Jimmy Carter photo

Yatesville, Pennsylvania Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting.

October 15, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Bob Casey.

When you have a man like Bob Casey with you, you're way ahead of the game to start with, right? [Cheers] I'm also very glad to be in the district of Congressman Musto, who— [applause] —I can see you know a lot about him already, right? He's a man who gets things done and doesn't waste much time doing it. I noticed, as President, that he was sworn in one day, and the next day he announced a $1.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration. That's the fastest work I've ever seen on Capitol Hill.

I just came from a series of Democratic rallies in Boston, Massachusetts, with Senator Ted Kennedy. And being in Boston at a political with Ted Kennedy is like being, as you know, in Veterans Stadium with Pete Rose. [See APP Note] It's a nice arrangement to have. When you're going into the home stretch of a major contest they're the kind of people that you want to have on your team.

I know a lot of you are thinking perhaps as much or more about baseball as you are about politics. This Presidential campaign is kind of like the national pennant race. It's tight, it's going down to the wire, and if you support me the way you did the Phillies, we're going to pull this one out together. And in this race you can be a player, too—right?—not just a spectator.

Pete Rose and others are heroes in this State. I come from Georgia. If you ask almost anyone in Georgia, "Who is the greatest football player who ever played in this country?" they would say Charlie Trippi. As a matter of fact, he played at the University of Georgia when I was in college. Unfortunately, I was at Georgia Tech. They wiped us out, with his help. And I remember that he went to World War II, interrupted his college education, came back later, continued his college career, went to the Sugar Bowl, helped win a victory, threw a 67-yard pass, which I think is still the Sugar Bowl record.

Those years, during the war, the Second World War, were a time of testing for our country. Since then we have lived under the threat of a nuclear war, almost continually since World War II. Peace is not an accident. It has to be won every day, against all the forces that would gamble with the fate of the world. And that's the reason that I went to a man like Ed Muskie to ask him to be my Secretary of State, to be at my side in this daily battle for peace. I don't know if you know it or not, but Ed Muskie's father lived in Dixon City.


Presidents have a lot of responsibility, but the number one responsibility on the shoulder of any President is the security of our Nation and the continuing peace based on our unsurpassed strength. Our security doesn't depend just on military strength. We will never let another nation be superior to us in military strength, but there are other elements that are important to you and important to me. We must have alternative energy sources so that we are not subservient to or subject to blackmail from the OPEC oil countries. We must have a strong economy. We must rebuild our industrial base.

The spirit that turned the wilderness into the greatest industrial nation on Earth is still at work today building a new future for America.

In the past few weeks I've seen this spirit at work—a modern textile mill, like some of those you have around here; a modern steelmill, like some of those in Pennsylvania; a more productive and modern coal mine, like some of those in Pennsylvania; a fine grain terminal now shipping more American agricultural products overseas than ever before in history.

I've seen 1981 cars coming off the assembly line—the best built, best designed, safest, and most durable cars in the world. And I recommend that when you get ready to trade cars and go to the local dealers, give those American cars a chance.

Everywhere I go I see what American workers can do if American workers are given modem tools and modern plants. As has always been the case in this democracy, the future of America is in the strong hands of American workers like you in Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton. It's a good future. It's a future in which young people can make plans and older people can retire without fear. It's a future in which America will always remain strong, not only politically, militarily, and economically, but morally and ethically as well.

The election this year is extremely important to working people. On one side, we have the Republican Party. I remember growing up during the Depression years in Georgia. The Democrats proposed a minimum wage—25 cents an hour. The Republicans were against it. My first job was as a high school graduate. By then the Democrats, over Republican opposition, had raised the minimum wage to 40 cents. I remember when Franklin Roosevelt put forward the idea of social security. The Republicans were against it; the Democrats passed it.

Times haven't changed. This time we have a Republican candidate running against me who said, this year, and I quote him, "The minimum wage has caused more misery and unemployment than anything since the Great Depression."

We Democrats, since I've been in office, have enacted the biggest increases in the minimum wage in history, because we believe that working people deserve decent pay for a day's hard work. That's always been the case with the Democratic Party.

In this particular metropolitan area--Pittston, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre—since I've been in office, we've got 28,000 more people at work than the day I was inaugurated, but we still have people who are unemployed.

I know from experience how a family feels when the mother or father, the breadwinner, are temporarily out of work. On one side, you've got a Republican candidate running against me who calls recipients of unemployment compensation, and I quote, "freeloaders wanting a prepaid vacation plan." We Democrats—Fritz Mondale, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, most of you—have fought to extend unemployment benefits for workers in hard-hit industries.

