Thursday, May 19, 2011

Artifact Spotlight

“Welcome President Carter” political button, ca. 1979
Courtesy of J. Thomas Touchton

On August 30, 1979, President Jimmy Carter visited Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa for a town hall meeting to discuss his energy policies. Buttons to commemorate the presidential visit – such as the one now in our collection - could be purchased at the event for $2.

Carter’s trip to Tampa came during the height of the second major energy crisis of the 1970s, this one sparked by the Iranian Revolution. A month earlier, on July 15, Carter delivered his “Crisis of Confidence” speech to the American public. In the speech, Carter touched on the major issues of the day: unemployment, soaring gas prices, dependence on foreign oil, energy conservation, and the need to develop alternative sources of energy. 

For more than an hour during his visit to Tampa, Carter fielded questions from the audience on the issue of energy. He urged everyone to go home and figure out how to save on gas and electricity. Saving energy, Carter said, “is the cheapest, easiest, most pleasant way to be a patriotic American.”

Just a few months after his visit to Tampa, new developments around the world joined the energy crisis as priorities for Carter. The Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and a challenge by Sen. Edward Kennedy for the Democratic nomination in 1980 would consume the remainder of his presidency.

Carter’s visit to Jefferson High School marked his last public appearance in Tampa as President, though he would return to the Tampa Bay area for a campaign stop in St. Petersburg on October 10, 1980. 

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