Tri-City Municipal Airport, Tennessee Remarks at a Carter/Mondale Rally.
I am glad to be home in the South. Thank you, Jim Sasser—a great Senator, right? [Applause] Thank you very much.
Senator Jim Sasser, Congressman Gore, Congressman Ford, Congressman Jones, Congressman Bouquard, Congressman Boner, Speaker Ned McWherter, Lieutenant Governor John Wilder, Mayor John Love, Mayor Easley, Mayor Pyree, and all my good friends in Tennessee:
You've got more people than I thought you had in the Tri-City area. Four years ago Tennesseans helped to get me a good job in the city and to keep me in the White House for this last 4 years. You came in second to Georgia in the strength of the vote that I got here in the general election, and I'd like to know if you think you might even beat Georgia in 1980. How about that? [Applause] I'd like to have that job in the city just 4 more years and then come back south to home, because it's hard to know until you've been away a while how strong our feelings are for the South and what it stands for.
For generations my people have lived here in the South near Tennessee, in Georgia. We share the same basic commitments to what a great nation means. We have a conviction that a better life must depend on hard work, on a belief in God, on strong families, on farming the land, on giving people the chance for a job, on taking care of those who can't care for themselves. We believe in a strong nation, a nation whose military strength is second to none on Earth. And that's the way we are keeping and will keep the United States of America.
We also believe in peace, and we know that our country, as powerful as it is, the most powerful nation on Earth militarily, the most powerful nation on Earth economically, the most powerful and influential nation on Earth politically-can stay that way and keep the peace if the people of this Nation are united in common commitment. The South has never forgotten those very important and enduring values.
This year, as you all know, is a very important election year. This year the people will make a judgment, not just between two candidates, not just between two parties, the Democratic and Republican Party, but between two futures. And I would like to ask you in this next 4 weeks to think about what this election will mean to you, to your family, to the people that you love, and to the status of the Nation which we love.
A campaign is a good opportunity in a democracy to spell out the specific issues so that our people can make the right judgment on election day, Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It's incumbent on a candidate, each candidate to stick to the issues, to analyze one's own record, what has been said, what has been done, what has been accomplished in the past; also, and secondly, to spell out one's vision for the future, what we have in mind for the months and the years and the generations ahead; and third, to compare one's record and one's plans for the future with the record and the plans for the future of one's opponent. This is not only the right of a candidate, it's the duty of a candidate.
We have had to address in the last 4 years many very difficult issues which have no easy answers and which are profoundly important to the people of this Nation. On energy, this has been our most serious domestic threat. Last year alone, the OPEC nations increased the price of oil more in one year than the oil prices had increased since oil was first discovered back in the 1800's. Our Nation has addressed this question courageously, and with the help of the Tennessee delegation, we're making good progress now. This year our country is importing from foreign countries, every day, 2 million barrels of oil less than we did in 1977. That's a great credit to you, to the Congress, and to this administration.
This year the United States will have more oil and gas wells drilled than any year in history, and this year—and this may be a surprise to you—our country will produce more coal than any year in the history of our Nation. My hope is that in years ahead on the energy market we will replace OPEC oil with Tennessee coal. It'll be good for the whole world.
I might point out to you that the future is bright if we manage our affairs soundly. The OPEC Arab nations all put together only have 6 percent of the world's energy resources. The United States alone has 24 percent of the world's energy reserves. We've made good progress now in this first 3 1/2 years in laying a basis for future progress. But it's important for you to realize that my opponent against whom I'm running on November 4 would change all this. He would reverse the progress that we have made.
He says that his energy policy, and I quote, is to repeal the energy legislation that has been passed, to abolish the Department of Energy, and to turn the oil companies loose to manage the energy affairs of this country in the future. That would be a very serious judgment for you to make and for your neighbors to make on November 4.
The economy of our country is also very important. We've had shocks, yes, in the last 3 1/2 years with this unwarranted increase in the price of oil. But our country has made steady progress. In this last 3 1/2 years we have had a net increase of 8 1/2 million jobs in the United States. Today, in Tennessee alone, compared to 1977, when I was sworn in as President, 144,000 more people have full-time jobs. Our cities have been put back on their feet. Farmers will have the highest gross income, the highest net income, of any administration in the history of this Nation, and we are increasing agricultural exports far beyond what anyone dreamed would be possible just 4 years ago.
We've set world records on agricultural exports in 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980. This year we'll have the biggest increase in history, $8 billion more in agricultural exports this year than last year, $40 billion in all. The American farmers, in spite of droughts, have a great prospect ahead. This cannot be undone. As a farmer I am determined that American agriculture will continue to be the world's greatest resource for peace and Americas' greatest resource for economic progress, and you can depend on that.
I might add about the economy very briefly that now that we have an energy policy in place, it can serve as a foundation for the entire revitalization of the American industrial economy. This is important, because American workers now are the most productive on Earth. But we've not been increasing our productivity enough in recent years. This must be continued.