On one side, you've got a Republican candidate who was a major spokesman-he traveled around the country; his first introduction to politics—in a nationwide campaign against Medicare, and who now opposes national health insurance. The Republican candidate said many times that he was for making social security voluntary. This would be the end of a sound social security system. It would destroy it.

We need a President whose views on the basic integrity of the social security system are not subject to change.

We Democrats averted the collapse that faced social security 4 years ago, when I was campaigning for President in Pennsylvania after 8 years of Republican rule in the Oval Office. We're for strengthening social security and Medicare and we're for national health insurance. I'm a Democrat in the same tradition as Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. We do not believe in taxing benefits from social security. We will not take away the social security beneficiary's right to have payments increase to compensate for the cost of living with inflation.

We have always understood, as Democrats, that the working people of America have built and made this Nation great. They knew it when the labor movement itself started right in the coal mines of Pennsylvania that it was not a movement of freeloaders, but of free Americans building a better life for themselves and for us, their children. They knew that if American workers have a chance with tools and modern equipment, if American workers could continue to get a fair deal, they could maintain the strength and freedom of this country and build a better world for people here and everywhere.

And finally let me say that we Democrats have pulled this country out of the recession that we faced in 1976. We've created more jobs in the last 3 1/2 years, in spite of very serious economic problems, on a nationwide basis than ever before in any President's term in history. We still have a long way to go. If we stick together, we can do it.

The revitalization program that I have proposed will create in the next 2 years a million additional new jobs in growing and competitive industries. We'll modernize our basic industries like coal, steel, automobiles, encourage high technology industry to come into areas like yours to use the hard coal, the anthracite coal that you have to make clean-burning and easily transportable synthetic gas, synthetic oil. We'll make use of these vast coal resources for a new life for anthracite coal. I want to see OPEC oil replaced in the world energy markets with Pennsylvania coal.

We've got a long way to go. We've faced a lot of problems in the past. We'll face these that we have today and have a better life for all Americans.

And now, I want to have your questions.



Q. Mr. President, my name is Dorothy Charge. What do you propose to do with our coal industry in Pennsylvania?

THE PRESIDENT. Fine. Let me point out to you that I've only been in office for 3 1/2 years, but during that time we've made a lot of progress. We've finally got on the law books a new energy policy. We are making excellent progress. This year we will produce more coal in the United States than any other year in history. We also have a bright prospect for the future, because the kinds of coal in the past-some in some parts of the Nation that have had very high sulfur; coal in your part of the Nation which has low sulfur, clean burning, high BTUs, difficult to mine, expensive to mine—will now be a national treasure that we can use. And what's going to happen is that we'll take the coal mining industry with the modern, safe, productive, and convenient coal mines—much different from what they were 50 years ago or 30 years ago—combine high technology with them, create jobs that require the highest degree and level of training and pay, and let this be, as I say, a treasure of benefit to our whole country.

Another point is that we are increasing our coal exports. We can export now every bit of coal that we can transport to our sea areas and load on ships. The orders are there, and we are now beginning to put in loading facilities and improve the railroads and the highways to get that coal to port. There's no doubt in my mind that in the next 15 years, we can triple the amount of coal we are producing. This year we will produce 850 million tons of coal in this country. In the past, we have never had as much as 17 million tons of coal produced in a week. So far this year, 15 weeks we have produced over 17 million tons of coal. That's the kind of production we've got already, and we're going to triple it in the next 15 years.

Q. Hooray for Carter.


Q. Mr. Carter?



Q. President Carter, my name is Ed Farrell. I'm a truck driver. Now, I know that you are really trying to bring the coal industry back into the country and especially northeastern Pennsylvania, and I know that deregulation of trucking has hurt a lot of truck drivers in this valley, but that's hearsay or forgotten about as far as a lot of things are gone. All I want to know is, sir, if you are reelected, will the middle class continue bearing the burdens as far as the taxes are concerned?

THE PRESIDENT. There is no doubt in my mind that next year, Ed, we will have substantial reductions in income taxes in this country. About 50 percent of the benefits of that income tax reduction will go to modernize American factories, tools, to create those 1 million jobs that I've described to you. The other half of that income tax reduction will do two things: one is to reduce or to match the amount that social security benefits would have increased, which will be anti-inflationary in nature, and another element that I want to make sure we correct is one tax provision that has in the past served to destroy American families. Now if a man and wife live together and both work they pay much higher income taxes than a man and woman who live together who are not married, both of whom work. And I want to remove that marriage penalty, which will do two things—save people money and hold the family together.

