To reinstate the American Revolution...
Terry Sanford's declaration of candidacy for the Presidency of the United States
May 19, 1975
Two hundred years and a month ago, a shot rang out across the spring soil of young American farmland. As a great American poet said later, that shot was heard around the world. It has also been heard down the ages since, because it was the signal that the world and human history had been listening for – the signal that an old era was ending, and a new one had begun.
Today, right now, people around the world are listening again, listening hard, for a new signal – the signal that another whole new era has begun. People around this country, like other people around the world, know that a new era is not only imminent; it is imperative. The only question is, can America again provide that signal? Next year, in our national elections, America will answer that momentous question for the world, and for human history.
I come here today because I know that we can do it, we must do it, we will do it – just as America did it before.
In 1777, Benjamin Franklin wrote from Paris, “It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty and defending our own.” It was the success of the American Revolution. America, two centuries ago, fought for something that transcended national interest. We fought then for the human interest.
In 1977, we will do it again. We will turn this nation around, back to the original ideal, not a narrowly selfish national policy, but a human policy. And that can be the signal to the waiting world.
The Revolution that brought independence to the United States of America was more than a war. It was an exciting promise for people throughout the world. It was a radical change in determination and will, an assertion of the boundless spirit of the people. They were tired of tyranny beyond their reach, tired of oppression, tired of old world rules that classified them and limited their opportunities. The rights of the individual, human dignity, the worth of each person, freedom, opportunity for everybody – these were the ideals that made the new nation a shining light for people everywhere.
The Revolution was not to end with independence. Independence was merely the first act of a great world drama. The people of the new nation were wise enough to know that there is never any end to the quest for freedom, for human rights, for broadening of opportunities. They even put on the Great Seal of the United States the symbol of perfectibility, the unfinished pyramid, reminding us that the American dream is always to be unfinished, that we’re always trying to protect and perfect it.
But somewhere along the road from 1776 to now the vision became clouded. We reach for the torch that was supposed to be passed from hand to hand only to find that some politicians or bureaucrat has lost in our filed it away.
What went wrong, I believe, is that in our determined pursuit and of happiness for all, we have lost sight of the individual – and in the broader sense, of humanity. A massive, remote, out-of-touch government began to run our lives. People became statistics: nine million of jobs, fifty thousand lost in the war; countless thousands of refugees.
Today, 200 years later, we are insisting that the American Revolution be re-instated. We are at a turnaround point in the history of our nation. We are tired of the uncertainty of our jobs, an overcentralized and often insensitive government, of spying on citizens, of crime in dark streets and high places, of empty promises and costly mistakes by those we elect.
We are insisting on decent housing, rewarding jobs, proper health care, security in our old age, and better education for our children. We can have these.
We are tired of negative leaders, timid proposals, hopeless situations, tired of feeling that no matter what we do, the system never changes. We the people will tolerate this no longer.
Surely we are not doomed to continue to slide as a nation, as a world leader, and as a government of the people. We are determined to gain back our faith, our hopes, our confidence in ourselves and our nation to do whatever needs to be done to send our country on true course again.
That is why I’m here today. I come with the experience, the will, and the toughness of mind, the spirit to which we can gather enough people to turn this nation around. I know I am not one of those driven men who lust for power and glory of the Presidency; we have had enough of that. But I have always felt that when you see things that need to be done, feel that you can do them, you ought to try.
If you believe as I do, that the people are the ones who must govern, then you are running with the people and not with the ambition. That is an important distinction, especially today, for it is not the imperial president we need, but many people united to choose a spokesman who can provide the focus for bold, determined, and honest self government.
That is why I made the preparation and today announced that through the Democratic Party I seek the Presidency of the United States.
I promise a bold campaign and a bold administration, determined to put into practice again the radical promise of the American Revolution, but determined to talk sense and issues, openly and candidly, pledged to make the government join the people, to put people first in all our affairs and aspirations.
As the most urgent demands of the next administration, 1) we will give jobs and job security top place and we will get our economic house in order; 2) we will make the cumbersome and ineffective government work; 3) we will give more attention to education and medical care; 4) we will not retreat as a world leader, but will lead with greater strength and confidence; 5) we will involve people, and the guided by the sure knowledge that government is for the people, not the opposite which so often seems to be the practice.
