Jimmy Carter photo

Williamsburg, Virginia Remarks at a Democratic Fundraising Dinner.

September 24, 1977

In every State, there are a few people who are willing' to sacrifice their time and their financial wealth and their own personal investment for the benefit of their fellow men and women. And I want to let you know how much I appreciate the generous contribution that you are making tonight by being here.

I'm touched to be present, not touched quite as much as some of you have been, perhaps [laughter] but it's an enjoyable and a voluntary tiring on my part, and I know an enjoyable and a voluntary thing on your part.

Virginia is a great State with a history that makes us all proud who know it.
Three hundred and almost forty years ago my own Carter family settled not too far from here, just across the James River from Jamestown in what was then the Isle of Wight County and later became Surry County; later moved to North Carolina, and later, then moved on down to Georgia. And when I was first married, I lived in Norfolk with my new bride, and that's where my first son was born.

As President, I feel an even deeper sense of kinship with Virginia. Georgia has now produced one President; Virginia has produced eight. [Laughter] I have to say that the quality of some of your Presidents has been very, very good, and I hope to measure up to that standard.

But our country is a partnership for us, and State government is also a partnership. Our Nation is, in a way, a child of the States. And of course, county government, city government are children of the State. But the interrelationship has got to be a strong one for our basic system of government, federalism, to continue to exist.

The number of democracies in the world is not as great as it should be. I spent 3 hours yesterday in detailed discussions with Foreign Minister Gromyko about matters that are transcendent in their importance to our own people and our future--to world peace and world progress, to a lessening of tension, a reduction in armaments, an enhancement of human freedom, the protection of human rights. And it was a very real responsibility on me to prepare carefully for that exchange of ideas.

I believe some progress was made in establishing terms for a comprehensive test ban that would prohibit all testing of nuclear explosions in the future by our countries. And I believe that progress was made in limiting strategic nuclear weapons with unbelievable destructive power. We don't yet know what our success might be, but at least we made progress forward.

Virginia is a State that's always prided itself on strength and unchanging principle and a search for candidates for public office who represent the finest aspects of your heritage--an old State, but always vigorous and young in your attitude. You are confident about the future, confident in yourselves, eager to search out common ground on which we can approach problems jointly, as partners.

I'm grateful to come back to Virginia. I was here in this room, as some of you may remember, the night after the third debate that I had with President Ford. And I thanked you then and thank you now for a chance to participate in your lives now and in the future.

Tonight I'm here not to speak on my own behalf but to speak on behalf of you and the citizens of Virginia who have an opportunity, in my opinion, to elect fine men to represent you as Governor in Henry Howell, Lieutenant Governor in Chuck Robb, and Ed Lane as your attorney general.

These men have formed a team. They're different from one another-newcomers to politics, those with long years of experience, those who've served in the legislative branch of Government, those who've served in the executive branch of Government, one who's not served yet but has a bright future ahead of him. And I know that as history evolves in the future, you'll all be proud that you've had a part tonight and, hopefully, with an even greater fervor in the next few weeks to participate in the election of these good men, good men to lead your State.

Virginia also has a commitment and almost a unique heritage, particularly in the South, to nonpartisan approach to the election of public officials. It's been difficult for me in the past to know who was an Independent and who was a Democrat and who was a Republican, and particularly in Virginia. [Laughter] Tonight I hope, and in the next few weeks I hope, that we'll all be Democrats because we have such a fine ticket here.

But this, I think, again, is a symbol of your own independence. I've examined, in preparing for this visit, the campaign platforms of Ed and Chuck and Henry, and I can certainly endorse them without equivocation or doubt. They are eager to be examined. They are eager to debate the issues publicly, whether those issues might be safe ones or controversial. And I think in particular my longtime friend, Henry Howell, has what some people describe as a problem but which I describe as a very fine political attribute, and that is a willingness to express himself openly and publicly and without fear or trepidation and with a maximum of courage on issues that are not safe because those are quite often the issues that are most important to people like yourselves and those who look to you for leadership.

I know that attendance here tonight in a way is a mark of esteem, and I was proud to get what was a very hurried picture with each one of you because I know that you are leaders in your own, in business or the professions, in education, in labor, in protecting the interest of people who depend upon you.

Most of you are not in public office, but you are in public life, and you are public servants whether you are attorneys or teachers or in the business community or operate a railroad--those kinds of things don't separate you from Henry and Ed and Chuck and me in our responsibilities now and in the future.

This is an opportunity for our country this year, I think, to overcome some of the problems of the past, the embarrassing things that have afflicted our people in Vietnam and Watergate and CIA. But there's a burgeoning hope, changing into a quiet confidence, that our country is so strong and our system of government is so well-planned and our leaders are so directly subject to the constant scrutiny and mandatory approval of the people that we can withstand challenge, that we can overcome mistakes that might very well destroy a lesser government or a lesser people.

I've learned a lot about politics in the last 2 years, a lot about my country and your country. And I've learned a lot about economics and a lot about the interrelationship that ought to exist between the different levels of government. Our economic system is strong. And although the monthly figures go up and down slightly, there's a basic stability there that I want to maintain working with strong State leaders like these here with me.

So, I'd like to summarize my own comments by saying that Virginia epitomizes an attitude and a character that is typical of our country. Your heritage is a basis for a finer future for you and our Nation.

You have nominated candidates who represent you well and who are worthy of your support and of my support. And I believe that if they are elected, Virginia will be well-blessed and there will be an enhanced relationship between the Statehouse in Virginia and the White House in Washington that will be of benefit to us all.

As I mentioned this afternoon in Norfolk, a close communication and friendship between a Governor and a President can be a very healthy thing for the people who look to us for leadership. And I'm very grateful that when Henry is in the Governor's office and I'm in the White House, that he has promised that when a problem comes up that affects Virginia, especially in which he and I have a direct personal interest, that he will not keep me waiting long outside the Governor's office if I want to see him. [Laughter]

I'd like to close by saying this: I have to go to another banquet tonight; I'll be meeting with about 3,000 of the black leaders of our country, the annual Black Caucus banquet. And I'll be talking to them about the future of our minority citizens who are represented so well.

But I want to point out to you that this is just a brief visit for me into Virginia. I'm not trying to tell the Virginia people how to vote. I trust your good judgment, and I respect your independence and your eagerness not to be influenced or dominated in an unwarranted way from the White House or from anywhere else.

But in trusting that judgment, I know that you will make the right decision and that the rainbow team will be successful on election night, and then you and I can celebrate together.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:35 p.m. in the Virginia Room at the Colonial Williamsburg Convention Center.

Jimmy Carter, Williamsburg, Virginia Remarks at a Democratic Fundraising Dinner. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242351

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