I might point out since this is a political year, that my opponent has proposed a so-called Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal-a massive reduction in taxes, primarily for the rich.

For instance, a family that makes $200,000 a year would have 35 times as much tax benefit as a family that made $20,000 a year. That's the kind of proposal that he has put forward, called Reagan-Kemp-Roth. It would be highly inflationary in nature. It would lead to massive Federal deficits and the elimination of a major part of the Federal Government programs that go to serve people about whom you are deeply concerned, I know.

So, a balanced tax reduction not only next year, but as a steady predictable thing in the future, would remove a major part of that unwarranted burden on the middle-income working families and, at the same time, be anti-inflationary in nature and, at the same time, create new American jobs with modern tools and modern plants to keep them at work and keep them productive. That's what I want. I believe that would suit you, too.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Ed.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Harold Spike Collins. I have a two-part question for you. If reelected, will your administration, as it has in the past, try to reduce the COLA allowance for retired Federal employees from twice a year to once a year and only allow 75 percent of it? And the second part of my question is, if reelected, will you still continue, as in the past, to try to have the Federal employees under the social security system? I think it's going to be known as universal coverage.

THE PRESIDENT. Harold, in my judgment, the COLA should apply on an annual basis, yes. The Congress has decided, for the time being, not to make a change. As far as the retirement benefits or system for Federal employees, I am not in favor of doing away with the retirement program for Federal employees and forcing those employees to abandon what they've got and to move into the social security system.

I might point out, however, that those of you who are interested in the social security system should be deeply concerned about the four different times when my Republican opponent has called for the voluntary social security system. That's completely different. I'm going to keep the social security system intact, keep it sound, keep it out of bankruptcy, make sure that the payments are not taxed, make sure that the social security payments are increased when inflation goes up, and also make sure we don't change the age requirements to take away benefits that people have worked all their lives to assure. But at the same time, I'm going to protect the public employee.


Q. President Carter, I am very concerned about the present war between Iraq and Iran and how it affects our hostages. My question to you is, when was the last time you have had positive confirmation that all of the hostages are still alive and well?

THE PRESIDENT. What's your name?

Q. Joe Wallison.

THE PRESIDENT. Joe, for almost a year now, I don't believe an hour has gone by on any day that I've spent, during the hours that I was awake, that I didn't think about or even say a prayer for those hostages. We have been through several phases of trying to get the hostages released, as you know—working directly with the Iranian officials; working through intermediaries from other countries sending secret missions to Iran, meeting Iranian officials; either directly or through surrogates in other countries; working through the United Nations; making public statements; working with the Iranian officials—the President and the Foreign Minister both of whom agreed to release the hostages back in May.

So far as we know, the best intelligence information we have from various sources, which I can't describe to you, the hostages are all alive and they're all safe. We have a way of communicating directly on occasion with three of the hostages who are being held in the foreign ministry or the department of state building in Tehran. I don't believe that the Iran-Iraq war has put the hostages' lives in danger.

I have maintained since they were first taken two basic principles that are not incompatible one with another: first, to protect the integrity and the principles and the interests of my Nation, and secondly, not to do anything as a President that would endanger the lives or the safety of the hostages or their chance to come back to freedom at the earliest possible moment.

We believe that there ought to be an end to the hostilities between Iran and Iraq and an immediate commencement of negotiations to settle the disputed boundaries between them. This reflects the long-standing policy of our country that all territorial disputes should be settled peacefully and not by aggression. The United States remains committed to the proposition that the national security and integrity of Iran is in the interest of national stability.

We oppose any effort to dismember Iran, to cut away part of it and separate it from the rest of Iran. I hope and pray that now that Iran finally has elected officials-they've got a President now; they've got a Prime Minister now; they've got a parliament elected called a Majles; and they've got a speaker of that parliament elected—since those officials are now in office, there may be a chance for us to make some progress—I can't predict anything because they're so unpredictable-toward having someone speak for the Government of Iran and realize that they have been extremely ill-advised in keeping those hostages in their country.

So, we're doing everything we can to end the war. I don't think it's affecting the lives and safety of the hostages. We're making every effort to get those hostages home safe, and I don't believe that we-well, I can say that all of the information that we have indicates that the hostages are indeed alive and safe.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Ann Murphy. I'm a wife, mother, and owner of a small business. I would like to welcome you to the beautiful Pocono Northeast, and I would like to invite you to go fishing with the Murphy family at your convenience. My question, Mr. President, is: The poor women of this State have lost their freedom of choice. A woman with money has a free choice to end a pregnancy; however, a woman on welfare has no freedom to decide. What will you do to help all women have a freedom of choice?

