Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1978

Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: June 14, 1978

Reception For Black Business Executives
Remarks at the White House Reception.
June 14, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. It is good to see you. Please be seated.

I notice in the New York Times this morning that this is the first time this group has been recognized in the White House by the President. It is not nearly so much an honor for you to come here as it is for me to have you here. I deeply appreciate all the help that many of you have given me in the past, in my campaign to become President, and since I’ve been in this very important office.

Many of you have been here to the White House to counsel with me and others in shaping the policies of our country. But I noticed in the analysis of your achievements the substantial income that you all have derived from your own efforts. And I was invited by Jessie Hill and Johnny Johnston and Nat Goldstein and Herman Russell and a few others to bring this group in here to ask you to help me balance the Federal budget by— [laughter] —making a contribution to our Nation. And I’m sure you won’t object. If you won’t do it voluntarily, we’ll collect through the Internal Revenue Service. [Laughter]

I think it’s accurate to say that this meeting is one that could not possibly have been successful 10, 15 years ago. The dynamism of each one of you individually, your competence, your ambition, the recognition and esteem with which you are held by your customers and your clients, is an achievement in itself. And it’s something of which I’m very proud as a leader of our Nation.

I think it’s also accurate to say that although many of your businesses evolved primarily within the black community, that the influence has been extensive throughout the entire structure of the American economy. I notice that almost every one of your businesses is growing rapidly, and the competition is increasing to be recognized as one of the top 100. It’s very good that the Black Enterprise publication would provide this opportunity for the rest of the Nation to recognize your achievement.

It does me good to stand here and he honored by your presence. And I think it’s a real inspiration to Americans of all kinds, white or black, those who speak English fluently, those who perhaps speak Spanish, or those whose families have been here for generations, those whose families have just come, to recognize that in a society like our own, based on free enterprise, freedom, and the slow but rapidly increasing removal of discrimination, that there is an upward mobility possible if one has confidence in the American dream, confidence in oneself, and a respect for those with whom one has to deal.

I’ve tried to do what I could in a limited way, as President, to recognize the need to overcome past discriminations, the evidence of which still prevails throughout our country. We set a goal, for instance, to have at the end of last year a deposit of $100 million in blackownedbanks, and we more than met that goal, and we hope to have a higher goal this year.

We introduced legislation for public works jobs with a provision in it that at least 10 percent of all the contracts had to be made with minority-owned businesses, and that’s been successful. In the area under Secretary Kreps’ direction, early in the year, she achieved more than a 15-percent achievement rate. And other Cabinet officers are now finding that where there was some reticence in their own departments, that when the law was laid down to them, that the goal was not difficult to meet. And I would like for that not to be a special thing in the future, but a natural part of the consciousness of all those in top ranks in Government who make those kinds of decisions.

In the Defense Department and other areas, we are trying to make purchases of routine supplies be channeled more and more into those businesses that are owned by minority citizens. And I believe that this is a trend not only that has been enthusiastically endorsed by many in my own administration but which has been accepted with enthusiasm by almost all Americans. I’ve not had any adverse reaction accusing us of setting artificial or unwarranted quotas, because I think there is a general recognition that in the past the opportunity has not been there for equal chance at government business and for a chance to compete on an equal basis in a free enterprise system.

We have benefited greatly in our administration, too, by having a large number of black administrators who help shape policy at the Cabinet level and in lower positions as well. And this has provided all of us with a growing insight into how we might have a more equitable opportunity in our great country.

I think the last thing I would like to say is that I need your continued advice. You are men and women of stature, and others around you look to you for leadership. And I know that quite often, particularly among segments of any society against whom discrimination has been punitive, that you don’t have to be in an elected office to speak with a loud and strong voice.

My own early government years were centered around Atlanta. And the university complex there, the business community, the professional community, as well as the governmental community provided a means for white leaders to understand, for the first time, what action could be taken which they might very well have never observed on their own initiative, thinking that they were doing an adequate job in providing equality of opportunity when they really didn’t understand the special deprivations that quite often are hidden from those who don’t suffer from them.

And I would like for you to provide that service to me throughout my service here in the White House, to give me your strong support when you think I am doing right, to work closely with me and other officials in the Government for counsel in the evolution of new programs, the implementation of programs, and for your tough criticisms when you think I fall short of what I should do to serve the same people who are served by you.

In the areas that don’t specifically relate to minority groups, I know that you’ve reached a degree of influence and a breadth of vision that your efforts don’t have to be confined to the black constituency in our country. You serve as Americans, not as black Americans, and I would hope that in the broad areas of civil rights in this country, human rights around the world, domestic affairs and foreign affairs, tax matters and welfare matters, housing, transportation, education, health, that you would use your ownsuperlative positions in government and in business and in the professions to represent people in a much broader sense.

