Here is the video clip of Jimmy
Carter's Crisis of Confidence speech. It is split
into four parts. Scroll down for the transcript.
It follows the full text transcript of
Jimmy Carter's Crisis of Confidence Speech,
also called his Malaise Speech, broadcast from
Washington D.C. - July 15, 1979.
This is a special
night for me. Exactly 3 years ago, on July 15,
1976, I accepted the nomination of my party to
run for President of the United States. I
promised you a President who is not isolated
from the people, who feels your pain, and who
shares your dreams and who draws his strength
and his wisdom from you.
During the past 3 years I've spoken to you on
many occasions about national concerns, the
energy crisis, reorganizing the Government, our
Nation's economy, and issues of war and
especially peace. But over those years the
subjects of the speeches, the talks, and the
press conferences have become increasingly
narrow, focused more and more on what the
isolated world of Washington thinks is
important. Gradually, you've heard more and more
about what the Government thinks or what the
Government should be doing and less and less
about our Nation's hopes, our dreams, and our
vision of the future.
Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again
about a very important subject—energy. For the
fifth time I would have described the urgency of
the problem and laid out a series of legislative
recommendations to the Congress. But as I was
preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the
same question that I now know has been troubling
many of you. Why have we not been able to get
together as a nation to resolve our serious
It's clear that the true problems of our Nation
are much deeper—deeper than gasoline lines or
energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or
recession. And I realize more than ever that as
President I need your help. So, I decided to
reach out and listen to the voices of America.
I invited to Camp David people from almost every
segment of our society—business and labor,
teachers and preachers, Governors, mayors, and
private citizens. And then I left Camp David to
listen to other Americans, men and women like
you. It has been an extraordinary 10 days, and I
want to share with you what I've heard.
First of all, I got a lot of personal advice.
Let me quote a few of the typical comments that
I wrote down.
This from a southern Governor: "Mr. President,
you are not leading this Nation— you're just
managing the Government."
"You don't see the people enough any more."
"Some of your Cabinet members don't seem loyal.
There is not enough discipline among your
"Don't talk to us about politics or the
mechanics of government, but about an
understanding of our common good."
"Mr. President, we're in trouble. Talk to us
about blood and sweat and tears."
"If you lead, Mr. President, we will follow."
Many people talked about themselves and about
the condition of our Nation. This from a young
woman in Pennsylvania: "I feel so far from
government. I feel like ordinary people are
excluded from political power."
And this from a young Chicano: "Some of us have
suffered from recession all our lives."
"Some people have wasted energy, but others
haven't had anything to waste."
And this from a religious leader: "No material
shortage can touch the important things like
God's love for us or our love for one another."
And I like this one particularly from a black
woman who happens to be the mayor of a small
Mississippi town: "The big-shots are not the
only ones who are important. Remember, you can't
sell anything on Wall Street unless someone digs
it up somewhere else first."
This kind of summarized a lot of other
statements: "Mr. President, we are confronted
with a moral and a spiritual crisis."
Several of our discussions were on energy, and I
have a notebook full of comments and advice.
I'll read just a few.
"We can't go on consuming 40 percent more energy
than we produce. When we import oil we are also
importing inflation plus unemployment."
"We've got to use what we have. The Middle East
has only 5 percent of the world's energy, but
the United States has 24 percent."
And this is one of the most vivid statements:
"Our neck is stretched over the fence and OPEC
has a knife."
"There will be other cartels and other
shortages. American wisdom and courage right now
can set a path to follow in the future."
This was a good one: "Be bold, Mr. President. We
may make mistakes, but we are ready to
And this one from a labor leader got to the
heart of it: "The real issue is freedom. We must
deal with the energy problem on a war footing."
And the last that I'll read: "When we enter the
moral equivalent of war, Mr. President, don't
issue us BB guns."
These 10 days confirmed my belief in the decency
and the strength and the wisdom of the American
people, but it also bore out some of my
longstanding concerns about our Nation's
I know, of course, being President, that
government actions and legislation can be very
important. That's why I've worked hard to put my
campaign promises into law—and I have to admit,
with just mixed success. But after listening to
the American people I have been reminded again
that all the legislation in the world can't fix
what's wrong with America. So, I want to speak
to you first tonight about a subject even more
serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk
to you right now about a fundamental threat to
I do not mean our political and civil liberties.
They will endure. And I do not refer to the
outward strength of America, a nation that is at
peace tonight everywhere in the world, with
unmatched economic power and military might.
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways.
It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis
that strikes at the very heart and soul and
spirit of our national will. We can see this
crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of
our own lives and in the loss of a unity of
purpose for our Nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is
threatening to destroy the social and the
political fabric of America.
