Lyndon B. Johnson

president of the United States from 1963 to 1969
(Redirected from Lyndon Johnson)

Lyndon Baines Johnson (27 August 190822 January 1973), often referred to by his initials LBJ, was an American politician. After a long career in U.S. legislatures, Johnson became the vice president of the United States of America under John F. Kennedy, from 1961 to 1963. A Democrat, Johnson became the 36th U.S. president in 1963, after Kennedy's assassination. He served in the role until 1969.

Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land.
There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain.
There is no moral issue. It is wrong — deadly wrong — to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.
There is no issue of States rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.


At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom.
The purpose of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a Nation.
The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization….
Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty.
There are no problems which we cannot solve together, and there are very few which any of us can settle by himself.
I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle.
A democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.
To deny a man his hopes because of his color or race, his religion or the place of his birth is not only to do injustice; it is to deny America and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom.
Freedom of information is so vital that only the national security, not the desire of public officials or private citizens, should determine when it must be restricted.
The United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded.
The only real road to progress for free people is through the process of law.
Eisenhower used to tell me that this place was a prison. I never felt freer.
Justice means a man's hope should not be limited by the color of his skin.
The war in Vietnam is not like these other wars. Yet, finally, war is always the same. It is young men dying in the fullness of their promise. It is trying to kill a man that you do not even know well enough to hate. Therefore, to know war is to know that there is still madness in this world.
Make no mistake about it ... We are going to win.
The people of Vietnam, north and south, seek the same things. The shared needs of man, the needs for food and shelter and education, the chance to build and work and till the soil, free from the arbitrary horrors of battle, the desire to walk in the dignity of those who master their own destiny. For many painful years, in war and revolution and infrequent peace, they have struggled to fulfill those needs. It is a crime against mankind that so much courage, and so much will, and so many dreams, must be flung on the fires of war and death.
  • Making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg. It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.
  • If the circumstances make it such that you can't fuck a man in the ass, then just peckerslap him. Better to let him know who's in charge than to let him get the keys to the car.
    • Private comment, found in White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on the President (2003) edited by John Prados.
  • [Gerald] Ford's economics are the worst thing that's happened to this country since pantyhose ruined finger-fucking.
    • As quoted in Fuck (2005)


  • This civil rights program about which you have heard so much is a farce and a sham; an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty. I am opposed to that program. I fought it in the Congress. It is the province of the state to run its own elections. I am opposed to the anti-lynching bill because the federal government has no business enacting a law against one kind of murder than another ... If a man can tell you who you must hire, he can tell you who not to employ. I have met this head on.


  • This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep, personal tragedy. I know the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best; that is all I can do. I ask for your help and God's.
    • First official statement as President after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, televised live from Andrews Air Force Base (22 November 1963)
  • The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization….
    The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.
    The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.
    It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.
    But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.
    • Remarks at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (May 22, 1964). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, book 1, p. 704
  • The purpose of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a Nation.

  • Fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked good ... We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution, he, his parliament and his constitution may not last long ...
    • Comment to the Greek ambassador to Washington, Alexander Matsas, over the Cyprus issue in June 1964. As quoted in I Should Have Died (1977) by Philip Deane, pp. 113-114
  • And I just want to tell you this — we're in favor of a lot of things and we're against mighty few.
    • Campaign statement (1964), as quoted in The Making of the President, 1964 (1966) by T. H. White, p. 413.
  • The same society which receives the rewards of technology must, as a cooperating whole, take responsibility for control. To deal with these new problems will require a new conservation. We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities. Our conservation must be not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man's welfare, but the dignity of man's spirit.
    • Message to Congress on Conservation and Restoration of Natural Beauty written to Congress (8 Feb 1965), in Lyndon B. Johnson: Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President (1965), Vol.1, 156. United States. President (1963-1969 : Johnson), Lyndon Baines Johnson, United States. Office of the Federal Register — 1970
  • The American city should be a collection of communities where every member has a right to belong. It should be a place where every man feels safe on his streets and in the house of his friends. It should be a place where each individual’s dignity and self-respect is strengthened by the respect and affection of his neighbors. It should be a place where each of us can find the satisfaction and warmth which comes from being a member of the community of man. This is what man sought at the dawn of civilization. It is what we seek today.
    • Special message to the Congress on the nation's cities (March 2, 1965); reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 1, p. 240
  • We don't propose to sit here in our rocking chair with our hands folded and let the Communists set up any government in the Western Hemisphere.
    • Remarks to the 10th National Legislative Conference, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO (May 3, 1965); reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 1, p. 480
  • You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying, "Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please."
    You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "You are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.
    Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates. And this is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights.
    We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact, and equality as a result.
  • We do not want an expanding struggle with consequences, that no one can perceive, nor will we bluster or bully or flaunt our power, but we will not surrender and we will not retreat, for behind our American pledge lies the determination and resources, I believe, of all of the American nation.
  • I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle.
  • I hope that you of the IPA will go out into the hinterland and rouse the masses and blow the bugles and tell them that the hour has arrived and their day is here; that we are on the march against the ancient enemies and we are going to be successful.
    • Remarks to the International Platform Association (August 3, 1965); reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 2, p. 822
  • We know that most people's intentions are good. We don't question their motives; we've never said they're unpatriotic, although they say some pretty ugly things about us. And we believe very strongly on preserving the right to differ in this country, and the right to dissent; and if I have done a good job of anything since I've been president, it's to ensure that there are plenty of dissenters.
  • What did you expect? I don't know why we're so surprised. When you put your foot on a man's neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what's he going to do? He's going to knock your block off.
    • Regarding rioting (1968), as quoted in Judgment days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the laws that changed America (2005), by Nick Kotz, Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 417

Listen to an original recording of this quote:

Memorial Day speech (1963)

The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed–and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves.
Remarks of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Memorial Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (May 30, 1963). Source: Press Release, "5/30/63, Remarks by Vice President, Memorial Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania," Statements File, Box 80, LBJ Library.
  • On this hallowed ground, heroic deeds were performed and eloquent words were spoken a century ago. We, the living, have not forgotten–and the world will never forget–the deeds or the words of Gettysburg. We honor them now as we join on this Memorial Day of 1963 in a prayer for permanent peace of the world and fulfillment of our hopes for universal freedom and justice.
  • We are called to honor our own words of reverent prayer with resolution in the deeds we must perform to preserve peace and the hope of freedom. We keep a vigil of peace around the world. Until the world knows no aggressors, until the arms of tyranny have been laid down, until freedom has risen up in every land, we shall maintain our vigil to make sure our sons who died on foreign fields shall not have died in vain.
  • As we maintain the vigil of peace, we must remember that justice is a vigil, too — a vigil we must keep in our own streets and schools and among the lives of all our people — so that those who died here on their native soil shall not have died in vain.
  • One hundred years ago, the slave was freed. One hundred years later, the Negro remains in bondage to the color of his skin. The Negro today asks justice. We do not answer him — we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil — when we reply to the Negro by asking, "Patience."
  • It is empty to plead that the solution to the dilemmas of the present rests on the hands of the clock. The solution is in our hands. Unless we are willing to yield up our destiny of greatness among the civilizations of history, Americans — white and Negro together — must be about the business of resolving the challenge which confronts us now.
  • Our nation found its soul in honor on these fields of Gettysburg one hundred years ago. We must not lose that soul in dishonor now on the fields of hate. To ask for patience from the Negro is to ask him to give more of what he has already given enough. But to fail to ask of him — and of all Americans — perseverance within the processes of a free and responsible society would be to fail to ask what the national interest requires of all its citizens.
  • The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed — and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves. If the white over-estimates what he has done for the Negro without the law, the Negro may under-estimate what he is doing and can do for himself with the law.
  • If it is empty to ask Negro or white for patience, it is not empty — it is merely honest — to ask perseverance. Men may build barricades — and others may hurl themselves against those barricades — but what would happen at the barricades would yield no answers. The answers will only be wrought by our perseverance together. It is deceit to promise more as it would be cowardice to demand less.
  • The Negro says, "Now." Others say, "Never." The voice of responsible Americans — the voice of those who died here and the great man who spoke here — their voices say, "Together." There is no other way.
  • Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. To the extent that the proclamation of emancipation is not fulfilled in fact, to that extent we shall have fallen short of assuring freedom to the free.

Let Us Continue (November 1963)

President Johnson's address to a joint session of Congress days after the Kennedy assassination (November 27, 1963). Source: Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress, The American Presidency Project.
The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time. Today John Fitzgerald Kennedy lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind. He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives on in the hearts of his countrymen.
  • All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today. The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time. Today John Fitzgerald Kennedy lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind. He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives on in the hearts of his countrymen. No words are sad enough to express our sense of loss. No words are strong enough to express our determination to continue the forward thrust of America that he began.
  • The dream of conquering the vastness of space--the dream of partnership across the Atlantic--and across the Pacific as well-the dream of a Peace Corps in less developed nations--the dream of education for all of our children--the dream of jobs for all who seek them and need them--the dream of care for our elderly--the dream of an all-out attack on mental illness--and above all, the dream of equal rights for all Americans, whatever their race or color--these and other American dreams have been vitalized by his drive and by his dedication. And now the ideas and the ideals which he so nobly represented must and will be translated into effective action.
  • Under John Kennedy's leadership, this Nation has demonstrated that it has the courage to seek peace, and it has the fortitude to risk war. We have proved that we are a good and reliable friend to those who seek peace and freedom. We have shown that we can also be a formidable foe to those who reject the path of peace and those who seek to impose upon us or our allies the yoke of tyranny.
  • This Nation will keep its commitments from South Viet-Nam to West Berlin. We will be unceasing in the search for peace; resourceful in our pursuit of areas of agreement even with those with whom we differ; and generous and loyal to those who join with us in common cause. In this age when there can be no losers in peace and no victors in war, we must recognize the obligation to match national strength with national restraint. We must be prepared at one and the same time for both the confrontation of power and the limitation of power. We must be ready to defend the national interest and to negotiate the common interest. This is the path that we shall continue to pursue. Those who test our courage will find it strong, and those who seek our friendship will find it honorable. We will demonstrate anew that the strong can be just in the use of strength; and the just can be strong in the defense of justice.
  • We will serve all the Nation, not one section or one sector, or one group, but all Americans. These are the United States-a united people with a united purpose. Our American unity does not depend upon unanimity. We have differences; but now, as in the past, we can derive from those differences strength, not weakness, wisdom, not despair. Both as a people and a government, we can unite upon a program, a program which is wise and just, enlightened and constructive.
An assassin's bullet has thrust upon me the awesome burden of the Presidency. I am here today to say I need your help; I cannot bear this burden alone. I need the help of all Americans, and all America.
  • For 32 years Capitol Hill has been my home. I have shared many moments of pride with you, pride in the ability of the Congress of the United States to act, to meet any crisis, to distill from our differences strong programs of national action. An assassin's bullet has thrust upon me the awesome burden of the Presidency. I am here today to say I need your help; I cannot bear this burden alone. I need the help of all Americans, and all America. This Nation has experienced a profound shock, and in this critical moment, it is our duty, yours and mine, as the Government of the United States, to do away with uncertainty and doubt and delay, and to show that we are capable of decisive action; that from the brutal loss of our leader we will derive not weakness, but strength; that we can and will act and act now.
  • From this chamber of representative government, let all the world know and none misunderstand that I rededicate this Government to the unswerving support of the United Nations, to the honorable and determined execution of our commitments to our allies, to the maintenance of military strength second to none, to the defense of the strength and the stability of the dollar, to the expansion of our foreign trade, to the reinforcement of our programs of mutual assistance and cooperation in Asia and Africa, and to our Alliance for Progress in this hemisphere.
  • On the 20th day of January, in 1961, John F. Kennedy told his countrymen that our national work would not be finished "in the first thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But," he said, "let us begin." Today, in this moment of new resolve, I would say to all my fellow Americans, let us continue.
  • This is our challenge--not to hesitate, not to pause, not to turn about and linger over this evil moment, but to continue on our course so that we may fulfill the destiny that history has set for us. Our most immediate tasks are here on this Hill. First, no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long. We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law. I urge you again, as I did in 1957 and again in 1960, to enact a civil rights law so that we can move forward to eliminate from this Nation every trace of discrimination and oppression that is based upon race or color. There could be no greater source of strength to this Nation both at home and abroad.
  • As one who has long served in both Houses of the Congress, I firmly believe in the independence and the integrity of the legislative branch. And I promise you that I shall always respect this. It is deep in the marrow of my bones. With equal firmness, I believe in the capacity and I believe in the ability of the Congress, despite the divisions of opinions which characterize our Nation, to act--to act wisely, to act vigorously, to act speedily when the need arises. The need is here. The need is now. I ask your help.
  • We meet in grief, but let us also meet in renewed dedication and renewed vigor. Let us meet in action, in tolerance, and in mutual understanding. John Kennedy's death commands what his life conveyed-that America must move forward. The time has come for Americans of all races and creeds and political beliefs to understand and to respect one another. So let us put an end to the teaching and the preaching of hate and evil and violence. Let us turn away from the fanatics of the far left and the far right, from the apostles of bitterness and bigotry, from those defiant of law, and those who pour venom into our Nation's bloodstream.

State of the Union Address (January 1964)

