July 15th 1979: Carter’s ‘Crisis of Confidence’ speech
On this day in 1979, the US President Jimmy Carter made a televised address that has become known as the 'crisis of confidence’ or 'malaise’ speech. The address came during an energy crisis which had its roots in the 1973 oil embargo, which led Carter to conclude that America needed a focus on conserving energy and the use of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. Carter also encouraged people to be more responsible in their use of gas and electric. It was in this environment that the President made his July 15th speech, which he had spent many weeks preparing at Camp David. He identified a 'crisis of confidence’ throughout the nation in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. The reception to the speech was initially favourable, but came to be seen as a scolding lecture where Carter was blaming the American people for the crisis in his emphasis on over consumption and consumerism. The address has since become identified with the general period of 'malaise’ that characterised America in the 1970s, with a flagging economy, uninspiring politicians, heightened racial tensions and seemingly endless war; however Carter never actually used the word in his speech. Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid the year after this speech in 1980 against charismatic Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.