What the Heck Are you Up to Mr. President ?

A few weeks ago I was checking out the newly published books at the Upper Arlington library and I came across one with the title mentioned above written by Kevin Mattson. To my surprise someone had written a book on Jimmy Carter, America’s Malaise and His Speech That Should Have Changed the Country.

I knew Bob had written a blog on the speech back during the summer and I also know that Bob tends to write his political blogs with a bit of a slant to the right so I thought I would read up on the issues surrounding the speech myself. What a truly fascinating book this was ! I highly recommend it to anyone that would like to revisit not only what happened during that time, but what could still happen today with our dependence on foreign oil.

As the book mentions the 70’s was the “me decade”, people lived their lives to excess with “unrestrained consumerism” and “mindless self-indulgence” . President Carter had tried several times in speeches to warn American’s that there was going to be an energy crisis if we all didn’t try to cut back and conserve, but people just wouldn’t listen to him.

So what happened in the early summer of 1979 is Iran stopped shipments of oil to the United States which in turn caused a shortage of gasoline, however most Americans still believed that the gas crisis was a BIG CON. The gasoline shortage caused many gas stations to close and those that were open would have long lines. Fear started to spread and there were incidents of shooting, property damage and personal injury.

The president was planning on giving another speech on energy in early July of 1979, but his pollster was seeing a growing pessimism amongst the people. So Carter decided to ask for input from eight governors and after that meeting he sought counsel from an even wider array of prominent citizens, businessmen, labor leaders and religious leaders. He also went to the homes of several average American’s and they all said the same thing, there was tremendous political apathy in the country, a loss of faith in public institutions, a disrespect for government, churches and schools.

So Carter felt the need to give the “Crisis of Confidence” speech. I’ve included a clip of the speech below. Immediately after the speech there was overwhelming support for what the President had to say and his approval ratings rose 11% over night. I think the thing that I found most interesting about the speech was that some of the issues and recommendations Carter touched on are still relevant today.

As he said in his speech “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. 

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