President Johnson's address to a joint session of Congress where he first uttered the phrase "War on poverty". (January 8, 1964). Source: Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union, The American Presidency Project.
  • I will be brief, for our time is necessarily short and our agenda is already long. Last year's congressional session was the longest in peacetime history. With that foundation, let us work together to make this year's session the best in the Nation's history. Let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined; as the session which enacted the most far-reaching tax cut of our time; as the session which declared all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States; as the session which finally recognized the health needs of all our older citizens; as the session which reformed our tangled transportation and transit policies; as the session which achieved the most effective, efficient foreign aid program ever; and as the session which helped to build more homes, more schools, more libraries, and more hospitals than any single session of Congress in the history of our Republic. All this and more can and must be done. It can be done by this summer, and it can be done without any increase in spending. In fact, under the budget that I shall shortly submit, it can be done with an actual reduction in Federal expenditures and Federal employment.
  • We have in 1964 a unique opportunity and obligation--to prove the success of our system; to disprove those cynics and critics at home and abroad who question our purpose and our competence. If we fail, if we fritter and fumble away our opportunity in needless, senseless quarrels between Democrats and Republicans, or between the House and the Senate, or between the South and North, or between the Congress and the administration, then history will rightfully judge us harshly. But if we succeed, if we can achieve these goals by forging in this country a greater sense of union, then, and only then, can we take full satisfaction in the State of the Union.
  • Here in the Congress you can demonstrate effective legislative leadership by discharging the public business with clarity and dispatch, voting each important proposal up, or voting it down, but at least bringing it to a fair and a final vote. Let us carry forward the plans and programs of John Fitzgerald Kennedy--not because of our sorrow or sympathy, but because they are right. In his memory today, I especially ask all members of my own political faith, in this election year, to put your country ahead of your party, and to always debate principles; never debate personalities.
  • For my part, I pledge a progressive administration which is efficient, and honest and frugal. The budget to be submitted to the Congress shortly is in full accord with this pledge. It will cut our deficit in half--from $10 billion to $4,900 million. It will be, in proportion to our national output, the smallest budget since 1951. It will call for a substantial reduction in Federal employment, a feat accomplished only once before in the last 10 years. While maintaining the full strength of our combat defenses, it will call for the lowest number of civilian personnel in the Department of Defense since 1950. It will call for total expenditures of $97,900 million--compared to $98,400 million for the current year, a reduction of more than $500 million. It will call for new obligational authority of $103,800 million--a reduction of more than $4 billion below last year's request of $107,900 million. But it is not a standstill budget, for America cannot afford to stand still. Our population is growing. Our economy is more complex. Our people's needs are expanding. But by closing down obsolete installations, by curtailing less urgent programs, by cutting back where cutting back seems to be wise, by insisting on a dollar's worth for a dollar spent, I am able to recommend in this reduced budget the most Federal support in history for education, for health, for retraining the unemployed, and for helping the economically and the physically handicapped. This budget, and this year's legislative program, are designed to help each and every American citizen fulfill his basic hopes--his hopes for a fair chance to make good; his hopes for fair play from the law; his hopes for a full-time job on full-time pay; his hopes for a decent home for his family in a decent community; his hopes for a good school for his children with good teachers; and his hopes for security when faced with sickness or unemployment or old age.
  • Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope--some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime. Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must also be organized at the State and the local level and must be supported and directed by State and local efforts. For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House. The program I shall propose will emphasize this cooperative approach to help that one-fifth of all American families with incomes too small to even meet their basic needs.
  • Our chief weapons in a more pinpointed attack will be better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities to help more Americans, especially young Americans, escape from squalor and misery and unemployment rolls where other citizens help to carry them. Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children. But whatever the cause, our joint Federal-local effort must pursue poverty, pursue it wherever it exists--in city slums and small towns, in sharecropper shacks or in migrant worker camps, on Indian Reservations, among whites as well as Negroes, among the young as well as the aged, in the boom towns and in the depressed areas.
  • Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it. No single piece of legislation, however, is going to suffice. We will launch a special effort in the chronically distressed areas of Appalachia. We must expand our small but our successful area redevelopment program. We must enact youth employment legislation to put jobless, aimless, hopeless youngsters to work on useful projects. We must distribute more food to the needy through a broader food stamp program. We must create a National Service Corps to help the economically handicapped of our own country as the Peace Corps now helps those abroad. We must modernize our unemployment insurance and establish a high-level commission on automation. If we have the brain power to invent these machines, we have the brain power to make certain that they are a boon and not a bane to humanity. We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than 2 million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power. We must, by including special school aid funds as part of our education program, improve the quality of teaching, training, and counseling in our hardest hit areas. We must build more libraries in every area and more hospitals and nursing homes under the Hill-Burton Act, and train more nurses to staff them. We must provide hospital insurance for our older citizens financed by every worker and his employer under Social Security, contributing no more than $1 a month during the employee's working career to protect him in his old age in a dignified manner without cost to the Treasury, against the devastating hardship of prolonged or repeated illness. We must, as a part of a revised housing and urban renewal program, give more help to those displaced by slum clearance, provide more housing for our poor and our elderly, and seek as our ultimate goal in our free enterprise system a decent home for every American family. We must help obtain more modern mass transit within our communities as well as low-cost transportation between them. Above all, we must release $11 billion of tax reduction into the private spending stream to create new jobs and new markets in every area of this land.
  • These programs are obviously not for the poor or the underprivileged alone. Every American will benefit by the extension of social security to cover the hospital costs of their aged parents. Every American community will benefit from the construction or modernization of schools, libraries, hospitals, and nursing homes, from the training of more nurses and from the improvement of urban renewal in public transit. And every individual American taxpayer and every corporate taxpayer will benefit from the earliest possible passage of the pending tax bill from both the new investment it will bring and the new jobs that it will create.
  • That tax bill has been thoroughly discussed for a year. Now we need action. The new budget clearly allows it. Our taxpayers surely deserve it. Our economy strongly demands it. And every month of delay dilutes its benefits in 1964 for consumption, for investment, and for employment. For until the bill is signed, its investment incentives cannot be deemed certain, and the withholding rate cannot be reduced-and the most damaging and devastating thing you can do to any businessman in America is to keep him in doubt and to keep him guessing on what our tax policy is. And I say that we should now reduce to 14 percent instead of 15 percent our withholding rate. I therefore urge the Congress to take final action on this bill by the first of February, if at all possible. For however proud we may be of the unprecedented progress of our free enterprise economy over the last 3 years, we should not and we cannot permit it to pause. In 1963, for the first time in history, we crossed the 70 million job mark, but we will soon need more than 75 million jobs. In 1963 our gross national product reached the $600 billion level--$100 billion higher than when we took office. But it easily could and it should be still $30 billion higher today than it is. Wages and profits and family income are also at their highest levels in history--but I would remind you that 4 million workers and 13 percent of our industrial capacity are still idle today. We need a tax cut now to keep this country moving.
  • For our goal is not merely to spread the work. Our goal is to create more jobs. I believe the enactment of a 35-hour week would sharply increase costs, would invite inflation, would impair our ability to compete, and merely share instead of creating employment. But I am equally opposed to the 45- or 50-hour week in those industries where consistently excessive use of overtime causes increased unemployment. So, therefore, I recommend legislation authorizing the creation of a tripartite industry committee to determine on an industry-by-industry basis as to where a higher penalty rate for overtime would increase job openings without unduly increasing costs, and authorizing the establishment of such higher rates.
  • Let me make one principle of this administration abundantly clear: All of these increased opportunities--in employment, in education, in housing, and in every field-must be open to Americans of every color. As far as the writ of Federal law will run, we must abolish not some, but all racial discrimination. For this is not merely an economic issue, or a social, political, or international issue. It is a moral issue, and it must be met by the passage this session of the bill now pending in the House. All members of the public should have equal access to facilities open to the public. All members of the public should be equally eligible for Federal benefits that are financed by the public. All members of the public should have an equal chance to vote for public officials and to send their children to good public schools and to contribute their talents to the public good. Today, Americans of all races stand side by side in Berlin and in Viet Nam. They died side by side in Korea. Surely they can work and eat and travel side by side in their own country.
  • We must also lift by legislation the bars of discrimination against those who seek entry into our country, particularly those who have much needed skills and those joining their families. In establishing preferences, a nation that was built by the immigrants of all lands can ask those who now seek admission: "What can you do for our country?" But we should not be asking: "In what country were you born?"
  • For our ultimate goal is a world without war, a world made safe for diversity, in which all men, goods, and ideas can freely move across every border and every boundary. We must advance toward this goal in 1964 in at least 10 different ways, not as partisans, but as patriots. First, we must maintain--and our reduced defense budget will maintain--that margin of military safety and superiority obtained through 3 years of steadily increasing both the quality and the quantity of our strategic, our conventional, and our antiguerilla forces. In 1964 we will be better prepared than ever before to defend the cause of freedom, whether it is threatened by outright aggression or by the infiltration practiced by those in Hanoi and Havana, who ship arms and men across international borders to foment insurrection. And we must continue to use that strength as John Kennedy used it in the Cuban crisis and for the test ban treaty--to demonstrate both the futility of nuclear war and the possibilities of lasting peace.
  • Second, we must take new steps--and we shall make new proposals at Geneva--toward the control and the eventual abolition of arms. Even in the absence of agreement, we must not stockpile arms beyond our needs or seek an excess of military power that could be provocative as well as wasteful. It is in this spirit that in this fiscal year we are cutting back our production of enriched uranium by 25 percent. We are shutting down four plutonium piles. We are closing many nonessential military installations. And it is in this spirit that we today call on our adversaries to do the same.
  • Third, we must make increased use of our food as an instrument of peace--making it available by sale or trade or loan or donation-to hungry people in all nations which tell us of their needs and accept proper conditions of distribution. Fourth, we must assure our pre-eminence in the peaceful exploration of outer space, focusing on an expedition to the moon in this decade--in cooperation with other powers if possible, alone if necessary. Fifth, we must expand world trade. Having recognized in the Act of 1962 that we must buy as well as sell, we now expect our trading partners to recognize that we must sell as well as buy. We are willing to give them competitive access to our market, asking only that they do the same for us.
  • Sixth, we must continue, through such measures as the interest equalization tax, as well as the cooperation of other nations, our recent progress toward balancing our international accounts. This administration must and will preserve the present gold value of the dollar. Seventh, we must become better neighbors with the free states of the Americas, working with the councils of the OAS, with a stronger Alliance for Progress, and with all the men and women of this hemisphere who really believe in liberty and justice for all. Eighth, we must strengthen the ability of free nations everywhere to develop their independence and raise their standard of living, and thereby frustrate those who prey on poverty and chaos. To do this, the rich must help the poor--and we must do our part. We must achieve a more rigorous administration of our development assistance, with larger roles for private investors, for other industrialized nations, and for international agencies and for the recipient nations themselves. Ninth, we must strengthen our Atlantic and Pacific partnerships, maintain our alliances and make the United Nations a more effective instrument for national independence and international order. Tenth, and finally, we must develop with our allies new means of bridging the gap between the East and the West, facing danger boldly wherever danger exists, but being equally bold in our search for new agreements which can enlarge the hopes of all, while violating the interests of none.
  • In short, I would say to the Congress that we must be constantly prepared for the worst, and constantly acting for the best. We must be strong enough to win any war, and we must be wise enough to prevent one. We shall neither act as aggressors nor tolerate acts of aggression. We intend to bury no one, and we do not intend to be buried. We can fight, if we must, as we have fought before, but we pray that we will never have to fight again. My good friends and my fellow Americans: In these last 7 sorrowful weeks, we have learned anew that nothing is so enduring as faith, and nothing is so degrading as hate. John Kennedy was a victim of hate, but he was also a great builder of faith--faith in our fellow Americans, whatever their creed or their color or their station in life; faith in the future of man, whatever his divisions and differences. This faith was echoed in all parts of the world. On every continent and in every land to which Mrs. Johnson and I traveled, we found faith and hope and love toward this land of America and toward our people. So I ask you now in the Congress and in the country to join with me in expressing and fulfilling that faith in working for a nation, a nation that is free from want and a world that is free from hate--a world of peace and justice, and freedom and abundance, for our time and for all time to come.

St. Louis University address (February 1964)

President Johnson's address at St. Louis University (February 14, 1964). Source: Remarks at St. Louis University, The American Presidency Project.
  • It is a welcome privilege to be in your city and on your campus here at St. Louis University. for many years your city has been widely known for baseball, basketball, the Busch family, and I am a fan of all three. But those who know St. Louis well and know it affectionately as I have for many years, since I wore my first set of Buster Brown shoes, know that the strength of this city comes from its colleges and its churches, and the courageous civic leadership of its citizens. I have little patience with those who dismiss this great region of mid-America as an intellectual desert. Those who say that don't know mid-America, don't know the Midwest and don't know St. Louis, and won't last very long in the company of Senator Symington and Senator Long!
  • This city and this campus and the other centers of higher learning are now and will continue to be in the forefront of our Nation's leadership in this new age of science and technology. President Kennedy told us, and I most strongly agree, that our progress as a Nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource. This is the most fundamental truth of our system and our society and of every success that we have achieved or hope to achieve.
  • This is not always clearly seen. It is true today as when Thomas Jefferson first said it, that people generally have more feeling for canals and the roads than they do for education. But I hold the hope that Jefferson held, that we can advance them with equal pace. In our cities and in our counties, and in all of our country, there is a very great and urgent need for public works. But today more than any time in our history, America's most urgent work is educating its people, educating all the people, all the time, wherever they may have been born or wherever they may have chosen to live.
  • In the two hundred years since St. Louis was born we have done many things in this land men have not done before. But the greatest of these has been the accomplishment of learning to live together, learning to live together in freedom and fulfillment, all religions, all races, all heritages, German and Irish, Italian and English, french-yes, even Texans. We have done much, but our work on this earth is not yet done; we walk a long road and we carry a precious trust. We are not looking for, we shall never look for, the short cuts. We shall never resort to battleship diplomacy or rely upon the umbrella of appeasement. We will be resolute but we will never be reckless. We will be restrained in the face of provocation because we know America's strength. We will never be reluctant in the face of peril because we trust that strength of America.
  • America works for peace. We work for freedom. We work for a world in which men can have peace and can also have freedom and can worship their God, not a godless state. So in this work I am sure that all Americans and all free men everywhere whatever their faith, welcome and are grateful for the leadership being offered so forcefully by His Holiness Pope Paul.
  • And I now have a little announcement that I would like to make. The President has today asked Stan Musial to serve his country as Special Consultant to the President to head the President's physical fitness program in the United States of America. And Stan has already accepted. There are few men in America who serve as hero to a nation and serve that duty with such great dignity. Stanley Frank Musial is one of the great baseball players of this century. The record book is thickly crowded with his achievements. But the record books are only part of the Musial story, for Stan is more than a great player. He is the young man's hero who never lets him down. To every little boy who dreams of the big leagues, to every rookie eyeing that pitcher for the first time, to every young athlete who strives for triumph, "Start the Man" is the authentic champion. He has brought to his profession the simple disciplines of honesty and honor, of pride and of character.

Special Message to the Congress on Nationwide War on the Sources of Poverty (March 1964)

