Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

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Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: September 3, 1980

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Remarks at the Zion Baptist Church.
September 3, 1980

Thank you very much, Congressman Bill Gray. I’m very proud to have you as an assistant pastor today. [Laughter] I noticed Leon Sullivan said "copastor," but I’m sure he meant "assistant." [Laughter] It’s an honor for me to stand here in this pulpit in a church that’s literally known around the world—a church with a heart, a church which has reached its hand to help others, to many nations on Earth, a church which gives its support to Leon Sullivan and to his fine work.

I’m also very glad to have with us today Mayor Bill Green, State Auditor Al Benedict— [applause] —go ahead and applaud for him—Representative Leroy Ervis and particularly Grace Sullivan, and many other distinguished leaders on the State and on the local basis, and distinguished clergy here. You mean so much to me in my private and religious life and who also mean so much to us in making our Nation a greater place to live—and particularly the members of the Zion Baptist Church.

It’s great for me to be back home in Philadelphia. When I first got married, my wife and I came to Philadelphia to live for awhile. I was a young naval officer assigned to study radar at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and we learned here first that Philadelphia truly deserved its name of the City of Brotherly Love. We also learned some other firsts how to like scrapple and soft pretzels. And since then, of course, we’ve seen that Philadelphia has kept alive the finest elements of belief and hope and courage expressed here when our Nation was founded more than 200 years ago.

It is good to be in Zion Church. And I want to say to you that I first met your permanent pastor in Georgia when I was Governor. I hate to miss having Leon here with me today, but I learned a long time ago that it’s dangerous to get in the same pulpit with a Baptist preacher when he’s filled with the spirit. [Laughter] As you know, Leon Sullivan 1 always seems to be filled with the spirit. [Laughter]

1 Reverend Sullivan is also president of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America.

Reverend Sullivan said at a public event not too long ago that it was nice to have a President who knew all thewords to "Amazing Grace." [Laughter] Well, I’m not sure that everybody—that anybody knows all the words to "Amazing Grace," because every now and then, kind of quietly, I compose a new verse just for myself. [Laughter] And I think that Leon probably composed the third verse. He says, as you know, "Through many dangers, toils and shares [snares] I have already come .... " [Laughter] You know what comes next: "’Tis Grace that brought me safe this far and Grace will lead me home." [Laughter] So, I told Leon to just leave me and Grace here and to go on to South Africa and that we would take care of things while he was gone. [Laughter]

I know that his beloved wife shares in all his good works, but she also has her own work as well, programs that are helping not just individuals in this immediate community but that helps the entire city. Today as I was riding in from the airport, Mayor Bill Green and I were talking about the common effort that they have made on the Miniversity Program, that brings together policemen and community leaders to establish better avenues of understanding among people and better avenues of communications. That’s where peace is maintained without inhibiting progress. That’s where people can understand how to correct the defects in a community, to resolve problems before they become crises, and to pull people together in a common effort.

I’m very proud that your new mayor is reaching out to unite this great city. And he works with me in Washington, and he works with Congressmen like Bill Gray and Bob Edgar to try to bring this city into the forefront of progress and leadership. There’s a strong partnership that I have with mayors throughout this country that we’ve forged in the last 3 1/2 years. I’m glad that in the brief months that Bill Green has been in the mayor’s office that we’ve restored already Philadelphia’s eligibility for housing and urban development grants, and already his leadership is bringing new jobs and new hope to this community. And I’m thankful for the support that you give him.

In Philadelphia, no President could come without being reminded that this Nation has not always lived up to the ideals expressed here when our Nation was founded 200 years ago or more. For generations—this congregation, this audience knows it better than most—for generations many people have seemed to be blind to injustice, blind to the lack of freedom, and blind to the denial of opportunity in our midst. As in the old hymn, we were blind but now we see. And having seen, we’ve begun to make good progress. But we still have a long way to go before we’ve realized all our hopes.