The confidence that we have always had as a
people is not simply some romantic dream or a
proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the
Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our
Nation and has guided our development as a
people. Confidence in the future has supported
everything else—public institutions and private
enterprise, our own families, and the very
Constitution of the United States. Confidence
has defined our course and has served as a link
between generations. We've always believed in
something called progress. We've always had a
faith that the days of our children would be
better than our own.
Our people are losing that faith, not only in
government itself but in the ability as citizens
to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of
our democracy. As a people we know our past and
we are proud of it. Our progress has been part
of the living history of America, even the
world. We always believed that we were part of a
great movement of humanity itself called
democracy, involved in the search for freedom,
and that belief has always strengthened us in
our purpose. But just as we are losing our
confidence in the future, we are also beginning
to close the door on our past.
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong
families, close-knit communities, and our faith
in God, too many of us now tend to worship
self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity
is no longer defined by what one does, but by
what one owns. But we've discovered that owning
things and consuming things does not satisfy our
longing for meaning. We've learned that piling
up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of
lives which have no confidence or purpose.
The symptoms of this crisis of the American
spirit are all around us. For the first time in
the history of our country a majority of our
people believe that the next 5 years will be
worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our
people do not even vote. The productivity of
American workers is actually dropping, and the
willingness of Americans to save for the future
has fallen below that of all other people in the
As you know, there is a growing disrespect for
government and for churches and for schools, the
news media, and other institutions. This is not
a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is
the truth and it is a warning.
These changes did not happen overnight. They've
come upon us gradually over the last generation,
years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.
We were sure that ours was a nation of the
ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of
John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin
Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies
were always invincible and our causes were
always just, only to suffer the agony of
Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place
of honor until the shock of Watergate.
We remember when the phrase "sound as a dollar"
was an expression of absolute dependability,
until 10 years of inflation began to shrink our
dollar and our savings. We believed that our
Nation's resources were limitless until 1973,
when we had to face a growing dependence on
These wounds are still very deep. They have
never been healed.
Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people
have turned to the Federal Government and found
it isolated from the mainstream of our Nation's
life. Washington, D.C., has become an island.
The gap between our citizens and our Government
has never been so wide. The people are looking
for honest answers, not easy answers; clear
leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and
politics as usual.
What you see too often in Washington and
elsewhere around the country is a system of
government that seems incapable of action. You
see a Congress twisted and pulled in every
direction by hundreds of well-financed and
powerful special interests. You see every
extreme position defended to the last vote,
almost to the last breath by one unyielding
group or another. You often see a balanced and a
fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little
sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an
orphan without support and without friends.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and
drift. You don't like it, and neither do I. What
can we do?
First of all, we must face the truth, and then
we can change our course. We simply must have
faith in each other, faith in our ability to
govern ourselves, and faith in the future of
this Nation. Restoring that faith and that
confidence to America is now the most important
task we face. It is a true challenge of this
generation of Americans.
One of the visitors to Camp David last week put
it this way: "We've got to stop crying and start
sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop
cursing and start praying. The strength we need
will not come from the White House, but from
every house in America."
We know the strength of America. We are strong.
We can regain our unity. We can regain our
confidence. We are the heirs of generations who
survived threats much more powerful and awesome
than those that challenge us now. Our fathers
and mothers were strong men and women who shaped
a new society during the Great Depression, who
fought world wars, and who carved out a new
charter of peace for the world.
We ourselves are the same Americans who just 10
years ago put a man on the Moon. We are the
generation that dedicated our society to the
pursuit of human rights and equality. And we are
the generation that will win the war on the
energy problem and in that process rebuild the
unity and confidence of America.
We are at a turning point in our history. There
are two paths to choose. One is a path I've
warned about tonight, the path that leads to
fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road
lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to
grasp for ourselves some advantage over others.
That path would be one of constant conflict
between narrow interests ending in chaos and
immobility. It is a certain route to failure.
All the traditions of our past, all the lessons
of our heritage, all the promises of our future
point to another path, the path of common
purpose and the restoration of American values.
That path leads to true freedom for our Nation
and ourselves. We can take the first steps down
that path as we begin to solve our energy
Energy will be the immediate test of our ability
to unite this Nation, and it can also be the
standard around which we rally. On the
battlefield of energy we can win for our Nation
a new confidence, and we can seize control again
of our common destiny.
In little more than two decades we've gone from
a position of energy independence to one in
which almost half the oil we use comes from
foreign countries, at prices that are going
through the roof. Our excessive dependence on
OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our
economy and our people. This is the direct cause
of the long lines which have made millions of
you spend aggravating hours waiting for
gasoline. It's a cause of the increased
inflation and unemployment that we now face.
This intolerable dependence on foreign oil
threatens our economic independence and the very
security of our Nation.
The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It
is a clear and present danger to our Nation.
These are facts and we simply must face them:
What I have to say to you now about energy is
simple and vitally important.
Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for
the energy policy of the United States.