President Johnson's message to Congress on poverty (March 16, 1964). Source: Special Message to the Congress Proposing a Nationwide War on the Sources of Poverty, The American Presidency Project.
  • We are citizens of the richest and most fortunate nation in the history of the world. One hundred and eighty years ago we were a small country struggling for survival on the margin of a hostile land. Today we have established a civilization of free men which spans an entire continent. With the growth of our country has come opportunity for our people--opportunity to educate our children, to use our energies in productive work, to increase our leisure-opportunity for almost every American to hope that through work and talent he could create a better life for himself and his family. The path forward has not been an easy one. But we have never lost sight of our goal: an America in which every citizen shares all the opportunities of his society, in which every man has a chance to advance his welfare to the limit of his capacities. We have come a long way toward this goal. We still have a long way to go. The distance which remains is the measure of the great unfinished work of our society. To finish that work I have called for a national war on poverty. Our objective: total victory.
  • There are millions of Americans--one fifth of our people--who have not shared in the abundance which has been granted to most of us, and on whom the gates of opportunity have been closed. What does this poverty mean to those who endure it ? It means a daily struggle to secure the necessities for even a meager existence. It means that the abundance, the comforts, the opportunities they see all around them are beyond their grasp. Worst of all, it means hopelessness for the young. The young man or woman who grows up without a decent education, in a broken home, in a hostile and squalid environment, in ill health or in the face of racial injustice-that young man or woman is often trapped in a life of poverty. He does not have the skills demanded by a complex society. He does not know how to acquire those skills. He faces a mounting sense of despair which drains initiative and ambition and energy. Our tax cut will create millions of new jobs--new exits from poverty. But we must also strike down all the barriers which keep many from using those exits. The war on poverty is not a struggle simply to support people, to make them dependent on the generosity of others. It is a struggle to give people a chance. It is an effort to allow them to develop and use their capacities, as we have been allowed to develop and use ours, so that they can share, as others share, in the promise of this nation. We do this, first of all, because it is right that we should.
  • From the establishment of public education and land grant colleges through agricultural extension and encouragement to industry, we have pursued the goal of a nation with full and increasing opportunities for all its citizens. The war on poverty is a further step in that pursuit. We do it also because helping some will increase the prosperity of all. Our fight against poverty will be an investment in the most valuable of our resources--the skills and strength of our people. And in the future, as in the past, this investment will return its cost many fold to our entire economy. If we can raise the annual earnings of 10 million among the poor by only $1,000 we will have added 14 billion dollars a year to our national output. In addition we can make important reductions in public assistance payments which now cost us 4 billion dollars a year, and in the large costs of fighting crime and delinquency, disease and hunger. This is only part of the story.
  • Our history has proved that each time we broaden the base of abundance, giving more people the chance to produce and consume, we create new industry, higher production, increased earnings and better income for all. Giving new opportunity to those who have little will enrich the lives of all the rest. Because it is right, because it is wise, and because, for the first time in our history, it is possible to couquer poverty, I submit, for the consideration of the Congress and the country, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The Act does not merely expand old programs or improve what is already being done. It charts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty. It can be a milestone in our one-hundred eighty year search for a better life for our people. This Act provides five basic opportunities. It will give almost half a million underprivileged young Americans the opportunity to develop skills, continue education, and find useful work. It will give every American community the opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan to fight its own poverty--and help them to carry out their plans. It will give dedicated Americans the opportunity to enlist as volunteers in the war against poverty. It will give many workers and farmers the opportunity to break through particular barriers which bar their escape from poverty. It will give the entire nation the opportunity for a concerted attack on poverty through the establishment, under my direction, of the Office of Economic Opportunity, a national headquarters for the war against poverty.
  • This is how we propose to create these opportunities. First we will give high priority to helping young Americans who lack skills, who have not completed their education or who cannot complete it because they are too poor. The years of high school and college age are the most critical stage of a young person's life. If they are not helped then, many will be condemned to a life of poverty which they, in turn, will pass on to their children. I therefore recommend the creation of a Job Corps, a Work-Training Program, and a Work Study Program. A new national Job Corps will build toward an enlistment of 100,000 young men. They will be drawn from those whose background, health and education make them least fit for useful work. Those who volunteer will enter more than 100 Camps and Centers around the country. Half of these young men will work, in the first year, on special conservation projects to give them education, useful work experience and to enrich the natural resources of the country. Half of these young men will receive, in the first year, a blend of training, basic education and work experience in Job Training Centers. These are not simply camps for the underprivileged. They are new educational institutions, comparable in innovation to the land grant colleges. Those who enter them will emerge better qualified to play a productive role in American society.
  • A new national Work-Training Program operated by the Department of Labor will provide work and training for 200,000 American men and women between the ages of 16 and 21. This will be developed through state and local governments and non-profit agencies. Hundreds of thousands of young Americans badly need the experience, the income, and the sense of purpose which useful full or part-time work can bring. For them such work may mean the difference between finishing school or dropping out. Vital community activities from hospitals and playgrounds to libraries and settlement houses are suffering because there are not enough people to staff them. We are simply bringing these needs together. A new national Work-Study Program operated by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare will provide federal funds for part-time jobs for 140,000 young Americans who do not go to college because they cannot afford it. There is no more senseless waste than the waste of the brainpower and skill of those who are kept from college by economic circumstance. Under this program they will, in a great American tradition, be able to work their way through school. They and the country will be richer for it.
  • Second, through a new Community Action program we intend to strike at poverty at its source--in the streets of our cities and on the farms of our countryside among the very young and the impoverished old. This program asks men and women throughout the country to prepare long-range plans for the attack on poverty in their own local communities. These are not plans prepared in Washington and imposed upon hundreds of different situations. They are based on the fact that local citizens best understand their own problems, and know best how to deal with those problems. These plans will be local plans striking at the many untilled needs which underlie poverty in each community, not just one or two. Their components and emphasis will differ as needs differ. These plans will be local plans calling upon all the resources available to the community-federal and state, local and private, human and material. And when these plans are approved by the Office of Economic Opportunity, the federal government will finance up to 9070 of the additional cost for the first two years. The most enduring strength of our nation is the huge reservoir of talent, initiative and leadership which exists at every level of our society. Through the Community Action Program we call upon this, our greatest strength, to overcome our greatest weakness.
  • Third, I ask for the authority to recruit and train skilled volunteers for the war against poverty. Thousands of Americans have volunteered to serve the needs of other lands. Thousands more want the chance to serve the needs of their own land. They should have that chance. Among older people who have retired, as well as among the young, among women as well as men, there are many Americans who are ready to enlist in our war against poverty. They have skills and dedication. They are badly needed. If the State requests them, if the community needs and will use them, we will recruit and train them and give them the chance to serve.
  • Fourth, we intend to create new opportunities for certain hard-hit groups to break out of the pattern of poverty. Through a new program of loans and guarantees we can provide incentives to those who will employ the unemployed. Through programs of work and retraining for unemployed fathers and mothers we can help them support their families in dignity while preparing themselves for new work. Through funds to purchase needed land, organize cooperatives, and create new and adequate family farms we can help those whose life on the land has been a struggle without hope.
  • Fifth, I do not intend that the war against poverty become a series of uncoordinated and unrelated efforts--that it perish for lack of leadership and direction. Therefore this bill creates, in the Executive Office of the President, a new Office of Economic Opportunity. Its Director will be my personal Chief of Staff for the War against poverty. I intend to appoint Sargent Shriver to this post. He will be directly responsible for these new programs. He will work with and through existing agencies of the government. This program--the Economic Opportunity Act--is the foundation of our war against poverty. But it does not stand alone. For the past three years this government has advanced a number of new proposals which strike at important areas of need and distress. I ask the Congress to extend those which are already in action, and to establish those which have already been proposed.
  • There are programs to help badly distressed areas such as the Area Redevelopment Act, and the legislation now being prepared to help Appalachia. There are programs to help those without training find a place in today's complex society--such as the Manpower Development Training Act and the Vocational Education Act for youth. There are programs to protect those who are specially vulnerable to the ravages of poverty--hospital insurance for the elderly, protection for migrant farm workers, a food stamp program for the needy, coverage for millions not now protected by a minimum wage, new and expanded unemployment benefits for men out of work, a Housing and Community Development bill for those seeking decent homes. Finally there are programs which help the entire country, such as aid to education which, by raising the quality of schooling available to every American child, will give a new chance for knowledge to the children of the poor.
  • I ask immediate action on all these programs. What you are being asked to consider is not a simple or an easy program. But poverty is not a simple or an easy enemy. It cannot be driven from the land by a single attack on a single front. Were this so we would have conquered poverty long ago. Nor can it be conquered by government alone. For decades American labor and American business, private institutions and private individuals have been engaged in strengthening our economy and offering new opportunity to those in need. We need their help, their support, and their full participation. Through this program we offer new incentives and new opportunities for cooperation, so that all the energy of our nation, not merely the efforts of government, can be brought to bear on our common enemy. Today, for the first time in our history, we have the power to strike away the barriers to full participation in our society. Having the power, we have the duty. The Congress is charged by the Constitution to "provide . . . for the general welfare of the United States." Our present abundance is a measure of its success in fulfilling that duty. Now Congress is being asked to extend that welfare to all our people. The President of the United States is President of all the people in every section of the country. But this office also holds a special responsibility to the distressed and disinherited, the hungry and the hopeless of this abundant nation. It is in pursuit of that special responsibility that I submit this Message to you today.
  • The new program I propose is within our means. Its cost of 970 million dollars is 1 percent of our national budget--and every dollar I am requesting for this program is already included in the budget I sent to Congress in January. But we cannot measure its importance by its cost. For it charts an entirely new course of hope for our people. We are fully aware that this program will not eliminate all the poverty in America in a few months or a few years. Poverty is deeply rooted and its causes are many. But this program will show the way to new opportunities for millions of our fellow citizens. It will provide a lever with which we can begin to open the door to our prosperity for those who have been kept outside. It will also give us the chance to test our weapons, to try our energy and ideas and imagination for the many battles yet to come. As conditions change, and as experience illuminates our difficulties, we will be prepared to modify our strategy. And this program is much more than a beginning. Rather it is a commitment. It is a total commitment by this President, and this Congress, and this nation, to pursue victory over the most ancient of mankind's enemies.
  • On many historic occasions the President has requested from Congress the authority to move against forces which were endangering the well-being of our country. This is such an occasion. On similar occasions in the past we have often been called upon to wage war against foreign enemies which threatened our freedom. Today we are asked to declare war on a domestic enemy which threatens the strength of our nation and the welfare of our people. If we now move forward against this enemy--if we can bring to the challenges of peace the same determination and strength which has brought us victory in war--then this day and this Congress will have won a secure and honorable place in the history of the nation, and the enduring gratitude of generations of Americans yet to come.

International Labor Press Association remarks (April 1964)

President Johnson's remarks to the International Labor Press Association's members (April 27, 1964). Source: Remarks to the Members of the International Labor Press Association, The American Presidency Project.
  • We have the highest employment in our history as we meet here today. The vast majority of Americans are doing very well. In the midst of such prosperity it is too easy for people to lose sight of the problems which have not been solved, the difficulties which have not been mastered, and I assume that is one of the reasons for your coming here, and one of the reasons for your wanting to meet with the leaders of Government. Well, what about these serious problems? They do exist--problems of unemployment, of underutilization of plant equipment, of great discrimination against minorities, of discrimination against the aged and the handicapped, against the women, of inadequate medical care, of the inability of our educational system to equip all of our citizens to contribute to their fullest capacity.
  • But these are the problems which America faces. They are problems which can only be solved by an informed citizenship. This requirement calls all of us to give them attention. This recurrent sounding of the call to battle is one of the most valuable contributions that can be made by the labor press in the United States.
  • You are a part of the conscience of our society. You are always goading. You are never satisfied with the job that is partially done. You are always working and calling for the further advancement of working people, and you speak from a point of view. You speak on behalf of values. I think you generally speak out of a deep commitment to justice at the working place, to self-government in economic life, to an improvement in our society through a continuing improvement in the lot and opportunity of individual working persons and their families. So your strength and your great influence flows from the belief of American labor that a just society can best be built within the framework of democratic institutions and through the free processes of a free country.
  • From this long tradition has grown the modern labor movement and its voice and the labor movement's voice--your voice, the labor press. I think all Americans are grateful for that voice. It has spoken so often and so eloquently on behalf of programs to make a greater and a better society, to improve the welfare of all Americans. It has spoken for free labor, free from the influence of those who would corrupt this great mainstream of American life, free from those who would turn the hopes of workingmen into an instrument of attack.
  • You have helped to fight many battles on many fronts. I remember one that you fought and just to show you how much progress has been made, when I came here I was one of the few Congressmen the first year I was in Washington from my section of the country--only three of us from the South signed a petition to call a caucus to discharge a committee on the wage and hour bill. The other two, Maury Maverick and W. D. MacFarlane, both got defeated at the next election on account of their signing that petition. They were revolutionists and they were rebels and they kicked over the dinner pail and they caused a lot of trouble. And we actually, though finally with President Franklin Roosevelt's great support and by a fireside chat, we passed that bill that gave working people a minimum wage of 25 cents an hour. That was in 1938.
  • Franklin Roosevelt talked about the one-third that were ill clad and ill fed and ill housed. After working 30 years with your help and your crusades and your radical editorials and all of those things, we have it down to one-fifth, but we still have got 20 percent, 1 out of every 5, that are in the poverty group. Twenty years ago, 5 percent over a 10-year period, coming out from 1942 to 1952, and from 1952 to 1962 it was 3 percent, and now it is 1 percent that is coming out--1 percent a year. From 1937 to 1947 it was 5 percent, 1947 to 1953 it was 3 percent, 1953 to 1963 it is 1 percent. Now it is getting a lot more difficult in this IBM age for those people that have no training, that live on the other side of the tracks--it is getting a lot more difficult for them to get out and cross the tracks and get out of that poverty classification. You have to help them by this poverty program that will provide them with training. Forty-nine percent--1 out of every 2 boys we draft has to be sent home because he is physically or mentally unqualified. That is the kind of folks you are raising. If I had to do that with my calves, I would go broke every year. If I out of every 2 of my calves was born and I had to have rejects, I couldn't make it. So we begin this poverty war from a position of unmatched prosperity, with national abundance. We have just concluded the most productive and prosperous quarter on record. I had the figures here a minute ago. I wanted to give them to you.
  • When I came to Washington in 1932, corporation profits were nonexistent. They had a loss that year of $3,400 million. In 1942, 10 years later, we got it up to $9½ billion. In 1952, 10 years later, we got it up to $17.2 billion. In 1962 we got it up to $24.6 billion. In 1963 we got it up to $27.1 billion, and the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers tells me we are not only not going to lose $3,400 million this year, as we did 32 years ago when I came here, but our profits this year are going to be $31 billion after taxes--these high taxes. Labor has gotten about $52 billion more in wages than they got in 1961 Their wages have increased $51 billion or $52 billion in 3 years. Corporation profits have increased from a $3.4 billion loss in 1932 to $31 billion after taxes. Now, those groups--the capitalists who make the investments, the managers who manage it, and the workers who produce it-have got to be concerned about these taxeaters. There is an increasing proof that we can at long last break this unemployment stalemate that has marked our economic life month in and month out for several years.
  • But the growing prosperity of this country, while real to millions of you people--and I assume that none of you are in the poverty group who would be here today--in the mainstream of our economic life is only a mirage, just something that you can wish and hope for to millions of others like those good people I visited in eastern Kentucky last Friday, or the woman that's trying to raise a family on her own, or the family that is headed by a man over 65 with low income and little hope of getting more, or the unskilled worker who hasn't been able to find a job in many months and sinks every day lower into debt and despondency, or the members of the Negro family in the city slum who lack the education to get even the first foot on the ladder, or the 11 million children being raised in families with incomes under $3,000 a year. To them the American dream is just a dream and it is nothing more. So I want to ask your help to awaken the hopes of these people. When I came out of Kentucky and Pennsylvania with unemployed steelworkers and auto workers in South Bend, Ind., and coal workers in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, the thing that impressed me more than anything else was not just the dire poverty that I saw where a man had an income of less than $400 last year, with 8 children to raise, but the faith and hope that man had in the ultimate outcome of his whole situation in this country.
  • So you are going to have to be the crusaders that lead the parade and you are going to have to be the ones that get us at least a few Republican votes on our poverty bill that is pending up here. We don't want a Democratic bill; we don't want a Republican bill. We want an American bill, for all Americans who are in this lower group, so we can help train those people that are being rejected, so we can help prepare those people who head families that are not equipped to do anything, and I would like to have your help in awakening the conscience and the concern of all Americans who can be aroused to go to work for their fellowman. I want your help to enlist an army of Americans of every party and every region in this war. Let this be said: That the real war to end all wars must be the war to eliminate poverty. Let this be known as a generation of Americans who made it their personal duty to give every American an equal and fair chance.
  • What greater legacy could you leave your children than to say, and have some little plaque on your living room wall, that somebody acknowledged that your grandchild could look up and say that his grandpa helped make it possible for every American to have an equal and fair chance, for that is what being an American means to me-equality, fair shake at all times.
  • So I am happy to have you here in this home that you let me occupy. I saw Dick Nixon Saturday night. I met him coming back from Viet-Nam. I told him I wondered if he ran into Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller on their way out to Viet-Nam. Now, we have got a lot to do in Viet-Nam. Of course, Nixon was out there, as I understand it, working on Pepsi-Cola, I believe it was. But we have got work to do here, too, and one of the big jobs we have got to do is we have got to pass a civil rights bill. That will give Americans equal opportunity.
  • Lincoln freed the slaves of their chains 100 years ago. He signed the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years ago this year, and he freed them of their chains, but he didn't free them of their color and the bigotry that goes against color in this country. Until education is unaware of race, until employment is blind to color, emancipation will be a proclamation, but it will not be a fact, and we have got to pass a medical care bill for the aged, and we are within one vote of doing it.

Peace Corps Volunteers speech (May 1964)

President Johnson's remarks to the Peace Corps volunteers. (May 16, 1964). Source: Remarks to a Group of Peace Corps Volunteers, The American Presidency Project.
  • Thomas Hardy once said that "War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading." You people, I think, have changed that. In 3 years the aspirations and accomplishments of the Peace Corps have made the pursuit of peace "rattling good history." I know that 'personally from my own journeys abroad. But I also know it because visitors who come here to the White House every day from other countries never fail to tell me of the good work that you and your companions have done and are doing throughout the world.
  • The Peace Corps is just beginning to make its mark on the world. Your past success gives only a faint glimmer of the enormous possibilities of the future. One of the brightest hopes is the spread of the Peace Corps idea to other countries. I am very proud that when I was Vice President that I was able to participate slightly in getting that movement started. Twenty-three nations have said that they want to start their own version of the Peace Corps. What finer compliment could be paid you and the decision by these countries to do that! Sarge Shriver has just returned from West Germany where he helped to develop that country's program. And Japan announced this week that by 1965 it will have volunteers serving throughout Asia. You have set into motion what may become the largest peaceful volunteer movement the world has ever seen.
  • Our war on poverty, an unconditional declaration of war against one of the last bitter enemies of a great society, can be traced, I think, in large part to the courage and the compassion and the commitment of the Peace Corps volunteers. Because, by fighting hunger, illiteracy, and poverty abroad, you have shown us that we can and we should and we must fight them at home. So I expect returning Peace Corps volunteers to play a major role in this war on poverty. We need your experience. We need your sense of duty. We need your imagination if we are to win this war. And win it we must.
  • I also expect volunteers who complete 2 years abroad to enter the Federal service and to bring to every level of our Government the same devotion that they brought to the Peace Corps. The day will come when a former volunteer sits where I sit, although I hope he will have to wait a few years anyway. Because we need in Government what you have demonstrated in the Peace Corps, I will send a letter next week to the heads of every department and agency of this Government. I will urge those departments and agency heads to expedite the hiring of former Peace Corps volunteers. And I will ask them to report on their success to me by September 1st.
  • For, if the Peace Corps' 6 percent savings were Government-wide, if each department and agency were to make the same savings that you have made, the total savings in our Government budget would be roughly $6 billion. But this is not your proudest accomplishment, important as it is. Far more significant is what the Peace Corps has meant to the life and the vitality of a free society in which the ultimate responsibility rests upon the individual. By your decision to serve and by the deeds of your service, you have shown that the ideals which gave this Nation birth and brought her to greatness are still burning. for that, all of us, each of us everywhere in this country, are deeply in your debt. I am so pleased that you could come here and visit. I hope you enjoy the Rose Garden.