Sometimes we get so burdened down with our journey that we can’t see or understand the past immediate dangers, toils, and snares. It’s important to remember at those times how far we have come and to see how we are. on the right road in this Nation. It’s important, because there are a lot of people out there who think we’ve come far enough. They want to turn back, but the American people are going to choose the path to progress when they go to the polls on November 4. And I believe that.

I need your help in this election, because I remember very clearly that we had a fine man running for President in 1968, Hubert Humphrey. He put his confidence in the people of this Nation. He put his confidence in the Democrats of this Nation. And the Nation let him down, and Richard Nixon was elected. It wasn’t because people like you and me had anything against Hubert Humphrey; it’s because Democrats throughout this Nationdidn’t know what the issues were at stake.

And the great strides that had been made in civil rights under Lyndon Johnson and under John Kennedy came to a screeching halt. And we heard code words like "States’ rights" again become the vocabulary of the administration in Washington. And we heard a so-called southern strategy that to me was an insult to the South. But it sent a message that slowed this Nation down in its progress, and it was a threat to all those who sought equal treatment and justice and opportunity. The poor of all races and particularly those who are poor and members of minority races, working people, city dwellers all suffered under the Republicans for 8 solid years. We cannot afford to let that happen again in 1980, and if you’ll help me we won’t. But I tell you it could happen.

We’re now making progress on bringing our party and our Nation back together. A few minutes ago, about 2 minutes before I came into this auditorium, I had a call from out in the Midwest from Senator Ted Kennedy. He wanted to wish me well, and he wanted me to express his hope to you that the Democratic Party will be united in November and fervent in our work between now and then.

I don’t remember any progress that this Nation has ever made that didn’t require prayer, hard work, sometimes frustration, sometimes fear, and required a lot of courage. We absolutely must look to the future, not just to enhance basic legal rights and equality of opportunity of minority groups but to give our Nation a new economic base for a new day in America. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last 3 1/2 years. We’ve now laid a groundwork or a basis or a foundation for more progress. I’ve talked about this with Leon Sullivan at the annual convention. I talked to him about the 100,000 new jobs to which we are jointly committed for young people, 90 percent of which will be permanent jobs, in private industry, in private commerce.

The Zion Baptist Church has been doing what you can on a local basis, in your 1036 Club enterprises. That’s not an easy thing either, to try to save $10 a month for 36 months. That’s particularly difficult for a poor person, whose income is not very great. But you’ve recognized quite early that to save that much money and invest it in a common effort can create better life, more enjoyment, stronger families, better communities, more jobs for everyone, and that’s what I want to do with my new economic program on a nationwide basis, just what you’ve done with the 1036 program here under the leadership of Grace and Leon Sullivan.

We want to help the basic industries like steel and the rapidly changing industries like the automobile manufacturers and assembly plants. We want to help communities who might suffer from change-and change cannot be prevented—and make sure that when a factory does close down because what they make is no longer to be sold, that new opportunities come along so people don’t have to move from one community to another. This is the kind of careful planning that must be implemented during these next few years.

When there is Government aid to be given it needs to be focused or targeted where the aid is most important. And as we put all these programs together, to move to the future to provide jobs, to rebuild communities, to give people a better life, we do it all in such a way that we do not reignite inflation, because inflation robs the poor more than any other group in this country.

The program I outlined last week, in addition to all the programs that we’vealready got approved, in addition to normal recovery that’s going to take place anyhow, in addition to all of the programs that are now before the Congress to be approved, the new ones will provide a million jobs in the next 2 years. This will be very important to us. We need to put our people to work doing jobs that need to be done—solving energy problems, rebuilding our railroads and bridges, making sure our ports can handle the tremendous exports to foreign countries, improving our mass transit systems and other transit systems. We cannot rely on the solutions of the past to solve today’s problems. But that does not mean that we have to abandon vital programs that were so precious in the past and carved out with much difficulty in order to move forward in the future.

