July 15, 1979
Good evening. This is a special
night for me. Exactly 3 years ago, on July 15, 1976, I
accepted the nomination of my party to run for President
of the United States.
I promised you a President who is not isolated from the
people, who feels your pain, and who shares your dreams
and who draws his strength and his wisdom from you.
During the past 3 years I've spoken to you on many occasions
about national concerns, the energy crisis, reorganizing
the Government, our Nation's economy, and issues of war
and especially peace. But over those years the subjects
of the speeches, the talks, and the press conferences have
become increasingly narrow focused more and more on what
the isolated world of Washington thinks is important. Gradually,
you've heard more and more about what the Government thinks
or what the Government should be doing and less and less
about our Nation's hopes, our dreams, and our vision of
Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about
a very important subject - energy. For the fifth time I
would have described the urgency of the problem and laid
out a series of legislative recommendations to the Congress.
But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself
the same question that I now know has been troubling many
of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a
nation to resolve our serious energy problem?
It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much
deeper - deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages,
deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize
more than ever that as President I need your help. So,
I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America.
I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment
of our society - business and labor, teachers and preachers,
Governors, mayors, and private citizens. And then I left
Camp David to listen to other Americans, men and women
It has been an extraordinary 10 days, and I want to share
with you what I've heard. First of all, I got a lot of
personal advice. Let me quote a few of the typical comments
that I wrote down.
This from a southern
Governor: "Mr. President, you
are not leading this Nation - you're just managing the
"You don't see
the people enough any more."
"Some of your Cabinet
members don't seem loyal. There is not enough discipline
among your disciples."
"Don't talk to
us about politics or the mechanics of government, but
about an understanding of our common good."
we're in trouble. Talk to us about blood and sweat and
"If you lead, Mr.
President, we will follow."
Many people talked about themselves and about the condition
of our Nation.
This from a young woman
in Pennsylvania: "I feel
so far from government. I feel like ordinary people are
excluded from political power."
And this from a young
Chicano: "Some of us have suffered
from recession all our lives."
"Some people have
wasted energy, but others haven't had anything to waste."
And this from a religious
leader: "No material shortage
can touch the important things like God's love for us or
our love for one another."
And I like this one
particularly from a black woman who happens to be the
mayor of a small Mississippi town: "The
big-shots are not the only ones who are important. Remember,
you can't sell anything on Wall Street unless someone digs
it up somewhere else first."
This kind of summarized
a lot of other statements: "Mr.
President, we are confronted with a moral and a spiritual
Several of our discussions were on energy, and I have
a notebook full of comments and advice. I'll read just
"We can't go on
consuming 40 percent more energy than we produce. When
we import oil we are also importing inflation plus unemployment"
"We've got to use
what we have. The Middle East has only 5 percent of the
world's energy, but the United States has 24 percent."
And this is one of the
most vivid statements: "Our
neck is stretched over the fence and OPEC has a knife."
"There will be
other cartels and other shortages. American wisdom and
courage right now can set a path to follow in the future."
This was a good one: "Be
bold, Mr. President. We may make mistakes, but we are
ready to experiment"
And this one from a
labor leader got to the heart of it: "The
real issue is freedom. We must deal with the energy problem
on a war footing."
And the last that I'll
read: "When we enter the moral
equivalent of war, Mr. President, don't issue us BB guns."
These 10 days confirmed my belief in the decency and the
strength and the wisdom of the American people, but it
also bore out some of my long-standing concerns about our
Nation's underlying problems.
I know, of course, being President, that government actions
and legislation can be very important. That's why I've
worked hard to put my campaign promises into law - and
I have to admit, with just mixed success. But after listening
to the American people I have been reminded again that
all the legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong
with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight
about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation.
I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat
to American democracy.
I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They
will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength
of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere
in the world, with unmatched economic power and military
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is
a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at
the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.
We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning
of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose
for our Nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening
to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
The confidence that we have always had as a people is
not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty
book that we read just on the Fourth of July.
It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided
our development as a people. Confidence in the future has
supported everything else - public institutions and private
enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution
of the United States. Confidence has defined our course
and has served as a link between generations. We've always
believed in something called progress. We've always had
a faith that the days of our children would be better than
Our people are losing that faith, not only in government
itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate
rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know
our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been
part of the living history of America, even the world.
We always believed that we were part of a great movement
of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search
for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us
in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence
in the future, we are also beginning to close the door
on our past.
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families,
close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many
of us now tend to worship self- indulgence and consumption.
Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but
by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things
and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill
the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are
all around us. For the first time in the history of our
country a majority of our people believe that the next
5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds
of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American
workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans
to save for the future has fallen below that of all other
people in the Western world.
As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government
and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other
institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance,
but it is the truth and it is a warning.
These changes did not happen overnight. They've come upon
us gradually over the last generation, years that were
filled with shocks and tragedy.
We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not
the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert
Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that
our armies were always invincible and our causes were always
just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected
the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.
We remember when the
phrase "sound as a dollar" was
an expression of absolute dependability, until 10 years
of inflation began to shrink our dollar and our savings.
We believed that our Nation's resources were limitless
until 1973, when we had to face a growing dependence on
These wounds are still very deep. They have never been
healed. Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people
have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated
from the mainstream of our Nation's life. Washington, D.C.,
has become an island. The gap between our citizens and
our Government has never been so wide. The people are looking
for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership,
not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.
