President Carter
1981 State of the Union Message
(33,831 words, 63 pages)

 [Editor's note: Mr. Carter was defeated for reelection in 1980.
Nevertheless, he opted to transmit a written State of the Union Address to Congress.
Because of its extraoridnary length, I have divided it into different pages on this site.]

Part IV



The past four years have been years of rapid advancement for women. Our focus has been two fold: to provide American women with a full range of opportunities and to make them a part of the mainstream of every aspect of our national life and leadership.

I have appointed a record number of women to judgeships and to top government posts. Fully 22 percent of all my appointees are women, and I nominated 41 of the 46 women who sit on the Federal bench today. For the first time in our history, women occupy policymaking positions at the highest level of every Federal agency and department and have demonstrated their ability to serve our citizens well.

We have strengthened the rights of employed women by consolidating and strengthening enforcement of sex discrimination laws under the EEOC, by expanding employment rights of pregnant women through the Pregnancy Disability Bill, and by increasing federal employment opportunities for women through civil service reform, and flexi-time and part-time employment.

By executive order, I created the first national program to provide women business owners with technical assistance, grants, loans, and improved access to federal contracts.

We have been sensitive to the needs of women who are homemakers. I established an Office of Families within HHS and sponsored the White House Conference on Families. We initiated a program targeting CETA funds to help displaced homemakers. The Social Security system was amended to eliminate the widow's penalty and a comprehensive study of discriminatory provisions and possible changes was presented to Congress. Legislation was passed to give divorced spouses of foreign service officers rights to share in pension benefits.

We created an office on domestic violence within HHS to coordinate the 12 agencies that now have domestic violence relief programs, and to distribute information on the problem and the services available to victims.

Despite a stringent budget for FY 1981, the Administration consistently supported the Women's Educational Equity Act and family planning activities, as well as other programs that affect women, such as food stamps, WIC, and social security.

We have been concerned not only about the American woman's opportunities, but ensuring equality for women around the world. In November, 1980, I sent to the Senate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. This United Nations document is the most comprehensive and detailed international agreement which seeks the advancement of women.

On women's issues, I have sought the counsel of men and women in and out of government and from all regions of our country. I established two panels-- the President's Advisory Committee for Women and the Interdepartmental Task Force on Women-- to advise me on these issues. The mandate for both groups expired on December 31, but they have left behind a comprehensive review of the status of women in our society today. That review provides excellent guidance for the work remaining in our battle against sex discrimination.

Even though we have made progress, much remains on the agenda for women. I remain committed to the Equal Rights Amendment and will continue to work for its passage. It is essential to the goal of bringing America's women fully into the mainstream of American life that the ERA be ratified.

The efforts begun for women in employment, business and education should be continued and strengthened. Money should be available to states to establish programs to help the victims of domestic violence. Congress should pass a national health care plan and a welfare reform program, and these measures should reflect the needs of women.

The talents of women should continue to be used to the fullest inside and outside of government, and efforts should continue to see that they have the widest range of opportunities and options.


I hope that my Administration will be remembered in this area for leading the way toward full civil rights for handicapped Americans. When I took office, no federal agency had yet issued 504 regulations. As I leave office, this first step by every major agency and department in the federal government is almost complete. But it is only a first step. The years ahead will require steadfast dedication by the President to protect and promote these precious rights in the classroom, in the workplace, and in all public facilities so that handicapped individuals may join the American mainstream and contribute to the fullest their resources and talents to our economic and social life.

Just as we supported, in an unprecedented way, the civil rights of disabled persons in schools and in the workplace, other initiatives in health prevention, such as our immunization and nutrition programs for young children and new intense efforts to reverse spinal cord injury, must continue so that the incidence of disability continues to decline.

This year is the U.N.-declared International Year of Disabled Persons. We are organizing activities to celebrate and promote this important commemorative year within the government as well as in cooperation with private sector efforts in this country and around the world. The International Year will give our country the opportunity to recognize the talents and capabilities of our fellow citizens with disabilities. We can also share our rehabilitation and treatment skills with other countries and learn from them as well. I am proud that the United States leads the world in mainstreaming and treating disabled people. However, we have a long way to go before all psychological and physical barriers to disabled people are torn down and they can be full participants in our American way of life. We must pledge our full commitment to this goal during the International Year.


Because of my concern for American families, my Administration convened last year the first White House Conference on Families which involved seven national hearings, over 506 state and local events, three White House Conferences, and the direct participation of more than 125,000 citizens. The Conference reaffirmed the centrality of families in our lives and nation but documented problems American families face as well. We also established the Office of Families within the Department of Health and Human Services to review government policies and programs that affect families.

I expect the departments and agencies within the executive branch of the Federal government as well as Members of Congress, corporate and business leaders, and State and local officials across the country, to study closely the recommendations of the White House Conference and implement them appropriately. As public policy is developed and implemented by the Federal government, cognizance of the work of the Conference should be taken as a pragmatic and essential step.

