Presidential Campaign and Candidates


Frank Church 1976 Announcement Speech

Announcement of Candidacy for President of the United States


Frank Church of Idaho

Delivered Idaho City, Idaho

March 18, 1976


            The best roads in life lead home again.  Today, in the company of my wife and family, I come home again to Idaho City, where my grandfather first settled during the Gold Rush, and where my father was born before Idaho had yet become at State. 

            So it is for personal, as well as symbolic reasons, that I come back to this historic place, this frontier town which furnished most of the gold needed to preserve the Union. 

            The pioneers of the early West were men and women of uncommon strength and faith.  They had the strength to endure the hardships of life in the wilderness.  And they had faith enough in themselves and the future to overcome their fears. 

            Our tragedy in recent years springs from a leadership principally motivated by fear, from men of little faith.

It is a leadership of weakness and fear that produces “enemy lists” of American citizens whose only offense is that of disagreeing with presidential policies.

            It is a leadership of weakness and fear that grants a full pardon to a former President for whatever crimes he committed in the White House, but looks the other way while his subordinates stand trial.

            It is a leadership of weakness and fear which insists that we must imitate the Russians in our treatment of foreign peoples, adopting their methods of bribery, blackmail, abduction, and coercion, as if they were our own.

            And it is a leadership of weakness and fear which permits the most powerful agencies of our government -- the CIA, the FBI, and the IRS – to systematically ignore the very laws intended to protect the liberties of the people.

            These are crimes against freedom, and they won’t be cured by the cosmetic changes proposed by President Ford.  He is clearly most concerned about the exposure of such crimes.  I am most concerned about their commission.

            In stark contrast with contemporary presidents, our Founding Fathers were a different breed.  They acted on their faith, not their fear.  They did not believe in fighting fire with fire; crime with crime; evil with evil; or delinquency by becoming delinquents.

            They set themselves against the terrors of a totalitarian state by structuring a government that would obey the law.  They knew that the only way to escape a closed society was to accept the risk of living in an open one.

            “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety,” said Benjamin Franklin, “deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

            I accept the risks of freedom gladly.  For these are the true principles upon which we founded our Republic.  In the days of our infancy, we had the courage to live by them, when their impact on the outside world made even the most entrenched monarchs tremble.  Let us not shrink from them now, in the days of our maturity and might.

            In this of all years – as we commemorate our Bicentennial – let us reaffirm the faith of our fathers and reject the apostles of fear!

            I enter the campaign at this late date, because of my conviction that the most important issues are being ignored.  Peripheral questions pre-empt the debate.   There is no sense of overriding purpose; no serious discussion of the fundamental choices which will determine our future course.

            The first priority on our political agenda is the restoration of the Federal Government to legitimacy in the eyes of the people.  The vast majority of Federal employees are honest, law-abiding citizens.  But nobody – no matter how highly placed in the government – has the right to break the law; to open our mail; to photograph our cables; to spread false propaganda for the purpose of discrediting decent citizens in their own communities; to open tax investigations against persons not even suspected of tax delinquency but targeted for political harassment, instead.  These illegal and indecent practices must stop!  Runaway bureaucracy must be harnessed once more to the reins of the law.  For let it be remembered that, in America, the people are sovereign, and the government is their servant still!

            Next, we must strive for better, not bigger, government.  There is no excuse for having to wait six weeks just to get a reply from a Federal agency, or for having to endure many months – even years – for a decision to be made determining a citizen’s eligibility for some government service.  Decisions delayed are decisions denied, and the people have a right to demand timely and efficient response from those whom they pay to serve them.

            The problem lies not with the refusal or reluctance of Federal employees to do their best, but rather with a system grown too remote and complex.  Today, there are more that a thousand Federal Grant – in – Aid programs, run from Washington.  Together, they account for more than $50-billion in annual expenditures.  Nearly all of these programs centralize decision-making at the top, and operate on uniform, national standards that frequently do not fit the localities intended to be served.

            Federal funding, matched by state and local money, is essential if our housing and transportation problems are to be solved, street crime abated, and essential social services performed.  But the present method of administrating these programs is too costly and cumbersome.  Far more flexibility in managing these programs must be given to state, county, and municipal officials, the people best acquainted with their particular community needs.

            By turning the decision making homeward again, we shall not only assure more efficient use of our tax dollars, but we shall replenish the well-springs of democracy itself.  The people can and will participate when the options are brought back within their reach.  I reject the doctrine that all decisions must be made in Washington!

            As I would strive to revitalize democracy at the grassroots of America, so I would seek rejuvenate the free enterprise system.  Competition must be restored to the role it once played as chief regulator of the marketplace, holding prices down, and parceling out its rewards to best-managed businesses. 

            I would let bankruptcy winnow out the losers with an even hand.  Under my administration, the doors of the Treasury would not be thrown open to handouts for huge corporations in financial distress.  There is no justice in catering to the rich at the expense of the poor.