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Ann. Ann, I hope you don't withdraw your invitation to go fishing.

Q. Oh, no, no. You're invited.

THE PRESIDENT. Ann, I am not in favor of abortions, and as President I have done everything I could to minimize the use of abortions in this country. When I was inaugurated I took an oath to uphold the laws of this country and the Constitution of our country, so when the Supreme Court makes a ruling concerning abortion or concerning anything, it's my duty, regardless of my personal beliefs, to carry out the laws of this land.

You know what the Supreme Court ruling is on abortion. I have taken a firm position against the use of Federal funds to pay for abortions, because people feel so deeply and emotionally about this subject, on both sides. But it doesn't seem right to me for the Federal Government to collect taxes from those who have deep religious feelings against abortion and use that same tax money to finance abortions.

I don't want to mislead the rest of the audience. I don't see the need for a constitutional amendment on the subject. I believe that what the Supreme Court has ruled is adequate for our country.

So, my personal beliefs are deeply against the use of abortions. I will oppose the use of Federal funds to finance abortions. But, as President, I have to uphold the law the way the Congress passes it and the way the Supreme Court interprets our Constitution.

Thank you.


Q. Hello, Mr. President. How are you?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm fine, great.

Q. Good. My name is Janet Pupa. There is such a lack of industry in our area that the people are moving away in order to provide for their families. Do you have any plans to bring any industry in our area when you return to the White House for the next 4 years?

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Janet. One of the things that has been accomplished in this country in the last 3 1/2 years is to add a net increase of 8 1/2 million new jobs in this Nation, above and beyond what we had the day I was inaugurated. I looked at the statistics this morning and 28,000 of those jobs are in this area here, around Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton. The unemployment rate now in this area compared to when I was inaugurated has dropped about 19 percent. This has been in spite of a recession that was brought on by OPEC more than doubling the price of oil in just 12 months. As a matter of fact, in 1979 the price of oil increased more in that 1 year than oil prices had increased since oil was first discovered in Pennsylvania in the 1800's. This shock that went throughout the world has prevented adequate growth.

You might be interested in knowing that 670,000 new jobs have been created in this Nation in just the last 3 months. Housing starts have now been up for 3 consecutive months. For 6 straight weeks, we have added back 4,000 automobile workers per week. The first sales of the 1981 American cars have been extraordinarily good. All of the new, modern cars that are being produced have long waiting lists for them. The index of leading economic indicators, which is kind of a conglomerate measure of how the economy's doing, has increased more in the last 3 months than it has in the last 31 years.

So, the signs are good that the economy is improving. I can't predict for sure what's going to happen in the future. This particular part of the Nation is blessed, because you have a high level of skilled employees, you've got a broad diversity now, much better than you had 50 or 60 years ago, of different kinds of jobs that you can hold. You've got a textile industry that's benefiting from our new trade policy. In the last 2 years, we have increased American exports of textile goods by $2 billion and, at the same time, we have reduced textile imports. This is something we've not done before, to sell more of our textile goods overseas and to buy less from foreign countries.

The last thing is you've got this tremendous treasure in Pennsylvania of ore, coal, steel, and other things that God has given us. And with the new technology now available to take your coal, for instance, and to make clean-burning fuel out of it and to use it directly with the modern kinds of techniques that are much different from the ones that your parents knew or my parents knew, you can have safe mining, productive mining, high skills involved in the technology and a much brighter future.

So, I believe that in every way this particular area of our country will be blessed now and in the future, because of those reasons. I see a good next 4 years for you.

Q. Thank you very much.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Angelo Cefalo. I'm a retired international labor leader and traveled the length and breadth of this country and foreign countries, also. You are now sitting in an area which represents the most-producing, anthracite coal field in the world, including China and Wales.


Q. During our peak season, we employed 180,000 miners and allied workers. We mined approximately 60 million tons of coal. Your program is an excellent program, but I'm wondering about the techniques that are necessary to dewater the mines and to go into areas which are more difficult now than when the coal was virgin; whether the Government, with your assistance after January 20th, 1981, is going to be able to revitalize those who are motivated to give life to the coal industry. Are we in a position to get the Congress to appropriate the money that is required to do this?

