Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

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Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: November 1, 1980

Brownsville, Texas
Remarks at a Rally With Area Residents.
November 1, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Mayor Hernandez, Congressman Kika de la Garza, Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, my many friends here in Brownsville:

It’s a great honor to be with you. I’m happy to be here, because in the next few days you will make a decision that will affect the future of your own lives, the future of your families, and the future of this great Nation.

I’m happy to be the first President who has ever visited Brownsville. Thank you for your great welcome.

As you know, Zachary Taylor was here before, but that doesn’t count because he came as a general. [Laughter] And I understand he built these buildings, some of them, these historic buildings, as an army post. But we’ve come a long way since then, and now this is a center of great education for some of the finest people in the United States. This is a college where a great man, the late Dr. Arnulfo Oliveria was president. Dr. Oliveria will be sorely missed. And I’m very grateful to know that his wife Eloisa is here with us this morning. We’re glad to have you here.

As you know, this great man’s life was dedicated to better education for the people that he loved. For decades he worked for progress and for enlightenment. He inspired a generation of students with his fine example. And he also did much to improve the quality of education throughout the State of Texas, in part by helping to ensure equal access to educational opportunity for children and for young people from Spanish-speaking homes.

As you know, one of the issues at stake in this election is equality of education. The Democratic Party has always been the party of better education for those who were poor and whose families didn’t have a good chance, but we believe that the children, with the gift of God of intelligence and ability, ought to have a chance in an educational system to expand that intelligence and to use that ability for their own selves and for this country. The Republican record has always been just exactly the opposite.

Governor Reagan, who’s running against me, does not share Dr. Oliveria’s commitment and my own to better education. We have doubled, since I’ve been in the White House, funds for student aid programs. And now there should be no child in the United States who finishes high school, no matter how poor their family might be, who cannot, through loans or grants, through scholarships or work-study programs, get a college education. And you can depend that we will continue that policy as long as the Democrats are in the White House.

We’ve expanded greatly the program called Head Start, and we’ve expanded it to include migrant children. We’re working hard right now with Senator Bentsen and with Kika de la Garza to make as much as $45 million available in Federal money in the border districts to help with the increase in school construction for the number of Mexican school childrenwho reside here legally, because decent education is not just a border issue, it is a national issue. And I won’t forget it.

Governor Reagan’s only commitment on education is this. He says, "If I am elected President, I will abolish the Department of Education."

There are other areas, too, where the sharp issues are drawn that will affect your lives. We could not have more different views, Governor Reagan and I, than we have in health. Governor Reagan says, and I quote him: "Virtually all Americans have access to medical care today." Yet in south Texas I know that 13 counties with 22 percent of the population of this great State have only 3 percent of the physicians.

That’s why, in the tradition of great Presidents like Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson and also Vice President Humphrey and Senator Ted Kennedy, I am committed to national health insurance, which will provide a cost-saving emphasis on the prevention of disease, on catastrophic health insurance if a family’s wiped out economically with high medical costs, on the control of hospital costs so they can’t go too high on you, on outpatient treatment instead of inpatient treatment, and also to include, as you know, an additional three-quarters of a million people in south Texas who presently do not qualify for that kind of health care. That’s why we’ve funded seven new consumer-run primary care centers in south Texas.

There’s something else I’m committed to, and it’s expressed by the Spanish saying: Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres. [Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are.] And you know who I walk with, right? [Cheers]

I am proud that I’ve been able in just 3 1/2 )’ears to appoint more than 200 Hispanic Americans to senior Government positions, more than any other previous administration in history. And I know the concern of all Americans with equal justice. I’m very proud to have appointed three times as many Hispanic judges as all the Presidents combined in 200 years, since this Nation was formed, and they have been the highest possible quality.

I’ll only mention one of them, because there’s something special about him that perhaps you didn’t know. One of them is Reynaldo Garza. He now sits as a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. But many of you may not know about the first job I offered to Judge Garza in January of 1977, shortly before I was inaugurated President. I called Judge Garza, and I offered him the position as Attorney General of the United States.

I regret very much that because of personal considerations in his own family, that the United States did not have the benefit of his service in that Cabinet post as Attorney General. He would have been the first Hispanic Attorney General in the history of our country. But I am proud of the job that he’s now doing on the Federal bench.

We flew in this morning from Houston, maintained a low altitude, and we had a chance to look at the absolutely beautiful farming country that you have here. And I wanted to say a word about agriculture, because it’s important to me as a farmer, I know it’s important to this district. You’ve been blessed by God with productive land, and you’ve utilized it to the highest as good stewards of what God has given you. I even know what parity means. [Laughter]

When I was growing up, like many of you, I worked in the times before Franklin Roosevelt was able to change theattitude of this Nation’s Government toward agriculture and toward farm families. We worked from dark in the morning till dark at night, getting ready to produce crops that quite often were stolen from us at the time of harvest. We didn’t have electricity on our farms. And we didn’t have any security for the aged who slaved all their lives away on the farm and wound up with nothing to show for it when they reached retirement age.

