Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978

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Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: June 14, 1978

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Remarks on Greeting Members of the Association’s Youth Tour.
June 14, 1978

I never saw so many cameras, I don’t think.

If I could have your attention just a minute, let me say a few words. It’s a great honor for me as President to stand here in front of the White House and to greet a group of young Americans who share a great deal with me. As representativesof the Rural Electric Cooperatives throughout the country, I know you share not only a pride in what has gone on before, but you have a unique perspective from which to assess the future of our great country.

I grew up on a farm, until I was 14 years old, that didn’t have electricity, and our whole family was constrained very closely to a very narrow part of Georgia. And because of the heavy labor requirements we did not have much flexibility as far as expanding our minds or expanding our hearts or our influence or our interests beyond the farm itself. And then under President Franklin Roosevelt, I think in 1937, we formed the Sumter Electric Membership Corporation, and my father, who was just a farmer, became a director in the local REA chapter. This gave him an opportunity to participate in government. And he would go to the national conventions—once, I remember, he went to Chicago—and he would come up here to Washington as an outspoken farmer to argue for the protection and the expansion of the Rural Electric program.

Our life changed. Our horizons broadened. Later, my father became a member of the Sumter school board, Sumter County school board; later ran for the State legislature. And as a result of that, I got interested in politics and served on the school board, and then ran for the Georgia Senate, and then ran for Governor, and then ran for President. So, you might say that had it not been for the REA program, I would not be President. So I’m thankful for it, along with you.

I understand there’s a young man here from Leesburg, Georgia—named Carroll Carter, I don’t know if we’re related-which is only a few miles from our home, who’s also a part of the Sumter Electric Membership Corporation.

Let me say just a word about the future. We live in the greatest nation on Earth. We have an ability to make it even greater in the future. And I think the degree of achievement in a free country like ours, a democracy, depends upon the attitude of those who have a free heart and a free spirit and who are not bound by the mistakes of the present and the past.

You’ve been able to see it firsthand, from a wide geographical range and from different points of view, how well government can work together with your own family; not to constrain what your family does, but to liberate your family to do even greater things. And because you, in competition with 14 times more people than this, have been honored because of your own leadership to come to Washington, you now have an ability to go back home and to let them know the greatness of our own system of government.

It’s not perfect. There’s still enough room for improvement. And I would just like to ask you, as a former farmboy myself, to assess what you have received as a heritage from the past, the degree of individuality and freedom of spirit which you enjoy as a citizen of our great country, and with a clear perspective of the future and the courage of your own convictions, to work with me and others to make our country even better.

You and I are partners in a way. The responsibility of our Nation’s character and future is on my shoulders, but it’s also on yours. And you have a much clearer picture of what our Nation is and what it can be than I had at your age.

So, the future is unlimited for you and for our Nation. It’s a clean, good, strong, idealistic, and compassionate nation. And we’ve formed a system of free enterprise and a system of government controlledby the people that gives us a good basis for future growth and achievement.

I’m thankful for what you’ve done already, but I’m even more thankful for what you can do and will do in the future.

Thank you for letting me be part of this ceremony.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:50 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House to representatives from 24 State electric cooperatives.

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Chicago: Jimmy Carter, "National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Remarks on Greeting Members of the Association’s Youth Tour.," Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter, 1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.2303 1102–1103. Original Sources, accessed October 5, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4ABR1QZ6I43AK4Q.

MLA: Carter, Jimmy. "National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Remarks on Greeting Members of the Association’s Youth Tour." Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter, 1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.2303, pp. 1102–1103. Original Sources. 5 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4ABR1QZ6I43AK4Q.

Harvard: Carter, J, 'National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Remarks on Greeting Members of the Association’s Youth Tour.' in Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter, 1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.2303, pp.1102–1103. Original Sources, retrieved 5 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4ABR1QZ6I43AK4Q.