The South suffered many generations from wages that were too low to finance the affairs and the needs of a family. I remember the first proposal for the minimum wage was for 25 cents an hour. The Democrats supported that minimum wage; the Republicans were against it. My first job as a high school senior was for the minimum wage of 40 cents an hour. The Democrats supported that minimum wage; the Republicans were against it. Now we have a sound minimum wage program in our country, and my Republican opponent says that there's been more hardship and suffering brought about by minimum wage than we got from the Great Depression. He also says that unemployment compensation, so vital to a nation when temporary unemployment comes, my opponent said that unemployment compensation is just a free paid vacation for freeloaders. This is the kind of attitude toward working people that's contrary to the basic concepts of the South and contrary to the basic concepts of our Nation. And that's the kind of choice that will be made on November 4 by this Nation.
The last point I want to make this morning is about our Nation's defense and about peace. Eight years before I was President, we had Republicans serving in the White House. Seven of those years American Government budget for defense went down—7 out of 8 years, down. Since I've been in office we've had a steady, predictable, deeply committed, orderly, and fruitful increase every year in our Nation's commitment to defense in real dollars above and beyond inflation.
We must have a strong defense in order to keep our Nation at peace. We also know that it takes two wings on an airplane for that airplane to fly. You can't just have massive armaments, which we do have, and depend on that to keep our Nation at peace. You've got to have arms control, you've got to have sound relationships with our allies, and you've got to have a steady course and a willingness to settle major differences around the world, which are inevitable, with diplomatic means, and not by American soldiers and sailors and airmen in a time of crisis.
This is what we've done. We have worked hard for peace, and we've kept our Nation at peace. I have not ordered a single American soldier into combat in the last 3 1/2 years, and I pray to God that when I go out of office at the end of 4 more years we'll still have a record of peace intact.
Every President since Harry Truman has known the extreme importance of controlling nuclear weapons, to negotiate SALT treaties with the Soviet Union so that we could have a balanced, controlled, predictable, known, and reducing level of atomic weapons. It would be a mistake for us to forget the horrible worldwide destruction that could come from abandoning nuclear arms control. Every President has worked on this. I concluded SALT II treaty terms with the Soviet Union following the work that had been done by President Ford and President Nixon. That's crucial to every family, every life in this Nation, and to everyone in the entire world.
Just recently my opponent said that he would withdraw SALT II, not ask the Senate to ratify it, that he would launch a nuclear arms race, and play a trump card against the Soviet Union. This would be the end to any fruitful effort to negotiate control of nuclear arms and would be a destabilizing factor in the entire world that would shake the foundations of our alliances and create unwarranted tensions among nations that either have or do not have atomic weapons.
In the last few years myself and my predecessors have had to deal with a constant stream of potential crises. If they are handled properly you may not ever know about them. But if a President makes a serious misjudgment, a small crisis can become a major one and can affect every life represented here. Time after time after time my opponent in the last few years has called for the injection of American military forces into diplomatic troubled regions of the world—in Korea, Ecuador, Cuba, the Middle East, Pakistan, Angola. Time after time after time when there was a problem my opponent has said, "Let's send American military forces there to settle the dispute." Fortunately, Democratic and Republican Presidents have not done that. We've tried to ease those tensions and resolve those differences in a peaceful way, letting the influence of our Nation be strengthened by strong military forces. That is the kind of judgment that American voters will make on November 4.
I'd like to close by saying this: America's defense will be kept strong, but the best weapon is the weapon that's never fired in combat, and the best soldier is the soldier that never lays down his life or sheds his blood on the field of battle. That's what sound judgment and proper leadership can do.
Let me close by saying we've got less than 4 weeks to go. This is a very close election. Major issues are at stake. I've only outlined two or three of them, but the sharp differences that exist between me and my opponent are perhaps unequaled in the recent political history of this country. Think very seriously about the consequences of your vote and the decision that America will make on November 4.
I want a nation strong and at peace. I want a nation where people have a chance for a better life. I want a chance to see Americans at work with a good education. I want to see the Nation united, North and South united, black and white united, rural and urban united. I want to make sure that our Nation moves forward with progress, predictable progress, steady, based on the great resources, human and natural resources that God's given us. That's the vision that I have for our country—a nation strong, confident, hopeful, at peace, filled with respect one for another, using our beneficial impact around the world to enhance human rights.
If you'll help me on November 4, we'll have a tremendous victory, we'll whip the Republicans again and keep this Nation on the proper road.
Thank you very much. God bless you.
This is a beautiful crowd, a wonderful welcome to Tennessee and the South, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless all of you.
Go to work now for me, right? [Applause]
Note: The President spoke at 9:36 a.m. at the airport terminal building.
Jimmy Carter, Tri-City Municipal Airport, Tennessee Remarks at a Carter/Mondale Rally. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250813