The Democrats changed all that. I remember when we put electricity on the farm, and I remember when we tried to stabilize the market so farmers could have a better life. That’s why I’m very glad to come here to the State that produced a great President like Lyndon Baines Johnson, because he understood also the plight of American farmers and also the great contribution that agriculture makes to the economic life’s blood of our Nation.

I began by appointing the Secretary of Agriculture, a dirt farmer, one who understands the special needs of farm families, Bob Bergland. He’s been an outstanding man. And in the past, as you know, when Republican Presidents have chosen a Secretary of Agriculture, they’ve always chosen a bigshot executive in some company that buys products from farmers at a cheap price and sells those same products to consumers at a high price. We don’t want another Earl Butz back in the Secretary’s office. We want Bob Bergland.

Bob Bergland and I knew from experience that most often farmers, when they produce their grain, other products, had to put those products to market in the rush of the harvest season when prices were low. So, we figured it would be good to provide storage on farmers’ farms. We’ve created 2.8 billion bushels of storage and now farmers can store their own crops. They can decide for themselves when to take those crops to market.

And that policy has paid rich dividends in two or three ways. One, we’ve increased prices a great deal that the farmers receive. Since 1977 the price of corn has almost doubled; the price of wheat has almost doubled; the price of beef has also doubled. And the consumers have benefited from it. The consumers have now stable policies in agriculture, and as you well know, we have a steady supply of good grain.

We’ve had in this last 3 years the biggest increase in gross income for America’s farmers in history, the biggest increase in net income for American farm families in history. And on exports we have used great ports like Brownsville and great production areas like your own to increase the sale of products overseas. In 1977 we set a world’s record on American farm exports; ’78, broke that record; ’79, broke it again. And this year we’ll increase exports $8 billion to a new record of $40 billion worth of American farm products being sold overseas. That’s the kind of program we’ve had for American farmers.

You might be interested in knowing that since 1977 we have tripled trade with Mexico, and this year we’ll sell to Mexico 10 million tons of American grain.

We’ve opened up vast new opportunities for sales in the future with the People’s Republic of China, where one-fourth of the people on Earth live. China has already become the number one customer for American cotton, and we’ve just recently signed an agreement with China where they will buy between 6 and 10 million tons of grain every year for the next 5 years. These opportunities have helped our country. They’ve also helped people like you. And I might say that Brownsville is one of the special ports designated by the Chinese through which that vast stream of grain will flow to feed those billion people. It’s an average of 15loaves of bread per year per person in China, coming from American farms.

As you may know, the State of Georgia has a wonderful fishing industry, shrimp boats. And I don’t want to pass without pointing out to you that Kika de la Garza and I have a great interest in those who own shrimp boats and the crews that work on them, and we’re going to make sure that your opportunities to serve this Nation are honored in the years ahead as well.

In closing my remarks, I want to point out to you some considerations that must be important to you in the next few days. Tuesday will be a time of great decision, and I know you’ve observed, maybe some with intense interest, some with casual interest, what’s gone on in this campaign so far.

If you’ve been listening to the Republican candidate, Governor Reagan, then you know he’s trying to wrap himself in the mantle of great Democratic Presidents. But this happens every election year. Have you ever heard a Republican
candidate quoting a Republican President?
AUDIENCE. No!

THE PRESIDENT. You haven’t heard Governor Reagan talking about Herbert Hoover, have you?
AUDIENCE. No!

THE PRESIDENT. Have you heard Governor Reagan quoting Richard Nixon?
AUDIENCE. No!

THE PRESIDENT. No. But he talks a lot about Franklin Roosevelt.
AUDIENCE. Yes!

THE PRESIDENT. But then he turns around and says that the foundation for the New Deal is fascism; it’s fascism.

And now the Republicans continue to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt. John Kennedy predicted back in 1960—let me quote him. This is what John Kennedy said about the Republicans: "They’re even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now," Kennedy said, "the Republicans might even speak a good word about Harry Truman. But I guarantee you that Harry Truman will never say a good word about Republicans."

As you know, that prediction came true. And I want to make another prediction for you, that 20 years from now Republican candidates for President will even say good words about Jimmy Carter’s second term.

AUDIENCE [chanting]. We want Carter! We want Jimmy!

THE PRESIDENT. You’ve got me. Thank you. You’ve got me. Thank you.

