Jimmy Carter photo

Wilmington, Delaware Remarks at a State Democratic Committee Fundraising Reception.

February 20, 1978

Senator Joe Biden and to Jill; Senator Wendell Ford, who's responsible this year for the election and reelection of Democratic Senators all over the country; for our fine new chairman of the Democratic National Party, John White,/tom Texas; Lieutenant Governor McGinnis and Attorney General Weir; Treasurer Carper; and good Democrats:

We've got a lot in common. In almost every instance that I can consider, we are united.

In 1974 Joe Biden came down to Atlanta with his brother Frank to spend the night with me. I was Governor then. I saw a lot in this young man, and I asked him for advice. I told him confidentially I was going to run for President. I asked him for his advice. He said, "Well, I can tell you how you can be elected, even though nobody knows you. You're a Southerner; you haven't had any experience; you don't know very much about national issues, as much as I know myself." [Laughter] "But," he said, "if you'll get my sister to be your national chairman, you'll win." [Laughter]

She had better sense than to take on a hopeless cause, so I had to take second choice. And I chose Joe Biden, and he campaigned for me in 1976 in 30 different States, and Joe Biden, I want to thank you for it.

Joe said we might lose our reputation by demonstrating that we are united, but I'd like to indicate to you a few things on which we are united.

How many of you think that the next United States Senator ought to be and will be Joe Biden? [Applause]

Joe Biden is on the United States Senate Budget Committee. He helped, this past year, get a $6 billion tax reduction for the American people. How many of you think we ought to have a $25 billion tax reduction in 1978? [Applause]

We've got tax laws that ought to be changed and made fair. They have too many loopholes in them, and the working families of our country have not had an adequate voice in Washington or in the Congress or the White House for a long time. But now the Democratic Party, working together on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, want to have a fair and equitable tax system, along with a much lower tax burden. We want to give some tax breaks for middle-income families to let them keep more of their money to put their kids through college, to have a better education system. How many of you agree with that? [Applause]

Joe Biden, in spite of the fact that he has only been in the Senate for 6 years, has been honored as few Senators are by being put on the Foreign Relations Committee. This gives him a much broader scope and responsibility than just representing Delaware. But it can be a source of great pride to you, because Joe Biden has to listen to he confidential reports to the Congress. He believes and I believe that we can have a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. How many of you agree? [Applause]

He specializes in Europe, the home of our closest historical allies, where most of our ancestors came from. We've been trying to strengthen NATO to revive the spirit of people who live in Europe, and for the first time since NATO was formed, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, every single member is now a democracy. I think that's good progress. We're going to make more progress. What do you think about it? [Applause]

We have also a kind of a sense in this country of what's good and what's right. And I think it's fair to say that when I began my campaign in early 1975, when I talked with Joe Biden in the Governor's mansion in 1974, there was a sense of despair and alienation, disappointment, even embarrassment among American people.

We were fighting an unpopular war in Vietnam. We had been embarrassed by a Republican administration with the Watergate scandals. The intelligence community of our Nation, on which we depend for our security to a major degree, had bad revelations about it alleging assassination and murder and illegalities.

And I believe that we have now corrected all those deficiencies, and people can once again be proud of our country, proud of our Government, proud of our Congress, proud of our administration. How many of you agree with that? [Applause]

I won't go down the list of things, but I would like to mention two or three: Joe Biden serves on a special committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee. It's a committee that receives our Nation's utmost secrets, and it has had at its breast these last 2 years the responsibility to correct the defects that existed within the CIA and to be sure that in the future, we had professional civil servants—and we have—who do a superb job—and they have and they do—who respect and preserve the constitutional rights of American citizens to our own privacy, who don't violate American law. And he has had a great responsibility for making sure that these defects in the CIA and intelligence community never reappear.

We are now preparing under the leadership of Joe Biden and just a few others for the first time a charter for the intelligence community. He believes. as I do, in a strong national defense and that the security of our Nation is the first responsibility of a President and the Congress. How many of you agree with Joe Biden about that? [Applause]

In my acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, and in the inaugural speech 13 months ago, I used two words which have not been spoken enough in Washington or throughout our country in the last few years, and those two words were "human rights."

