Nomination Acceptance Address
July 17, 1980
Thank you very much. We're using up prime time. Thank
you very much.
You're singing our song. Well, the first thrill tonight
was to find myself for the first time in a long time in
a movie on prime time.
But this, as you can imagine, is the second big thrill.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-President-to-be, this convention,
my fellow citizens of this great nation:
With a deep awareness of the responsibility conferred
by your trust, I accept your nomination for the Presidency
of the United States. I do so with deep gratitude. And
I think also I might interject on behalf of all of us our
thanks to Detroit and the people of Michigan and to this
city for the warm hospitality we've enjoyed. And I thank
you for your wholehearted response to my recommendation
in regard to George Bush as the candidate for Vice President.
I'm very proud of our party tonight. This convention has
shown to all America a party united, with positive programs
for solving the nation's problems, a party ready to build
a new consensus with all those across the land who share
a community of values embodied in these words: family,
work, neighborhood, peace and freedom.
Now I know we've had a quarrel or two but only as to the
method of attaining a goal. There was no argument here
about the goal. As President, I will establish a liaison
with the 50 Governors to encourage them to eliminate, wherever
it exists, discrimination against women. I will monitor
Federal laws to insure their implementation and to add
statutes if they are needed.
More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify
our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of
purpose. I want to carry our message to every American,
regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this
community of shared values.
Never before in our history have Americans been called
upon to face three grave threats to our very existence,
any one of which could destroy us. We face a disintegrating
economy, a weakened defense and an energy policy based
on the sharing of scarcity.
The major issue in this campaign is the direct political,
personal, and moral responsibility of Democratic Party
leadership - in the White House and in the Congress - for
this unprecedented calamity which has befallen us. They
tell us they've done the most that humanly could be done.
They say that the United States has had its day in the
sun, that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect
you to tell your children that the American people no longer
have the will to cope with their problems; that the future
will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities.
My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view. The American
people, the most generous on earth, who created the highest
standard of living, are not going to accept the notion
that we can only make a better world for others by moving
backward ourselves. And those who believe we can have no
business leading this nation.
I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy
itself under mediocre leadership that drifts from one crisis
to the next, eroding our national will and purpose. We
have come together here because the American people deserve
better from those to whom they entrust our nation's highest
offices, and we stand united in our resolve to do something
We need a rebirth of
the American tradition of leadership at every level of
government and in private life as well. The United States
of America is unique in world history because it has
a genius for leaders - many leaders - on many levels.
But back in 1976, Mr. Carter said, "Trust
me." And a lot of people did. And now, many of those
people are out of work. Many have seen their savings eaten
away by inflation. Many others on fixed incomes, especially
the elderly, have watched helplessly as the cruel tax of
inflation wasted away their purchasing power. And, today,
a great many who trusted Mr. Carter wonder if we can survive
the Carter policies of national defense.
"Trust me" government
asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one
man; that we trust him to do what's best for us. But
my view of government places trust not in one person
or one party, but in those values that transcend persons
and parties. The trust is where it belongs-in the people.
The responsibility to live up to that trust is where
it belongs, in their elected leaders. That kind of relationship,
between the people and their elected leaders, is a special
kind of compact.
years ago, in 1620, a group of families dared to cross
a mighty ocean to build a future for themselves in a
new world. When they arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts,
they formed what they called a "compact," an
agreement among themselves to build a community and abide
by its laws.
This single act - the voluntary binding together of free
people to live under the law - set the pattern for what
was to come.
A century and a half later, the descendants of those people
pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor
to found this nation. Some forfeited their fortunes and
their lives; none sacrificed honor.
Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln called
upon the people of all America to renew their dedication
and their commitment to a government of, for and by the
Isn't it once again time to renew our compact of freedom;
to pledge to each other all that is best in our lives;
all that gives meaning to them - for the sake of this,
our beloved and blessed land?
Together, let us make this a new beginning. Let us make
a commitment to care for the needy; to teach our children
the values handed down to us by our families; to have the
courage to defend those values and virtues and the willingness
to sacrifice for them.
