Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

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Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: November 3, 1980

Springfield, Missouri
Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.
November 3, 1980

Well, as you know, the pollsters were wrong in 1948. They’ve been saying there’s no way I could carry southwest Missouri, but we’re going to show them wrong again in 1980, right? [Applause] There’s no doubt that as Harry Truman said many times, the people make a decision in this Nation, and the people’s strength is the strength that made him such a great leader, admired now through history as one of the greatest Presidents who ever served this country since its original founding.

I want to thank Governor Teasdale and Tom Eagleton for making me feel at home, along with all of you here in Springfield. It’s fitting to wind up my campaign on the final day of the election in the home State of this great man, Harry Truman. Missouri has given our Nation a wealth of great leaders, and Senator Tom Eagleton, as you well know, carries on that proud tradition. I’m proud to be his friend on the same ticket with him. I place a great reliance on his support andalso on his advice and counsel, and I look forward to working with him for you during the next 4 years.

Now, today I come to Springfield for a special reason. In the quiet moment that we have together here, I come to ask you for your support. This has been a long campaign. A lot of people have been confused about what’s at stake. As you well know, down through the ages, since before 1948, there’s a few months before election time Republican candidates for President always pretend to be Democrats. And if you’ve been listening to my Republican opponent, Governor Reagan, you know that he’s tried to wrap himself in the mantle of great Democratic Presidents.

I want to ask you a question, and think about this: Have you ever heard a Republican candidate for President quote a Republican President?
AUDIENCE. No!

THE PRESIDENT. You never have. Some of you may have watched the Republican convention, when Governor Reagan got the nomination. He quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt. Can you imagine Governor Reagan standing there and quoting Herbert Hoover or Richard Nixon? [Laughter] Of course not. And there’s a reason. There’s a reason.

Some of you are as old as I am. You grew up during the Great Depression. You’ve seen many 4-year periods come and go, many campaigns for President come and go. Republicans always run like Democrats. But once they’re in office in the Oval Office, they govern like Republicans, and by the time their 4 years is over, after they have misled the people enough to get elected, they never have done anything worth remembering and they never have said anything worth quoting.

No man who, on four different occasions, has called for the destruction of the social security system, by calling for it to be voluntary, or who in the debate last week said that social security was a bad investment for a young man, has a right to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt. And no man who opposes the minimum wage and called it the most severe contributor to misery and unemployment since anything from the Great Depression has a right to quote Harry Truman. And no person who’s failed to support every single nuclear arms limitation agreement has a right to quote John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And no man who campaigned around this Nation against Medicare and called it socialism has any right to quote Lyndon Baines Johnson.

You can rewrite the lines in the movie industry, and you can rewrite the lines in the history in some businesses. But there’s no way to wipe out 20 years of rightwing Republicanism exemplified by Governor Reagan in just a few months before the election time. But this has always been what the Republicans have tried. Everybody’s recognized it. Back in 1960, this is what John Kennedy had to say about the Republicans. Let me quote him. "They’re even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now, the Republicans might even speak a good word about Harry Truman. But he’ll never say a good word about the Republicans." As you know, that prediction about Harry Truman has come true.

And I’d like to make a prediction to you now. I predict that 20 years from now the Republicans are going to even say a good word about Jimmy Carter’s second term.

I come here to you as a Democrat, a man proud to be a Democrat. I believe in the heritage and the mission of the Democratic Party, the heritage and the mission of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the heritage and the mission of Harry S. Truman, the heritage and the mission of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the heritage and themission of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Think back in your own lives what these men have meant to you.

I grew up on a farm during the Depression years. I was born in 1924. My father had to work for a living. He never had a chance to finish high school. Neither did his father nor anyone in my family ever finish high school before I was able to do so. My mother was a registered nurse. She had two kinds of duties that she had to perform. One was 12 hours a day. She got paid $4. The other was 20 hours a day. She got paid $6 for that—it was a lot of money for her and for a working family during the Depression. I remember that Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats came forward with the idea of a minimum wage, 25 cents an hour. They thought that a grown man or a grown woman trying to care for a family, to buy food, clothing, pay for housing deserved 25 cents an hour. Republicans were against it. They called it socialism, some said communism, for the Government to try to say that a sweatshop was not proper in the free enterprise system.

I remember that older people, when I was young, that didn’t have a rich family went to what we called the po’ folks farm and lived in embarrassment and abject poverty the rest of their lives. Franklin Roosevelt felt, along with Harry Truman, that the older people who had served our country with a great life and dedicated work ought to have some security in their old age. They ought to have some selfrespect, ought to have some human dignity. So, the Democrats put forward the idea of social security. Republicans were against it. They said it was socialism, some said communism, to let the Government interfere in the private right of citizens to be poor when they’re old.

