Carter, in His Inaugural Address, Focuses on World Freedom, Peace
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Carter, in His Inaugural Address, Focuses on World Freedom, Peace

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Jimmy Carter became the 39th President of the United States today. In his inaugural address on the Capitol steps he pledged a strong America that will demonstrate “that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.” He said that “Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere” and that “our moral sense dictates a clear cut preference for those societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights.”

President Carter observed that “The world is still engaged in a massive armaments race” and pledged “perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world’s armaments to those necessary for each nation’s own domestic safety. We will move this year a step toward our ultimate goal — the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this earth.”

Carter addressed the entire world in a special pre-recorded message that was beamed via satellite to 70 countries in 36 languages following his inaugural speech. In it he said, “I want to assure you that the relations of the United States with the other countries and peoples of the world will be guided during our administration by our desire to shape a world order that is more responsive to human aspirations. The United States will meet its obligations to help create a stable, just and peaceful world order,” he said. “We will not seek to dominate or dictate to others.”

He said the U.S. now has “a more mature perspective on the problems of the world” and recognizes “the fact that we alone do not have all the answers to the world’s problems.” He concluded his message abroad by saying that “As friends you can depend on the United States to be in the forefront of the search for world peace. You can depend on the United States to remain steadfast in its commitment to human freedom and liberty. And you can also depend on the United States to be sensitive to your own concerns and aspirations, to welcome your advice, to do its utmost to resolve international differences in a spirit of cooperation.”


Carter took the oath of office on a Bible given him a few years ago by his mother. In his address he opened it “to a timeless admonition from the ancient prophet, Micah: ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with they God.’ (Micah 6:8)

He said in the course of his inaugural speech that “To be true to ourselves, we must be true to others. We will not behave in foreign places so as to violate our rules and standards here at home, for we know that the trust which our nation earns is essential to our strength. The world itself is now dominated by a new spirit. Peoples more numerous and more politically aware are craving and now demanding their place in the sun — not just for the benefit of their own physical condition, but for basic human rights.”

The inaugural ceremonies were opened with an invocation delivered by United Methodist Bishop William Cannon of Atlanta who called for prayer to the God “who we all call by different names.” The benediction was by the Roman Catholic Archbishop John Roach of Minneapolis.

For the first time since the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman in 1949 no rabbi or priest of the Greek Orthodox Church participated in the ceremonials. The ceremony closed with the singing of The Star Spangled Banner by Canter Isaac Goodfriend, of Congregation Ahavath Achim in Atlanta, a Holocaust survivor.


Commenting in New York on the inaugural service, Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, American Jewish Committee interreligious affairs director, who previously had criticized the absence of a rabbi from the service, said he felt his concern over that absence had been “somewhat modified” by the fact that Roach “had the wisdom and the sensitivity to acknowledge he was addressing the pluralistic audiences of America.”

Tanenbaum added that Roach “delivered a very sensitive and universal prayer without invoking any special Christian liturgical formulae.”

Tanenbaum commented that it was “an honor” to have a cantor participate but added it was nevertheless “a nationalistic act, an expression of patriotism which is worthy in itself but is not an act of the Jewish religious community expressing itself on peer terms with its Christian neighbors.”

He added his “concern” that the Carter inaugural arrangement, “not be allowed to become established as a model for future public ceremonies of this importance. Such a model of excluding Jews from a peer position with their Christian neighbors could have negative consequences for the place of Jews in America’s pluralistic society, which is the key stone of our democracy.”

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