Rosalynn Carter said yesterday that she rejects the criticism of exiled Soviet writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn that the Western democracies are suffering form "spiritual exhaustion."
"I am not a Pollyanna about the mood of the country, but I can tell you flatly: the people of this country are not weak, no cowardly and not spritually exhausted," she said in a speech to the National Press Club.
"Alexander Solzhenitsyn says that he can feel the pressure of evil across our land," she added. "Well, I do not sense that pressure of evil at all."
Solzhenitsyn's scathing criticism of Western society was delivered June 9 at commencement exercises at Harvard University. Attacking what he described as moral cowardice, selfishness and complacency in the Western democracies, he said he "could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation" of Soviet-style communist states.
Mrs. Carter's speech was less a reply to Solzhenitsyn than a plea that more attention be paid to the "pervasive desire among Americans to live a useful life, to correct the defects in our society and to make our nation even greater than it already is."
The First Lady added:
"The anomaly about good works, about little acts of courage, about sincerity and caring and responsibility and dedication is that it is often perceived as, well, boring . . . I need not repeat here the old cliche that good news doesn't sell."
Mrs. Carter, who has expressed an interest in the administration's urban policy, said that in the coming months she will seek "to throw a spotlight on the caring people in our cities and our communities - on those who are assuming responsibility, even in the most prossaic ways, to make committees work, and neighborhood programs work, and schools and libraries and hospitals work."
Mrs. Carter's press secretary, Mary Hoyt, said the speech "in no way was meant as an administration statement" in response to Solzhenitsyn.
"It was a Rosalynn Carter statement," she said.