23. Editorial Note
During the course of his remarks before an audience of Department of State employees on February 24, 1977, President Jimmy Carter underscored his dedication to improving relations with adversaries in pursuit of peace and informing the American public about his administration’s foreign policy:
“The final point I want to make before I answer your questions is this: We have some potential adversaries and some past adversaries with whom we want to have better relationships. And that applies to Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. It applies even to North Korea and to Cuba. It applies to the People’s Republic of China and to Russia and to countries like Iraq. With some we have relations; some, as you know, we do not. But our constant search will be to find common ground on which we can reach agreement so that we can set an example for the rest of the world in a friendly and mutually respectful attitude.
“I have been pleased so far at the response that has been received from our embryonic efforts to carve out grounds for understanding and peace. I think so far the Soviet Union has responded well. And we will continue these kinds of efforts, sometimes anticipating discouragements. But we will not be deterred, and we will not be discouraged ourselves.
“I want the American people to be a part of it. I am going to have a press conference at least twice a month. I will have frequent fireside chats. My next one will be devoted exclusively to foreign affairs and defense matters. And I am going to have trips around our country where I might meet in town meeting forums. And we will have call-in type radio programs so that people can ask me questions about domestic and foreign affairs and so that to the best of my ability I can give them straight answers.
“I think that when our country speaks, it ought to speak with a strong voice. And when a foreign policy is evolved, even though it might be the right foreign policy, exclusively by the President and the Secretary of State, and then promulgated to the world without the understanding or participation of the Congress, the other Cabinet members or the people of our country, the rest of the world knows that the President and the Secretary of State, powerful people, still speak with a hollow voice. So to the extent that you are involved in the evolution of an idea or a new approach or a consistent old approach, to that extent, we will all be strengthened.
“We are partners. I can’t succeed as President unless you succeed. And if you make a serious mistake, I am the one who will be the focal point for that criticism and that despair and that disillusionment that [Page 93]will follow. I think when we do make a mistake we ought to be frank about it and say we erred and this is the corrective action that we will take. And we will try to correct our error, and we will try to do better next time.
“I think the American people will respond well. And I think other nations that look to us for leadership will respond well, also.
“I want to make sure that we eliminate in our own country those vestiges of hatred or discrimination or deprivation of human rights that we still retain so that when we do criticize other countries, or when we do speak out to deplore the loss of those rights in other nations, that we, ourselves, might be free of justified criticism.
“Well, all these matters that have just come to my mind as I stand here before you are important to us all. And I just want to be sure that we work in harmony to alleviate tensions and to reinspire those who can legitimately, I hope, in the future look to us for justified inspiration.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pages 237–238)
Carter spoke at 2:37 p.m. in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the Department of State and then answered questions from Department and Agency for International Development employees. Prior to his remarks, Carter toured the Department’s Communications Center and typed a message on a teletype machine to the Embassy in Paris.