For instance, millions and millions of our people depend upon social security. It was a program put into effect by Democrats. It was opposed almost unanimously by the Republicans. Elderly people, disabled people who’ve worked all their lives depend upon social security. As you know, the Republican candidate had suggested that participation in social security not be required for all those who work anymore, but it be voluntary. That would destroy the social security system. Millions of Americans who’ve worked so hard to build up this program and who now depend on it and who’ve paid their share would suffer. Retired Americans have not volunteered for that kind of suffering, and if we make the right decision in November, which I’m sure we will, we won’t ask them to suffer in the years ahead.

I wish I could stand here as a President, as a Baptist, and tell you we’ve reached the promised land— [laughter] -but I can’t do it. I’d like to tell you that no child in America was coming out of school ill-prepared, but I can’t do it yet. I’d like to tell you that no mothers and fathers would have to struggle to find a job or work in order to feed their families. I can’t tell you that anymore [either].2 We’re making progress. And that’s what I can tell you.

2 White House correction.

Inflation has fallen sharply. Last month, for the first time in 13 years, the inflation rate was zero. I don’t predict that’s going to continue to happen, but it is a sign of progress. Last month the economic indicators showing how well our Nation was progressing—it was the highest it’s ever been since the records were kept. I can’t tell you that’s going to continue, but it’s a good sign. For the last 6 weeks, unemployment compensation claims have been going down. I can’t promise you that they’re going to keep on going down, but it’s a good sign. Housing starts are going up. The number of laid-off workers in the automobile industry dropped last week. General Motors announced that almost 20,000 workers were already scheduled to go back to work. But we still face serious problems here at home and overseas as well.

But the point is we’re moving down the right road, we know where we want to go, we’re united now, and we can’t change course, and we can’t change leadership. In order to get where we want to go, I’ve been listening to some good advice. I hear from Leon Sullivan often.

And we’ve been making some good investments for the future: Federal funds for economic development—up 70 percent. For education—up 73 percent. Youth employment and training has tripled. We’re putting more money in equal employment opportunity enforcement-Eleanor Holmes Norton, in charge of it—subsidized housing, child nutrition programs. In addition, we’vegot an urban policy that targets Federal aid where it’s most needed. Every Federal decision now has to be made on the basis of how can we spend American taxpayers’ money and get the most benefits back from it.

Let me give you just a couple of examples that apply to your own lives here in the Philadelphia area. Bob Edgar, Bill Gray, two fine Congressmen, working with your mayor, Bill Green, were able to announce last week that Philadelphia will not lose the Defense Contract Administration, but will gain jobs instead. The last time I was in Philadelphia that question came up.

And these men know how hard we had to work for me to make this next statement, which you already know about. The U.S.S. Saratoga will come to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard later this month for refitting. That will not only save between 8,500 and 9,000 jobs, but it’ll bring in an additional 2,600 jobs, not handouts, not make-work jobs, but important jobs that will add 15 years of service to the life of this great ship, jobs that will build a stronger and a better and a more safe future for the country that we love. And I might add that the Forrestal, another great ship, will also be refitted here, and that’s going to mean even more jobs than I said before.

In 1944 Franklin Roosevelt said he was not going to campaign, but he wanted to take the opportunity whenever it presented itself to set the record straight. And I intend to keep the record set straight. [Laughter] The record is that we have faced up to America’s energy problems. We’ve cut our oil imports already by 20 percent below the day when I came in office. This day we bought from overseas 1 1/2 million less barrels of oil than we did in a day in January of 1977. We’re embarking on the greatest peacetime program to produce more energy in our country and to save more energy in our country than this Nation has ever seen. It’s bigger all put together than the Marshall plan that rebuilt Europe, plus the entire Interstate Highway System, plus the entire space program. That’s how much it will mean to you. And to weatherize homes and to produce American energy and to have more efficient and better automobiles produced in America will give us a life whose quality we can’t even yet understand.