THE PRESIDENT. That's a good question, and I think I can answer it. Angelo, to a major degree, the Congress has already appropriated the money through what is known as the windfall profits tax. This is a tax on the unearned profits of the oil companies. In the next 10 years, just for synthetic fuels alone, it will amount to $88 billion. This program is bigger than the space program that put a man on the Moon, the Marshall plan that rebuilt Europe, and the entire interstate highway system in this country put together.

Of that $88 billion, 75 percent of it will go for getting synthetic fuels out of coal. There is no doubt that in addition to that, we'll have tremendous investments in research and development—not only how to get fuels out of coal, gas and clean-burning liquids, but also how to use the anthracite coal as it comes out of the mine with new techniques of combustion. In addition, the new mining methods will be more convenient, more profitable, and also safer.

The last point is that the rest of the world is hungry for American coal to be used in Belgium, France, Japan, China, and other places. The bottleneck now is that we have jumped into this program so quickly, and OPEC oil prices have gone up so rapidly, that we can't load and ship and put on ships for transport the coal fast enough. Now, in Hampton Roads, Virginia—Norfolk—the average ship from, say, Belgium or France has to wait 20 to 25 days after it arrives in Norfolk before it can get a load of coal.

It's just been announced this week, that in that area, tremendous improvements will be made for the storage of coal where it can be stockpiled, selected, blended to match the ship order when it comes in and to load that ship rapidly and to unload the hopper cars as they come from the mines. All of those things put together mean that the kind of mining that created a lot of problems around here with safety and also with problems with lungs would be vastly improved.

The markets are there, and they'll be steady markets. These will not be markets that come and go every year; they'll be permanent markets. A lot of these foreign nations are willing to sign contracts for 10 and 20 years in the future.

This month, in about a week, at the White House, we're going to have another conference on coal. We'll have there the railroad owners and operators, the shipping owners and operators, representatives of all the ports in our Nation on the east and west coasts, the foreign buyers, the coal mine owners and representatives of the miners themselves and, of course, the agencies of the Federal Government involved in coal production, use, and sale, just to make sure that we've got every obstacle ironed out and that those bottlenecks that I described to you, like port facilities, are eliminated very soon.

One last point. The miners are extremely important and will continue to be the root of this tremendous treasure being used properly. But the advanced technology will require scientists, engineers, plant operators, far beyond what has been required in the past just to get the coal out of the mines and put it on a hopper car. This will mean that those industries to make the final products will to a major degree be concentrated in this area. I think it's a wonderful opportunity. We are not overlooking any chance to take advantage of it.

Q. Thank you and come on back after your election.

THE PRESIDENT. I look forward to it.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Avi Leiter. In view that you, Mr. President, are Baptist, do you agree with the head of the churches who said that God does not listen to Jewish prayers? I am a religious boy and I pray three times a day for the welfare of the Americans and Jewish people. Do you think that God does not listen to my prayers?

THE PRESIDENT. Avi—how do you pronounce your first name?

Q. Ahvee.

THE PRESIDENT. I am a deeply religious person, too. There is no doubt in my mind that God listens to your prayers, just like he does mine. Also, let me say this: It's a mistake for our country to forget about the principle of separation of church and state. This is a very emotional election year, and we have seen and heard statements made this year that cause me deep concern.

When I went to Camp David with Prime Minister Begin, a Jew, and with President Sadat, a Muslim Arab, the first day there didn't seem to be a chance in the world that we would be successful. The first thing we decided to do was to pray to God, and not only that, but to issue a statement to everyone in the world who would, to join us in praying to God that we could have success there and find peace for Israel and for her neighbors. That's what we did the first day.

We came out of Camp David, 13 days later, with a peace agreement. Do you remember that? I think that's proof. I think that's proof that God heard all our prayers, right? There's no question in my mind about it.

Thank you.



Q. Mr. President, welcome to northeastern Pennsylvania. My name is Vincent Peperno. I'm a high school teacher from Old Forge. I think we need a little break in the routine, so I'll ask a question and I hope it isn't too funny. After you have been reelected in November, will you invite me and my family to the White House? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. What's your name?

Q. My students won't forget it. Vincent Peperno.

THE PRESIDENT. IS there anybody here that knows Vincent Peperno? What kind of fellow is he? [Laughter]

AUDIENCE MEMBER [Inaudible]—Mr. President, he's my uncle. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Is there anybody here that knows Vincent that's not kin to him?


THE PRESIDENT. Yes, ma'am, what kind of fellow is he?


THE PRESIDENT. That's all right so far. [Laughter] Would you invite him to your house?


THE PRESIDENT. Vincent, I'll invite you to my house.


