|Labor Day Speech
at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey
September 1, 1980
It is fitting that on Labor Day, we
meet beside the waters of New York harbor, with the eyes of Miss Liberty
on our gathering and in the words of the poet whose lines are inscribed
at her feet, “The air bridged harbor that twin cities frame.”
Through this “Golden Door,” under the
gaze of that “Mother of Exiles,” have come millions of men and women, who
first stepped foot on American soil right there, on Ellis Island, so close
to the Statue of Liberty.
These families came here to work.
They came to build. Others came to America in different ways, from other
lands, under different, often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolizes
what they all managed to build, no matter where they came from or how they
came or how much they suffered.
They helped to build that magnificent
city across the river. They spread across the land building other
cities and towns and incredibly productive farms.
They came to make America work.
They didn’t ask what this country could do for them but what they could
do to make this refuge the greatest home of freedom in history.
They brought with them courage, ambition
and the values of family, neighborhood, work, peace and freedom. They came
from different lands but they shared the same values, the same dream.
Today a President of the United States
would have us believe that dream is over or at least in need of change.
Jimmy Carter’s Administration tells
us that the descendants of those who sacrificed to start again in this
land of freedom may have to abandon the dream that drew their ancestors
to a new life in a new land.
The Carter record is a litany of despair,
of broken promises, of sacred trusts abandoned and forgotten.
Eight million out of work. Inflation
running at 18 percent in the first quarter of 1980. Black unemployment
at about 14 percent, higher than any single year since the government began
keeping separate statistics. Four straight major deficits run up
by Carter and his friends in Congress. The highest interest rates
the Civil War--reaching at times close to 20 percent--lately down to more
than 11 percent but now going up again--productivity falling for six straight
quarters among the most productive people in history.
Through his inflation he has raised
taxes on the American people by 30 percent--while their real income has
risen only 20 percent. He promised he would not increase taxes for
the low and middle-income people--the workers of America. Then he
imposed on American families the largest single tax increase in history.
His answer to all of this misery?
He tries to tell us that we are “only” in a recession, not a depression,
as if definitions—words--relieve our suffering.
Let it show on the record that when
the American people cried out for economic help, Jimmy Carter took refuge
behind a dictionary. Well if it’s a definition he wants, I’ll give
him one. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A
depression is when you lose yours. Recovery is when Jimmy Carter
I have talked with unemployed workers
all across this country. I have heard their views on what Jimmy Carter
has done to them and their families.
They aren’t interested in semantic quibbles.
They are out of work and they know who put them out of work. And they know
the difference between a recession and a depression.
Let Mr. Carter go to their homes, look
their children in the eye and argue with them that in is “only” a recession
that put dad or mom out of work.
Let him go to the unemployment lines
and lecture those workers who have been betrayed on what is the proper
definition for their widespread economic misery.
Human tragedy, human misery, the crushing
of the human spirit. They do not need defining--they need action.
And it is action, in the form of jobs,
lower taxes, and an expanded economy that -- as President -- I intend to
Call this human tragedy whatever you
want. Whatever it is, it is Jimmy Carter’s. He caused it.
He tolerates it. And he is going to answer to the American people
Last week, more than three years after
be became President, he finally came up with what he calls a new economic
program. It is his 5th new economic program in 3 ½ years.
He talks as if someone else has been in charge these past few years.
With two months to go until the election he rides to the rescue now with
a crazy-quilt of obvious election-year promises which he’ll ask Congress
for--next year. After three years of neglect, the misery of unemployment,
inflation, high taxes, dwindling earning power and inability to save--after
all this, American workers have now been discovered by this administration.
Well it won’t work. It is cynical.
It is political. And it is too late. The damage is done and
every American family knows who did it.
In 1976 he said he would never use unemployment
as an economic tool to fight inflation. In 1980 he called for an
increase in unemployment--to fight inflation.
In 1976 he said he would bring unemployment
and inflation down to 3 percent.
Who can believe him? Unemployment
is now around 8 percent, inflation is 12 ½.