Let us pledge to restore, in our time, the American spirit
of voluntary service, of cooperation, of private and community
initiative; a spirit that flows like a deep and mighty
river through the history of our nation.
As your nominee, I pledge to you to restore to the Federal
Government the capacity to do the people's work without
dominating their lives. I pledge to you a Government that
will not only work well but wisely, its ability to act
tempered by prudence, and its willingness to do good balanced
by the knowledge that government is never more dangerous
than when our desire to have it help us blinds us to its
great power to harm us.
You know, the first
Republican President once said, "While
the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no
Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can
seriously injure the Government in the short space of four
years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in
these last three and a half years, he might hedge a little
on that statement. But with the virtues that are our legacy
as a free people and with the vigilance that sustains liberty,
we still have time to use our renewed compact to overcome
the injuries that have been done to America these past
three and a half years.
First, we must overcome something the present Administration
has cooked up: a new and altogether indigestible economic
stew, one part inflation, one part high unemployment, one
part recession, one part runaway taxes, one part deficit
spending seasoned with an energy crisis. It's an economic
stew that has turned the national stomach.
Ours are not problems of abstract economic theory. These
are problems of flesh and blood; problems that cause pain
and destroy the moral fiber of real people who should not
suffer the further indignity of being told by the Government
that it is all somehow their fault. We do not have inflation
because - as Mr. Carter says - we've lived too well.
The head of a Government which has utterly refused to
live within its means and which has, in the last few days,
told us that this coming year's deficit will be $60 billion,
dares to point the finger of blame at business and labor,
both of which have been engaged in a losing struggle just
trying to stay even.
High taxes, we are told, are somehow good for us, as if,
when government spends our money it isn't inflationary,
but when we spend it, it is.
Those who preside over the worst energy shortage in our
history tell us to use less so that we will run out of
oil, gasoline and natural gas a little more slowly. Well,
now, conservation is desirable, of course, but we must
not waste energy. But conservation is not the sole answer
to our energy needs.
America must get to work producing more energy. The Republican
program for solving economic problems is based on growth
Large amounts of oil and natural gas lay beneath our land
and off our shores, untouched because the present Administration
seems to believe the American people would rather see more
regulation, more taxes and more controls than more energy.
Coal offers a great potential. So does nuclear energy,
produced under rigorous safety standards. It could supply
electricity for thousands of industries and millions of
jobs and homes. It must not be thwarted by a tiny minority
opposed to economic growth which often finds friendly ears
in regulatory agencies for its obstructionist campaigns.
Now make no mistake.
We will not permit the safety of our people or our environmental
heritage to be jeopardized, but we are going to reaffirm
that the economic prosperity of our people is a fundamental
part of our environment. Our problems are both acute
and chronic, yet all we hear from those in positions
of leadership are the same tired proposals for more Government
tinkering, more meddling and more control - all of which
led us to this sorry state in the first place. Can anyone
look at the record of this Administration and say, "Well done"?
Can anyone compare the
state of our economy when the Carter Administration took
office with where we are today and say, "Keep up the good work"? Can anyone look
at our reduced standing in the world today and say, "Let's
have four more years of this"?
I believe the American
people are going to answer these questions, as you've
answered them, in the first week of November and their
answer will be, "No - we've had
enough." And then it will be up to us - beginning
next January 20-to offer an Administration and Congressional
leadership of competence and more than a little courage.
We must have the clarity of vision to see the difference
between what is essential and what is merely desirable;
and then the courage to bring our Government back under
It is essential that we maintain both the forward momentum
of economic growth and the strength of the safety net between
those in our society who need help. We also believe it
is essential that the integrity of all aspects of Social
Security be preserved.
Beyond these essentials, I believe it is clear our Federal
Government is overgrown and overweight. Indeed, it is time
our Government should go on a diet. Therefore, my first
act as chief executive will be to impose an immediate and
thorough freeze on Federal hiring. Then, we are going to
enlist the very best minds from business, labor and whatever
quarter to conduct a detailed review of every department,
bureau and agency that lives by Federal appropriation.
And we are also going to enlist the help and ideas of
many dedicated and hard-working Government employees at
all levels who want a more efficient Government just as
much as the rest of us do. I know that many of them are
demoralized by the confusion and waste they confront in
their work as a result of failed and failing policies.
