At its core, this speech gets to the heart of how we respond to adversity in our lives.
And we're talking about real adversity, not the "my phone is about to die" kind of misfortune which, while certainly frustrating, hardly qualifies as genuine hardship. (Although there's nothing like the cold sweat-inducing panic that losing your charger induces.)
According to the American people, the issue is clear: there's not enough oil, not enough jobs, and not enough economic growth. President Jimmy Carter, however, interjects more than fifty shades of grey into the seemingly black-and-white issue, questioning if it's not our reaction to these circumstances that is to blame, wondering if some of our beliefs and habits aren't at least partially at fault for America's current situation.
President Jimmy Carter committed a major faux paux by ignoring the realities of a struggling economy and blaming the nation's struggles on a poor attitude and lack of confidence.
Carter's calls for energy independence and reduced oil consumption, although largely unsuccessful during his presidency, can be viewed as the first step toward a national discussion on climate change and environmental activism.
Think of the relationship between President Jimmy Carter and the American people as a marriage. For richer or for recession, in oil shortage and in health, by July of 1979, these partners were way past the honeymoon period.
President Jimmy Carter begins his speech by reflecting on what he has learned by listening to the American people. He empathizes with American pain and frustration over the oil shock and economic recession. His solution to these problems, however, speaks more to character and morals than to jobs and oil prices.
That's because the middle of this speech sees a President criticizing Americans for doubting their country's future. He calls out consumerism. He hates on voter turnout. In short, he urges his countrymen to conserve more and to complain less.
In the final section of his speech, Carter outlines specific policy proposals on energy. These proposals all follow a common theme: conservation. He establishes import quotas, vowing to never again use more foreign oil than was used in 1977. He urges Congress to require the nation's utility companies to cut oil use by 50% over the next decade. He calls on every state, city—even individual—to use less and conserve more.
Carter believes that these measures, when coupled with the previously described gut check, will steer America back on the right course.
President Jimmy Carter criticizes American's reaction to the oil crisis; yet what was intended to be a refined criticism is interpreted instead as a crude excuse, fueling tensions between the White House and the American people. (All oil-related puns very much intended.)