Beginning this moment, this Nation will never
use more foreign oil than we did in 1977—never.
From now on, every new addition to our demand
for energy will be met from our own production
and our own conservation. The generation-long
growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be
stopped dead in its tracks right now and then
reversed as we move through the 1980's, for I am
tonight setting the further goal of cutting our
dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end
of the next decade—a saving of over 4 1/2
million barrels of imported oil per day.
Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets,
I will use my Presidential authority to set
import quotas. I'm announcing tonight that for
1979 and 1980, I will forbid the entry into this
country of one drop of foreign oil more than
these goals allow. These quotas will ensure a
reduction in imports even below the ambitious
levels we set at the recent Tokyo summit.
Point three: To give us energy security, I am
asking for the most massive peacetime commitment
of funds and resources in our Nation's history
to develop America's own alternative sources of
fuel—from coal, from oil shale, from plant
products for gasohol, from unconventional gas,
from the Sun.
I propose the creation of an energy security
corporation to lead this effort to replace 2 1/2
million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990.
The corporation will issue up to $5 billion in
energy bonds, and I especially want them to be
in small denominations so that average Americans
can invest directly in America's energy
Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation
helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize
American determination and ability to win the
energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit
legislation to Congress calling for the creation
of this Nation's first solar bank, which will
help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent
of our energy coming from solar power by the
These efforts will cost money, a lot of money,
and that is why Congress must enact the windfall
profits tax without delay. It will be money well
spent. Unlike the billions of dollars that we
ship to foreign countries to pay for foreign
oil, these funds will be paid by Americans to
Americans. These funds will go to fight, not to
increase, inflation and unemployment.
Point four: I'm asking Congress to mandate, to
require as a matter of law, that our Nation's
utility companies cut their massive use of oil
by 50 percent within the next decade and switch
to other fuels, especially coal, our most
abundant energy source.
Point five: To make absolutely certain that
nothing stands in the way of achieving these
goals, I will urge Congress to create an energy
mobilization board which, like the War
Production Board in World War II, will have the
responsibility and authority to cut through the
red tape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks
to completing key energy projects.
We will protect our environment. But when this
Nation critically needs a refinery or a
pipeline, we will build it.
Point six: I'm proposing a bold conservation
program to involve every State, county, and city
and every average American in our energy battle.
This effort will permit you to build
conservation into your homes and your lives at a
cost you can afford.
I ask Congress to give me authority for
mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline
rationing. To further conserve energy, I'm
proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the
next decade to strengthen our public
transportation systems. And I'm asking you for
your good and for your Nation's security to take
no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public
transportation whenever you can, to park your
car one extra day per week, to obey the speed
limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel.
Every act of energy conservation like this is
more than just common sense—I tell you it is an
act of patriotism.
Our Nation must be fair to the poorest among us,
so we will increase aid to needy Americans to
cope with rising energy prices. We often think
of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In
fact, it is the most painless and immediate way
of rebuilding our Nation's strength. Every
gallon of oil each one of us saves is a new form
of production. It gives us more freedom, more
confidence, that much more control over our own
So, the solution of our energy crisis can also
help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in
our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity,
our confidence in the future, and give our
Nation and all of us individually a new sense of
You know we can do it. We have the natural
resources. We have more oil in our shale alone
than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal
than any nation on Earth. We have the world's
highest level of technology. We have the most
skilled work force, with innovative genius, and
I firmly believe that we have the national will
to win this war.
I do not promise you that this struggle for
freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick
way out of our Nation's problems, when the truth
is that the only way out is an all-out effort.
What I do promise you is that I will lead our
fight, and I will enforce fairness in our
struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above
all, I will act.
We can manage the short-term shortages more
effectively and we will, but there are no
short-term solutions to our long-range problems.
There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.
Twelve hours from now I will speak again in
Kansas City, to expand and to explain further
our energy program. Just as the search for
solutions to our energy shortages has now led us
to a new awareness of our Nation's deeper
problems, so our willingness to work for those
solutions in energy can strengthen us to attack
those deeper problems.
I will continue to travel this country, to hear
the people of America. You can help me to
develop a national agenda for the 1980s. I will
listen and I will act. We will act together.
These were the promises I made 3 years ago, and
I intend to keep them.
Little by little we can and we must rebuild our
confidence. We can spend until we empty our
treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of
science. But we can succeed only if we tap our
greatest resources—America's people, America's
values, and America's confidence.
I have seen the strength of America in the
inexhaustible resources of our people. In the
days to come, let us renew that strength in the
struggle for an energy secure nation.
In closing, let me say this: I will do my best,
but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be
heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something
good about our country. With God's help and for
the sake of our Nation, it is time for us to
join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves
together to a rebirth of the American spirit.
Working together with our common faith we cannot