Jimmy Carter photo

Tuscumbia, Alabama Remarks at a Campaign Rally at Spring Park.

September 01, 1980

Senator Stewart, Senator Heflin, Senator Sasser, Senator Sparkman, Senator Eastland, Senator Gore, Governor James, Governor Winter, Governor George Wallace, Congressman Beyill, Congressman Flippo, whose district this is, Congressman Shelby, Lieutenant Governor McMillan, Speaker McCorquodale, President Bradford, and my friends and Americans and fellow Southerners:

I'm glad to be here.

We also have Congressmen Jones and Elliot and Raines, and a lot of people here from this great State, from Tennessee, Mississippi, a few from Georgia, a few from the Carolinas, and also we've got some wonderful entertainment. And before I begin my remarks, I'd like to say thank you first of all to the Speer Family, the first family of gospel music—the Speer Family; and to Larry Gatlin, a longtime friend of mine—he's nominated this year for four country music awards; and also to Charlie Daniels—who rode down oft the plane with me—from Hartford, Connecticut. His song, "In America" has swept the country, as you know, and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was voted the best song of 1979.

Not long ago I saw Charlie Daniels when he was on the way up north to give a concert tour, and I said, "Charlie, when you had three fundraising events for me back in 1976 not many people knew who you were, and now you're world famous." He said, "Mr. President, when I gave those three fundraisers for you in '76, a lot more people knew who I was than knew who you were." [Laughter]

It's good for me to be at home. It's been a long time since I've been to a good, oldfashioned Alabama picnic like this, and I want to let you know I love it.

In the last few years, particularly the last 4 years, I've been to a lot of places and I've seen a lot of people, but I just want to say how great it is to be with folks who don't talk with an accent.

On a good day like this it's good to be out in the country. Thanks to all of you, I've got a job in the city now— [laughter] —I'd like to keep it for about 4 more years. But I won't ever forget, as a farmboy myself, that the greatness of America lies in its land. The land typifies the values which are dear to us—hard work, self-reliance, trust in our families, trust in our neighbors, and trust in our God. And I pray to God that we in the South and the people of this Nation will never get away from those values which do not change.

I know what you feel for this Nation. I know the pride and the love for this country that's in your hearts, and I know the hopes that you have in your hearts for the future. Our region, the Southland, has been through a lot of pain and a lot of change, but we came out all right in the end because of our determination to move ahead and to face our problems together.

There are still a few in the South, indeed around the country, some I heard from today, who practice cowardice and who counsel fear and hatred. They marched around the State Capitol in Atlanta when I was Governor. They said we ought to be afraid of each other, that whites ought to hate and be afraid of blacks and that blacks ought to hate and be afraid of whites. And they would persecute those who worshiped in a different way from most of us. As a Southerner, it makes me feel angry when I see them with a Confederate battle flag because I remember Judah P. Benjamin who was Secretary of State of the Confederacy; he was a Jew. And I remember General Pat Cleburne of Arkansas who died in battle not very far from this very spot, and General Beauregard of Louisiana, brave men. Both were Catholics, and so were many others who served under that flag. And sometimes I see the raising of a cross and I remember that the One who was crucified taught us to have faith, to hope, and not to hate but to love one another.

As the first man from the Deep South in 140 years to be President of this Nation, I say that these people in white sheets do not understand our region and what it's been through, they do not understand what our country stands for, they do not understand that the South and all of America must move forward. Our past is a rich source of inspiration. We've had lessons that we learned with a great deal of pain. But the past is not a place to live. We must go forward in the South, and we will.

You people here have the same background, the same families, the same upbringing that I have—people from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Florida. You share my past and my values, yes, but you also share my love of this country. It was you who put me on the road to the greatest honor that any American can possibly have, to serve as your President, and today I've come back home.

I've come back to the part of this Nation that will always be my home, to ask you to join me once again in a great and noble campaign that, with your help, will lead to victory in November. This will be a campaign for a secure peace. This will be a campaign for jobs. This will be a campaign for stable prices, a campaign of confidence and unity, but most of all it'll be a campaign for the future of this richly blessed and beloved country.

This is a day of celebration, not long speeches, so I'm just going to talk about two things. The first is our economic future, our bread and butter.

