1. Editorial Note

Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter declared his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination on December 12, 1974. In preparation for Carter’s announcement speech, adviser Stuart Eizenstat and members of the Governor’s Issues Group provided Carter with specific themes he needed to emphasize. In a November 1, 1974, memorandum, Eizenstat surveyed the current mood in a post-Watergate America:

“We are currently a country adrift from our moorings. Our leaders muddle through from day to day, reacting to crises, with no notion of where we are headed.

“As we approach our 200th anniversary as a nation, it is time that our actions be guided by defined goals we wish to achieve in the balance of the 20th century. These are not pie-in-the-sky hopes but realistic, achievable goals. These national goals must be clearly defined so that our citizens and our decision-makers know where we are headed and why we are going there.”

Eizenstat stressed that while Carter did not need to define “the specific goals the nation must set for itself,” he should “display some notion of the areas in which specific, defined goals are a prerequisite to national government decision-making.” In addition to five domestic areas, Eizenstat listed the elimination of domestic and international hunger and “a foreign policy which is realistic, reasonable, and which reflects our national goals and ideals and stresses the tempered use of power abroad.” Referencing Carter’s ability to demonstrate national leadership, Eizenstat noted:

“You have had to make executive decisions—to make a budget and live within it—to develop new programs and provide the leadership to carry through these programs—to deal with people on a daily basis, not with Washington lobbyists—while your principal opponents have never made executive decisions but simply react as legislators to problems—who can propose the world without regard to accountability or efficiency of their proposals. Your experience is closer to that required as President than theirs. Indeed, their ‘duties’ are such they can run for President and be Senator at the same time.

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“You should stress your own varied background—e.g. farmer and nuclear physicist—with emphasis on your foreign policy experience.

“Your accomplishments should not be set out in washer-list form but should be interspersed throughout the speech.” (Carter Library, 1976 Presidential Campaign, Issues Office, Issues Office—Stuart Eizenstat, Box 1, Announcement Speech, 9/74–12/74)

Carter formally announced his candidacy at events both in Washington and Atlanta, Georgia. In an address he delivered at a luncheon held at the National Press Club, Carter briefly described his background, stressing the commonalities and dreams he believed all Americans shared. Such dreams, he rued, had been compromised by “debilitating compromise, acceptance of mediocrity, subservience to special interests, and an absence of executive vision and direction.” He called for the American people to “reaffirm and to strengthen our ethical and spiritual and political beliefs,” setting out specific steps that governmental officials should take to regain public trust. With regard to foreign policy, Carter asserted:

“It is obvious that domestic and foreign affairs are directly interrelated. A necessary base for effective implementation of any foreign policy is to get our domestic house in order.

“Coordination of effort among the leaders of our nation should be established so that our farm production, industrial development, foreign trade, defense, energy, and diplomatic policies are mutually supportive and not in conflict.

“The time for American intervention in all the problems of the world is over. But we cannot retreat into isolationism. Ties of friendship and cooperation with our friends and neighbors must be strengthened. Our common interests must be understood and pursued. The integrity of Israel must be preserved. Highly personalized and narrowly focused diplomatic efforts, although sometimes successful, should be balanced with a more wide-ranging implementation of foreign policy by competent foreign service officers.

“Our nation’s security is obviously of paramount importance, and everything must be done to insure adequate military preparedness. But there is no reason why our national defense establishment cannot also be efficient.” (The Presidential Campaign 1976, volume I, part II: Jimmy Carter, pages 3–4, 9) Carter’s handwritten notes outlining the specific items he intended to include in the draft are in the Carter Library, 1976 Presidential Campaign, Issues Office—Stuart Eizenstat, Box 1, Announcement Speech, 9/74–12/74.

Later that evening, Carter addressed a rally of family, friends, and political supporters at the Atlanta Civic Center. In his remarks, Carter asserted that winning the Presidency was not the “most important thing in my life.” Continuing, he noted: “There are many other things [Page 3]that I would not do to be President. I would not tell a lie; I would not mislead the American people; I would not avoid taking a stand on a controversial issue which is important to our country or the world. And I would not betray your trust.” Referencing his earlier address to the National Press Club, Carter commented that he had spent “25 or 30 minutes” covering “30 specific issues in some superficial way.” Once he left gubernatorial office on January 14, 1975, he intended to “spell these issues much more clearly and much more definitively and much more thoroughly. So that by the time the end of this campaign arrives, the American people will know not only what I stand for, but, I hope with my efforts and those of other candidates, what this country ought to stand for.” (The Presidential Campaign 1976, volume I, part I: Jimmy Carter, pages 11 and 12)