With the recent news regarding the health of former President Carter, I thought it would appropriate to start running some of his past addresses and speeches, as a reminder of the man who held the highest office during some turbulent years in our country.
This talk, billed as a “fireside address” in the style of the informal talks President Franklin Roosevelt gave to the American people during his days in office, and during another set of turbulent times, was given to lay out the plans and hopes for the coming months of a new administration.
We were in the midst of an energy crisis – of skyrocketing unemployment – of inflation – of a country still reeling from the affects of Watergate. It was a tall order, and Jimmy Carter hit the ground running:
President Carter: “Good evening.
Tomorrow will be two weeks since I became President. I have spent a lot of time deciding how I can be a good President. This talk, which the broadcast networks have agreed to bring to you, is one of several steps that I will take to keep in close touch with the people of our country, and to let you know informally about our plans for the coming months.
When I was running for President, I made a number of commitments. I take them very seriously. I believe that they were the reason that I was elected. And I want you to know that I intend to carry them out. As you probably noticed already, I have acted on several of my promises.
I will report to you from time to time about our Government—both our problems and our achievements, but tonight I want to tell you how I plan to carry out some of my other commitments.
Some of our obvious goals can be achieved very quickly—for example, through executive orders and decisions made directly by me. But in many other areas, we must move carefully, with full involvement by the Congress, allowing time for citizens to participate in careful study, in order to develop predictable, long-range programs that we can be sure are affordable and that we know will work.
Some of these efforts will also require dedication—perhaps even some sacrifice—from you. But I don’t believe that any of us are afraid to learn that our national goals require cooperation and mutual effort.
One of our most urgent projects is to develop a national energy policy. As I pointed out during the campaign, the United States is the only major industrial country without a comprehensive, long-range energy policy.
The extremely cold weather this winter has dangerously depleted our supplies of natural gas and fuel oil and forced hundreds of thousands of workers off the job. I congratulate the Congress for its quick action on the Emergency Natural Gas Act, which was passed today and signed just a few minutes ago. But the real problem—our failure to plan for the future or to take energy conservation seriously—started long before this winter, and it will take much longer to solve.
I realize that many of you have not believed that we really have an energy problem. But this winter has made all of us realize that we have to act.
Now, the Congress has already made many of the preparations for energy legislation. Presidential assistant Dr. James Schlesinger is beginning to direct an effort to develop a national energy policy. Many groups of Americans will be involved. On April 20, we will have completed the planning for our energy program and will immediately then ask the Congress for its help in enacting comprehensive legislation.
Our program will emphasize conservation. The amount of energy being wasted which could be saved is greater than the total energy that we are importing from foreign countries. We will also stress development of our rich coal reserves in an environmentally sound way; we will emphasize research on solar energy and other renewable energy sources; and we will maintain strict safeguards on necessary atomic energy production.”
It would be the first of several informal chats as a way of keeping the American people abreast of what was going on – the engage the electorate. It was a time we needed to get our trust of a Presidency back. We needed calming words.
Here is President Carter’s Fireside address, as it was originally broadcast on February 2, 1977.