Q. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Now, in a more serious vein, Mr. President, as a high school American Government teacher, my senior students are quite curious as to how you visualize the eighties in relation to the economy and the draft, as these are the things that seem to affect them? Would you please comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I will. I've already spelled out for you all and I need not repeat it, to save time, what I envision about job opportunities in this area, right? You think I've done okay on that?

Q. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, secondly, let me say about the registration for the draft, sometimes our Nation, a great nation, a strong nation, a peaceful nation, has threats against it from the Soviet Union or others who violate the peace. When the Soviets moved into Afghanistan I had a choice to make, as President, about how to meet that threat to peace: military action, political action, or economic action. I decided on political and economic.

So, we imposed some kind of restraints on trade with the Soviet Union that I thought would teach them a lesson and not hurt our own people. Secondly, we went to the United Nations, and 104 other countries joined with us in condemning the Soviet invasion. Also, when I checked on the registration for the draft question it became obvious to me that it would save us about 90 or 100 days, if our Nation should ever be directly threatened, to have young men already registered for the draft.

It was not a popular thing to do, as you well know. But the Congress passed the law and we put it into effect. We expected a lot of opposition to the draft, to the registration, from all over the country. But in the sign-up period, 93 percent of all of our young men 18 and 19 signed up on time, and now thousands are signing up every week to come into compliance with the law.

There is not going to be a draft. In my judgment, the registration will help us prevent having to go away from a voluntary military. My preference is to have the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, staffed with volunteers. We are increasing the privileges and the pay scale and the re-enlistment bonuses for them, to make sure we have a sound personnel base.

I hope that many of you young men and women who are looking for an excellent career or a patriotic thing to do will take advantage of this opportunity and volunteer to serve in the military. I did it. I served 11 years in the Navy. I went to Annapolis and I was in the submarine force. It didn't hurt my political career, as you can see, and I think it wouldn't hurt your political career.

But we have to have a strong nation, resolved, united, willing to defend ourselves if necessary. So, the registration is not going to lead to a draft.

Two more things very quickly. Fifteen percent of those young people, Vincent, who signed up for the registration, said they would like to have additional information about a career in the military. So I think it's going to help our recruitment of volunteers.

I don't have any apology to make for a strong defense. When I was inaugurated President, for 7 out of the last 8 years when the Republicans were in the White House, our defense budget went down and we were getting vulnerable and inferior, perhaps, approaching that point. Since I've been in the White House, every year we've had a steady, predictable, orderly, well-advised increase in commitment to a strong national defense, above and beyond inflation.

The last point: We've got to stay strong militarily. It's not a reflection on us to have excellent weapons and a strong military force. The best weapon is one that's never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one that never has to lay his life down or shed his blood on the field of battle.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.


Q. Hi, President.

THE PRESIDENT. Give your name; go right ahead.

Q. Okay. My name is Valencia Wilks. I'm from College Misericordia. College Misericordia sent me here with two questions to ask you. What do you propose to do about the pollution in our environment and will you increase medical aid in the medical aid area?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We are constantly trying to improve medical care in our country, with strong and good Medicare, with extended care for elderly citizens in particular, working for a national health insurance program to be implemented nationwide in my second term in office, and also, of course, to protect the prices that are charged to patients and others who receive medical care, with hospital cost containment.

The emphasis on the new health program will be to prevent illnesses, to concentrate on out-patient care rather than a patient going and staying in the hospital for a long time, and to hold down the costs and charges made against them.

As far as pollution is concerned, you probably noticed lately what my Republican opponent has said. I noticed that when we came into the airport, the environment was clear, the air was fresh to breathe. I guess that the trees and the volcanoes took the day off around here, because he thinks that's where all the pollution comes from. I noticed the other night right after he said that, his plane couldn't land in Los Angeles because the smog was too thick to find the airport. [Laughter]

But we have predicated all of our improvements-and I'm glad you brought this up, because I hadn't thought about it earlier. This is a kind of a halfway coal audience. You're interested in the future of coal. The worst thing that you could do in a coal producing region is to call for a lowering of air pollution standards. If the coal producers ever said, "You've got to have polluted air in order to burn our product," the Nation would turn against it, and you'd have the same fear built up against coal that resulted at Three Mile Island against nuclear power.

Don't let anybody ever mislead you. Every advance that I have outlined to you about the future of coal is based upon the present air pollution standards being kept. We're trying to shift, now, more than 100 electric powerplants away from oil and gas, to coal. But we're doing it maintaining the air pollution standards. You don't have to have dirty air in the United States to use coal. This is a very important point for all those interested in coal production to remember.