Our instructions to the groups we enlist will be simple
and direct. We will remind them that Government programs
exist at the sufferance of the American taxpayer and are
paid for with money earned by working men and women and
programs that represent a waste of their money - a theft
from their pocketbooks must have that waste eliminated
or that program must go. It must go by Executive Order
where possible, by Congressional action where necessary.
Everything that can be run more effectively by state and
local government we shall turn over to state and local
government, along with the funding sources to pay for it.
We are going to put an end to the money merry-go-round
where our money becomes Washing ton's money, to be spent
by states and cities exactly the way the Federal bureaucrats
tell us it has to be spent.
I will not accept the excuse that the Federal Government
has grown so big and powerful that it is beyond the control
of any President, any administration or Congress. We are
going to put an end to the notion that the American taxpayer
exists to fund the Federal Government. The Federal Government
exists to serve the American people and to be accountable
to the American people. On January 20, we are going to
reestablish that truth.
Also on that date we are going to initiate action to get
substantial relief for our taxpaying citizens and action
to put people back to work. None of this will be ] based
on any new form of monetary tinkering or fiscal 4 sleight-of-hand.
We will simply apply to government the common sense that
we all use in our daily lives.
Work and family are at the center of our lives, the foundation
of our dignity as a free people. When we deprive people
of what they have earned, or take away their jobs, we destroy
their dignity and undermine their families. We can't support
families unless there are jobs; and we can't have jobs
unless the people have both money to invest and the faith
to invest it.
These are concepts that stem from an economic system that
for more than 200 years has helped us master a continent,
create a previously undreamed-of prosperity for our people
and has fed millions of others around the globe and that
system will continue to serve us in the future if our Government
will stop ignoring the basic values on which it was built
and stop betraying the trust and good will of the American
workers who keep it going.
The American people are carrying the heaviest peacetime
tax burden in our nation's history - and it will grow even
heavier, under present law, next January. We are taxing
ourselves into economic exhaustion and stagnation, crushing
our ability and incentive to save, invest and produce.
This must stop. We must halt this fiscal self-destruction
and restore sanity to our economic system.
I've long advocated
a 30 percent reduction in income tax rates over a period
of three years. This phased tax reduction would begin
with a 10 percent "down payment" tax
cut in 1981, which the Republicans in Congress and I have
A phased reduction of tax rates would go a long way toward
easing the heavy burden on the American people. But we
shouldn't stop there.
Within the context of economic conditions and appropriate
budget priorities during each fiscal year of my Presidency,
I would strive to go further. This would include improvement
in business depreciation taxes so we can stimulate investment
in order to get plants and equipment replaced, put more
Americans back to work and put our nation back on the road
to being competitive in world commerce. We will also work
to reduce the cost of government as a percentage of our
gross national product.
The first task of national leadership is to set realistic
and honest priorities in our policies and our budget, and
I pledge that my administration will do that. When I talk
of tax cuts, I am reminded that every major tax cut in
this century has strengthened the economy, generated renewed
productivity and ended up yielding new revenues for the
Government by creating new investment, new jobs and more
commerce among our people.
The present Administration
has been forced by the Republicans to play follow-the-leader
with regard to a tax cut. But in this election year we
must take with the proverbial "grain
of salt" any tax cut proposed by those who have already
given us the greatest tax increase in our nation's history.
When those in leadership give us tax increases and tell
us we must also do with less, have they thought about those
who've always had less - especially the minorities? This
is like telling them that just as they step on the first
rung of the ladder of opportunity, the ladder is being
pulled out from under them. That may be the Democratic
leadership's message to the minorities, but it won't be
our message. Ours, ours will be: We have to move ahead,
but we're not going to leave anyone behind.
Thanks to the economic policies of the Democratic Party,
millions of Americans find themselves out of work. Millions
more have never even had a fair chance to learn new skills,
hold a decent job or secure for themselves and their families
a share in the prosperity of this nation.
It's time to put America back to work, to make our cities
and towns resound with the confident voices of men and
women of all races, nationalities and faiths bringing home
to their families a paycheck they can cash for honest money.
