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President Carter's Remarks to Georgia State Legislature

Remarks by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter
At a Joint Session of the Georgia State Legislature

(The following is a transcript of President Carter's remarks to the Georgia State Legislature.)

Lieutenant Governor Taylor, Speaker Terry Coleman, whom I consider almost as one of my sons … It's a great honor for me to come back to this distinguished chamber. This state and this legislature mean a lot to me.

My family moved into Georgia long before the revolution. There they settled in the late 1700s. In fact, the old rock house, which may be the oldest home in Georgia, was built by my ancestors near Thomson, Georgia. My father served in the House of Representatives in the early 1950s. Ten years later, forty years ago, I ran for the Georgia Senate, a very difficult election. I had some trouble in Quitman County down around Georgetown (laughter); 126 people voted against me alphabetically (laughter and applause), a number of them in prison or dead.

After the election was over and I was finally chosen after a great deal of time and lawsuits, the Georgia Senate decided to try to revise the state's election code. I always remember one major amendment that took a lot of debate in the Senate. It was introduced by Bobby Rowan from Enigma, Georgia. The amendment said that no one in Georgia in the future could vote either in a primary or general election who had been dead more than three years. (laughter and applause).

So those reforms went into effect and Georgia's a much better place now (laughter) than it was then. A year later, the Nobel Committee in Norway awarded the prize to Martin Luther King Jr. (applause), and this decision was met by great emotion and some consternation and some gratitude in Georgia.

When I was elected governor, I made a very brief inaugural address, eight minutes, I remember. One of the things I announced, which had already happened in our state, was that the time for racial discrimination was over. That was more than a hundred years after the end of the War Between the States. Out of that change, which has taken place in our great state, there came an opportunity for me to run for president of the United States.

There had not been anyone from the South elected to the White House since James K. Polk 132 years before that. Had it not been for the success of the civil rights movement and the demonstration of Georgians that equality had come to our state and enlightenment, I would not have had the chance to be considered.

We had a lot to do in those four years. There was a four-year limit then. I'm not insinuating that I could have had four more years if there hadn't been a limit. But we spent the four years, among other things, reorganizing the entire state government. We reduced then 300 different agencies and departments down to 22. When I took office, there were 15 different agencies all authorized to issue bonds for the state of Georgia. I was helped by a lot of people. George Buzby was my floor leader in the house. Zell Miller was my companion in the Senate and helped me a great deal. Max Cleland was here and Sam Nunn and others still in this body and in the Senate joined in that.

I know you have much more important things maybe to vote on today than just reorganizing the state government of Georgia. Our country now is unchallenged as the greatest and strongest nation on earth. The military budget of the United States of America equals the military budgets of all other nations on earth. When we spend three dollars on our defense budget, the Iraqis spend one cent on theirs. There is no doubt about the outcome of any military conflict in which the United States of America is involved. Although there are differences in our country, every American is now united in hopes and prayers and firm expectation that the war will be soon over in Iraq completely successful with minimal casualties and our troops will come home victorious. (applause)

To conclude my remarks, I know what an important day this is in the legislature, having been here as governor and as a senator. Let me say that my life and the life of Rosalynn for the last 20 years has been in The Carter Center. Our goal and life since I left the White House has been to demonstrate the finest aspects of the greatest nation on earth. We are an organization committed to peace. Every day we analyze every conflict on earth. In an average year, there are about 70 wars that erupt in the world, 33 of them are major wars, most always civil wars. We've worked with those countries to try and prevent conflicts and end those that have started.

The Carter Center, like our great nation, is devoted to freedom and democracy. When a country has a very difficult election needed to replace a dictatorship with their first democracy or to protect an endangered democracy, The Carter Center is there. We've helped in more than 40 troubled elections around the world, and we do about five or six every year. The Carter Center is known throughout the world as a champion of human rights. We protect the environment whenever possible. But the major commitment of The Carter Center, which is what earned me the Nobel Peace Prize, is our benevolent attempt to alleviate suffering in the world.

We have programs now in 65 nations on earth, 35 of them in Africa, and we work with the leaders of nations, of course, since I was a former president, but also with the individual villages and families that are still suffering from ravaging diseases and poverty and starvation. Those are the kind of things that we try to do at The Carter Center here in Atlanta, representing, in my opinion, the finest aspects of the United States of America.

I stand here then as a former senator, as a former governor of a great state, and as the former president of a great nation, praying that all of us will commit our hearts and our lives to improving the lot of people around the world, and to promoting peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, environmental quality, and the alleviation of suffering. Thank you for honoring me today. I am one of you and proud of it. (standing ovation)

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