So, we'll maintain the quality of life in this country, better health care, a better environment, and low pollution.

One of the nicest things in my life is the all-too-infrequent times when I can come to Pennsylvania and go trout fishing in some of your beautiful streams. And it would break my heart to know that those streams, 15 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now would be dead streams, with no fish there and no beauty there, because we lowered the standards of quality of our environment.

You've got precious treasures in this State in addition to deposits of minerals that must be preserved, and I hope you'll join in with me in keeping Pennsylvania not only prosperous, but a good place to live.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Ann Marie Conroy, and I work for the Pennsylvania Welfare Department. Since this is a neighborly session, if Vincent is going to Washington to the White House, maybe you could invite his neighbors, too. I'd like to go.

Recently, I was overseas and I was very upset with the treatment of our American dollar and the American people in general. I'd like to know what you as President and we as Americans can do to improve our image abroad?

THE PRESIDENT. All right, let me try to respond to that. The dollar has been very strong, stable, and when the international financiers and bankers decide which currency they want to use as a foundation for the future security of their own banks and other institutions, they turn three times out of four to the American dollar.

The OPEC oil nations can sell their oil anywhere in the world they want to. It's a product that people avidly want. They've got a choice of getting paid in any kind of currency they choose--Deutsch marks from Germany, pounds from Great Britain, francs from France, yen from Japan. You know what they choose—United States dollars. The reason for that is that our country is looked upon in the rest of the world as being the most economically sound of all. We've not only got intelligent, well-educated people; we've always been on the cutting edge of progress. Whenever new ideas come along or technological developments, chances are they originated in the United States.

This morning in the paper I noticed five more Nobel Prize winners. If I'm not mistaken, four of them were Americans. Last year, I think almost all of them were Americans.

We've also got the blessings, which sometimes we forget, of productive land. Saudi Arabian oil is a good resource for them, but American soil is much more valuable now and in the future. And the bankers and industrialists and financiers in Switzerland and everywhere else know that a thousand years from now America is still going to be the breadbasket of the world and that we're going to be using our land in an ever more efficient way to produce food for our own selves and to sell throughout the world.

Energy. We tend to think that we have been somehow deprived and the OPEC Arab countries have been blessed. All of the Arab OPEC nations combined have about 6 percent of the world's energy reserves. The United States by itself has got 24 percent, and ours is not just oil and gas, but it's shale oil. We've got more oil in our shale than three Saudi Arabias. We've got more oil in coal than we do in shale. So our future, our present, is unbelievably attractive compared to other nations.

I've observed very closely the development of new countries. There's not a single nation on Earth that's now in the embryonic stage of development that wants its government to be like the Government of the Soviet Union. None. But a lot of nations are now turning to us as examples of the kind of government they want. Nigeria, the largest black nation in the world has just put in a democratic government, using our Constitution as a basis. Rhodesia, democracy; Ecuador, democracy; other countries around the world are moving toward democracy. So, in politics, in government, economically, we are a nation that is admired.

One other point: Patents are a very valuable commodity. Our country gets paid from overseas every year $5 1/2 billion for other people to use the patents on new ideas generated in this country. The Japanese, the Germans, and everybody else have to buy the patents from us, and every year it's growing, the amount of money we earn from new patents.

The last thing is that you talk about productivity—how much can a worker produce in a day or a week? The most productive workers on Earth—where do you think they live? The United States, right? So no matter how you measure it—education, minerals, agriculture, type of government, freedom, morality, human rights, equality, new ideas, it belongs to us. And that, all put together, is what really determines the long-range value of the American dollar. It's strong now. It's the favorite currency on Earth, and my belief is, it will stay that way.

Q. Thank you very much.


Q. Welcome, Mr. President. My name is Barbara Regan. That's a name you'll remember. [Laughter] You didn't have to write it down.

THE. PRESIDENT. I heard both names. [Laughter]

Q. I'm a member of the Back Mountain Jaycee-ettes. Now, the national Jaycee-ettes have designated this week as National Freedom Week, U.S.A. And what we've been doing is—well, our particular chapter has been urging the people in our beautiful Back Mountain area to wear a yellow ribbon, display a ribbon on their tree, fly their flag, and do something in support of the hostages.

We sent a letter back, presenting you with a ribbon from our club. We gave it to one of your staff members, but I guess you didn't get it yet. Do you want to borrow mine? What do you think we could do, besides this, in support, to let them know that we're there?