University of Michigan speech (May 1964)

President Johnson's remarks at the University of Michigan. (May 22, 1964). Source: Remarks at the University of Michigan, The American Presidency Project.
  • I have come today from the turmoil of your Capital to the tranquility of your campus to speak about the future of your country. The purpose of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a Nation. For a century we labored to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all of our people. The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.
  • Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society. The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.
  • The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods. But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.
  • Many of you will live to see the day, perhaps 50 years from now, when there will be 400 million Americans four-fifths of them in urban areas. In the remainder of this century urban population will double, city land will double, and we will have to build homes, highways, and facilities equal to all those built since this country was first settled. So in the next 40 years we must rebuild the entire urban United States. Aristotle said: "Men come together in cities in order to live, but they remain together in order to live the good life." It is harder and harder to live the good life in American cities today. The catalog of ills is long: there is the decay of the centers and the despoiling of the suburbs. There is not enough housing for our people or transportation for our traffic. Open land is vanishing and old landmarks are violated. Worst of all expansion is eroding the precious and time honored values of community with neighbors and communion with nature. The loss of these values breeds loneliness and boredom and indifference.
  • Our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities and not beyond their borders. New experiments are already going on. It will be the task of your generation to make the American city a place where future generations will come, not only to live but to live the good life. I understand that if I stayed here tonight I would see that Michigan students are really doing their best to live the good life. This is the place where the Peace Corps was started. It is inspiring to see how all of you, while you are in this country, are trying so hard to live at the level of the people.
  • A second place where we begin to build the Great Society is in our countryside. We have always prided ourselves on being not only America the strong and America the free, but America the beautiful. Today that beauty is in danger. The water we drink, the food we eat, the very air that we breathe, are threatened with pollution. Our parks are overcrowded, our seashores overburdened. Green fields and dense forests are disappearing. A few years ago we were greatly concerned about the "Ugly American." Today we must act to prevent an ugly America. For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.
  • A third place to build the Great Society is in the classrooms of America. There your children's lives will be shaped. Our society will not be great until every young mind is set free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination. We are still far from that goal. Today, 8 million adult Americans, more than the entire population of Michigan, have not finished 5 years of school. Nearly 20 million have not finished 8 years of school. Nearly 54 million--more than one-quarter of all America--have not even finished high school. Each year more than 100,000 high school graduates, with proved ability, do not enter college because they cannot afford it. And if we cannot educate today's youth, what will we do in 1970 when elementary school enrollment will be 5 million greater than 1960? And high school enrollment will rise by 5 million. College enrollment will increase by more than 3 million. In many places, classrooms are overcrowded and curricula are outdated. Most of our qualified teachers are underpaid, and many of our paid teachers are unqualified. So we must give every child a place to sit and a teacher to learn from. Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty. But more classrooms and more teachers are not enough. We must seek an educational system which grows in excellence as it grows in size. This means better training for our teachers. It means preparing youth to enjoy their hours of leisure as well as their hours of labor. It means exploring new techniques of teaching, to find new ways to stimulate the love of learning and the capacity for creation.
  • These are three of the central issues of the Great Society. While our Government has many programs directed at those issues, I do not pretend that we have the full answer to those problems. But I do promise this: We are going to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of White House conferences and meetings-on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.
  • The solution to these problems does not rest on a massive program in Washington, nor can it rely solely on the strained resources of local authority. They require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism, between the National Capital and the leaders of local communities. Woodrow Wilson once wrote: "Every man sent out from his university should be a man of his Nation as well as a man of his time." Within your lifetime powerful forces, already loosed, will take us toward a way of life beyond the realm of our experience, almost beyond the bounds of our imagination.
  • For better or for worse, your generation has been appointed by history to deal with those problems and to lead America toward a new age. You have the chance never before afforded to any people in any age. You can help build a society where the demands of morality, and the needs of the spirit, can be realized in the life of the Nation. So, will you join in the battle to give every citizen the full equality which God enjoins and the law requires, whatever his belief, or race, or the color of his skin? Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty? Will you join in the battle to make it possible for all nations to live in enduring peace--as neighbors and not as mortal enemies? Will you join in the battle to build the Great Society, to prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit?

Telephone call with Senator Richard Russell (May 27, 1964)

As quoted in "The Vietnam War Transcript Trump Needs to Read" Politico Magazine, Jeff Green Field, September 27, 2017
  • Johnson: What do you think about this Vietnam thing? I’d like to hear you talk a little bit.
Russell: Well, frankly, Mr. President, it’s the damn worse mess that I ever saw, and I don’t like to brag and I never have been right many times in my life, but I knew that we were going to get into this sort of mess when we went in there. And I don’t see how we’re ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with the Chinese and all of them down there in those rice paddies and jungles. I just don’t see it. I just don’t know what to do.
Johnson: Well, that’s the way I have been feeling for six months.
Russell: Our position is deteriorating and it looks like the more we try to do for them, the less they are willing to do for themselves. It is a mess and it’s going to get worse, and I don’t know how or what to do. I don’t think the American people are quite ready for us to send our troops in there to do the fighting. If I was going to get out, I’d get the same crowd that got rid of old Diem [the Vietnamese prime minister who was overthrown and assassinated in 1963] to get rid of these people and to get some fellow in there that said we wish to hell we would get out. That would give us a good excuse for getting out.
Johnson: How important is it to us?
Russell: It isn’t important a damn bit for all this new missile stuff.
Johnson: I guess it is important.
Russell: From a psychological standpoint. Other than the question of our word and saving face, that’s the reason that I said that I don’t think that anybody would expect us to stay in there. It’s going to be a headache to anybody that tries to fool with it. You’ve got all the brains in the country, Mr. President—you better get ahold of them. I don’t know what to do about this. I saw it all coming on, but that don’t do any good now, that’s water over the dam and under the bridge. And we are there.
  • Johnson: Well, they’d impeach a president, though, that would run out, wouldn’t they?
Russell: I don’t think they would. I don’t know how in hell you’re going to get out, unless they [the South Vietnamese government] tell you to get out.
Johnson: Wouldn’t that pretty well fix us in the eyes of the world and make us look mighty bad?
Russell: Well, I don’t know, we don’t look too good right now, going in there with all the troops, sending them all in there, I’ll tell you it'll be the most expensive adventure this country ever went into.

United States Coast Guard Academy commencement address (June 1964)

President Johnson's remarks to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. (June 3, 1964). Source: Commencement Address in New London at the United States Coast Guard Academy, The American Presidency Project.
  • In 1790 the nation which had fought a revolution against taxation without representation discovered that some of its citizens weren't much happier about taxation with representation. And so, in what was probably the country's first economy drive, the Coast Guard was founded at a cost of $10,000 for 10 cutters. In tribute to your traditions, and in anticipation of your achievements, as Commander in Chief I hereby grant a general amnesty, and do excuse all Coast Guard cadets from any penalties which you may now carry with you. The official mission of the Coast Guard, which hangs in each room of this Academy, places you "in the service of (your) country and humanity." That mission, your mission, is also the mission of your Nation.
  • For today we Americans share responsibility not only for our own security but for the security of all free nations, not only for our own society but for an entire civilization, not only for our own liberty but for the hopes of all humanity. In pursuit of such responsibilities national security requires more than national strength. It requires, first of all, a nation dedicated to justice and to the improvement of life for its own people. It requires a nation determined to help others eliminate the despair and the human degradation on which the enemies of freedom feed. It requires a nation devoted, through speech and deed, to showing those who may grow weary of will, or fearful of the future, that the cause of human dignity is on the march, its shadow is lengthening, and victory is moving nearer. But our hope for success in the aims of peace rests also on the strength of our arms.
  • As Winston Churchill once said: "Civilization will not last, freedom will not survive, peace will not be kept, unless mankind unites together to defend them and show themselves possessed of a power before which barbaric forces will stand in awe." We, as well as our adversaries, must stand in awe before the power our craft has created and our wisdom must labor to control. In every area of national strength America today is stronger than it has ever been before. It is stronger than any adversary or combination of adversaries. It is stronger than the combined might of all the nations in the history of the world. And I confidently predict that strength will continue to grow more rapidly than the might of all others.
  • The first area of this increasing strength is our ability to deter atomic destruction. In the past 3 years we have increased our nuclear power on alert 2½ times, and our nuclear superiority will continue to grow until we reach agreement on arms control. We have now more than 1,000 fully armed ICBM's and Polaris missiles ready for retaliation. The Soviet Union has far fewer, and none ready to be launched beneath the seas. We have more than 1,100 strategic bombers, many of which are equipped with air-to-surface and decoy missiles to help them reach almost any target. The Soviet Union, we estimate, could with difficulty send less than one-third of this number over targets in the United States. Against such force the combined destructive power of every battle ever fought by man is like a firecracker thrown against the sun.
  • The second area of increasing strength is our ability to fight less than all-out war. In the past 3 years we have raised the number of combat ready divisions 45 percent. They can he moved swiftly around the world by an airlift capacity which has increased 75 percent. Supporting tactical aircraft have been increased over 30 percent and the number of tactical nuclear warheads in Europe has been raised 60 percent. We, and our NATO allies, now have 5 million men under arms. In addition, we are now ready to mobilize large reserves in the event of conflict. Six divisions, with all supporting units, can be moved into action in a few weeks. And we are continuing to build our forces. In a few years our airlift capacity will be five times what it was in 1961. Advanced weapons and equipment are flowing to our armies. Our fleet is being modernized through a decade-long shipbuilding program. And new tactical aircraft are being built.
  • A third area of increasing strength is the struggle against subversion. Our adversaries, convinced that direct attack would be aimless, today resort to terror, subversion, and guerrilla warfare. To meet this threat we began a large effort to train special forces to fight internal subversion. Since January 1961 we have increased these specialized forces eight times. We have trained more than 100,000 officers in these techniques. We have given special emphasis to this form of warfare in the training of all military units. Our army now has six special action forces on call around the world to assist our friendly nations. They are skilled in the languages and problems of the area in which they are stationed. The Navy and the Air Force have several thousand men whose abilities, training, equipment, and mission are designed to combat clandestine attack. And behind these groups are five brigade-size backup forces ready to move into instant action. But just as subversion has many faces, our responses must take many forms. We have worked to increase and integrate all the resources, political and social as well as military and economic, needed to meet a threat which tears at the entire fabric of a society. But success in fighting subversion ultimately rests on the skill of the soldiers of the threatened country. We now have 344 teams at work in 49 countries to train the local military in the most advanced techniques of internal defense. Subversive warfare is often difficult, dirty, and deadly. Victory comes only to those with the desire to protect their own freedom. But such conflict requires weapons as well as will, ability as well as aspiration. And we will continue to increase this strength until our adversaries are convinced that this course too will not lead to conquest.
  • The fourth area of increasing strength is in the development of new weapons for deterrence and defense. In the past several years we have begun many important new weapons systems. Minuteman II will have twice the accuracy of the first Minuteman. The new Nike-X, when its development is completed, will give us the option to deploy, if national security requires it, the best anti-ballistics missile available to any nation. We are developing a new aircraft, the F-111, with much greater range, payload, and ability at air combat than present tactical bombers or fighters. The Lance missile, the EX-10 torpedo, the A7A attack aircraft, a new main battle tank, new anti-tank missile system, are the emerging products of development that we are carrying on. And that effort is without parallel in all the world. We will continue to carry forward new projects which offer hope of adding substantially to our strength. I can assure the American people that the United States is, and will remain, first in the use of science and technology for the protection of the people.
  • The fifth area and the most important of increasing strength is the ability of the American fighting man. However impressive or ingenious, our weapons can be no better than the men who man them. The complexities of modern weapons require men of high skill. The complexities of modern warfare require men of great knowledge. The complexities of the modern world require men of broad outlook. Today 52 percent of our enlisted men are under 25 and are high school graduates, compared with 39 percent in the country as a whole who are high school graduates. Sixty-five percent of our commissioned officers are college graduates today, compared with 7 percent in the Nation. Twenty-five thousand officers hold graduate degrees and thousands more are studying for such degrees. In encampments across the world millions of men and women have chosen to serve with low pay and high hazard, with deep devotion and silent sacrifice, so that their fellow Americans might enjoy the rich legacy of liberty. They stand the hard vigil that we may pursue the high vision of flourishing freedom in a world at peace. These are the sources of the strength we build, knowing, in the words of the Bible, "When the strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace." The necessities of our strength are as varied as the nature of our dangers. The response must suit the threat. Those who would answer every problem with nuclear weapons display not bravery but bravado, not wisdom but a wanton disregard for the survival of the world and the future of the race.
  • No one can live daily, as I must do, with the dark realities of nuclear ruin, without seeking the guidance of God to find the path of peace. We have built this staggering strength that I have told you about not to destroy but to save, not to put an end to civilization but rather to try to put an end to conflict. Thus, in the past 3 years, as our strength rose--and, in large part, as a consequence of that rising strength--we have been able to take more tangible steps toward peace than at any time since the cold war began. We established an Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. We agreed with the Soviet Union on a statement of disarmament principles. We signed a test ban treaty. We established the "hot line." We supported a U.N. resolution prohibiting the orbiting of nuclear weapons. We cut back on nuclear production while the Soviet Union did the same. And we have just completed the negotiation of a new consular agreement. And, as the Geneva conference reconvenes, we have before it a series of proposals that I submitted, designed to freeze strategic nuclear delivery systems, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to prohibit the use of force to solve disputes. And we will welcome any other proposal by any nation which promises realistic progress toward peace.
  • In far-flung corners of this strife-girdled globe ambitious adversaries continually test our tenacity and seek to erode our endurance. American strength is engaged and American blood is being shed. It requires patience and understanding to continue the search for peace while our adversaries so beset us. But this is what we must do. It is what, God willing, I intend to do. If we are successful in that search it will be because you, and men like you, gave their lives to duty that our children might live their lives in freedom. So let us hope that this Nation can someday, not too distant, lay aside its awesome power, and direct all its genius to the betterment of man. Let us hope that we may soon be able to say "The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light."

International Ladies Garment Workers Union speech (June 1964)

President Johnson's remarks to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. (June 6, 1964). Source: Remarks in New York City to Members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, The American Presidency Project.
  • Fifty years ago this health center stood alone--the first of its kind to be established in our country by a trade union for working men and women. Your union stood resolute in the thin ranks of those who carried on the struggle for security for the helpless, who fought the battle for a better life for every citizen. And that concern of your union 50 years ago is today imbedded in the conscience of our country, in the laws of our land, and in the highest hopes of our people.
  • These last 50 years have been decades of decision. In our conscience and in our laws, we have decided that children belong in classrooms and not in sweatshops and coal mines. We have decided that young women should work in surroundings of decency and not in sweatshops of degradation; that the sick and the suffering, the blind and the deaf, the mentally ill and the mentally retarded should have our care--and not our curses. Yes, in these 50 years we have set for America a direction toward human decency and human dignity. We have held our country on a course of compassion. The course we have set over those years--the course that you really helped to set--is the course of today's America. We are going to keep America moving. We are going to move forward with the American people.
  • The earliest goal of American society, the beckoning promise which brought men to these shores, has been a nation where each citizen would find his achievements limited only by his ability, and where the helpless need not abandon hope. This is the meaning of justice when we pledge ourselves to liberty and to justice for all. I predict that in the next 10 years we will make greater gains toward this goal--toward justice and social progress--than at any time in the long history of our beloved Republic.
  • In the month of May of this year employment rose to an all-time high in the United States of more than 71 million jobs. The unemployment rate yesterday dropped to 5.1 percent. For married men the unemployment rate dropped to 2.6 percent--the lowest unemployment rate for married men in the last 6 years. What does this mean? This means that 97.4 percent of all married workers in this country now have jobs. In the last 12 months alone in this country we have added 2 million jobs to the American economy. We have lowered unemployment, even though 1.4 million people have entered the labor market in the past 5 months, compared with a normal full-year increase of 1.2 million. Thus has promise become progress. For these achievements are not the easy product of chance or circumstance. They have resulted from the patient and the determined pursuit of policies, including the largest tax cut in the history of America designed to deter recession and generate growth. And we will continue this pursuit until every American who wants to work can find a job.
  • Thirty years ago in the administration in which the great lady on the platform--Mrs. Perkins--played such a prominent part, that administration promised that no American who reached retirement would find a lifetime of labor rewarded only by years of neglect and fear and despair. In the past 4 years we have extended new and increased social security benefits to more than 5 million people. We have reduced the male retirement age. We have given greater scope to what could be earned without losing benefits. And we have taken a long series of steps to strengthen our entire Social Security System which means so much to all of us. We are also keeping our commitment to provide hospital care under social security for all of our citizens, and we are going to see that come true.