To these challenges I bring experience not born in Washington, and not tainted by Washington. We need freshness. We need change.
To these challenges I bring a firm record of helping people to greater opportunities, fighting discrimination, resolutely resisting appeals to prejudiced and racial hatreds.
To these challenges I bring for examination a public record of innovations, of responsibilities, of willingness to change and improve to make government serve better.
An announcement of a Presidential campaign does not lend itself to a complete and detailed program and platform, but neither should it fade into generalities.
At least I can be specific and some illustrated areas.
For the economy, I would flatly change the philosophy we now practice. We would adopt an absolute policy of full employment. Everyone who wanted to work could get a job.
Jobs are not merely statistics in an economist’s report. Jobs mean family security and happiness, the sense of purpose, self-respect, the home mortgage payments, vacations, the future, education of the children, the promise to young people and even a hedge against crime.
One of my major themes is that we will manage money for the people, not people for money. We cannot tolerate any level of unemployment for the purpose of reigning in the economy. That is not only cruel and insensitive; it doesn’t work. People come first. Full employment must be adopted as a firm national policy.
I did some things in North Carolina that had never been done before, things that helped turn the state around and steer away from the easy course of hatred that others were tempted into following. I believe the government needed to fill a void in people’s lives, a void created by generations of neglect. We were willing to improvise, to see what works, and then to put into practice the things that worked.
The federal government is too remote, too unresponsive, too inaccessible, too populated with civil servants who are more concerned with their own turf battle with the service they are supposed to be performing. The formulas are too rigid; its vision too limited. Power and responsibility must be returned to the people.
I am not talking about some warmed-over brand of states’ rights. I know all about that fraud. I’m talking about revolution in the way citizens use their local government and states to accomplish this very special, real things that need to be accomplished. Local communities and the states – not Washington – can best come to grips with the issues that are closest to the people – health, education, employment, highway safety, the environment. Congress still has the duty to establish national policies, but the most of the implementation must be left to the cities and states – to us.
Furthermore, we need to place these responsibilities squarely in the hands of elected officials that we can see and touch and call to task. If they do their jobs, we know who they are; if they fail, we know who they are.
The federal government has not provided its share of the cost of education, and has exceeded its share of interference. Education is an American hope not fully realized because it has not been adequately supported financially. I would fight for additional funds.
In the field of foreign policy and international leadership, I would start the deliberate and careful return to our original strengths of the American Revolution, the posture which Benjamin Franklin called “the cause of all mankind.”
I do not suggest dismantling our military strength. I do insist that the military is for defense, and that we can no longer rely on confidently on military and economic might to impose our will on the rest of the world. This doesn’t work, not anymore. We must develop a far greater strength, that which I call our moral strength, our belief in freedom and human dignity and opportunity as spelled out in our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
Our military is not as efficient as it should be. The military budget is far too large. We can actually have a far better defense with much less money, and a balanced budget to vote.
The assertion of a moral leadership cannot be attained by proclamation. It is a difficult road that must be pursued with both boldness and caution. We are too powerful, both industrially and in our historic concepts of freedom, to be conquered. But unfortunately we live in a world where there are still pirates and buccaneers called nations. We cannot allow our moral leadership to be mistaken for weakness or lack of resolve, and yet we can better defend our principles and the hopes of civilization by not posing as the biggest bully on the block.
Leadership from moral strength is the direction, but it must not be understood as a withdrawal from the world or a new name for isolationism or a return to the unilateral disarmament of the Thirties. I would insist, for instance, on a continuing commitment to our European Allies. Turning to a more intelligent strength does not mean turning weak in terms of real defense capability.
At the campaign progresses, I will elaborate on the details of foreign policy, including detente, the mid-east, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and emerging nations, Russian Jewry, Cuba, the Panama Canal, China, Europe and Central Europe, nuclear non-proliferation, food and energy policies.
