Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

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Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: September 23, 1980

Portland, Oregon
Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraising Reception.
September 23, 1980

First of all, let me say how delighted I am to be with all of you and to thank John Schwabe and Jean and all their family for making this event possible.

Also it’s very exciting for me to come to Portland and be with famous people like Neil Goldschmidt. [Laughter] Sometimes you get an exalted opinion of yourself. I was going down the line a while ago shaking hands with some high school students, and I heard one jump up and down and say, "Oh, isn’t it wonderful to be near such an exciting and internationally famous celebrity?" And the other little girl said, "You mean Phil Donahue is back in town?" [Laughter] Well, a lot of things happen to a President to take him down a notch, but one of the things that has taken me up several notches is being able to go on this trip.

The main emphasis of my journey to four different States has been the energy crisis and what it means for our Nation and how well Americans have done already, in a very brief period of time, to make our lives more pleasant, to add an exciting dimension for the 1980’s, to acknowledge that we have a foundation now on which we can build a revitalized financial and industrial system, and to take advantage of the free enterprise system of our country, our advances in research and technology, and the entrepreneurial spirit or the pioneer spirit that’s made America great.

I just want to make a couple of points, and then I would like to shake hands with each one of you individually, thank you, and have a photograph made if you’ll honor me with that occasion.

First, a word about the Presidency. I’ve been President now for more than 3¼ years. And before I went to the Oval Office, which occurred after I was elected President, for the first time, I was already filled with a reverence for the job itself, an acknowledged awareness of the importance of the position of President and how much the future of this Nation and the well-being of our people and the peace of the world depended on it.

It’s an exciting and challenging job, the highest elective office, certainly in the free world, and one that puts a heavy responsibility on anyone who serves there. The job is not only exciting but very sobering. The questions that come to me at the Oval Office are difficult ones. They are, I guess, the most difficult that arrive at the desk of anyone in this country. If a question can be answered more easily, it’s answered by you personally or within your home or at a city hall or a county courthouse or by a State legislature or by a Governor. If they can’t be answered anywhere in those places, then they come to me.

And the choices that I have to make affect the future of this Nation. I consult with the Congress, consult with my excellent Cabinet, and make the best judgments I can. I’ve also found that the more important a question, more vital to our Nation’s future the question might be, the more likely my advisers are to be split 50-50. So, eventually the loneliness comes back in an overwhelming degree, and I have to make the ultimate decision.

I have to deal with crises with which I’m aware and potential crises for all of you. If I handle a question well, then perhaps you don’t ever know about it. If I don’t handle a question well and the crisis becomes real for our Nation or for the world, then the consequences could be catastrophic. So, I have a sober andexcited awareness of what the Presidency means to this country.

One of my major responsibilities is looking to the future, to have a vision of what our Nation can be. And my own vision of the future of America is indeed optimistic. We’ve never failed to answer a difficult question or to resolve a difficult problem or to overcome an obstacle if the Americans could see clearly what it was and if our Nation was united. My judgment is that we’ve been making now that kind of progress.

We have hammered out for ourselves the best solution, perhaps of any nation, to the very difficult and trying challenges of extraordinary increases in the price of oil. We’ve already made major achievements in reducing our dependence on foreign oil. This day and every day this year, we are buying about 2 million barrels of oil less overseas than we were a year ago. That’s a remarkable achievement. There’s only two ways that that can be done. One is to conserve energy—to eliminate waste, to be more efficient—and the other way is to produce more American energy. We’re doing both things.

This year we’ll have more oil-drilling rigs running, more oil wells, natural gas wells dug in our Nation than any year in history. And this is combined with the fact that we’re producing more coal, strangely enough, in our Nation this year than ever before in history. A lot of that coal is being exported, and a lot more in the future will be exported—not only coal but other products.

One of the most exciting things is that we’ve opened up a billion new customers in the last few months to American supply of goods and friendship, in the sharing of strategic responsibilities in the eastern part of Asia and the western part of the Pacific, with China. And all of your lives will be improved because of this brand new billion addition among our friends.

The last thing is that I see a future of peace. We’ve been successful the last 3¼ years at keeping our Nation at peace. I’ve not been required and have not decided to send a single soldier into combat. Very few Presidents in the last—none in the last 50 years, by the way, can make that same statement. And I pray to God that I’ll go out of office, hopefully at the end of 5 more years, still with our Nation at peace.

I don’t see any way to keep our country at peace except to keep it militarily strong. We faced, when I became President, a constantly decreasing commitment of our national resources to defense expenditures. Since I’ve been in office, we’ve had an annual increase every year in real terms, above and beyond the inflation rate.

And I think the best guarantee of peace for ourselves, for the Middle East, for our other allies and friends is to keep our Nation militarily strong. The best weapon is one that’s never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one that never sheds his blood on a field of battle. And if we know we’re strong and our allies know we’re strong and our potential adversaries know that any attack on us would be suicidal in its consequences, then that’s the best way to keep our country at peace. Well, the issues are so multitudinous and so interrelated, I don’t want to pursue them any further.

Today I’ve been monitoring very closely and dealing to some degree with the combat between Iran and Iraq. It’s a disturbing thing. I’ve just been on the phone-the secure telephone that has encoded voices, going back and forth—with Dr. Brzezinski and earlier with Secretary Brown and also exchanging messages with Secretary Muskie, who’s at the United Nations. We hope that this combat will be quickly terminated and that peace can be restored between Iran and Iraq.

Baghdad has been bombed. The refineries built in Iraq and in Iran have been damaged, and we are very deeply concerned about the free movement of oil. As you know, we don’t buy much oil from Iraq and none from Iran, but some of our allies and our friends in this hemisphere and in Europe and in Japan are heavily dependent on that kind of shipment. So, we’ll do everything we can in a peaceful way to add our voice to that of other nations to resolve this issue without further bloodshed. And we will not become involved in the combat, and we are urging and insisting that the Soviet Union and other nations do not interfere in this very dangerous situation around the Persian Gulf.

Well, I don’t want to bore you with further details, but I did want to point out to you the importance of the Presidency and the importance of his influence in the shaping of our future. The reassuring thing is that I have the advice and counsel and support, sometimes the criticism, of people like you. And that’s important in a democracy for a President to feel that he has partners in Portland and in other places in the country that share a common belief, common principles, and common goals for our great country. And with your help and with your support, I believe we can prevail and realize the hopes that we all have—a peaceful nation and making the greatest nation on Earth even greater in the years ahead.

Thank you very much, again. God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:23 p.m. at the residence of John Schwabe, a Portland attorney.
Earlier in the afternoon, the President visited the Buckman housing project, consisting of 10 energy-efficient row houses, and took part in an energy roundtable discussion with local residents. Secretary of Transportation Neil Goldschmidt also participated in the discussion.

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