Holy Cross College commencement address (June 1964)

President Johnson's remarks at Holy Cross College. (June 10, 1964). Source: Commencement Address at Holy Cross College, The American Presidency Project.
  • Last year, within 6 months of each other, two of the great men of this century passed from this earth: President John F. Kennedy and Pope John XXIII. They both left a world transformed by their triumphs and lessened by their leaving. They both handed on a heritage of hope, a vision of the future which will occupy the thoughts and labors of men for generations yet to come. For a generation, Americans have struggled to keep the ambitions of nations from erupting into the annihilation of nuclear war. We have struggled to diminish hostility and to decrease tension, while battling aggression and building our power. The years will not dim, nor the burdens destroy, our resolve to seek and not to yield, to find a way to peace in a world where freedom grows. But even if we achieve such a world, we will only have taken a first step toward final fulfillment of the hopes of Pope John and President Kennedy. For just as the cold war has consumed our energies, it has often limited our horizons. We have tended to place every challenge in the context of conflict, to regard every difficulty as part of a struggle for domination.
  • Even if we end terror and even if we eliminate tension, even if we reduce arms and restrict conflict, even if peace were to come to the nations, we would turn from this struggle only to find ourselves on a new battleground as filled with danger and as fraught with difficulty as any ever faced by man. For many of our most urgent problems do not spring from the cold war or even from the ambitions of our adversaries. These are the problems which will persist beyond the cold war. They are the ominous obstacles to man's effort to build a great world society--a place where every man can find a life free from hunger and disease-a life offering the chance to seek spiritual fulfillment unhampered by the degradation of bodily misery.
  • These long years of conflict have given fresh content to the ancient prophecy that no man, and no community, and no nation, is an island. This truth, borne in upon us by the necessities of our protection, is equally true for those problems which stretch beyond present differences. Those who live in the emerging community of nations will ignore the problems of their neighbors at the risk of their own prosperity. It may seem difficult to accept the fact that even lasting peace will not bring respite from world responsibility. But we can bring to the challenges which surpass conflict the same qualities of resolution and compassion that we have brought to the protection of freedom, then your generation can shape the great world society which is the ultimate purpose of peace.
  • I would like briefly, today, to mention three problems which menace man's welfare and will threaten it even when armed destruction and war are things of the past. They are the problems of poverty, of disease, and of diminishing natural resources. First is the problem of poverty--the growing division between the rich and poor nations. Today the per capita product of the developed countries is $1,730 a year. In the developing countries it is $143. And the gap is widening, not narrowing. Our own growth must continue. But we must find ways to step up the growth of others or we will be an increasingly isolated island of wealth in the midst of mounting misery. Second is man's struggle against disease, the focal point in his war to control the destructive forces of nature. Each year 3 million people die from tuberculosis. Each year 5 million die from dysentery, 500,000 from measles. In some countries one-sixth of the entire population suffer from leprosy. Yet, we have the knowledge to reduce the toll of these diseases, and to avert millions of separate tragedies of needless death and suffering. Third is the need to develop new resources, and new ways to use existing resources. It has been estimated that if everyone in the world were to rise to the level of living of the United States we would then have to extract about 20 billion tons of iron, 300 million tons of copper, 300 million tons of lead, and 200 million tons of zinc. These totals are well over 100 times the world's present annual rate of production.
  • There is no simple solution to these problems. In the past there would have been no solution at all. Today, the constantly unfolding conquests of science give man the power over his world and nature which brings the prospect of success within the purview of hope.
  • To commemorate the United Nations 20th birthday, 1965 has been designated International Cooperation Year. I propose to dedicate this year to finding new techniques for making man's knowledge serve man's welfare. Let this be the year of science. Let it be a turning point in the struggle-not of man against man, but of man against nature. In the midst of tension let us begin to chart a course toward the possibilities of conquest which bypass the politics of the cold war. For our own part, we intend to call upon all the resources of this great Nation--both public and private--to work with other nations to find new methods of improving the life of man.
  • We are going ahead with our determined effort to bring peace to this world. We are going ahead in our country to bring an end to poverty and to racial injustice. In the last 10 minutes we have made considerable progress when we voted cloture in the Senate today by a vote of 71 to 29. The message of Pope John and John Kennedy flowed from the message that burst upon the world 2,000 years ago--a message of hope and redemption not for a people or for a nation, but hope and redemption for all people of all nations. We now can join knowledge to faith and science to belief to realize in our time the ancient hope of a world which is a fit home for mail. The New Testament enjoins us to "Go ye therefore and teach all nations." Go forth then--in that spirit--to put your hands in the service of man and to put your hearts in the service of God.

Civil Rights Bill signing speech (1964)

Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our Nation whole.
President Lyndon B. Johnson's Radio and Television Remarks Upon Signing the Civil Rights Bill (July 2, 1964). Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64. Volume II, entry 446, pp. 842-844. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1965.
  • Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom. Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities. Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders. We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings — not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin. The reasons are deeply imbedded in history and tradition and the nature of man. We can understand — without rancor or hatred — how this all happened. But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.
  • The purpose of the law is simple. It does not restrict the freedom of any American, so long as he respects the rights of others. It does not give special treatment to any citizen. It does say the only limit to a man's hope for happiness, and for the future of his children, shall be his own ability. It does say that there are those who are equal before God shall now also be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places that provide service to the public.
  • We must not approach the observance and enforcement of this law in a vengeful spirit. Its purpose is not to punish. Its purpose is not to divide, but to end divisions — divisions which have all lasted too long. Its purpose is national, not regional. Its purpose is to promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of justice, and a deeper respect for human dignity.
  • Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our Nation whole.

Syracuse University remarks (August 1964)

President Johnson's remarks on communism in Southeast Asia at Syracuse University. (August 5, 1964). Source: Remarks at Syracuse University on the Communist Challenge in Southeast Asia, The American Presidency Project.
  • Last night I spoke to the people of the Nation. This morning, I speak to the people of all nations--so that they may understand without mistake our purpose in the action that we have been required to take. On August 2 the United States destroyer Maddox was attacked on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin by hostile vessels of the Government of North Viet-Nam. On August 4 that attack was repeated in those same waters against two United States destroyers. The attacks were deliberate. The attacks were unprovoked. The attacks have been answered. Throughout last night and within the last 12 hours, air units of the United States Seventh Fleet have sought out the hostile vessels and certain of their supporting facilities.. Appropriate armed action has been taken against them. The United States is now asking that this be brought immediately and urgently before the Security Council of the United Nations. We welcome--and we invite--the scrutiny of all men who seek peace, for peace is the only purpose of the course that America pursues. The Gulf of Tonkin may be distant, but none can be detached about what has happened there. Aggression--deliberate, willful, and systematic aggression--has unmasked its face to the entire world. The world remembers-the world must never forget--that aggression unchallenged is aggression unleashed. We of the United States have not forgotten.
  • America's course is not precipitate. America's course is not without long provocation. For 10 years three American Presidents-President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and your present President--and the American people have been actively concerned with threats to the peace and security of the peoples of southeast Asia from the Communist government of North Viet-Nam. President Eisenhower sought--and President Kennedy sought--the same objectives that I still seek: That the governments of southeast Asia honor the international agreements which apply in the area; That those governments leave each other alone; That they resolve their differences peacefully; That they devote their talents to bettering the lives of their peoples by working against poverty and disease and ignorance.
  • In 1954 we made our position clear toward Viet-Nam. In June of that year we stated we "would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of the 1954 agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security." In September of that year the United States signed the Manila pact on which our participation in SEATO is based. That pact recognized that aggression by means of armed attack on South Viet-Nam would endanger the peace and the safety of the nations signing that solemn agreement. In 1962 we made our position clear toward Laos. We signed the Declaration of Neutrality of Laos. That accord provided for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and respect for the neutrality and independence of that little country. The agreements of 1954 and 1962 were also signed by the government of North Viet-Nam. In 1954 that government pledged that it would respect the territory under the military control of the other party and engage in no hostile act against the other party. In 1962 that government pledged that it would "not introduce into the Kingdom of Laos foreign troops or military personnel." That government also pledged that it would "not use the territory of the Kingdom of Laos for interference in the internal affairs of other countries."
  • That government of North Viet-Nam is now willfully and systematically violating those agreements of both 1954 and 1962. To the south it is engaged in aggression against the Republic of Viet-Nam. To the west it is engaged in aggression against the Kingdom of Laos. To the east it has now struck out on the high seas in an act of aggression against the United States of America. There can be, there must be no doubt about the policy and no doubt about the purpose. So there can be no doubt about the responsibilities of men and the responsibilities of nations that are devoted to peace. Peace cannot be assured merely by assuring the safety of the United States destroyer Maddox or the safety of other vessels of other flags. Peace requires that the existing agreements in the area be honored. Peace requires that we and all our friends stand firm against the present aggressions of the government of North Viet-Nam. The government of North Viet-Nam is today flouting the will of the world for peace. The world is challenged to make its will against war known and to make it known clearly and to make it felt and to make it felt decisively.
  • So, to our friends of the Atlantic Alliance, let me say this, this morning: the challenge that we face in southeast Asia today is the same challenge that we have faced with courage and that we have met with strength in Greece and Turkey, in Berlin and Korea, in Lebanon and in Cuba. And to any who may be tempted to support or to widen the present aggression I say this: there is no threat to any peaceful power from the United States of America. But there can be no peace by aggression and no immunity from reply. That is what is meant by the actions that we took yesterday.
  • Finally, my fellow Americans, I would like to say to ally and adversary alike: let no friend needlessly fear--and no foe vainly hope--that this is a nation divided in this election year. Our free elections--our full and free debate--are America's strength, not America's weakness. There are no parties and there is no partisanship when our peace or the peace of the world is imperiled by aggressors in any part of the world. We are one nation united and indivisible. And united and indivisible we shall remain.

Businessmen luncheon (August 1964)

President Johnson's remarks at a luncheon of businessman in the White House's State Dining Room. (August 10, 1964). Source: Remarks at a Luncheon for Businessmen, The American Presidency Project.
THIS house in which you are visiting today is not a personal residence. And it must never be a political prize. This house is the house of all the people.
  • THIS house in which you are visiting today is not a personal residence. And it must never be a political prize. This house is the house of all the people. For so long as I am your tenant--and your servant--I shall use this house as we are using it today: use it to bring together America's leaders from all walks of American life, to think together, to plan together, to work together for the future of America. As President, I would much rather explain why leaders of labor--or leaders of business-are in their White House, than to try to explain why either are not here or weren't invited.
  • As I conceive it, a President's first role and first responsibility is to help perfect the unity of the people, not to perpetuate their divisions. The last 10 days have reminded us anew of just how vital our unity has come to be. Far away--and near at home--grim and grave challenges have confronted us. Those challenges continue to come. But so long as our land is strong and free, those challenges will not cease. In this period we have been able to meet our challenges steadily and surely and swiftly. Our friends have not misunderstood-our adversaries have not mistaken-our purpose has remained unchanged, because we in America have been united. A united America has never been--and, I think, will never be--a misunderstood America. In these days, among many thoughts in my own mind, one has been impressed strongly upon me. How different America's response might have been--how different America's role might be--if we were today a nation divided by struggles of class or strife, a nation split between capital and labor.
  • In your lifetime and mine, we have moved beyond those dangerous shoals. Our responsibility together now is to steer the course of this system, steer the course of this economy, and this society to the high and hopeful and happier seas of a more perfect unity. And that is why I asked you to come here today. Around the world--throughout our times--men of business have lived in dread and fear of the governments of their lands. They live with fear in many lands today-wondering if what they have accumulated will be taken away or taxed away or foolishly thrown away. That is why I wanted you to know something about how your Government is operating. That is why I want all American businessmen to understand that your Government is devoted to your success, not dedicated to your enslavement.
American business is like no other in history. It is owned by millions, it employs millions more, it serves all 190 million of our people. The promise for their lives rests upon the performance of your enterprise. While some of you may not be interested in our success, I can assure you that we here in Washington are greatly interested in your success.
  • American business is like no other in history. It is owned by millions, it employs millions more, it serves all 190 million of our people. The promise for their lives rests upon the performance of your enterprise. While some of you may not be interested in our success, I can assure you that we here in Washington are greatly interested in your success. I am glad I can say today that no businessmen anywhere have ever at any time enjoyed the measure of success that American businessmen are enjoying now. For 42 consecutive months, we have had the longest and the largest peacetime expansion of our economy on record. These years from 1961 through 1964 are going into the record books as the most prosperous years of our history. It is prosperity not just for businessmen--it is prosperity for all the people of this Nation.
  • Gains in jobs and profits are going hand in hand. Workers are gaining in purchasing power through fuller employment, through longer hours, through higher wages. But on the average, higher wages have not increased the cost of doing business. Why? Because productivity has risen to match the wages. Profits are gaining through higher volume and lower costs and lower taxes--thanks to the help of a good many men in this room. But on the average the gains are not coming through higher prices. So long as this is the pattern, we can use our fiscal and our monetary policies to stimulate business activity and not to restrain it. Both business and labor are making their economic gains by enlarging the size of the economic pie. They are not making--and they cannot continue to make--gains by taking bigger slices at the expense of one another or at the expense of the American consumer.
  • So I say today: the times are good. Our prospects are bright. Your Nation's strength is great. The promise before us all is bright. But one fact stands out above all the rest. What we have, what you have accumulated, what all American families hope to accumulate can be lost if we do not continue on the course of perfecting our unity. Our prosperity today is not a one-time phenomenon. This is a solid, stable, steady prosperity--achieved by the confidence and the certainty of a climate that's free of doubt and division and bitter contention. Our dollar is strong because the world has new confidence in our responsibility. Our consumer market is strong because Americans at home have confidence in our future course. Our enterprise system is functioning successfully because we have been doing here in Washington many of the things so long needed to lift off burdens of the past. Taxes have been cut. Spending has been curbed. Earnest and honest efforts have been made to put to work in Government today's new tools and new concepts to produce more efficient management of your public business.
Your Government seeks to be not a dictator but a moderator--not a master planner but a faithful public servant--not an agent for your control but a vehicle for your freedom.
  • Your Government seeks to be not a dictator but a moderator--not a master planner but a faithful public servant--not an agent for your control but a vehicle for your freedom. What I have said to all others I want to repeat to you before we leave today. As a man who wants to be President of all the people, I intend to work to ensure that every person enjoys the full constitutional rights and equal opportunity that are his birthright as an American citizen. I intend to use all the resources I have to make sure those who claim rights--and those who deny them--bend their passions to peaceful obedience of the law of the land. No man could attain a higher honor than to occupy this office I now hold. No man would be worthy of that honor who thought of self. No man would be worthy who thought of any success except America's success. And that is the only thought I have in this house today. If the man who lives in this house is not free to stand for right, no man in any house in America is free from the injury of wrong.
  • When I came into this office very suddenly 8 months ago, confronted with all the problems and obstacles that faced me at that time, I tried to look about America and draw all the strength that was available to me. And a great deal of that is in this room today. President Eisenhower and President Truman immediately headed for Washington to give me their counsel and to try to help me lead this Nation at that critical time. Since that time I have met with thousands of leaders of our free enterprise system. I met with the capitalists of the Nation, with the managers of that capital, with the workers employed by that management. I have gone to them with my problems. I have asked for their counsel. I have profited from their advice. So I have asked you today to come here to visit with me, to have a chance to know you.
  • I have said this to a good many of you before in our other conferences, but I think it is worth repeating. I believe if we prevail in this world and if we survive, it will be primarily due to the efficiency and the strength of our system of government. I think our system of government is better than the system of our adversaries. And I think in time we will demonstrate it and it will prevail. I think that we can do a job better and more efficient and more satisfactory for the capitalist who sends his dollar out hoping to get a small return on it, the manager who gets up at daylight and works until midnight to put that dollar and the men together and develops stomach ulcers in the process but looks forward to the bonus that he may get from the board of directors at the end of the year, to the worker who tries to produce a better mousetrap at lower costs. And when all these three are put together, I believe that they can do a better job than any slaves can do for any commissars. And I have faith that that system will prevail.
  • Mr. Rayburn used to say to me--and he stayed here over 50 years--that it had been his experience that the most frightened man in American society was the average businessman. He said sometimes he has cause for it, but he goes around being constantly scared about what his Government is going to do. First of all, he doesn't know a great deal about his Government because he's so busy making his own business operate. He's concentrating there on his own problems that he doesn't have time to become a political expert and understand all the intricacies of our governmental system. So he is constantly frightened about it. And if he can't get his blood pressure up high enough on his own, he'll go hire him a lawyer and pay him to keep him scared.
  • Well, I want you to know more about your Government. And I want your Government to know more about you. These men on this row are part of this country--very vital and very important parts of this country. But a few weeks ago and maybe a few weeks from now they will be back occupying some of the chairs that you now occupy.
  • So we wanted you to come here today, to tell you that we need your help. And we need the help of every American. You are the leaders of this country. And we want you to exercise that leadership. We have faith and confidence in our system. We want to develop it. We want to strengthen it. We want to promote it. In short, we are going to perform our responsibilities, to give you the best Government of which we are capable. And we are going to ask you in return not to agree with us, not to support us, but to give us the leadership that you are capable of giving us and help us to unite this country instead of divide it.
  • All the world looks to this Nation for its future, for the leadership that is required at this moment. And we cannot give that leadership and we cannot offer it if we are split up in guerrilla groups chewing on each other. We hope that in the months to come that we will have another opportunity to meet and talk and grow together because I think we have the greatest system of government ever devised by man. And I am going to contribute all I can to strengthen it and, more important, to perpetuate it.

