Excerpts from a speech by President Jimmy Carter on Labor Day, 1980, in Tuscumbia:
“On a good day like this it’s good to be out in the country. Thanks to all of you, I’ve got a job in the city now. I’d like to keep it for about four more years. But I won’t ever forget, as a farm boy myself, that the greatness of America lies in its land. The land typifies the values which are dear to us — hard work, self-reliance, trust in our families, trust in our neighbors, and trust in our God. And I pray to God that we in the South and the people of this nation will never get away from those values which do not change.
“I know what you feel for this nation. I know the pride and the love for this country that’s in your hearts, and I know the hopes that you have in your hearts for the future. Our region, the Southland, has been through a lot of pain and a lot of change, but we came out all right in the end because of our determination to move ahead and to face our problems together.
“There are still a few in the South, indeed around the country, some I heard from today, who practice cowardice and who counsel fear and hatred. ... They said we ought to be afraid of each other, that whites ought to hate and be afraid of Blacks and that Blacks ought to hate and be afraid of whites. And they would persecute those who worshipped in a different way from most of us. ... And sometimes I see the raising of a cross and I remember that the One who was crucified taught us to have faith, to hope, and not to hate but to love one another.
“As the first man from the Deep South in 140 years to be president of this nation, I say that these people in white sheets do not understand our region and what it’s been through, they do not understand what our country stands for, they do not understand that the South and all of America must move forward.
“Our past is a rich source of inspiration. We’ve had lessons that we learned with a great deal of pain. But the past is not a place to live. We must go forward in the South, and we will. ...
“Everybody here knows what a full day of hard work is all about, on the farm or in the factory. ... You know what others might forget: that the true strength of our country does not lie in the big corporations, it does not lie in big government, but in the sweat and the muscle and the nimble hands and the brains of working men and women. You’re the ones that built America, and you’re the ones that will continue to build and to rebuild America to meet the challenges of the future.
“The working families of this country do not want handouts for the able-bodied. None of us do. That is not the American way. We want opportunities; we want equal opportunities. We want a chance to provide for our families, to bring up our children, and to do what the Declaration of Independence says we have a right to do — to live in liberty and to pursue happiness for ourselves and for those we love.
“These aspirations, which have always burned in the hearts of Americans, are now within our grasp. We can have the future we want. We can make our dreams for this country come true.”