And most of us have begun to realize
that so long as Carter policies are in effect, the next four years will
be as dark as the last four.
But here, beside the torch that many
times before in our nation’s history has cast a golden light in times of
gloom, I pledge to you I’ll bring a new message of hope to all America.
I look forward to meeting Mr. Carter
in debate, confronting him with the whole sorry record of his Administration--the
record he prefers not to mention. If he ever finally agrees to the
kind of first debate the American people want--which I’m beginning to doubt--he’ll
answer to them and to me.
This country needs a new administration,
with a renewed dedication to the dream of America--an administration that
will give that dream new life and make America great again!
Restoring and revitalizing that dream
will take bold action.
On this day, dedicated to American working
men and women, may I tell you the vision I have of a new administration
and of a new Congress, filled with new members dedicated to the values
we honor today?
Beginning in January of 1981, American
workers will once again be heeded. Their needs and values will be
acted upon in Washington. I will consult with representatives of
organized labor on those matters concerning the welfare of the working
people of this nation.
I happen to be the only president of
a union ever to be a candidate for President of the United States.
As president of my union -- the Screen
Actors Guild -- I spent many hours with the late George Meany, whose love
of this country and whose belief in a strong defense against all totalitarians
is one of labor’s greatest legacies. One year ago today on Labor
Day George Meany told the American people:
“As American workers and their families
return from their summer vacations they face growing unemployment and inflation,
a climate of economic anxiety and uncertainty.”
Well I pledge to you in his memory that
the voice of the American worker will once again be heeded in Washington
and that the climate of fear that he spoke of will no longer threaten workers
and their families.
When we talk about tax reduction, when
we talk about ending inflation by stopping it where it starts -- in Washington
-- we are talking about a way to bring labor and management together for
America. We are talking about jobs, and productivity and wages.
We are talking about doing away with Jimmy Carter’s view of a no-growth
policy, and ever-shrinking economic pie with smaller pieces for each of
That’s no answer. We can have
a bigger pie with bigger slices for everyone. I believe that together
you and I can bake that bigger pie. We can make that dream that brought
so many of us or our parents and grandparents to this land live once more.
Let us work to protect the human right
to acquire and own a home, and make sure that that right is extended to
as many Americans as possible. A home is part of that dream.
I want to work in Washington to roll
back the crushing burden of taxation that limits investment, production,
and the generation of real wealth for our people. A job, and savings,
and hope for our children is part of that dream.
I want to help Americans of every race,
creed and heritage keep and build that sense of community which is at the
heart of America, for a decent neighborhood is part of that dream.
We will work to strengthen the small
business sector which creates most of the new jobs we need for our people.
Small business needs relief from government paperwork, relief from over-regulation,
relief from a host of governmentally-created problems that defeat
the effort of creative men and women. A chance to invest, build and
produce new wealth is part of the dream.
But restoring the American dream requires
more than restoring a sound, productive economy, vitally important as that
is. It requires a return to spiritual and moral values, values so
deeply held by those who came here to build a new life. We need to
restore those values in our daily life, in our neighborhoods and in our
government’s dealings with the other nations of the world.
These are the values inspiring those
brave workers in Poland. The values that have inspired other dissidents
under Communist domination. They remind us that where free unions
and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. They remind
us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
You and I must protect and preserve freedom here or it will not be passed
on to our children. Today the workers in Poland are showing a new
generation not how high is the price of freedom but how much it is worth
I want more than anything I’ve ever
wanted, to have an administration that will, through its actions, at home
and in the international arena, let millions of people know that Miss Liberty
still “Lifts her lamp beside the golden door.” Through our international
broadcasting stations -- the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the
others -- let us send, loud and clear, the message that this generation
of Americans intends to keep that lamp shining; that this dream, this last
best hope of man on earth, this nation under God, shall not perish from
the earth. We will instead carry on the building of an American economy
that once again holds forth real opportunity for all, we shall continue
to be a symbol of freedom and guardian of the eternal values that so inspired
those who came to this port of entry.
Let us pledge to each other, with this
Great Lady looking on, that we can, and so help us God, we will make America