What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around
the country is a system of government that seems incapable
of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every
direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special
interests. You see every extreme position defended to the
last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding
group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach
that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone,
abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You
don't like it, and neither do I. What can we do?
First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can
change our course. We simply must have faith in each other,
faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in
the future of this Nation. Restoring that faith and that
confidence to America is now the most important task we
face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.
One of the visitors
to Camp David last week put it this way: "We've
got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and
start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength
we need will not come from the White House, but from
every house in America."
We know the strength of America. We are strong. We can
regain our unity. We can regain our confidence. We are
the heirs of generations who survived threats much more
powerful and awesome than those that challenge us now.
Our fathers and mothers were strong men and women who shaped
a new society during the Great Depression, who fought world
wars, and who carved out a new charter of peace for the
We ourselves are the same Americans who just 10 years
ago put a man on the Moon. We are the generation that dedicated
our society to the pursuit of human rights and equality.
And we are the generation that will win the war on the
energy problem and in that process rebuild the unity and
confidence of America.
We are at a turning point in our history. There are two
paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight,
the path that leads to fragmentation and self- interest.
Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right
to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That
path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests
ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to
All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our
heritage, all the promises of our future point to another
path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of
American values. That path leads to true freedom for our
Nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down
that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.
Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite
this Nation, and it can also be the standard around which
we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our
Nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again
of our common destiny.
In little more than two decades we've gone from a position
of energy independence to one in which almost half the
oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that
are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on
OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy
and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines
which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours
waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased inflation
and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence
on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and
the very security of our Nation. The energy crisis is real.
It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our
Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.
What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and
vitally important Point one: I am tonight setting a clear
goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning
this moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil
than we did in 1977 - never. From now on, every new addition
to our demand for energy will be met from our own production
and our own conservation. The generation - long growth
in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in
its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through
the 1980's, for I am tonight setting the further goal of
cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the
end of the next decade - a saving of over 4 1/2 million
barrels of imported oil per day. Point two: To ensure that
we meet these targets, I will use my Presidential authority
to set import quotas. I'm announcing tonight that for 1979
and 1980,1 will forbid the entry into this country of one
drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow. These
quotas will ensure a reduction in imports even below the
ambitious levels we set at the recent Tokyo summit.
Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for
the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources
in our Nation's history to develop America's own alternative
sources of fuel-from coal, from oil shale, from plant products
for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the Sun.
I propose the creation of an energy security corporation
to lead this effort to replace 2 1/2 million barrels of
imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation I will issue
up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want
them to be in small denominations so that average Americans
can invest directly in America's energy security.
Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped
us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination
and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon
submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation
of this Nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve
the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from
solar power by the year 2000.
These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that
is why Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without
delay. It will be money well spent. Unlike the billions
of dollars that we ship to foreign countries to pay for
foreign oil, these funds will be paid by Americans to Americans.
These funds will go to fight, not to increase, inflation
Point four: I'm asking Congress to mandate, to require
as a matter of law, that our Nation's utility companies
cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next
decade and switch to other fuels, especially coal, our
most abundant energy source.
Point five: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands
in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress
to create an energy mobilization board which, like the
War Production Board in World War II, will have the responsibility
and authority to cut through the red tape, the delays,
and the endless roadblocks to completing key energy projects.
We will protect our environment. But when this Nation
critically needs a refinery or a pipeline, we will build
Point six: I'm proposing a bold conservation program to
involve every State, county, and city and every average
American in our energy battle. This effort will permit
you to build conservation into your homes and your lives
at a cost you can afford.
I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation
and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve
energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over
the next decade to strengthen our public transportation
systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your
Nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use
carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to
park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed
limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every
act of energy conservation like this is more than just
common sense - I tell you it is an act of patriotism.
Our Nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we
will increase aid to needy Americans to cope with rising
energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms
of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate
way of rebuilding our Nation's strength. Every gallon of
oil each one of us saves is a new form of production. It
gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more
control over our own lives.
So, the solution of our energy crisis can also help us
to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country. It
can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the
future, and give our Nation and all of us individually
a new sense of purpose.
You know we can do it. We have the natural resources.
We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi
Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We
have the world's highest level of technology. We have the
most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I
firmly believe that we have the national will to win this
I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will
be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our Nation's
problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an
all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead
our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle,
and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act. We
can manage the short-term shortages more effectively and
we will, but there are no short-term solutions to our long-range
problems. There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.
Twelve hours from now I will speak again in Kansas City,
to expand and to explain further our energy program. Just
as the search for solutions to our energy shortages has
now led us to a new awareness of our Nation's deeper problems,
so our willingness to work for those solutions in energy
can strengthen us to attack those deeper problems.
I will continue to travel this country, to hear the people
of America. You can help me to develop a national agenda
for the 1980's. I will listen and I will act. We will act
together. These were the promises I made 3 years ago, and
I intend to keep them.
Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence.
We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may
summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only
if we tap our greatest resources-America's people, America's
values, and America's confidence.
I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible
resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew
that strength in the struggle for an energy secure nation.
In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I
will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever
you have a chance, say something good about our country.
With God's help and for the sake of our Nation, it is time
for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves
together to a rebirth of the American spirit Working together
with our common faith we cannot fail.
Thank you and good night.