The Conference has done a good job of establishing an agenda for action to assure that the policies of the Federal government are more sensitive in their impact on families. I hope the Congress will review and seriously consider the Conference's recommendations.


My Administration has taken great strides toward solving the difficult problems faced by older Americans. Early in my term we worked successfully with the Congress to assure adequate revenues for the Social Security Trust Funds. And last year the strength of the Social Security System was strengthened by legislation I proposed to permit borrowing among the separate trust funds. I have also signed into law legislation prohibiting employers from requiring retirement prior to age 70, and removing mandatory retirement for most Federal employees. In addition, my Administration worked very closely with Congress to amend the Older Americans Act in a way that has already improved administration of its housing, social services, food delivery, and employment programs.

This year, I will be submitting to Congress a budget which again demonstrates my commitment to programs for the elderly. It will include, as my previous budgets have, increased funding for nutrition, senior centers and home health care, and will focus added resources on the needs of older Americans.

With the 1981 White House Conference on Aging approaching, I hope the new Administration will make every effort to assure an effective and useful conference. This Conference should enable older Americans to voice their concerns and give us guidance in our continued efforts to ensure the quality of life so richly deserved by our senior citizens.


We cannot hope to build a just and humane society at home if we ignore the humanitarian claims of refugees, their lives at stake, who have nowhere else to turn. Our country can be proud that hundreds of thousands of people around the world would risk everything they have-- including their own lives-- to come to our country.

This Administration initiated and implemented the first comprehensive reform of our refugee and immigration policies in over 25 years. We also established the first refugee coordination office in the Department of State under the leadership of a special ambassador and coordinator for refugee affairs and programs. The new legislation and the coordinator's office will bring common sense and consolidation to our Nation's previously fragmented, inconsistent, and in many ways, outdated, refugee and immigration policies.

With the unexpected arrival of thousands of Cubans and Haitians who sought refuge in our country last year, outside of our regular immigration and refugee admissions process, our country and its government were tested in being compassionate and responsive to a major human emergency. Because we had taken steps to reorganize our refugee programs, we met that test successfully. I am proud that the American people responded to this crisis with their traditional good will and hospitality. Also, we would never have been able to handle this unprecedented emergency without the efforts of the private resettlement agencies who have always been there to help refugees in crises.

Immigrants to this country always contribute more toward making our country stronger than they ever take from the system. I am confident that the newest arrivals to our country will carry on this tradition.

While we must remain committed to aiding and assisting those who come to our shores, at the same time we must uphold our immigration and refugee policies and provide adequate enforcement resources. As a result of our enforcement policy, the illegal flow from Cuba has been halted and an orderly process has been initiated to make certain that our refugee and immigration laws are honored.

This year the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy will complete its work and forward its advice and recommendations. I hope that the recommendations will be carefully considered by the new Administration and the Congress, for it is clear that we must take additional action to keep our immigration policy responsive to emergencies and ever changing times.

This country and its leadership has a continuing and unique obligation to the men and women who served their nation in the armed forces and help maintain or restore peace in the world.

My commitment to veterans, as evidenced by my record, is characterized by a conscientious and consistent emphasis in these general areas:

First, we have worked to honor the Vietnam veteran. During my Administration, and under the leadership of VA Administrator Max Cleland, I was proud to lead our country in an overdue acknowledgement of our Nation's gratitude to the men and women who served their country during the bitter war in Southeast Asia. Their homecoming was deferred and seemed doomed to be ignored. Our country has matured in the last four years and at long last we were able to separate the war from the warrior and honor these veterans. But with our acknowledgement of their service goes an understanding that some Vietnam veterans have unique needs and problems.

My Administration was able to launch a long sought after psychological readjustment and outreach program, unprecedented in its popularity, sensitivity and success. This program must be continued. The Administration has also grappled with the difficult questions posed by some veterans who served in Southeast Asia and were exposed to potentially harmful substances, including the herbicide known as Agent Orange. We have launched scientific inquiries that should answer many veterans' questions about their health and should provide the basis for establishing sound compensation policy. We cannot rest until their concerns are dealt with in a sensitive, expeditious and compassionate fashion.

Second, we have focused the VA health care system in the needs of the service-connected disabled veteran. We initiated and are implementing the first reform of the VA vocational rehabilitation system since its inception in 1943. Also, my Administration was the first to seek a cost-of-living increase for the recipients of VA compensation every year. My last budget also makes such a request. The Administration also launched the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program in the Department of Labor which has successfully placed disabled veterans in jobs. Services provided by the VA health care system will be further targeted to the special needs of disabled veterans during the coming year.

Third, the VA health care system, the largest in the free world, has maintained its independence and high quality during my Administration. We have made the system more efficient and have therefore treated more veterans than ever before by concentrating on out-patient care and through modern management improvements. As the median age of the American veteran population increases, we must concentrate on further changes within the VA system to keep it independent and to serve as a model to the nation and to the world as a center for research, treatment and rehabilitation.