We also have a record of which I’m proud in the area that means a lot to you, and that’s the new jobs created. In the first 3 years I was President we added more than 8 million new jobs, about a million of which, coincidentally, are held by black Americans. Those are new jobs.

Just briefly let me say that I understand the importance of having minority leaders administer Government programs. And what I have tried to do is to take people who marched in the forefront of the civil rights movement, along with some of you, and let them run the programs that were put into effect in the Federal Government.

I’ve appointed more blacks and more women and other minorities to top Government jobs than any other President in history, and I’ve appointed more black judges to the Federal courts than all the other Presidents in history that ever served. And two other things: The first one is I’m not through yet, and secondly, I have never had to lower the standards of quality and ethics and training in order to fill those vacancies. One example is Judge Jim Giles here in Philadelphia. We’ll be having the benefits of those kinds of appointments long after I have quit being President at the end of 4 more years and also even into the end of this century.

I don’t want to belabor the point, but I’d like to name just a few people with whom you’re familiar that have faced the dangers and the toils of trying to solve the problems of inequality and prejudice and the lack of opportunity—people like Pat Harris. Pat Harris now runs the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s the biggest budget in the world except for two. One of them is the entire United States Government, and the other one is the entire Government of the Soviet Union. Her budget though in that Department that she runs is bigger than the budgets of every other nation on Earth.

Another one is a man who doesn’t like to speak out very much, but when he speaks, people listen, and that’s Andy Young. I’ve already mentioned Eleanor Holmes Norton, Don McHenry; people like Drew Days. I understand Drew Days has an uncle here, doesn’t he, Senator Freeman Hankers? Senator Hankers, right. Drew Days is the chief law enforcement officer of our country. He’s the one that decides when a case should be prosecuted, and it’s important to me to have a man like this, who happens to be black, who knows the background of inequality in the administration of justice, is now in charge of the whole thing. And I’ve got Sadie Alexander, whose husband was a member of this church, to help me with the problems of the old people. And we’ve got a new Department of Education, and the Assistant Secretary of Education is a former deputy school superintendent of Philadelphia, Thomas Minter.

I don’t want to go any further about naming the things that we’ve done in the past, but I’d like to close by saying just a few more things.

I’ve tried to be a President that would restore to America its rightful role as champion of human dignity and freedom, not just for our own Nation but for other countries as well. Not everything is right, and everything that’s right can’t be accomplished overnight. I had hoped for settlement in Rhodesia-Zimbabwe the first )’ear I was in office. Andy Young worked on this problem almost full time, trying to bring together the groups that had been fighting with each other for years and see final success. But we all had to learn a little patience, but we never yielded on our principles. I knew that only the people of that troubled land could reach a just settlement. We held out for what was right, and last week, new Prime Minister Mugabe, chosen in a free election by majority rule, came to visit me in the White House. It was an exciting thing. His presence there was testimony that America is most influential when we stand up for our highest principles. And the experience that we have had here, in America, is of great benefit to others who have been suffering in the past from deprivation and persecution and are now reaching for freedom. Leon Sullivan is now in South Africa. One of the things that he and I have discussed many times is the hope that the next nation that becomes a free democracy, with majority rule, will be the nation of Namibia. And we also want to see apartheid eliminated completely from South Africa.

We don’t want to be too patient, but often our fondest dreams take longer than we imagined. We’ve already come through many dangers and toils and snares, too many to lose our faith that right will ultimately prevail. The next 4 years can be a time of great progress, a time when we at last let old prejudices go by the board, as we put our people, all our people, to work, building a better America, economically strong, but strong also in our faith in one another, strong in our commitment to freedom, our commitment to justice, our commitment to opportunity. I ask you foryour help and your prayers, that together we might make this Nation the promised land for all our people, not just a few of them.
Thank you very much. God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 2 p.m.

Earlier in the day, the President visited the South Philadelphia Community Center and a street market in the Italian American section of the city.

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