I felt then, and I feel now, that not only must we correct serious mistakes, constantly analyze where we are, constantly improve on the structure of our Government, but that our Nation ought to stand for something, stand for something that doesn't change, stand for something that was here when Delaware became the first State to adopt the Constitution as a basis for freedom and a basis for inspiration.

Our Nation has now rehoisted a banner that gives us legitimate pride, which puts on us a mandate for legitimate humility to make sure that we reexamine what we are, where we stand, the progress we are making, so that we can set an example for other countries.

This past week I greeted the Ambassador from Indonesia. He sat in the Oval Office, and we mentioned briefly human rights, because his country has been embarrassed in recent years. And he said, "Mr. President, I just want to let you know that we are proud that in Indonesia this past month we released from prison 10,000 people who had been incarcerated because of politics."

I believe in basic human rights with all my heart. And as long as I'm in the White House and Joe Biden's in the Senate, we'll always stand for human rights for you.

We've never had a national energy policy. How many of you think we ought to have a national energy policy? [Applause]

Our welfare system is in many ways a mess. How many of you think we need welfare reform? [Applause]

Our Federal bureaucracy is confused, it's overlapping, it's wasteful. And our superb civil servants can't often do as good a job as they hunger to do. How many of you think we ought to reorganize the Federal Government and make it efficient? [Applause]

When I came into office in January of 1977, a little more than a year ago, our unemployment rate was almost 8 percent. This past month it was 6.3 percent. It's on the way down.

The unemployment rate in Delaware has dropped 2 percent—here in your capital city, 2 1/2 percent in the last year. And I believe that if we work together, we can keep the unemployment rate going down. How many of you believe that we ought to? [Applause] In your capital city and here it's gone down 2 1/2 percent. [Laughter]

Well, let me just mention one other thing, and then I'd like to close. We are searching to find the answers for some very difficult questions. We're negotiating every day with the Soviet Union to try to limit nuclear weapons and then to reduce the arsenal of nuclear weapons with an ultimate goal of our country on a very well-balanced, verifiable basis, the elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth. How many of you would like to see that? [Applause]

My background is in nuclear physics, nuclear engineering, and I've seen the possibility in the past of new nations from time to time—

[At this point, a woman in the audience began to faint. After ascertaining that she was being cared for, the President resumed speaking.]

I think a year ago, or 18 months ago, everybody figured that the nuclear genie was out of the bottle, that there was no way to prevent new nations, as India had done, from exploding atomic weapons. But now this past week, the House and the Senate, obviously with Joe Biden's strong support, has passed a bill that will help us very well to permit nuclear power to be used for peaceful purposes, but to prevent any atomic fuel from our country ever to go to a country overseas to make an atomic explosion. We believe in nonproliferation and now we've done something about it.

So, you can see that in a list of 10 or 15 things so far, we haven't found any differences among us.

The Democratic Party is united, and it's united on a basis of principles that seem sometimes to be in conflict, but which aren't. I believe in tough fiscal management. I believe in balanced budgets. I believe in government that's wellorganized. I believe in a day's work for a day's pay. I believe that the best government is the one closest to the people. I don't think the Federal Government ought to intrude in the private affairs of American citizens.

I don't believe we ought to ever be satisfied with achievements, but that we ought to have the courage within our country constantly to assess our own failings and shortcomings, our own errors and mistakes, and correct them openly and willingly and eagerly.

I believe that government ought to have a heart. I believe we ought to be constantly concerned about those who are not as fortunate as we. I think we ought to search back 200 years ago and look into the hearts and minds of the founders of our country and try to understand what they had as a vision for the future and even to improve upon it.

I recognize that our country does have its fault, but I know along with you that we share a deep conviction that in spite of all our faults and all our mistakes and all of our fumblings and sometimes divisions, that you and I still live in the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:20 p.m. at the Padua Academy.

Jimmy Carter, Wilmington, Delaware Remarks at a State Democratic Committee Fundraising Reception. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244495

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