We didn’t have electricity on my farm. We didn’t have running water, till I was 13 or 14 years old. Franklin Roosevelt felt that the farmers deserved an equal break. He put forward the idea of the TVA and the REA. Finally, we got electricity on our farm in 1937. Republicans were against it. They said it was socialism, communism, for the Federal Government to interfere in the right of the private power companies to have a monopoly on the distribution of power.

Later on, in the early 1960’s, Democrats came forward with Medicare. My opponent Governor Reagan got his start in politics campaigning around this country against Medicare. He called it socialized medicine, socialism. Some even said, communism. Republicans were against it. The Democrats put in that guarantee that at least older people could have some rights to decent health care.

Down through the ages, for the last 50 years at least, every great advance has been made for working people, for farmers, for the elderly, for young people to get a better education, from social security to Medicare, from collective bargaining to the minimum wage, every time the Republicans have been against it. They haven’t changed. Not at all. But they tend to mislead the people just before an election, and because they have enormous campaign contributions from the rich, they can dominate the radio and the television, and they can send out a false message which quite often misleads people. And a lot of times the people don’t wake up until the morning after the election and realize that next January there’s going to be another Republican sitting in the Oval Office.

There is no way that Republicans can win an election in this country. There are only about 30 percent of them. What costs the Democrats the election: the Democrats who forget history and who forget how their own lives and the lives of their families, and the lives of people you loveare affected by the outcome of an election. This is a very important thing for us to remember during these last few hours before election time.

Democrats have always believed in a strong defense. We’ve always believed that that strong defense capability should be recognized in order to preserve the peace. For the last 8 years before I became President, Republicans let our defense establishment go down 7 out of 8 of those years—37 percent reduction in budgeted funds for defense. But we have kept our Nation strong and we’ve also kept our Nation as all Americans want it.

In the last 50 years, no president can make the statement that I’m just now going to make to you.’ For the last 4 years, since I have been in office, our Nation has not been at war; our Nation has been at peace.

My background is as a trained military officer. I served 11 years in the Navy. I went to the Naval Academy. I was a submarine officer. And when I got in the Oval Office I was dedicated to restoring to our Nation its military strength. But I’m also a father and I’m a grandfather, and as President I’ll always remember this: The best weapon is one that never has to be fired in battle; the best soldier is one that never has to shed his blood on the field of battle. We’ll keep our Nation strong, but we’ll keep it at peace.

As you know from having observed Harry Truman in office, and other Democratic Presidents, that Presidents have to make decisions in times of trouble and in times of crisis. I’ve not served in the Oval Office a single day that there wasn’t trouble somewhere on Earth, armed conflict, the possibility of war. But I’ve had to make a judgment in each instance about what are our Nation’s interests, what degree of involvement should I order in order to use the tremendous strength of our Nation? Should I try to resolve those difficulties peacefully with strength, diplomatically, politically, or should I try to resolve them by sending American boys into war? That judgment has to be made by a President, with the strength of belief in our Nation’s honor, with an understanding of what our Nation’s desires are, and with a calm assurance and a careful, moderate approach to potential crises.

If a President deals with a crisis properly the chances are that you never know about it. But if a President makes a misjudgement, that crisis can affect your life and affect the life, perhaps, of every human being on Earth. Our greatest commitment, ever since Harry Truman was in office, by Presidents, Democratic and Republican, has been to control nuclear war, prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to radical nations like Libya and Iraq and others, to have a careful, balanced, verifiable control of nuclear arms. It’s the greatest overriding issue of this campaign. The greatest legacy we can leave our children is a nation more peaceful, more dedicated to the pursuit of peace. The election of 1980 is really a choice not just between two candidates or even two parties but a choice between two futures.

Let me talk very briefly in closing about the kind of future that you and I can have. In the next 4 years, together we can build a nation strong and keep it strong, but also keep our Nation at peace. And we can also build peace far beyond the next administration in the years and the decades and the generations ahead, a nation that’s secure, confident of itself, secure in its defense, secure in its energy needs, a nation of new technology, new factories, new tools, new jobs, whole new industries based on a new energy program about which we cannot even dream yet, a nation of new energy sources, where Americans can house themselves and propel themselvesdown the highways, through the skies, over the rails, with energy efficiency, yes, but with energy derived from the farms and the mines of America, a nation that stands for human rights here at home and throughout the world. These goals that I’ve described to you so briefly are not just dreams. They’re the things that we can accomplish.