Everybody here knows what a full day of hard work is all about, on the farm or in the factory. If there's anybody here who doesn't know what a full day's work is all about, raise your hand. Just a few don't know. You know what others might forget: that the true strength of our country does not lie in the big corporations, it does not lie in big government, but in the sweat and the muscle and the nimble hands and the brains of working men and women. You're the ones that built America, and you're the ones that will continue to build and to rebuild America to meet the challenges of the future.

The working families of this country do not want handouts for the able-bodied. None of us do. That is not the American way. We want opportunities; we want equal opportunities. We want a chance to provide for our families, to bring up our children, and to do what the Declaration of Independence says we have a fight to do—to live in liberty and to pursue happiness for ourselves and for those we love.

These aspirations, which have always burned in the hearts of Americans, are now within our grasp. We can have the future we want. We can make our dreams for this country come true. The choice is ours to make, and part of that choice will be made the first Tuesday in November.

We must uphold our American tradition of self-reliance, and we must lick the energy challenge. We have to use the billions and billions of American dollars we now send overseas for foreign oil to create new energy and new jobs here at home. I need not remind you this is not the first time we've taken on an energy problem in the South. You know that our country undertook a great energy program once before. They called it TVA.

I grew up on a Georgia farm, and I remember what TVA and the rural electrification program meant to people. I was 13 years old when the lights came on in our house. If you're too young to remember, ask your parents about it. Ask them what Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democratic Party and the Tennessee Valley Authority did for this valley. There were a lot who opposed it. The Republicans opposed it. But the TVA and the REA didn't just create energy; it opened up new opportunities of all kinds; it allowed farms to prosper, businesses to prosper; it created jobs where there were no jobs; it gave us a better life.

TVA met the energy challenge of the 1930's, and now we are meeting the energy challenge of the 1980's. The energy program that we've established—after 3 years of struggle—is the biggest enterprise ever undertaken in peacetime America. It's bigger than our total space program and the interstate highway program combined. It's working already.

We're now importing 20 percent less oil from overseas—that's 1 1/2 million barrels every day less than when I took office. And at the same time, we're drilling more oil wells and more gas wells in the United States today than we have in the last 25 years. And we're going to do even better. We're going to run our homes and our cars and our factories on American industry, American energy, American coal, American solar power, American synthetic fuels, American gasohol. And we're going to use American technology and American resources and last, but not least, millions of American workers to do it.

We have finally laid a good energy foundation, and now we can revitalize the entire economy of our Nation. I want to make sure that we replace OPEC oil in international trade with American coal. And we need to modernize our steel industry, retool our automobile industry, and meet and defeat foreign competition for American workers. Furthermore, as all of you know, now and in the years ahead, the most treasured natural possession of any nation on Earth is not the oil of Saudi Arabia, it's the soil of the United States of America.

I'll save time by just telling you that we can use our many blessings that God's given us for an even greater tomorrow, but remind you again, that the choice of the two paths to the future will be made in November. The Democratic Party has always been the party of progress, and Democratic leadership, along with American ingenuity and American dedication, offers the brightest economic future for all the people of the United States.

And the other thing I want to mention to you is even more important, and that's peace—a secure peace based on American strength.

I'm grateful that I can look back on my first term and see 4 years of peace, and that's what we want for the next 4 years is peace. But I'd like to remind you that the peace we enjoy is based on American military strength and American moral strength.

After years of decline under Republicans before I took office, this last 4 years we have steadily rebuilt our military capabilities. I wouldn't be a true southerner if I hadn't done that in the White House, and I promise you that as long as I'm in the White House we'll keep our Nation strong militarily.

And I'd also like to point out to you that America is now the peacemaker of the world and that, too, will continue as long as I'm President, because the role as peacemaker comes right out of our own history and our own heritage.

Let me tell you a brief true story that may bring this home to you so you can remember it. Two years ago this month, I was at Camp David with President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin. We were trying to find a way to bring those two nations together. They had been at war for 30 years, four different times. I wanted them to settle their differences in peace. After several days of hard negotiating, it got so that Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat were not even talking to one another. There was a deadlock. We weren't getting anywhere. So, I said to the two men, "Let's take a day off," and I took them across the border, the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, to Gettysburg. I had been there a little before with a southern historian, Shelby Foote, so I knew pretty well what to expect when we arrived. I wanted to show these two men that we Americans know something about war, and we know about neighbors fighting against neighbors.