Let me say that I believe in the Democratic Party, and I hope that you’ll think back in history, recent history and even as far back as I remember, about what the Democratic Party has meant to you. I believe in the mission of the Democratic Party. Every great advance that’s been made in the lives of working people for the last 50 years has come under the Democratic administrations. Collective bargaining for workers, to the minimum wage, social security, Medicaid, Medicare-every single one of these has been made possible by Democrats, always over the opposition of Republicans.

I’m proud to be a Democrat, because our party stands for progress and it also stands for justice. When workers sought the right to organize, they looked to the Democrats. When older Americans needed security with their retirement, they called on the Democrats. When Americans have wanted justice and opportunity and basic rights, they’ve always counted on the Democrats and the Democrats have always come through.

Today Americans are still looking for the Democrats to provide national healthinsurance, for jobs and training for our young people, for a strong economic future, for human rights and equal rights, a strong defense, and peace. With your help, the Democrats will come through on November the 4th.

I’ve described the election of 1980 as a choice between two futures, and this is what I see in the future to which we’re looking. I see a nation at peace; a nation strong enough to be secure in its pursuit of progress for all our people; a nation where everyone has the dignity of a decent job, where new industries create a new generation of American buildings and American vehicles that will provide us with houses and will move us using less energy, that energy that we do use coming from our own Nation; a nation where children are educated to their maximum potential, where the elderly are treated with the respect that they’ve earned, where families are close and intact and secure. I have a vision of a nation free enough to attract and strong enough to welcome the deprived from other parts of the world; a nation of liberty, of justice, and of love. I need your help to make this vision a reality.

I’ve been President now for almost 4 years. I’ve made thousands of decisions, and each one of those decisions has been a learning process for me. Every decision I make leaves me better prepared to make the next one. What I’ve learned has made me a better President, and I believe I’ll be an even better President in the second term, because I understand now much more closely your needs, the strength of our Nation, and the future available to us all.

I consider myself to be in the mainstream of the Democratic Party and also in the mainstream of the bipartisan Presidents, Republican and Democrat, who have insisted on controlling nuclear weapons and wanting to keep our Nation at peace. I believe that the United States must be a nation strong. I believe the Nation must be secure. We must have a society that’s just and fair. We must dare to struggle for a peaceful world.

There have been many times of crisis and conflict during these last few years. In each case, I alone have had to make a judgment about the interest of my Nation and about the involvement of my Nation. In each case, I’ve had to decide what to do to keep our Nation, its interests protected and to keep our boys from having to give their lives on the field of battle. And I’m proud that I can make a statement that no President in the last 50 years has been able to make: Since I have been in the Oval Office, our Nation has been at peace; we have not been at war.

I’ve learned one other thing, and that is that the more difficult the decisions are, the more important the issue is, the more likely that the advisers will be split roughly 50-50, and the President has to make the final judgment in the loneliness of the Oval Office. Sometimes it has been a lonely job, but with the involvement of the American people, it’s also a gratifying job.

Now each one of you, in the next few days, faces the same kind of decision, a lonely decision, because you’ll go in the voting booth alone. But even before election day next Tuesday, you have a decision to make. Are the issues important enough to you, to your family, to the people that you love, to work the next few days in a sacrificial way? There’s no one here, no matter how poor or how lacking in influence, that can’t reach several hundred people between now and election day. Some of you have enough influence to reach a thousand or 10,000.

And I hope you’ll consider very carefully what will be the circumstances in your life Wednesday morning if you wake up to find that a Republican will be in the White House the next 4 years.
AUDIENCE. No!

THE PRESIDENT. The issue is up to you. Just think back in 1948. If a few people had not voted or changed their mind, Harry Truman would never have been President. And think back in 1960. If 28,000 people in Texas had voted differently and just a few thousand in Illinois, John Kennedy would never have been President, and the likelihood is that Lyndon Baines Johnson would never have been President.

Those are good stories. Listen to what happened in 1968. If just a few more people like you had worked those last few days, had urged people to go to the polls, Hubert Humphrey would have been a great President, and Richard Nixon would never have been in the Oval Office.

Those elections ought to be ever present in your mind as you face Sunday, Monday, and then election day. It’s not enough for you just to vote. I’m asking you to encourage everyone in the sound of your voice to work hard this next few days and on Tuesday to vote with us and give a great victory for your lives, for those you love, and for the greatest nation on Earth. Together, we Democrats will whip the Republicans and have a greater future.

AUDIENCE [chanting]. We want Carter!

THE PRESIDENT. Muchas gracias a todos. Necesito sus votas, su trabajo. Graciasa todos para su ayuda. [Thank you, everyone. I need your votes, your work. Thank you for your help.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 10 a.m. on the front lawn of Gorgas Hall at Texas Southmost College.

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