Economic Opportunity Act (August 1964)

President Johnson's remarks upon signing the Economic Opportunity Act in the Rose Garden. (August 20, 1964). Source: Remarks Upon Signing the Economic Opportunity Act, The American Presidency Project.
  • My fellow Americans: On this occasion the American people and our American system are making history. For so long as man has lived on this earth poverty has been his curse. On every continent in every age men have sought escape from poverty's oppression. Today for the first time in all the history of the human race, a great nation is able to make and is willing to make a commitment to eradicate poverty among its people. Whatever our situation in life, whatever our partisan affiliation, we can be grateful and proud that we are able to pledge ourselves this morning to this historic course. We can be especially proud of the nature of the commitments that we are making. This is not in any sense a cynical proposal to exploit the poor with a promise of a handout or a dole. We know--we learned long ago--that answer is no answer.
  • The measure before me this morning for signature offers the answer that its title implies--the answer of opportunity. For the purpose of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 is to offer opportunity, not an opiate. For the million young men and women who are out of school and who are out of work, this program will permit us to take them off the streets, put them into work training programs, to prepare them for productive lives, not wasted lives. In this same sound, sensible, and responsible way we will reach into all the pockets of poverty and help our people find their footing for a long climb toward a better way of life. We will work with them through our communities all over the country to develop comprehensive community action programs--with remedial education, with job training, with retraining, with health and employment counseling, with neighborhood improvement. We will strike at poverty's roots.
  • This is by no means a program confined just to our cities. Rural America is afflicted deeply by rural poverty, and this program will help poor farmers get back on their feet and help poor farmers stay on their farms. It will help those small businessmen who live on the borderline of poverty. It will help the unemployed heads of families maintain their skills and learn new skills. In helping others, all of us will really be helping ourselves. For this bill will permit us to give our young people an opportunity to work here at home in constructive ways as volunteers, going to war against poverty instead of going to war against foreign enemies. All of this will be done through a program which is prudent and practical, which is consistent with our national ideals.
  • Every dollar authorized in this bill was contained in the budget request that I sent to the Congress last January. Every dollar spent will result in savings to the country and especially to the local taxpayers in the cost of crime, welfare, of health, and of police protection. We are not content to accept the endless growth of relief rolls or welfare rolls. We want to offer the forgotten fifth of our people opportunity and not doles. That is what this measure does for our times.
  • Our American answer to poverty is not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty and move with the large majority along the high road of hope and prosperity. The days of the dole in our country are numbered. I firmly believe that as of this moment a new day of opportunity is dawning and a new era of progress is opening for us all. And to you men and women in the Congress who fought so long, so hard to help bring about this legislation, to you private citizens in labor and in business who lent us a helping hand, to Sargent Shriver and that band of loyal men and women who made up this task force that brings our dream into a reality today, we say "Thank you" for all the American people. In the days and years to come, those who have an opportunity to participate in this program will vindicate your thinking and vindicate your action.

Democratic National Convention (August 1964)

President Johnson's remarks at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. (August 27, 1964). Source: Remarks Before the National Convention Upon Accepting the Nomination, The American Presidency Project.
  • I accept your nomination. I accept the duty of leading this party to victory this year. And I thank you, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for placing at my side the man that last night you so wisely selected to be the next Vice President of the United States. I know I speak for each of you and all of you when I say he proved himself tonight in that great acceptance speech. And I speak for both of us when I tell you that from Monday on he is going to be available for such speeches in all 50 States! We will try to lead you as we were led by that great champion of freedom, the man from Independence, Harry S. Truman. But the gladness of this high occasion cannot mask the sorrow which shares our hearts. So let us here tonight, each of us, all of us, rededicate ourselves to keeping burning the golden torch of promise which John Fitzgerald Kennedy set aflame. And let none of us stop to rest until we have written into the law of the land all the suggestions that made up the John Fitzgerald Kennedy program. And then let us continue to supplement that program with the kind of laws that he would have us write.
  • Tonight we offer ourselves--on our record and by our platform--as a party for all Americans, an all-American party for all Americans. This prosperous people, this land of reasonable men, has no place for petty partisanship or peevish prejudice. The needs of all can never be met by parties of the few. The needs of all cannot be met by a business party or a labor party, not by a war party or a peace party, not by a southern party or a northern party. Our deeds will meet our needs only if we are served by a party which serves all our people. We are members together of such a party, the Democratic Party of 1964. We have written a proud record of accomplishments for all Americans.
  • If any ask what we have done, just let them look at what we promised to do. For those promises have become our deeds. And the promises of tonight I can assure you will become the deeds of tomorrow. We are in the midst of the largest and the longest period of peacetime prosperity in our history. And almost every American listening to us tonight has seen the results in his own life. But prosperity for most has not brought prosperity to all. And those who have received the bounty of this land--who sit tonight secure in affluence and safe in power-must not now turn from the needs of their neighbors. Our party and our Nation will continue to extend the hand of compassion and the hand of affection and love to the old and the sick and the hungry. For who among us dares to betray the command: "Thou shalt open thine hand--unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land."
  • The needs that we seek to fill, the hopes that we seek to realize, are not our needs, our hopes alone. They are the needs and hopes of most of the people. Most Americans want medical care for older citizens. And so do I. Most Americans want fair and stable prices and decent incomes for our farmers. And so do I. Most Americans want a decent home in a decent neighborhood for all. And so do I. Most Americans want an education for every child to the limit of his ability. And so do I. Most Americans want a job for every man who wants to work. And so do I. Most Americans want victory in our war against poverty. And so do I. Most Americans want continually expanding and growing prosperity. And so do I. These are your goals. These are our goals. These are the goals and will be the achievements of the Democratic Party. These are the goals of this great, rich Nation. These are the goals toward which I will lead, if the American people choose to follow.
  • For 30 years, year by year, step by step, vote by vote, men of both parties have built a solid foundation for our present prosperity. Too many have worked too long and too hard to see this threatened now by policies which promise to undo all that we have done together over all these years. I believe most of the men and women in this hall tonight, and I believe most Americans, understand that to reach our goals in our own land, we must work for peace among all lands. America's cause is still the cause of all mankind.
  • Since 1961, under the leadership of that great President, John F. Kennedy, we have carried out the greatest peacetime buildup of national strength of any nation at any time in the history of the world. I report tonight that we have spent $30 billion more on preparing this Nation in the 4 years of the Kennedy administration than would have been spent if we had followed the appropriations of the last year of the previous administration. I report tonight as President of the United States and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces on the strength of your country, and I tell you that it is greater than any adversary. I assure you that it is greater than the combined might of all the nations, in all the wars, in all the history of this planet. And I report our superiority is growing.
  • Weapons do not make peace. Men make peace. And peace comes not through strength alone, but through wisdom and patience and restraint. And these qualities under the leadership of President Kennedy brought a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere. And a hundred other nations in the world joined us. Other agreements were reached and other steps were taken. And their single guide was to lessen the danger to men without increasing the danger to freedom. Their single purpose was peace in the world. And as a result of these policies, the world tonight knows where we stand and our allies know where we stand, too. And our adversaries have learned again that we will never waver in the defense of freedom. The true courage of this nuclear age lies in the quest for peace. There is no place in today's world for weakness. But there is also no place in today's world for recklessness. We cannot act rashly with the nuclear weapons that could destroy us all. The only course is to press with all our mind and all our will to make sure, doubly sure, that these weapons are never really used at all. This is a dangerous and a difficult world in which we live tonight. I promise no easy answers. But I do promise this. I pledge the firmness to defend freedom, the strength to support that firmness, and a constant, patient effort to move the world toward peace instead of war. And here at home one of our greatest responsibilities is to assure fair play for all of our people.
  • Every American has the right to be treated as a person. He should be able to find a job. He should be able to educate his children, he should be able to vote in elections and he should be judged on his merits as a person. Well, this is the fixed policy and the fixed determination of the Democratic Party and the United States of America. So long as I am your President I intend to carry out what the Constitution demands--and justice requires--equal justice under law for all Americans. We cannot and we will not allow this great purpose to be endangered by reckless acts of violence. Those who break the law--those who create disorder--whether in the North or the South--must be caught and must be brought to justice. And I believe that every man and woman in this room tonight join me in saying that in every part of this country the law must be respected and violence must be stopped. And wherever a local officer seeks help or Federal law is broken, I have pledged and I will use the full resources of the Federal Government.
  • Let no one tell you that he can hold back progress and at the same time keep the peace. This is a false and empty promise. To stand in the way of orderly progress is to encourage violence. And I say tonight to those who wish us well--and to those who wish us ill--the growing forces in this country are the forces of common human decency, and not the forces of bigotry and fear and smear. Our problems are many and are great. But our opportunities are even greater.
  • I ask the American people for a mandate--not to preside over a finished program--not just to keep things going, I ask the American people for a mandate to begin. This Nation--this generation--in this hour, has man's first chance to build the Great Society--a place where the meaning of man's life matches the marvels of man's labor. We seek a nation where every man can find reward in work and satisfaction in the use of his talents. We seek a nation where every man can seek knowledge, and touch beauty, and rejoice in the closeness of family and community. We seek a nation where every man can, in the words of our oldest promise, follow the pursuit of happiness--not just security-but achievements and excellence and fulfillment of the spirit. So let us join together in this great task. Will you join me tonight in rebuilding our cities to make them a decent place for our children to live in? Will you join me tonight in starting a program that will protect the beauty of our land and the air that we breathe? Won't you join me tonight in starting a program that will give every child education of the highest quality that he can take?
  • So let us join together in giving every American the fullest life which he can hope for. For the ultimate test of our civilization, the ultimate test of our faithfulness to our past, is not in our goods and is not in our guns. It is in the quality--the quality of our people's lives and in the men and women that we produce. This goal can be ours. We have the resources; we have the knowledge. But tonight we must seek the courage.
  • Because tonight the contest is the same that we have faced at every turning point in history. It is not between liberals and conservatives, it is not between party and party, or platform and platform. It is between courage and timidity. It is between those who have vision and those who see what can be, and those who want only to maintain the status quo. It is between those who welcome the future and those who turn away from its promises. This is the true cause of freedom. The man who is hungry, who cannot find work or educate his children, who is bowed by want--that man is not fully free. For more than 30 years, from social security to the war against poverty, we have diligently worked to enlarge the freedom of man. And as a result, Americans tonight are freer to live as they want to live, to pursue their ambitions, to meet their desires, to raise their families than at any time in all of our glorious history. And every American knows in his heart that this is right.
  • I am determined in all the time that is mine to use all the talents that I have for bringing this great, lovable land, this great Nation of ours, together--together in greater unity in pursuit of this common purpose. I truly believe that we someday will see an America that knows no North or South, no East or West--an America that is undivided by creed or color, and untorn by suspicion or strife. The Founding Fathers dreamed America before it was. The pioneers dreamed of great cities on the wilderness that they crossed. Our tomorrow is on its way. It can be a shape of darkness or it can be a thing of beauty. The choice is ours, it is yours, for it will be the dream that we dare to dream. I know what kind of a dream Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy would dream if they were here tonight. And I think that I know what kind of a dream you want to dream.
  • Tonight we of the Democratic Party confidently go before the people offering answers, not retreat; offering unity, not division; offering hope, not fear or smear. We do offer the people a choice, a choice of continuing on the courageous and the compassionate course that has made this Nation the strongest and the freest and the most prosperous and the most peaceful nation in the history of mankind. To those who have sought to divide us they have only helped to unite us. To those who would provoke us we have turned the other cheek. So as we conclude our labors, let us tomorrow turn to our new task. Let us be on our way!

Control of Nuclear Weapons (September 1964)