The three of us walked through the valleys and hills where more than 40,000 young Americans fell in battle—Cemetery Hill, Seminary Ridge, Little Round Top, Devil's Den. I thought then of the 14th Volunteer Regiment from Clarksville, Tennessee, as they marched toward Gettysburg the second day of July of 1863. There were 400 men in the 14th Tennessee Regiment. As the sun rose 2 days later, on July the 4th, 1863, of the 400 men there were left only 60. And when the Sun set on that terrible day, there were only three men left.

As we looked across the fields, standing on the same place where General Robert E. Lee stood, I thought of General MacArthur's farewell address to the cadets at West Point. General MacArthur said, "The soldier above all people prays for peace, [for] he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds . . . of war."

I remembered that in all our Nation's wars, every war, young men from the South have led the rolls of volunteers and also led the rolls of casualties. We Southerners believe in the nobility of courage on the battlefield, and because we understand the cost of war, we also believe in the nobility of peace.

After that day at Gettysburg we went back to Camp David, and you know the rest. We hammered out a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. We Americans work for peace not just to do a favor to others but because we want our own children and our own grandchildren to live in peace. That's why we must keep America strong, and that's why we must work for arms control, to stop and prevent a nuclear war that might mean the end of ourselves and all we love. And that's why we've opened full diplomatic relationships with the largest nation on Earth, China; and that's why we fought for democracy and for justice in Africa; and that's why we struggle to make our Nation energy independent, so that no nation might be tempted to risk the peace by trying to blackmail the United States of America.

In closing, let me say that as long as I'm President, we'll remain strong and America will continue to work for peace. We'll struggle for a strong and secure and a just society here at home, and as long as I'm President, America will hold high the banner of human rights.

There are those who say we ought not to do it. Some say it's naive for America to stand up for freedom and democracy in other lands. But they are wrong. But don't take my word for it. Ask those who are suffering under tyranny around the world about human rights. Ask them if America should stop fighting and speaking out for American principles, and ask the American people. We'll go on defending human rights for our own country and for people throughout the world.

And I'd like to mention briefly the situation in Poland. Celebrating our own labor holiday today, Americans look with pleasure and with admiration on the workers of Poland. We have been inspired and gratified by the peaceful determination with which they've acted under the most difficult possible circumstances. By their discipline, their tenacity, and their courage, the working men and women of Poland have set an example for all those who cherish freedom and human dignity. They have shown the world not just how to win a victory for labor, but that the hunger for human rights is everywhere. And they've accomplished this by themselves, without any interference from anywhere, and they and the Government of Poland have shown how a society which deals frankly with its problems can strengthen itself in the process. We are pleased at what has happened in Poland, and we wish them Godspeed and a future of prosperity, peace, and freedom.

For us in the last 200 years, even in the last 20 years, many things have changed, but our belief in America has remained the same. We still have our same dreams. We're determined that America shall redeem its destiny as the land of hope, of freedom, and of peace.

A great Southern author, Thomas Wolfe, once wrote these stirring words: "The true discovery of America is before us. The true fulfillment of our spirit, of our people, of our mighty and immortal land, is yet to come. Our America is here, is now, and it beckons us, and this glorious assurance is not only our living hope but our dream to be accomplished."

In the year 1980, America still beckons us toward that hope and that dream, but it will not be easy. We have never had nor expected anything of value to be easy. We must fight for it, and as we choose the path this year to America's future, I ask for your help and support. If we fight [for] our future side-by-side, then together we will be victorious, our Nation will be strong, united, and free, and we will have a better life for all Americans.

God bless you. Stick with me, and we'll win.

Note: The President spoke at 1:26 p.m. at the annual Quad-Cities' Labor Day picnic. He was introduced by O. G. Bradford, president of the Tri-City Central Labor Union.

Prior to the picnic-rally, the President attended a Democratic reception at Mr. C's Restaurant at Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Jimmy Carter, Tuscumbia, Alabama Remarks at a Campaign Rally at Spring Park. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250554

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