My background is as a farmer. All the generations of my family since they first came to this country in the late 1600’s have been farmers. And I’m very proud of what we’ve done. I can’t pass by a visit to Missouri without mentioning agriculture.

When I became President I saw the mistakes that had been made under Nixon, Ford, and Earl Butz. I was determined to bring in the Secretary of Agriculture, a dirt farmer, Bob Bergland, who understood, as I did, how farmers needed a new life. I remember when we used to have to sell our crops at harvest time, when the prices were at the bottom. Our crops, our grain, our cotton, and everything else, was bought at that time when the prices were low and the middleman, the bigshot processors, made all the profits. When a Republican President’s elected his Secretary of Agriculture almost invariably is some representative of the food processors, of the middleman. The agriculture farmer gets left behind. We’ve changed that. We’ve built on our farms since I’ve been in office 2.8 billion bushels of storage space. Now the farmers at harvest time can keep their crops, can watch the market, can sell the crops when it’s best for them. This helps the consumer too. It presents [prevents]1 the wild fluctuations up and down in the price of basic grains.

1White House correction.

What’s been the result? In the last 3 1/2 years we’ve had bumper crops. One year we had record crops in five different categories. But we’ve not had the farmers suffer. The prices in 1977 for feed grains were just about double; price for beef, just about double. Gross income in the last 4 years has increased more than ever before in history. Net income for farm families the last 4 years has increased more than it ever has in history. We set a record in 1977 in exports to foreign countries of American farm crops; 1978, we broke that record; 1979, we broke it again. This year we’ve had the biggest increase in history, $8 billion increase over last year. We’ll export $40 billion worth of American farm products to foreign countries. This is the kind of record we’ve had. And as we approach 1981 to write a new farm bill to replace the 4-year bill of 1977, I want to be sure that we have a farmer in the White House, a farmer in the Secretary of Agriculture’s office, and we work with farmers and farm organizations as we did in 1977 to give agriculture a new boost in the future. That’s what we’ve got to do.

And I know Missouri is also a great industrial State now. After 1945, at the end of the Second World War, when Harry Truman was President, the United States rebuilt the industry of Western Europe. We rebuilt the industry of Germany, and I tell you now that we’ve got an energy policy in place it’s time for us to rebuild the industry of the United States of America, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Well, I think I need not pursue any further the difference between our two parties and our vision of the future. Let me remind you once again that the responsibility is in your hands. I know all of you have contributed a lot by coming here this afternoon to meet with me on this last day of the campaign. You’ve done it at a sacrifice, I know. And some ofyou have been actively involved in Democratic Party affairs, maybe for a long time. Maybe some of you have even given a financial contribution to pay for the campaigns of some Democratic candidates. That’s not enough.

Think for a few minutes about what Democrats have meant to you down through the years—Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and others. Think how your lives have been changed and how different it would have been had those great men not ever have served. Think about yourself, your family members, the people that you love, the ones who look to you for leadership, and in this next few days—next few hours—make sure that you do even more than you had anticipated when you came here. There’s no one in the sound of my voice that can’t reach a hundred people between now and tomorrow when the polling places close. Please do the best you can.

You might say, well, one person can’t make a difference, but that’s not true. Remember those headlines you just saw from the Chicago Tribune. Had just a few people throughout this country voted differently, Harry Truman would never have been reelected President and never have done the great things he did in his full second term. Think about 1960 when John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were on the Democratic ticket. If 28,000 people in Texas had changed their vote and a few thousand had voted differently in Illinois, John Kennedy would never have served as President. Lyndon Johnson, likely, would never have served as President. Those stories wound up well. But think about 1968. If a few more Democrats like you and me had done a little extra work the last 24 hours, had realized what it meant to them, we would have had a great President, as you well know: Hubert Humphrey. And the last Republican President to be elected, Richard Nixon, would never have embarrassed our country in the Oval Office.

So, let’s remember these things tomorrow. I appreciate your great support and the welcome that you’ve given me here, but I want to quote a man in closing that never had a chance to serve as President because he was killed. The last day he campaigned in 1968 Robert Kennedy had a vision of what this country ought to be. And in Los Angeles he made this speech the last day he lived. He said to the voters on that day, and I quote him, "I ask you to recognize the hard and difficult road to a better America. The people must decide this election. I ask you to vote for yourselves. For your sake, and for the sake of your children, vote. Vote for yourselves."
Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:16 p.m. at the Springfield Regional Airport.

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