Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: October 16, 1980

Hartford, Connecticut
Remarks at a Meeting With State, Local, and Community Officials.
October 16, 1980

I’m very proud to stand here with your wonderful Governor, with Senator Ribicoif, who’s made such a great record not only for you but the entire country. And I want to be sure that Christopher Dodd is the Senator in January to take Ribicoff’s place and to work with me. Would you do that, too? [Applause] Thank you.

I’m going inside now to make an announcement very important to me. I used to live in Connecticut, as you know. I was in the submarine force. And I think that one of the greatest things that ever happened to the world was the development of the Nautilus, which gave our Nation 25 years of good service, defended freedom, and also kept the peace.

I’d like to point out to you that although this was a great weapon of war, it served its purpose well. The best weapon is one that’s never used in combat, and the best soldier is one that never gives his life or sheds his blood on the field of battle. The Nautilus has performed well, and I’m glad to see it come back home where it belongs.
Thank you very much.

[The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. to a crowd assembled outside the Old State House. Following his remarks, he went to the Senate Chamber of the Old State House, where he delivered the following remarks.]

THE PRESIDENT. I was standing outside the door for a few minutes, and I thought there were at least 2,000 people in here from— [laughter] . But all of you represent literally hundreds of thousands of people of Connecticut, who share with me a sense of admiration for your great Governor, Ella Grasso, and for the congressional delegation which has represented the ideals and principles of your State so well.

As a President who has to face difficult decisions every day of my life in the Oval Office, I have a special affection for one man who is here. I’ve seen him perform when it was difficult. I’ve seen him make decisions that were very close, sometimes unpopular, but in the best interests of our country. And I just want to express personally my deep affection, my deep admiration, and on behalf of 230 million Americans, my gratitude to Senator Abe Ribicoff. And I might say that after January the 20th, 1981, both I as President, reelected, and Christopher Dodd as your new Senator are going to call on AbeRibicoff for a lot of advice and counsel and hard work.

I’ve come here for a strictly nonpolitical task— [laughter] —one that’s very important to me personally and as the Commander in Chief of our military forces. It’s doubly significant, therefore, for me to talk to you for a few minutes about the Nautilus Memorial.

I recently signed the 1981 defense authorization bill, which included the authority to establish the permanent home of the U.S.S. Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine or vessel of any kind, now retired, as you know, after a distinguished quarter of a century of service in keeping world peace. I considered this for a long time. I sought the advice of Ella Grasso, Christopher Dodd, the entire Congress delegation, and Abe Ribicoff. And following their advice, I decided that the best place for this submarine to stay from now on in the future is Groton, Connecticut.

I’ve had the honor of sharing in that history. As a young naval officer back in the early 1950’s, I think 1952, I was in the nuclear propulsion program, working under Admiral Hyman Rickover. There were two submarines being built—the U.S.S. Nautilus, the U.S.S. Sea Wolf. I was the senior officer of the U.S.S. Sea Wolf, and I was sent over here from Schenectady, New York, to witness the laying of the keel of the Nautilus. Harry Truman, with a welder’s outfit in his hand, made the first step.

My third son, Jeff, was born in Connecticut. We’ve lived here twice in my life and have always felt close to you. You probably have noticed that I and my family still speak with a Connecticut accent. [Laughter]

I participated in the development of the Nautilus at nearly every step, and I remember vividly how excited the world was when that formidable war machine took its place underneath the oceans of the world. It’s performed well, and I’m grateful that it has served its purpose as a deterrent to war, through strength, to preserve the peace.

I knew when I left that ceremony back almost 30 years ago that I had participated in a historic event. I left the Navy before the nuclear submarine Nautilus began its operation. I went back home to Plains, Georgia, because my father had died and I had responsibilities that I could not avoid.

I’m very grateful that Groton will be the site, the home of the Nautilus. People will want to come here from all over the world to be part of naval history and part of the history of the securing and the perpetuation of peace.

Ella, I’d like to present not only, to you, the right of bringing the Nautilus home, but last night, we called Admiral Rickover and asked him if there wasn’t some memento of the Nautilus that he would like to share with the people of Connecticut, through you. And he took out of his own personal belongings and his own private home a tray made from teakwood from the U.S.S. Nautilus, and I’d like to present it to you on behalf of Admiral Rickover and Lieutenant Senior Grade Jimmy Carter.

And I might say, in closing, that this submarine itself and the symbolism of this gift from me and from Admiral Rickover is a credit to the people of this State. You have helped to make history, because of the technological capability of your people and because of your insight into the needs of our country—the need for a strong defense and the need for unity of purpose and confidence in trying times.

The first time I came here to be assigned to a submarine was when Groton ElectricBoat Company then was making refrigerator truck bodies for pickup trucks. I was assigned as the only officer on the first ship the Navy built after the Second World War, a small antisubmarine submarine called the U.S.S. K-1. I was the only officer there, and I helped to design it. And I saw the Electric Boat Company develop from that point ultimately into General Dynamics.

As you can see, I have a lot of fond memories of Connecticut, both in the past and even fonder expectations, politically speaking at least, for the future.

As I signed the bill for the defense construction authorization, I kept one of the fountain pens that I used, because that bill did include the permanent home establishment for the Nautilus. And I have a letter here that I would like to give to you, Ella Grasso, as Governor of this great State, and a fountain pen that might be used to display in the site of the Nautilus to remind people in the future that the Congress of the United States, representing all the people of our country, believe as I do that Groton is the proper place for this great vessel representing the spirit and ideals of our country for strength and peace.
Thank you very much.

GOVERNOR GRASSO. Thank you, Mr. President.