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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

AUTHOR: Jimmy Carter (1934–)
QUOTATION: Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern this Nation. This difficult effort will be the “moral equivalent of war,” except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not to destroy.
ATTRIBUTION: President JIMMY CARTER, address to the nation on the energy problem, April 18, 1977.—Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1977, book 1, p. 656.

Carter was quoting William James, who used the phrase in his essay, “The Moral Equivalent of War”: “So long as anti-militarists propose no substitute for war’s disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, analogous, as one might say, to the mechanical equivalent of heat, so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation…. We must make new energies and hardihoods continue the manliness to which the military mind so faithfully clings. Martial virtues must be the enduring cement; intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command, must still remain the rock upon which states are built.”—International Conciliation, February 1910, pp. 13, 15. The entire issue consisted of James’s essay.