For those without skills, we'll find a way to help them
get new skills. For those without job opportunities we'll
stimulate new opportunities, particularly in the inner
cities where they live.
For those who've abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and
we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make
America great again.
When we move from domestic affairs, and cast our eyes
abroad, we see an equally sorry chapter in the record of
the present Administration:
-A Soviet combat brigade trains in Cuba, just 90 miles
from our shores.
-A Soviet army of invasion occupies Afghanistan, further threatening our vital
interests in the Middle East
-America's defense strength is at its lowest ebb in a generation, while the
Soviet Union is vastly outspending us in both strategic and conventional arms.
-Our European allies, looking nervously at the growing menace from the East,
turn to us for leadership and fail to find it.
-And incredibly, more than 50, as you've been told from this platform so eloquently
already, more than 50 of our fellow Americans have been held captive for over
eight years - eight months by a dictatorial foreign power that holds us up
to ridicule before the world.
Adversaries large and small test our will and seek to
confound our resolve, but we are given weakness when we
need strength; vacillation when the times demand firmness.
The Carter Administration lives in the world of make-believe.
Every day, drawing up a response to that day's problems,
troubles, regardless of what happened yesterday and what'll
But you and I live in a real world, where disasters are
overtaking our nation without any real response from Washington.
This is make-believe, self-deceit and, above all, transparent
hypocrisy. For example, Mr. Carter says he supports the
volunteer Army, but he lets military pay and benefits slip
so low that many of our enlisted personnel are actually
eligible for food stamps. Reenlistment rates drop and,
just recently, after he fought all week against a proposed
pay increase for our men and women in the military, he
then helicoptered out to our carrier the U.S.S. Nimitz,
which was returning from long months of duty in the Indian
Ocean, and told the crew of that ship that he advocated
better pay for them and their comrades. Where does he really
stand, now that he's back on shore?
Well, I'll tell you where I stand. I do not favor a peacetime
draft or registration, but I do favor pay and benefit levels
that will attract and keep highly motivated men and women
in our volunteer forces and back them up with an active
reserve trained and ready for instant call in case of emergency.
You know, there may be a sailor at the helm of the ship
of state, but the ship has no rudder. Critical decisions
are made at times almost in comic fashion, but who can
Who was not embarrassed
when the Administration handed a major propaganda victory
in the United Nations to the enemies of Israel, our staunch
Middle East ally for three decades, and then claimed
that the American vote was a "mistake," a "failure
of communication" between the President, his Secretary
of State and the U.N. Ambassador?
Who does not feel a
growing sense of unease as our allies, facing repeated
instances of an amateurish and confused Administration,
reluctantly conclude that America is unwilling or unable
to fulfill its obligations as leader of the free world?
Who does not feel rising alarm when the question in any
discussion of foreign policy is no longer, "Should
we do something?" but "Do we have the capacity
to do anything?"
The Administration which has brought us to this state
is seeking your endorsement for four more years of weakness,
indecision, mediocrity, and incompetence. No. No. No American
should vote until he or she has asked: Is the United States
stronger and more respected now than it was three-and-a-half
years ago? Is the world safer, a safer place in which to
It is the responsibility of the President of the United
States, in working for peace, to insure that the safety
of our people cannot successfully be threatened by a hostile
foreign power. As President, fulfilling that responsibility
will be my No. 1 priority. We're not a warlike people.
Quite the opposite. We always seek to live in peace. We
resort to force infrequently and with great reluctance
- and only after we've determined that it is absolutely
necessary. We are awed - and rightly so - by the forces
of destruction at loose in the world in this nuclear era.
But neither can we be naive or foolish. Four times in
my lifetime America has gone to war, bleeding the lives
of its young men into the sands of island beachheads, the
fields of Europe and the jungles and rice paddies of Asia.
We know only too well that war comes not when the forces
of freedom are strong, it is when they are weak that tyrants
We simply cannot learn these lessons the hard way again
without risking our destruction.
