Address at the Presidential Preview Dinner

Los Angeles, CA | October 11, 1975

But I do not intend to let skepticism about government destroy my belief in people, or in what your enlightened human action can achieve. No poll can prove this, but I am convinced that people's cynicism about politicians rises and falls with the politicians' cynicism about people.

When I announced my candidacy for President last month, I began by explaining why I was running. Everything that has gone on since that time -- from the Administration's $100 billion plan to bail out oil companies to its $28 billion proposal to cut taxes on conditions no Congress could or should accept -- has confirmed my original reasons: Given what I believe; what I see happening in this country; given the lack of leadership to deal with our problems at home and abroad -- I could not stand aside.

For only the second time in this century, the forward movement of America has been reversed; we have retrogressed as a society. This reversal of momentum has generated the vast crisis of confidence we face today. Not since the Great Depression has America stood in fear of the future.

How do we find the way forward? At home and abroad, we must first redefine the role of government. There are clear choices to be made.

The Ford Administration seems to be saying that no government is good government.

But we know that is simply a prescription for turning America over to big business. It is old Republican wine -- you remember, "The Business of America is Business" -- in a new bottle, one designed to appeal to the legitimate and growing sentiments of many Americans that government isn't working very well.

But let's not confuse the important question of government's proper role with the purpose and effect of Mr. Ford's philosophy. Because it is not all of government he wants to dismantle.

He is enthusiastic about eliminating the hot lunches of kids who may have no other decent meal all day, but he has no problem proposing that the public pay one and a quarter billion dollars for Ford's boat -- a nuclear powered cruiser that not even the Navy says it needs.

Mr. Ford is for no government all right -- no government for the (oil companies, the wheat exporters, the plutonium breeders, and the defense companies. Rely on free markets, he tells us, and everything will be again the way it was before. But we know many markets are not free. The price we pay for food, gasoline and hospital beds has climbed almost beyond sight because a few people wield great economic power, and because Nixon and Ford have both permitted huge wheat sales to Russia before making sure there's enough at home to feed America at reasonable prices.

The Republican strategy is to fight inflation by putting people out of work. But the insecurity of double-digit inflation hasn't been stopped by unemployment, by forcing men and women to suffer the indignity of no work while our society suffers from lack of what work alone can provide.

Some Democrats say there's nothing wrong that more money and more programs in Washington won't cure. We need only rely on government, and all will be well. In my judgment, that approach and the Republican approach are both dead wrong.

They are wrong because the world has entered a new era. Our philosophic, religious and political beliefs can still provide the framework for our future choices. But the problems we now face are different in kind, not just in size, from those we faced before. They will not respond to the old shibboleths and nostrums. Instead we must seek a common existence, rooted in our common humanity. The first place we must bring our efforts to bear on common human problems is here at home. And that starts with putting the government on the side of the consumer, the taxpayer, and the individual. Government must abandon those tasks that individuals, families and neighborhoods can do for themselves. But it must protect the conditions in which they can remain truly free and independent.

We've learned that government and corporate bureaucracy are no substitute for self-reliant individual effort. But we've learned also that the self-reliant individual and family can be reduced to myth if government, while "getting off people's backs," does not remain on their side.

I'm opposed to centralized, rigid, unresponsive bureaucracy. That's why I ran the Peace Corps and Head Start and Community Action the way I did. But a purely negative approach to government will get us nowhere. Only a governmental policy actively working for the small and the personal can turn this country away from the large and the anonymous; only a national commitment to the human scale can restore a sense of community.

Such a commitment means four major things:

First, it means jobs. The independence of men and women, of the young and old, and of every American family, depends on work -- and a Shriver Administration would put people back to work, with tax cuts that don't threaten to destroy as many jobs as they create, and with a job program that matches unmet needs with people who need work.

Second, my commitment means justice:

  • Economic justice in keeping food, fuel, and other basic prices within reasonable levels even if it means restructuring whole industries to create real competition in price, and stockpiling to control extreme fluctuations in supply;
  • Medical justice in quality health care at controlled costs even if it means rechanneling health into the public sector;
  • Racial class and sexual justice even if it means challenging the most time-honored stereotypes and traditions.

Third, my commitment means reunion -- reunion of neighborhoods and families by ending practices which force neighbors and parents and children apart instead of helping to bring them together.

Fourth, my commitment means integrity and interdependence abroad.

Domestic and foreign affairs are inseparable. Our markets are linked. The shaping of a common world existence is the precondition of a secure existence -- and perhaps of any existence at all.

Seeking dominion, we have meddled too much abroad, just as we have interfered too deeply in the lives of our citizens. Cold War fears which led to fear of change in some places escalated until we opposed change in all places. As the descendants of the men who fired the shot heard round the world, we must acting like the Redcoats of the 20th Century. When our arms and aid go to reactionary tyrants abroad, when our food is used for politics instead of hunger, when we move toward closer relations with the racist regimes in Southern Africa, when the CIA lawlessly subverts governments abroad, when our military and intelligence establishments use dangerous drugs in unethical experiments at home, it is little wonder that foreigners, once our friends, conclude that our values have collapsed.

The irony of America today is that we have everything to achieve our objectives -- the people, the resources, the political, religious and philosophical traditions. We have everything we need today...but leadership.

I seek your support as a man who's never held elective office. But leadership in America can no longer be left to those who have had the opportunity to lead -- and failed. Today, ideas and experience in making them work are far more important than political pedigree -- and political debts. We've learned in this country that experience in winning elections doesn't mean an ability to govern. I think I can bring to the Presidency not only the experience of thirty years as an executive at all levels of private and public life but also a healthy skepticism about the role and capacity of the Federal government.

But I do not intend to let skepticism about government destroy my belief in people, or in what your enlightened human action can achieve. No poll can prove this, but I am convinced that people's cynicism about politicians rises and falls with the politicians' cynicism about people.

I am no cynic. I believe it is vital to do as much listening as talking, as much questioning as answering, and that the American people are the greatest teachers of all.

I ask for your support in a spirit of hope and in the conviction that, together, we can, in Lincoln's words, summon the better angels of our nature.

What we will need is a rallying together, a mutual struggle, not just a commitment to a candidate but a commitment to one another.