These are considerations that are very important to me and to you. And I would like there to be formed between me and you a continuing working relationship and a partnership.

This doesn’t have to be related at all times directly to me alone. If a matter involves the Defense Department, then Secretary Alexander or Secretary Brown would be the natural one for you to go to. You don’t have to come to me. And if it involves trade, exports, commerce, Secretary Kreps is the one for you to approach. And I think you know all the Cabinet officers. If it involves foreign affairs, obviously the Secretary of State or Andy Young would be ones that you could relate to easily.

And I would hope that your own interests would expand far beyond the boundaries of our own country. We have a very great advantage over other nations in the ethnic American groups that comprise our country’s population. When I go to Poland, the Polish American group is a reservoir not only of advice and counsel to me about historical occurrences or problems that presently exist in Poland, but they provide an introduction for me to that country in Eastern Europe that I may not be able to get at all through the State Department. But those people who still have relatives and friends who correspond and travel and visit can provide that sound, human basis on which better relations can be predicated.

The same thing, obviously, applies to our long-time friends and allies in Europe-Italy, Germany, France, and so forth. But I think there is a new awakening interest in our country now in Africa. And many of you have a special interest in Africa. You’re trusted just because you happen to be black. And I think one of the greatest things that’s happened to me in foreign affairs has been the appointment of Andy Young at the United Nations, who gives a sense of compassion, understanding, sensitivity, trust, the ease of communication, that makes him irreplaceable and also gives him a sense of security so that he’s not timid, as you may have noticed, in speaking out when he disagrees with me. [Laughter]

Well, you can do the same, perhaps on a more limited basis, but that’s the kind of support and help and counsel that I need from you. And of course, all these efforts don’t have to be through government. I would hope that if you have a product to export, that you might use your position as a trader in international affairs to strengthen the ties of friendship and understanding between our country and those countries that encompass your new customers.

When I went to Nigeria, for instance, I took Jessie Hill along with me. He is an old-time friend of mine. And he was able to expand the influence of my presence there many times over. And I think this is the kind of thing that all of you can do.

So, I would just like to say that although you have reached a position of great achievement with justifiable pride and the worth of recognition, I would like for you to keep your horizons broadened in the future, because you are secure now in business and professional achievement. And I would hope that whether or not you ever serve in government on a full-time basis, that you might try to expand the beneficial influence of our country.

You have a great success story to tell and to demonstrate in a personal way, not only for you, your family, your friends, your associates, but also for ourcountry, which is the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you very much.

EARL G. GRAVES. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, members of the Cabinet and Congress, honored guests:

On behalf of my fellow business men and women, I want to thank you for hosting this afternoon’s briefing and reception and for giving recognition to the significant contributions of black business persons to the health and growth of the Nation’s economy. We at Black Enterprise magazine are pleased to have played a part in identifying, highlighting, and bringing to the fore the tenacious and valiant struggle for success so many minority business persons have made and are continuing to make for a share of the American dream.

Today I feel as if the pages of Black Enterprise have come alive in the White House, for we, the chief executives of this Nation’s leading black businesses, have all come together in this Nation’s Capital on an invitation from the President of the United States to share with him and his administration our economic hopes and concerns, which is indeed an historic moment.

We have come not for a social gathering, but because this President has pledged to do more to help minority enterprise than any other Chief Executive officer in recent history and because he is working hard to right the huge urban ills of this Nation, which affect both our businesses and our lives. We are here to do more than simply hold President Carter to his promises; we are here to do all we can to help this administration in its efforts to strengthen the economic fiber of this Nation and to make certain minority businesses obtain their fair share of American commerce.

We have come offering our input and counsel with the hope that this invitation represents a new level of constructive communication between the black business community and President Carter and his administration.

Mr. President, on behalf of my fellow business men and women, I would like to present you with a bound copy of this year’s Black Enterprise 100.

THE PRESIDENT. I know how intense the competition is. I understand that Mr. Graves has been threatened already with being kicked off the list next year unless be works very hard this year. [Laughter]

Thank you again for being here as our guests in your White House. And now my wife and I would like to meet every one of you personally, if you don’t object. And perhaps if you would just pause as you shake hands, we would like very much to have a photograph individually with you. So we will meet you outside, both of us.
Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:23 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. Earl G. Graves is publisher of Black Enterprise.


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Chicago: Jimmy Carter, "Reception for Black Business Executives Remarks at the White House Reception.," 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 1104–1106. Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Carter, Jimmy. "Reception for Black Business Executives Remarks at the White House Reception." 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. 1104–1106. Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Carter, J, 'Reception for Black Business Executives Remarks at the White House Reception.' 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.1104–1106. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from