We need, in our attitudes, practices and policies, to restore the faith of our nation in making positive improvements in our lives. I do not accept for myself any of the conventional political labels – conservative, liberal or anything else. I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party that has opened its doors to the citizenry at large, that is willing to talk issues and believes in people and their hopes, that moves constantly toward the fulfillment of the unfinished agenda of the people of this revolutionary American nation.
I am not afraid of change. I am not afraid of people.
I am different in many ways from the other candidates who have announced. Those differences can be seen as the campaign progresses. It is not for me to assert finally that my concept of America is better. But it is different. It demands boldness, faith in ourselves, creative change, and a focus on opportunity for all people.
I am different from the other candidates in background and experience and temperament. It takes confidence and dedication and determination to seek the Presidency. It takes belief that you can do what needs to be done. I don’t mind saying that this country in 1976 needs what North Carolina needed in 1960.
It needs faith in itself, strong new moral direction, boldness and courage in the executive leadership. I don’t mind saying that the country in 1976 needs what the Democratic Party needed in 1973. It needed an all-encompassing and unifying leadership. I cite my record as chairman of the Charter Commission in putting together the elements of the Party to achieve remarkable progress with unprecedented harmony and good will. I cite for the closest scrutiny my record as Governor of a Southern state in the second most difficult period in our history.
I will not be a President that allows us to make the same old mistakes. I will not be a President that resigns himself to our shortcomings and neglects. I will not be a President that is afraid of the audacious vision of what the United States America can dare to be. I seek the Presidency because there is so much to be done .
I do not trade on fear or hatreds or scare tactics. In that respect I stand in stark contrast to one candidate. My mission in life is not to eliminate the George Wallaces from the political scene. However, I came up at the same time and similar climate, region, and crucial times, and it is my responsibility to challenge him. I go about America’s business with an entirely different view. It does us so much harm to inflame racial differences, and it is so out of keeping with humanity to stand in the schoolhouse door to keep little children from their rightful opportunities and life. George Wallace has fooled the people who have believed in him by calling forth the easy fears, and avoiding the complex and tough-minded solutions. He even fooled them when he stood in the door by begging leave of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, promising to depart immediately after making his phony show.
George Wallace has preached that he is for “little man,” and has convinced a lot of people that he is, but the record in Alabama shows otherwise. Now it turns out that George Wallace’s little man is George Wallace himself.
To trade on the easy fear of communism, Wallace has asserted recently that we were fighting on the wrong side when we were at war with Hitler and Tojo. He had forgotten Pearl Harbor, Dunkirk, and Nazi atrocities. What kind of nonsense is that!
I do not find fault with the people who have supported Wallace. It is so easy to be fooled by a political candidate. Look how many Richard Nixon fooled and disappointed. George Wallace, too, as Nixon, claims there is a “new Wallace,” but new means that the old appeal to racism is no longer useful, so now he moves to yet other fears and doubts.
The negative approach is not in keeping with the American tradition of self confidence. We don’t knock something; we fix it. The negative approach is not what we need. We need to chart new directions, not exhaust ourselves complaining about old mistakes. I expect to talk sense about positive matters.
I expect to be running for the Presidency, with a positive program, but I have a duty of also to show the Nation that the South stands for more than the politics of fear. I want the people of this country to be given a clear choice between what I see as the politics of fear and the politics of hope.
I’m going to campaign in all the caucus states, and will enter 17 to 20 primary campaigns, not expecting to win them all, but expecting to lay out in all of them the creative tasks that lie before us.
I will always respond directly to questions.
I will be available to the press always.
I have nothing to conceal. I’ll be open and candid about all things.
I will draw more and more people into the discussion of the important issues starting right now with the Sanford Citizen Assemblies.
There are some who say the problems America can never be solved. I know they can. Nathaniel Macon, North Carolina revolutionary patriot and legislator, said, “Half a revolution is no good.” We must complete and fulfill the promise of the American Revolution, drawing our confidence from the greatest resourcefulness, the firm courage and the historic faith of the American people themselves.
Edward R. Murrow said John F. Kennedy recognized that “difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.”
These are difficult days. There also days of great promise.
Source: Terry Sanford, "To reinstate the American Revolution..." Brochure, Sanford for President Committee