            In like manner, I would stop stimulating the movement of American capital to foreign lands.  During the past two decades, American multi-national corporations have invested $200-billion abroad, in the most modern manufacturing plants that American technology can design.  In the process, older plants in our own country have been displaced, at an annual average loss of 150,000 jobs a year.  It is no accident that the United States is presently victimized by unemployment twice as high as that of any other industrial nation.

            I am not against big business.  Indeed, a wise public policy would create a climate favorable to larger, big business investment inside the United States.  Instead, public policy does just the reverse: it encourages investment outside the United States.  Profits earned in foreign countries receive more favorable tax treatment than profits earned at home.  And the American taxpayer underwrites Federal insurance to protect big business against losses incurred in high-risk areas abroad, when there is no comparable insurance investment in high-risk areas here at home.

            If big businesses wish to invest in foreign lands, where labor is cheap and special arrangements can be made with the host government – even by bribes and payoffs of the kind exposed by my recent investigations – I say let them do it at their own risk.  We need their investment here – to provide jobs for American workers and to speed the recovery of our own economy.  The time has come for us to stop paying them to leave!

            For small businesses, I would prescribe a program designed to give them a fighting chance to survive and prosper.  Such a program would make government the friend, not the enemy, of struggling, independent enterprise.  Tax rates should be adjusted to benefit small businesses, the paperwork imposed by Federal bureaus should be drastically reduced.  There are reasonable limits which should apply to the scope of government regulation.  The national government reaches too far when it attempts to regulate the conditions of work in every mom-and-pop store and every family farm.

            Give free enterprise some breathing room.  That is what is needed.  Retain those controls essential to the public interest; up-date and vigorously enforce the anti-trust laws; but abolish those regulations that stifle competition, and dismantle the commissions that enforce them.  Many a vested interest survives today on the protection given by regulatory agencies which have been pre-empted by the very industries they are supposed to regulate, rather than by the needs of the people they were created to serve.

            I would not presume to run for President without the twenty years of training you – the people of Idaho – have enabled me to accumulate in the Senate of United States.

            There, on the Interior Committee, I have learned the importance of cleansing and conserving our elemental resources: the soil, the water and the air.  There, also, I have come to know the complexities of the energy problems we face, and the need for a genuine crash program, if we are to grow less dependent on foreign sources for our vital fuel supplies.  But no program will be sufficient unless we begin to discipline ourselves.  We must curb our habits of waste in the cause of strengthening our country.

            As chairman of the Senate Committee on Aging, I have also come to understand the hardships of life for millions of our senior citizens.  It is time they found a champion in the White House.

            As a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have had a unique opportunity to develop an intimate knowledge of American foreign policy. Here, I learned, long ago, that in the conduct of our relations abroad, there is little that is foreign in our policy.  Every decision a President makes sends its ripples or waves back across America.

            The mistakes in foreign policy during the past decade have had more to do with spreading divisiveness at home, with the spawning a generation of cynicism and resentment, than any Presidential decision on domestic affairs.

            When it comes to dealing with a hundred foreign governments, or negotiating with Russia or China in this dangerous world, I suggest to you that the Presidency is no place for on-the-job training!

            As a critic of our foreign policy in recent years, I would strive, as President, to keep this country sufficiently strong, that the safety of our people will be assured against any foreign threat, and our vital interests in other parts of the world will be adequately protected.

            But I would call for a discriminating foreign policy which recognizes that the post-war period is over; that we are no longer the one rich patron of a war-wrecked world.  We should continue to stand fast in those places, like Western Europe and the Middle East, where our stakes are large, but there is no justification any longer for us to subsidize half a hundred foreign governments scattered all over the globe.

            In Africa and Asia, new societies are emerging from the grip of 19th Century colonialism.  This Third World will be filled with revolution and upheaval for the balance of this century.  A volcano cannot be capped.  The United States can abide much ferment in distant places.  But we cannot successfully serve as trustee for the broken empires of Europe.  The foreign policy of this country must be wrested from the hands of that fraternity of compulsive interventionists who have involved us in so many futile, foreign wars!

            I reject the siege mentality that kept us locked so long in the straitjacket of the Cold War, and I would work diligently to bring an end to the insanity of the nuclear arms race which makes both sides potential targets for mutual extinction.  But this I assure you: in the rational pursuit of improved relations with any adversary, I would observe one cardinal standard – that we get in return fully as much as we give!

            There are those, I know, who say it is to late to enter the race for the Presidency.  But I had a difficult assignment to discharge first – the completion of the Senate’s investigation of our intelligence agencies.  It would not have commended me to the American people to have abandoned that task in order to run for higher office.  So, to those who say it is too late, I reply that it’s never too late – nor are the odds ever too great – to try.

            In that spirit the West was won, and in that spirit I now declare my candidacy for President of United States.


Source: Frank Church Collection, Boise State University Library


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