Study Guide

Crisis of Confidence Quotes

By Jimmy Carter

  • Dissatisfaction

    Mr. President, we're in trouble. Talk to us about blood and sweat and tears. (9)

    Yes, the dissatisfaction is clear. But the real question is, where is that trouble coming from?

    In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. (31)

    Is it a bird, a plane? No, it's a super criticism, a hefty critique of a citizenry by its President.

    Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose. (31)

    Notice Carter's use of the past tense (i.e. we've discovered). He's assuming that Americans are aware, at least partially, of this change in values. He's assuming that they have already wrestled with this moral crisis on some level.

    What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action…You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends. (37)

    At least we can all agree on a common enemy, right? Interesting that the President, the leader of government, is quick to express his dissatisfaction for how the very organization that he runs is functioning.

    Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. (37)

    Notice Carter's wording. He's saying that Americans are losing faith, which implies that they had it (faith) at one point. What's caused this change, this sudden doubt?

  • Principles

    This kind of summarized a lot of other statements: "Mr. President, we are confronted with a moral and a spiritual crisis." (16)

    Evidence for Carter's belief that it's not just him, that Americans sense a deeper moral crisis as well.

    We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own. (29)

    Ah, the good ol' days, when everything cost a nickel and the future was stretched out before us like a long, perfect summer vacation. But did those good ol' days actually exist?

    We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. (30)

    Here we see an appeal to history, an appeal to what was—and what might be again.

    For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. (32)

    Carter cites some big time evidence for what he feels are a lack of trust in the tried and true principles of hard work, bright futures and the American way.

    Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world. (32)

    Like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, Carter throws some punches toward the American people and what he considers a declining moral landscape.

  • Sacrifice

    Beginning this moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977—never. (44)

    Interesting to note Carter's dislike of foreign oil. He's not anti-oil, he's just anti-dependence.

    To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our Nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel—from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the Sun. (46)

    A "commitment of funds"—that's a nice way of saying let's pay up now so that future generations won't have to. Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice—for the good of the future.

    I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every State, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford. (51)

    Conservation sounds a lot better than sacrifice, doesn't it? It's like saying the employee was "let go" rather than "fired." In the end, though, they both mean the same thing.

    I'm asking you for your good and for your Nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. (52)

    So that's why the HOV, or carpool lane exists…

    Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense—I tell you it is an act of patriotism. (65)

    Perhaps Carter's clearest link between sacrifice and patriotism, between going with less and improving the welfare of the country.