Of all the objectives we seek, first and foremost is the
establishment of lasting world peace. We must always stand
ready to negotiate in good faith, ready to pursue any reasonable
avenue that holds forth the promise of lessening tensions
and furthering the prospects of peace. But let our friends
and those who may wish us ill take note: the United States
has an obligation to its citizens and to the people of
the world never to let those who would destroy freedom
dictate the future course of life on this planet. I would
regard my election as proof that we have renewed our resolve
to preserve world peace and freedom. That this nation will
once again be strong enough to do that.
Now this evening marks the last step, save one, of a campaign
that has taken Nancy and me from one end of this great
nation to the other, over many months and thousands and
thousands of miles. There are those who question the way
we choose a President, who say that our process imposes
difficult and exhausting burdens on those who seek the
office. I have not found it so.
It is impossible to
capture in words the splendor of this vast continent
which God has granted as our portion of His creation.
There are no words to express the extraordinary strength
and character of this breed of people we call Americans.
Everywhere we've met thousands of Democrats, Independents
and Republicans from all economic conditions, walks of
life bound together in that community of shared values
of family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom. They
are concerned, yes, they're not frightened. They're disturbed,
but not dismayed. They are the kind of men and women
Tom Paine had in mind when he wrote, during the darkest
days of the American Revolution, "We have it in our
power to begin the world over again."
Nearly 150 years after
Tom Paine wrote those words, an American President told
the generation of the Great Depression that it had a "rendezvous with destiny." I believe
this generation of Americans today also has a rendezvous
with destiny. Tonight, let us dedicate ourselves to renewing
the American compact. I ask you not simply to "trust
me," but to trust your values - our values - and to
hold me responsible for living up to them. I ask you to
trust that American spirit which knows no ethnic, religious,
social, political, regional or economic boundaries; the
spirit that burned with zeal in the hearts of millions
of immigrants from every corner of the earth who came here
in search of freedom.
Some say that spirit no longer exists. But I've seen it
- I've felt it - all across the land, in the big cities,
the small towns and in rural America. It's still there,
ready to blaze into life if you and I are willing to do
what has to be done; we have to do the practical things,
the down-to-earth things, such as creating policies that
will stimulate our economy, increase productivity and put
America back to work. The time is now to limit Federal
spending; to insist on a stable monetary reform and to
free ourselves from imported oil.
The time is now to resolve that the basis of a firm and
principled foreign policy is one that takes the world as
it is and seeks to change it by leadership and example,
not by harangue, harassment or wishful thinking.
The time is now to say that we shall seek new friendships
and expand others and improve others, but we shall not
do so by breaking our word or casting aside old friends
And the time is now to redeem promises once made to the
American people, by another candidate, in another time
and another place. He said:
"For three long
years I have been going up and down this country preaching
that government - Federal, state and local - costs too
much. I shall not stop that preaching. As an immediate
program of action, we must abolish useless offices. We
must eliminate unnecessary functions of government.
"We must consolidate
subdivisions of government and, like the private citizen,
give up luxuries which we can no longer afford."
And then he said:
"I propose to
you, my friends, and through you, that government of
all kinds, big and little, be made solvent and that the
example be set by the President of the United States
and his Cabinet."
That was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's words as he accepted
the Democratic nomination for President in 1932.
The time is now, my fellow Americans, to recapture our
destiny, to take it into our own hands. And to do this
it will take many of us, working together. I ask you tonight,
all over this land, to volunteer your help in this cause
so that we can carry our message through out the land.
Isn't it time that we, the people, carry out these unkept
promises? That we pledge to each other and to all America
on this July day 48 years later, that now we intend to
do just that.
I have thought of something that's not a part of my speech
and worried over whether I should do it. Can we doubt that
only a Divine Providence placed this land, this island
of freedom, here as a refuge for all those people in the
world who yearn to breathe free? Jews and Christians enduring
persecution behind the Iron Curtain; the boat people of
Southeast Asia, Cuba, and of Haiti; the victims of drought
and famine in Africa, the freedom fighters of Afghanistan,
and our own countrymen held in savage captivity.
I'll confess that I've been a little afraid to suggest
what I'm going to suggest. I'm more afraid not to. Can
we begin our crusade joined together in a moment of silent
God bless America.