President Johnson's address at a dinner in the Olympic Hotel. (September 16, 1964). Source: Remarks in Seattle on the Control of Nuclear Weapons, The American Presidency Project.
  • Nineteen years ago President Truman announced "the force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed." In a single, fiery flash the world as we had known it was forever changed. Into our hands had come much of the responsibility for the life of freedom, for the life of our civilization, and for the life of man on this planet. And the realities of atomic power placed much of that burden in the hands of the President of the United States.
  • Let no one think atomic weapons are simply bigger and more destructive than other weapons; that they are just another development like the airplane or the tank. The total number of Americans killed in battle from the Revolution until tonight is a little over 526,000 people. Today a single nuclear weapon can kill more than 526,000. Our experts tell us as of today that a full-scale nuclear exchange between the East and the West would kill almost 300 million people around the world, and in the midst of that terror and tragedy we could expect that weapon after weapon would soon engulf a portion of mankind. A cloud of deadly radiation would drift and destroy, menacing every living thing on God's earth, and in those unimaginable hours unborn generations would forever be lamed.
  • Now, in the face of these facts, every American President has drawn the same conclusion: President Harry Truman said: "Such a war is not a possible policy for rational man." President Eisenhower said: "In a nuclear war, there can be no victory--only losers." President Kennedy said: "Total war makes no sense .... " And I say that we must learn to live with each other or we will destroy each other.
  • Many forces have converged to make the modern world. Atomic power is very high among those forces, but what has the atomic age meant for those of us who have come here to this dinner tonight? It means, I think, that we have a unique responsibility, unique in history, for the defense of freedom. Our nuclear power alone has deterred Soviet aggression. Under the shadow of our strength, our friends have kept their freedom and have built their nations. It means that we can no longer wait for the tides of conflict to touch our shores. It means that great powers can never again delude themselves into thinking that war will be painless or that victory will be easy. Thus, atomic power creates urgent pressure for peaceful settlements, and for the strengthening of the United Nations. It means a change must come in the life of nations. Man has fought since time began, and now it has become clear that the consequences of conflict are greater than any gain, and man just simply must change if man is to survive. For Americans, it means that control over nuclear weapons must be centralized in the hands of the highest and the most responsible officer of government--the President of the United States. He, alone, has been chosen by all the people to lead all the Nation. He, alone, is the constitutional Commander in Chief of the Nation. On his prudence and wisdom alone can rest the decision which can alter or destroy the Nation.
  • The responsibility for the control of U.S. nuclear weapons rests solely with the President, who exercises the control of their use in all foreseeable circumstances. This has been the case since 1945, under four Presidents. It will continue to be the case as long as I am President of the United States. In this atomic age we have always been required to show restraint as well as strength. At moments of decisive tests, our nuclear power has been essential. But we have never rattled our rockets or come carelessly to the edge of war.
  • Each of the great conflicts of this century has begun when nations wrongly thought others would shrink before their might. As I and my predecessors have said, we may have to use nuclear weapons to defend American freedom, but I will never let slip the engines of destruction because of a reckless and rash miscalculation about our adversaries. We have worked consistently to bring nuclear weapons under careful control, and to lessen the danger of nuclear conflict. And this policy has been the policy of the United States of America for more than 19 years now, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. And this will continue to be the policy of the United States of America.
  • First, we have worked to avoid war by accident or miscalculation. I believe the American people should know the steps that we have taken to eliminate the danger of accidental attack by our strategic forces, and I am going to talk about that tonight. The release of nuclear weapons would come by Presidential decision alone. Complex codes and electronic devices prevent any unauthorized action. Every further step along the way--from decision to destruction--is governed by the two-man rule. Two or more men must act independently and must decide the order has been given. They must independently take action. An elaborate system of checks and counter-checks, procedural and mechanical, guard against any unauthorized nuclear bursts. In addition, since 1961 we have placed permissive action links on several of our weapons. These are electromechanical locks which must be opened by secret combination before any action at all is possible, and we are extending this system. The American people and all the world can rest assured that we have taken every step that man can devise to insure that neither a madman nor a malfunction could ever trigger nuclear war.
  • We have also worked to avoid war by miscalculation. There may be little time for decision between our first warning and our need to reply. If our weapons could be easily destroyed, we would have to make the final decision in a matter of minutes. By protecting our power against surprise attack, we give ourselves more time to confirm that war has actually begun. Thus, we have placed missiles in protected, underground sites. We have placed missiles beneath the seas. And we have provided constant and secure communication between strategic forces and the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States.
  • I do not want us to fight a war that no one ever meant to begin. We have worked to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. The dignity and the interest of our allies demands that they share nuclear responsibility, and we have proposed such measures. The secrets of the atom are known to many people. No single nation can forever prevent their use. If effective arms control is not achieved, we may see the day when these frightful, fearful weapons are in the hands of many nations. Their concern and capacity for control may be more limited than our own. So our work against nuclear spread must go on.
  • As President, I ordered a cutback of unnecessary nuclear production, and this year we submitted several major new proposals to the disarmament conference in Geneva. I will pursue with vigor all of those proposals. These are only first steps. But they point the way toward the ultimate elimination of ultimate destruction. So long as I am your President, I intend to follow that course with all the patience at my command. In these ways, for 19 dangerous years, my 3 predecessors have acted to insure the survival of the Nation, to insure survival of our freedom, and to insure survival of our race. That will always be my policy and this is the wish of the people of the United States.
  • Conflict among nations will trouble this planet and will test our patience for a long time to come. And as long as weapons are necessary, wisdom in their control is going to be needed. The man who guides them holds in his hands the hopes of survival for the entire world. As I exercise my cares every day and every night, I often think of those who have just begun and those who are yet unborn. I want them to have a chance. With all my power, and all the aid the good Lord offers me, I will help give them that chance. And I think so will all of you.

International Union of Electrical Workers Convention (September 1964)

President Johnson's address at the Statler Hilton Hotel. (September 23, 1964). Source: Remarks at the Annual Convention of the International Union of Electrical Workers, The American Presidency Project.
If the challenge is loud, the call of duty is clear. We are called upon to stand up and be counted, for we have a duty, we have a clear and a compelling duty, to make it clear that America has not fallen and will not fall into the hands of extremists of any stripe.
  • Americans are not presented with a choice of parties. Americans are not presented with a choice of liberalism and conservatism. Americans are faced with a concerted bid for power by factions which oppose all that both parties have supported. It is a choice between the center and the fringe, between the responsible mainstream of American experience and the reckless and rejected extremes of American life. If the challenge is loud, the call of duty is clear. We are called upon to stand up and be counted, for we have a duty, we have a clear and a compelling duty, to make it clear that America has not fallen and will not fall into the hands of extremists of any stripe.
  • A nation so strong and free as ours can tolerate the widest diversity of opinion and belief, and it actually can be made stronger by full and responsible discussion. But there come times when men must turn and stand against those factions and factions who would lead the people to believe that the road to individual freedom is, in reality, a road to collective serfdom. This generation of Americans must not be deceived. The success of our system must not be mocked. The factions which bid for power over your lives and the lives of your children, and over the control of your government, bear many names, they wear many masks, they espouse many causes. But they are united today--as they have been united for 30 years--by the determination that your country shall not provide for the general welfare of its citizens. They may talk of changing the world, but what they mean to change is America first.
  • Before Viet-Nam was a name, before the Congo was a map, before there was a NATO or a nuclear weapon these factions were working here at home--working against minimum wages, working against the 40-hour week, working against social security, working against labor's rights, working against the TVA and the REA, working against slum clearance and public works, working against the United Nations and the nuclear test ban, working against the Alliance for Progress, working against aid to our neighbors in the world. Yes, that is where they stood three decades ago, and that is where they stand today. That is where the line is really drawn in America in this election year. These factions despise the word "democracy," dislike the word "equality," and they distrust the word "peace." They would now reduce the word "compassion" to a whisper, and they would have us mention it only in apology.
So long as I am President, I intend to honor the mandate of the Constitution that I am sworn to uphold. I intend to see that this Government, as the servant of this great people, "provides for the general welfare."
  • So long as I am President, I intend to honor the mandate of the Constitution that I am sworn to uphold. I intend to see that this Government, as the servant of this great people, "provides for the general welfare." Welfare is an old and honored work of our system. One of the first acts of the first Congress, under President Washington, was to provide pensions for invalid soldiers. Under John Adams what was to become the Public Health Service was established. President Abraham Lincoln proposed the first assistance for widows and children. President Theodore Roosevelt called the first White House Conference on Care of Dependent Children. It was President William Howard Taft who first established the Children's Bureau. These were works of compassion, triumphs of justice. But there are factions today which condemn social justice as the work of those that were bent on centralizing power in Washington. They forget their history, and they betray their ignorance of the American people.
  • This generation of Americans rejects the answer of a welfare state for our free society. We reject the regimentation and the stifling of incentive and the limiting of reward. We reject the idea of government decreeing who shall work and where they shall work, or where they and their families shall live. Here in America we know there is for us a better way. We have fashioned in our years a good society. We shall, in the years to come, dedicate ourselves to making it great. The object of all we do is to give our people a fair start or a new start in the race of life, whatever lot they are born to, whatever fate may befall them.
  • America must keep her trust with her senior citizens. We must let them provide for their hospital care and nursing home care through social security. We must concern ourselves with the level of their income. We must attack the problem of their housing, which is too often inadequate and too often takes more than half of their income. But America must keep her trust with her children, because in 6 more years there will be 10 million more young Americans--10 million more between the ages of 5 and 17, 5 million more between 18 and 21, and here again we must be concerned with the level of income on which many are supported. We must make sure that they can meet their health needs. We must act in every way to strengthen the life of their families. We must make sure that every boy and girl in America has all the education that they can use. We must be concerned with the nearly 2 million juveniles who get into trouble each year with the law. We must focus our concern on the causes of their troubles, not only on the youths themselves.
  • Yes, to you good members of this honorable and responsible union there is work for you to do, for us to do--work to build this good society better, work to make this strong country the foundation of a great and a compassionate civilization. This is the American way of life, and this is the way that is under attack today from the fringe and from the extremes. I call upon you, here and now, to begin this hour to start fighting in order to save it. Our directions and our destiny must not be placed in the hands of those who would steer a reckless and a callous course. We must be guided not by those whose compass points backward, but by those whose eye and hearts are fixed on the stars that lead us forward. We have no time for arrogance or belligerence. We have no time for callousness on contempt, either in the policies of our Nation or in the hearts of our leaders. Our duty, our opportunity, is to fulfill the rights of all men all over our land, not only because we shall be judged more by what we do at home than what we preach abroad, but because it is right.
  • You must follow a course of compassion and courage. You must love thy neighbor as thyself, and you must try to point the way, and to lift up the weak so that he, too, may be strong. Yes, you must point a course of courage in these trying times when smear and fear and intolerance are abroad in the land, the same courage that brought this Nation into existence, the same courage that held this Union together. The same courage that crossed the oceans on two occasions in our lifetime to preserve freedom in the world was never needed more than it is needed today. Unless I miss my guess, it has never been possessed to a greater degree than it is possessed today in the souls of each of you who sit in this room. Yes, we know not what the future may bring. We know not how we may be led. We know not what may be God's will. But His course is to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. I would like to feel, as I leave this room and return to the lonely acres that are surrounded by a big, black, iron fence, that whatever I do, wherever I go, wherever my decisions may lead us, I will have your prayers and your support.

Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Annual Dinner (October 1964)

President Johnson's address to the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation. (October 14, 1964). Source: Remarks in New York City at the Annual Dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, The American Presidency Project.
  • It is a source of great pride to be invited by His Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman to participate in this dinner in honor of one of America's greatest men--Alfred E. Smith. I am particularly proud to say that in 1928, although I was not old enough to vote, I campaigned for his election to the Presidency of the United States. And it is with the deepest pride that I participated in helping our late beloved President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, prove to the world that there are no religious bars to the highest office in our land. And what I say to you tonight represents what I believe Al Smith would have endorsed had he been here tonight, because he was a man of true compassion.
  • I was delighted to be welcomed back to the great State of New York by my old friend, the affable Governor of this State. I gather that he does not share some of his colleagues' views on immigration, or perhaps we are still free at least to emigrate between the States! In any event, I always find it a source of strength to come to this, the leading city in America, this, the melting pot of our country. Here I get inspiration and stimulation.
  • America's policies toward the world have been carefully built through the years by the leaders of both parties. We will continue to follow this course because it has brought us a hopeful world. We are, and we will remain, the strongest nation on earth. We are, and we will always be, ready to defend freedom anywhere. Strength and courage are essential, but they are like the fuel in an airplane. You can't go without it. But neither will it take you where you want to go. For that you need a sense of direction, caution in the cockpit, and an experienced pilot. But strength is not enough. Other nations feared the might of Hitler, but they would not follow him. They will not associate themselves with us just because of our bombs or our missiles or our factories. We have learned that to deal with the world it must be seen in all of its fantastic complexities.
  • Almost all general statements about the world are wrong. They are not necessarily false; they seem to me just to be inadequate. It is true, for example, that communism is a deadly danger, but Russia is a different kind of danger from Yugoslavia. A small Communist Party in Africa is a different danger from the Government of Red China. These different dangers require different policies and different actions, and different replies. As President, I have no special gift or prophecy. But I do have a special perspective, and a very special responsibility to anticipate the dangers and the opportunities of the future.
  • First, we will work to make the greatness of our institutions match the grandeur of our intentions. I intend to do even more to attract the best minds and the most brilliant talents to our foreign operations, regardless of background or race or party. I want, also, to bring more young people to the conduct of foreign policy. This is the first generation to come of age in an outward looking America. It is a concerned generation. Its members are our greatest asset. We intend to encourage them and to give them early responsibility. This will be the first order of our business. Beyond the association of the West is the association of the world. I do not intend to withdraw from the United Nations. I do not intend to weaken it. I intend to do everything I can to strengthen it.
  • A second field of danger and opportunity is in our confrontation with Russia and Communist China. Today there is no longer one cold war; there are many. They differ in temperature, intensity, and danger. Our relations with the Soviet Union have come a long way since shoes were banged on desks here in New York and a summit meeting collapsed in Paris. In Asia there is a different prospect. The final outcome will depend on the will of the Asian people. But as long as they turn to us for help, we will be there. We will not and we must not permit the great civilizations of the East--almost half of the people of all the world--to be swallowed up in Communist conquest. In Viet-Nam we believe that, with our help, the people of South Viet-Nam can defeat Communist aggression. We will continue to act on this belief without recklessness and without retreat.
  • A third field of opportunity and danger is our relation to the developing world. I do not believe that our island of abundance will be finally secure in a sea of despair and unrest or in a world where even the oppressed may one day have access to the engines of modern destruction. Moreover, there is a great moral principle at stake. It is not right in a world of such infinite possibilities that children should die of hunger, that young people should live in ignorance, that men should be crippled by disease, that families should live in misery, shrouded in despair. I will propose steps to use the food and agricultural skills of the entire West in a joint effort to eliminate hunger and starvation. We will seek ways to stabilize the prices of the tropical commodities which are the life blood of many economies. I will press for prompt execution of the worldwide coffee agreement, and seek action for other products. We will give our support most of all to those governments whose efforts are directed toward the welfare of all their people and not just a privileged few. We will always give first attention to our close friendship with the people of Latin America.
  • You and every citizen of this land can be proud of the role that we have played over the past 20 years. None has ever given of itself so freely to the needs and the protection of others as the United States of America. Of course, we acted out of enlightened self-interest. We are a nation responsible to our people. But the pages of history can be searched in vain for another power whose pursuit of that self-interest was so infused with grandeur of spirit and morality of purpose. We have done this because this is the kind of people we are, and this is the kind of a country that we have built. We have done this because we have never believed the complexity of human experience could be bound in an iron cloak of dogma.
  • All of us who live today are also a race to be envied. These next decades can set the course of the world for a thousand years or more. There is much danger. But there is also the joy of great expectations. We are not in the grip of history. We are the makers of history. We have the power and the faith to forge on the anvil of the world an age tempered to the hopes of man. How fortunate we are to live at such a time, with such a belief, in such a young and resistless land. So come with me into that uncertain day already touched with dawn.

Chicago Stadium speech (October 1964)

President Johnson's address at the Chicago Stadium. (October 30, 1964). Source: Remarks at the Chicago Stadium, The American Presidency Project.
  • Nobody in this world can put on a political parade and a political rally like that great executive Dick Daley of Chicago. He makes it so much fun being a Democrat that you don't see how anybody could be anything else. I think he is one of the greatest political leaders in all the world.
  • We will win this election. But we will know that the voters of this country have not written a blank check; that there are differences which remain, and those differences must be honored. And they will be honored. But these things have been made clear: We have been settling for too little in this country. We are going to raise our sights. We are going to see that every American child has an equal chance at the fullest education that child can use. We have been educating most of our children. Now we are going to educate those who need it most. We have declared war on poverty, and we mean all-out war. Abraham Lincoln, a product of Illinois, abolished slavery 100 years ago. And now the Democratic Party adopts as its program the abolishment of poverty in this land. Prosperity for four out of five is not enough.
  • We will mean what we say from here on about full employment. We will have a government that doesn't waste a penny doing what is foolish, but doesn't waste a minute doing what is wise.
  • The one overriding obligation of a leader of this democracy is to find or to forge a united policy for peace. I mean that tonight, and I will mean it tomorrow just as I meant it in 1960. There was a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, then, and I was the Democratic leader in the Senate. On foreign policy matters I voted with that Republican President 96 percent of the time. And in this campaign now, we are against another man who was in that same Senate and who voted on those same issues against that same Republican President 76 percent of the time. So the Democrat voted with the President 96 percent of the time and the present Republican nominee voted against him 76 percent of the time. I am proud to ask my Nation's trust in the continued building of its bipartisan foreign policy. But even here there must be no blank check. So I state my understanding: It is that Americans, almost as one, agree that to keep the peace we must be so strong of arm and arms that none anywhere can doubt that strength.
  • World peace depends upon reason, on restraint, on negotiation, and on responsibility. We must move forward on many fronts. We must continue to strengthen the United Nations. We must strengthen and expand the Peace Corps. We must build new bridges, new bridges to the friendly peoples of Eastern Europe. We must, most of all, take this world out from under the shadow of a poisonous toadstool cloud. We want our children to say that this was the generation that split the atom, and this was the generation that united all men in peace. We are a powerful nation, but we are humble before our God. We believe that man has made his own problems, but that man can solve them.
  • So we tonight, assembled here, pledge ourselves to democracy's greatest tradition, the New Freedom of Wilson, the New Deal of Roosevelt, the Fair Deal of Harry S. Truman, the New America and the New Frontier of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and after Tuesday, November 3d, the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. These are not campaign slogans. These are the beating pulse of the greatest political party in this country. They are the heart-beat of a Nation that is looking up at the stars and eager for tomorrow's dawn.