THE PRESIDENT. Okay. The access to 49 of our hostages is very irregular. They are permitted to receive some letters from back home and, on a few occasions, they have been permitted to make telephone calls. And also on a few occasions, the Iranians have let ministers or priests go into the compound to talk to them on special occasions.

Three of the hostages—Bruce Laingen, who was the head of the entire Embassy staff, and two others are in the state department or the foreign ministry of Tehran, and they do let diplomats from the Swiss Embassy or the Spanish Embassy or others go in and talk to them on occasion. They take them news, and they are from the outside world, and they also take them books and some magazines that have every now and then been censored.

The Iranians, so far as I know, have not mistreated in a physical abuse or endangered the lives of those hostages. As you know, not too long ago, one of the hostages got sick, and they immediately arranged for him to be returned to this country—a young man from Maine.

I think everything we can do in the way of prayer, in the way of wearing yellow ribbons—and I've got one at home that I wear on occasion, too—in the means of letting American people know that our hostages are still there, adding our support to the United Nations' effort and to efforts made through the Swiss and the Belgians and others to reach the Iranian officials, to try to make sure this war doesn't spread to other countries—those are the kind of things all of us can do together.

Every day we have diplomatic efforts being made, directed by me, to try to reach the people in Iran who can ultimately make a decision. Even since the war began with Iraq, when Iran's security is directly threatened by Iraqi invading forces, their Majles or their parliament has still been debating how and under what circumstances to release the hostages. They've appointed, now, a committee in the parliament or congress to work out some way they could present back to the government for the hostages' release.

I can't predict to you any progress in the foreseeable future, although I pray that they'll be released every day. But I think the more we can do here to remind Americans of the hostages' plight, innocent people, the more chance that message has got to get through to them. If they don't know it, their parents know it and their husbands and wives know it and their children know it.

I would hate for those hostage families ever to believe that we didn't love them and care for them. Recently, I have signed a bill, this week I've signed a bill that the Congress passed, excluding those hostages from having to pay income taxes and giving them other special privileges for their families and, when they return, educational benefits for their children. So, I think the more we do the better off the hostage families are, and that word leaks back to the hostages, I feel sure.

It also lets other nations know that we've not forgotten them. I want the Germans and the British and the French and the Algerians and everyone else to know that we want those hostages back, so that every time a diplomat from one of those countries goes to Iran, he'll say, "You ought to let those hostages go." I think the cumulative effect of that might make the difference. And I'm very grateful to you and the Jaycee-ettes for what you are doing. I'll be glad to take your ribbon when I leave.

Let me say this in closing. I don't have time for another question; I'm really sorry. You can send it to me, and I'll answer it for you. But I'm out of time, and I promised to take just an hour. Let me say this in closing. I've had a broad range of subjects, as you know. One of the nicest things about the campaign for a President is a chance to get out among people like you and to understand your concerns and your questions and to try to respond to them.

I want to leave this message with you: I've been President now for 3 1/2 years. I campaigned a long time before I was elected. I've studied history, as well. We dwell on, in the newspaper, radio, and television, the differences between us, the temporary inconveniences, the things that concern us, and we have a tendency to forget who we are and what we've got in this country.

If you compare our present problems with what we've experienced in the past, in the times way back in the Civil War, later with World War I, World War II, the Great Depression; the social changes that took our country apart when we gave black people full equality of rights in this country; the Vietnam war that tore our country apart again; Watergate, that was a terrible embarrassment to all Americans because of what happened in the Oval Office, itself; the CIA revelations—those kinds of things have been much more serious problems than anything we face now.

There's no doubt in my mind that our Nation can face these problems successfully. In the past, we have always, if our Nation was unified, been able to answer any question, to solve any problem, to overcome any obstacle. That's a part of the American character. We still have a pioneering spirit, and we still have hearts filled with compassion. We still have a government directly responsible to you. And the next 3 weeks is going to be your opportunity to shape the kind of future that you want for yourself and your family and people that you love—for the next 4 years, perhaps the rest of this century.

And I hope that you won't overlook the chance that you have to shape America's future. I hope you'll be a partner with me to make sure that the greatest nation on Earth, in future years, will be even greater. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3: 34 p.m. in the Pittston Area Senior High School gymnasium. He was introduced by Robert Casey, former Pennsylvania State auditor general.

APP Note: The sentence beginning "And being in Boston at a political with Ted Kennedy. . . " is reproduced here exactly as it was published in the original. APP policy is to reproduce documents as originally published, even when they include errors.

Jimmy Carter, Yatesville, Pennsylvania Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251165

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