterprise system in this country but also the problems, the needs, the concerns, the advice, and the opportunities for enhancing it even in the future.

When I became President one of my own initiatives was to pursue the idea with Congressman Smith, with Senator Nelson, later with Vernon Weaver, for a White House conference for small business leaders and for small business as an entity in our economic system.

This will be, by far, the largest White House conference ever held. It will also be the first, so far as I am able to determine, where the delegates will be chosen from the individual States. And, of course, it will also be preceded by regional meetings wherein there can be a great magnification of the knowledge, experience, influence, and information brought here by delegates who actually attend the conference at the White House.

We have a lot to learn from one another—I, as President, the members of my own administration, the Members of the Congress, and the general public from the small business community. And, of course, it will be mutually instructive for small business leaders of all kinds to learn from one another.

Quite often, a superb accomplishment in a certain field of effort economically, of necessity, narrows the focus even of the most broad-minded and enlightened leader, to concentrate on particular day-by-day problems of organization, management, financing, production, delivery of the goods that make our Nation so great.

Obviously, you will be interested in seeing a reduction in unnecessary paperwork, an enlightenment of the Federal Government's attitude toward basic regulations, the enforcement of those regulations in an effective and nonburdensome way, an enhancement of the word "free" in our free enterprise system, the proper relationship between the business community and the Government itself.

Your voice will be listened to very carefully during the preparatory days and also the days of the White House conference as such.

In addition, I think foreign exports and the influence of small business spokesmen and spokeswomen on a broad gamut of decisions made here in Washington will be very beneficial. It would be impossible for me to say, "These are the areas where small business influence will be beneficial, but these other areas will not be beneficial." Obviously, in basic employment schemes, financing, Government loans, community development, almost every realm of American life can benefit from the sound advice and experience and enlightenment and proven success of leaders of the small business community.

Vernon Weaver is obviously one of you. He's a man who is a strong and able leader. He's made great progress in the Small Business Administration. But even there, that agency of Government has a very limited realm of influence and responsibility by law that will be far exceeded by the gamut of issues that you will discuss and assess as the White House conference is concluded.

As you know, Mr. Levitt will be the Chairman of this advisory group, responsible, with these fine other leaders behind me, for the evolution of the basic premises on which the Small Business Conference will be concluded and arranged for here at the White House.

I would like to say in closing that you are welcome here. We'll learn in our daily contacts with you, and I hope that you will feel, following this meeting, that a new avenue has been opened for consultation, advice, criticisms, and the mutual sharing of the opportunity to make our great Nation even greater in the future.

Together I believe we will succeed in opening up new vistas, new realms of success in your own business commitments, your own life interests, and also to make government in our country more enlightened, more wise, more influenced directly from those who benefit from its proper decisions.

Sometimes they've suffered in the past from its improper decisions. But in my judgment, this ease of communication and sharing of experiences and hopes can be a powerful force in strengthening our country in many different ways.

I can tell you accurately that the longer I'm here in the White House as President, the more I cherish my years as a small businessman. [Laughter] One of the main reasons I'm interested in the White House conference is that it'll give you an opportunity to help me do a better job for you as President.

Thank you very much for your friendship and coming here.

Note: The President spoke at 3:45 p.m. at the ceremony in the East Room at the White House. Prior to his remarks, Vice President Walter F. Mondale administered the oath of office to the 11 members of the Commission.

Jimmy Carter, Small Business Conference Commission Remarks at the Swearing In of the Commission's Membership. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249022

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