Madison Square Garden speech (October 1964)

President Johnson's campaign address at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (October 31, 1964). Source: Remarks in Madison Square Garden, The American Presidency Project.
  • I have come to New York in the final hours of this campaign. I come to say to you once again that your President will need your prayers and your President will need your support, and your President will also need Democratic Congressmen in the House and Bob Kennedy in the Senate. I don't have to tell you of Bob Kennedy's talents or his energy or his great patriotism. He has demonstrated this in ways and actions that are far beyond my inadequate description, but it seems to me--it seems to me that this great State, symbolizing America and its ancestors, ought to have, and deserves to have, at least one Democratic Senator. So help your country, help your President, help your State. Work hard, vote early, and send to Washington a full delegation of Democratic Congressmen and send Bob Kennedy to the Senate where he can continue to work with Hubert Humphrey and work with me for the people of New York.
  • This is the last chapter in a great tradition. This is the last presidential campaign to reach its climax in this arena. But it is the continuation of another tradition, for here we end a campaign which will see the American people choose the leadership of the Democratic Party. And won't that be a wonderful day for all the country?
Four years ago I came here one night with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and he promised you that we would get America moving again. We have fulfilled that pledge.
  • Four years ago I came here one night with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and he promised you that we would get America moving again. We have fulfilled that pledge. In fact, this administration has passed more legislation, has made more progress, has fulfilled more promises than any administration since the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I came up here to New York tonight to tell you that we have just begun. We are going to keep moving forward. We are going to keep moving forward with the leadership and the support of the great State of New York. The leaders of New York have always believed in the future. When I first came into the White House, I moved a desk into my office which had been used by one of the towering figures of American history, Franklin D. Roosevelt of the State of New York. I was so happy to greet his great manager, that ever youthful Jim Farley, who came up on the platform a few minutes ago. And now whenever I feel that I have done a good day's work, whenever I feel that I have really accomplished something, I look at that desk and then I go back to work because I know I have only begun.
  • Franklin Roosevelt once said, "Too many who prate about saving democracy are really only interested in saving things as they were. Democracy should concern itself also with things as they should be." So in this campaign we face those who are interested in destroying things as they are. These fellows are not conservatives in the American tradition. They are just interested in tearing down institutions, not in preserving them. They are dedicated to extreme ideas, not to old values. They advocate aggressive interference with other nations, not increased reliance on others to order their own affairs. This is not a conservative philosophy. This is not even a Republican philosophy. This is not a philosophy ever embraced by any major American leader. "Conservative" may be written on their banner and in their books, but "radical" is in their hearts.
They ran smack into the solid, good sense of the American people. They discovered, as far as the American people are concerned: extremism in the pursuit of the Presidency is an unpardonable vice, and moderation in the affairs of the Nation is the highest virtue. They are going to learn their final lesson on next Tuesday night.
  • We were promised this time that the American people would be offered a choice and not an echo. This was to be a debate about basic principles. And here, tonight, we are in the closing days of this campaign, and what do we hear? We hear not philosophy, but mudslinging; not ideas, but smears and scandal; not programs, but the old worn-out slogans of an old worn-out effort, written by the same old worn-out man trying to frighten the American people. Well, I don't think you are going to let it work. Are you? I think I can tell you why they are doing it. They found out that the American people would overwhelmingly reject their ideas, would reject their programs. They found out that the great silent vote was a myth. They discovered that the revolution of the extremist was a dying ember. They ran smack into the solid, good sense of the American people. They discovered, as far as the American people are concerned: extremism in the pursuit of the Presidency is an unpardonable vice, and moderation in the affairs of the Nation is the highest virtue. They are going to learn their final lesson on next Tuesday night.
  • New York has had many great leaders. One of them has an important meaning for this campaign--that great American Al Smith. When he received the presidential nomination, he said he would follow the principles of Woodrow Wilson: "First, the people as the source, and their interests and desires, as the text, of law and government. Second, individual liberty as the objective of all law." Well, today there are those who call upon us to abandon our historic principles under the pretense of pursuing that individual liberty which Al Smith prized so highly. And yet, time and time again, they themselves have struck at the foundation of our American freedom. They call for freedom and then they attack the courts which protect that freedom. They call for freedom and they would strip away the rights of those accused of crime, rights developed over centuries to protect against arbitrary power. They call for freedom and yet accuse their opponents of being soft on communism or even worse, branding as heretics or traitors all those who ever disagree with them. They call for freedom and they attack our religious leaders for trying to exercise their ancient responsibility--as clergymen and citizens--to guide people in the course of life. But worst of all, they call for freedom and yet they help create the atmosphere of hate and fear and suspicion in which individual liberty faces its maximum danger.
This Nation, this people, this generation, has man's first opportunity to create the Great Society. It can be a society of success without squalor, beauty without barrenness, works of genius without the wretchedness of poverty. We can open the doors of learning, of fruitful labor and rewarding leisure, not just to the privileged few, but we can open them to everyone.
  • We are going to take another course. We are going to work to enlarge the freedom of the American people, and we have the capacity to do that on a scale that is greater than ever before in the history of man. Our first task is to complete the work of the last 30 years. So we will work to give every citizen an equal chance to hold a job, to vote, to educate his children, to enjoy all the blessings of liberty, whatever his color, his religion, or his race. Will you stand with me on that? We will work to eliminate the conditions which chain men to hopeless poverty, and in this way to eliminate poverty in America. One hundred years ago Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery. Tonight, the Democratic Party pledges itself to abolish poverty in this land. We will work to protect the old and feed the hungry, and care for the helpless. Will you stand with me on that? But this is just the beginning. We are rich and we are powerful, but that is not enough. We must turn our wealth and our power to a larger purpose. Even the greatest of past civilizations existed on the exploitation of the many. This Nation, this people, this generation, has man's first opportunity to create the Great Society. It can be a society of success without squalor, beauty without barrenness, works of genius without the wretchedness of poverty. We can open the doors of learning, of fruitful labor and rewarding leisure, not just to the privileged few, but we can open them to everyone.
  • These goals cannot be measured by the size of our bank balance. They can only be measured in the quality of the lives that our people lead. Millions of Americans have achieved prosperity, and they have found prosperity alone is just not enough. They need a chance to seek knowledge and to touch beauty, to rejoice in achievement and in the closeness of family and community. And this is not an easy goal. It means ensuring the beauty of our fields and our streams and the air that we breathe. It means the education of the highest quality for every child in the land. It means making sure that machines liberate men instead of replacing them. It means reshaping and rebuilding our cities to make them safe and make them a decent place to live. Yes, it means all these things and more, much more. I have already assembled more than a dozen groups, the best minds of America, the greatest talent that I could find, to help get the answers to these problems that I have talked to you about tonight. For the first time in man's weary journey on this planet, an entire people has greatness almost within its grasp. This is the goal within our sight. This is your goal. This is America's goal. This is the goal to which I pledge that I will try to lead all of you.
  • I have taken a long journey from a tenant farm in West Texas to this platform in Madison Square Garden. I have seen the barren fields of my youth bloom with harvest. I have seen despairing men made whole with enriching toil. I have seen America, my America, grow and change, and I have seen it become a leader among the nations of the world. In our early days, some thought that the Mississippi would be our final boundary. But farseeing Thomas Jefferson sent his explorers across the continent and the American tide rolled after them. We, too, stand at the margin of decision. Ahead is the prospect of a shining nation of towering promise. Behind is a threatening tide of change and growth, of expanding population and exploding science. And there is only one way to go. The only way to preserve the values of the past is to meet the future. The path to progress stretches in front of us, not back along the way we came. And with the help of that Almighty God who has guided us whenever we have been true to Him, that is the way that we are going.

Election Day remarks (November 1964)

President Johnson's address at the Municipal Auditorium. (November 4, 1964). Source: Radio and Television Remarks to the American People at the Close of Election Day, The American Presidency Project.
  • No words are adequate to really express the feeling of this occasion. Most of all, I wish to be equal to your confidence, and to the hopes of all of the people of America. We have voted as many, but tonight we must face the world as one.
  • I know that I was only one of many, because we had a group of outstanding candidates throughout the Nation, and we had men of independent views and men and women of both parties who put their country before their party. Now, tonight, our purpose must be to bind up our wounds, to heal our history, and to make this Nation whole. I know that this is more than a victory of party or person. It is a tribute to the program that was begun by our beloved President John F. Kennedy--a program that he carried on until he was taken from us. It is visible evidence of the work of a devoted and unselfish Cabinet, men like Dean Rusk, Bob McNamara, and Douglas Dillon, and all of the other members of the Cabinet and the independent agencies whose service has not been partisan, but has always been in the national interest. It is a tribute to the men and women of all parties in the Congress and the Nation. It reaffirms the achievements and the policies which have emerged over generations from common American principles.
  • It is a mandate for unity, for a government that serves no special interest, no business government, no labor government, no farm government, no one faction, no one group, but a government that is the servant of all the people. It will be a government that provides equal opportunity for all and special privilege for none. It is a command to build on those principles and to move forward toward peace and a better life for all of our people. So from this night forward, this is to be our work, and in these pursuits I promise the best that is in me for as long as I am permitted to serve. I ask all those who supported me and all those that opposed me to forget our differences, because there are many more things in America that unite us than divide us, and these are times when our Nation should forget our petty differences and stand united before all the world.
  • I would like to leave you tonight with the words of Abraham Lincoln, as a century ago he left his friends and neighbors to become President of the United States. He said, "Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail .... To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell." I do not know what happened in every hamlet or voting box in America today, but I think I discerned what happened in all America today. I doubt that there has ever been so many people seeing so many things alike on "decision" day. And with that understanding and with the help of all of them, we will be on our way to try to achieve peace in our time for our people and to try to keep our people prosperous. So to all of you that have gone this long road with me, particularly to the 'press and television people who have worked 18-hour days for many weeks now, I say I hope you have a good rest tomorrow.
  • And now I want to tell you that we have a great event in store for all of you: The happy warrior, the eloquent spokesman for the Democratic Party, the new Vice President of the United States, is arriving tomorrow at noon, and in his honor and in the honor of the men and women who traveled with us in this campaign, we are going to have a barbecue out on the banks of the Pedernales. I knew in Atlantic City that I had made the right recommendation to that convention so far as the Vice President was concerned, because I had observed him very closely ever since I became a Member of the Senate, but in the weeks that have followed that convention, I know even more that in my heart I was right. Hubert Humphrey left that convention with no orders and no instructions, and he traveled to 40 States and made no mistakes. Everywhere he went the people received him warmly and applauded his pronouncements. I predict that he, aided by his charming wife, Muriel, and their lovely family, will make one of the greatest Vice Presidents that this Nation has ever known.

Southwest Texas State College speech (November 1964)

President Johnson's address at Southwest Texas State College. (November 20, 1964). Source: Remarks at Southwest Texas State College, San Marcos, The American Presidency Project.
  • I have traveled a long way from this college to the office that I now occupy. In few times, yes, in very few nations, in man's journey has it been possible for any man to travel such a road. In Washington I am surrounded by men who have come from every walk of life to the most responsible posts of government. For that is what your government really is. It is not a strange and alien power in a remote and menacing city. It is a banker from New York and a druggist from Minnesota, the son of a tenant farmer from Texas. Some day it may very well be some of you. America has succeeded more than any other nation in the world in making it possible for a man to achieve whatever his ability would allow. The idea that man's only limitation would be his talent and intelligence, and his willingness to work, has been at the heart of the American dream, and for some of us it has come true.
  • Today we are at the edge of a new era of progress toward the American dream. It is an opportunity as large and as exciting as that granted to those who settled this continent. Our basic goal has not been changed, but the growth of our Nation, the progress of science and knowledge, the change in our way of life, makes it necessary to shape new tools to reach old goals. And by moving ahead only can we hope to preserve the values of the past.
  • First, we must strike down the barriers which limit the hopes and the achievements of some of our people. No person should be stifled and restricted because of his race, or the circumstances of his birth, or the lack of an adequate education, or because he comes from a poor home. Through our pursuit of equal opportunity, the war against poverty, we are going to change things in this country. Your own very able and popular Congressman is leading the way in that effort. The people of this area of Texas know the taste of poverty. For generations the adobe-caliche soil has yielded forth a harsh living to those who worked it in this area. We have come a long way since those days when I lived in the school garage here on the campus. Incidentally, I lived there 3 years before the business manager knew about it. And I don't think he ever would have if the coach hadn't told him that I was bathing in the gymnasium. But in that period, want and hunger were no strangers to San Marcos. The energy and the will of the people of this area have created a city of hope and fulfillment for many. But now we have an opportunity to unite in will and heart and spirit to bring a final end to poverty. Along with Congressman Pickle, Senator Yarborough, and your distinguished Governor Connally, we propose that San Marcos be the first city in the entire Southwest to organize and to begin to fight the war against poverty.
  • The expansion of education is going to receive special emphasis in the budget that I am now preparing. We have one of our Cabinet officers, Secretary Udall, who wonders how much education is going to take from the resources that he is interested in, the conservation effort. But I am going to take him down here when we get through here this morning and do something that I had really never anticipated doing before: walk him from the campus to Riverside along the same route that I used to walk with a lovely blond, through the fish hatchery. I hope it will be as attractive to him as it was to me.
  • Next we must move to enlarge the horizons of all Americans, and this effort is what we will pursue in the Great Society. It is founded upon the idea that the ultimate test of any society is really the quality of the men and women that it produces, and the quality of the life that they are permitted to lead. These goals can never be measured in guns or statistics. They do not flow automatically from wealth or power. They must be made a careful, conscious objective, and they must be pursued with dedication and labor. And that we intend to do. Even the greatest of past societies were founded upon the exploitation and the misery of many. So we in beautiful America can be the first to enrich the quality of the life of all of our people. We do not make money just to build factories. Yes, we have the tools to do such a job. We make money to make it possible to enrich the lives of human beings. We are the richest and we are the most powerful nation on earth. Our knowledge and our insight into our own problems are growing daily. And now I believe today we can see our real goal. That goal is not an idle dream. And it is not a vague Utopia. It has concrete goals and it requires specific programs. Even as we meet here today, some of those programs are being prepared for my review. The one I just announced I reviewed on the helicopter coming down here this morning. These programs will attack the problems of making our cities a decent place to live in. They will seek to preserve the beauty of our land. They will strive to make it possible for every child born in this country to receive an education of the highest quality, to the full limit of his ability, no matter how poor he is, no matter where he lives, no matter which side of the tracks he was born on. It will do all these things and more, much more. It will not be a program for a hundred days or even a program for the next 4 years. It will point toward the year 2000. But it will provide the base on which America moves forward and builds.
  • Let there be no mistake. The objectives we seek will not be handed to you by a beneficent government. The work of a few men in Washington will not make life easier. No one man can lead this Nation, and you cannot sit idly by, quietly waiting for the day when someone else will make everything better for you. These goals are going to demand your effort and your work and your sacrifice, and the best from every American. It will mean that each of you must participate in the affairs of your community and your State and your Nation. It will require the help of government at every level, of labor and of business, of farmers and consumers. A President can lead and teach, and explore, and set goals. He can have his eyes in the stars, with a vision that will flow therefrom, and he can have his feet on the ground, with a solid foundation that we need. But no leader can make a people more than they are, or make them more than they really want to be. My success and America's success will depend on you.
  • It was a hundred years ago, in 1864, that Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in this country. A hundred years later, here in the hills of home, we are inaugurating a movement to abolish poverty in this country. I rode on the train to Washington from where I opened my campaign here in San Marcos in 1937. A great President, a fearless leader, a man who preserved our Republic in its most challenging period, talked to me about the third of our land that were ill fed, ill clad, and ill housed, and he sought to do something about it. I had seen him stand in front of that Capitol only a few years before, when the banks were popping like firecrackers, when the farmers were burning their produce because they had no market to sell it in, and when soup lines were stretched around the corners of city blocks. But I saw him bring hope to a great Nation. He said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." During his leadership and the leadership that followed under President Truman, President Eisenhower, and President Kennedy, we have reduced that one-third that were ill fed, ill clad, and ill housed, to one-fifth today. So we put on our robes and march forth to abolish that one-fifth who live on incomes of less than $3,000 a year. I know that those of you who have enjoyed the fruits of your own labors, and have been the beneficiaries of the leadership and the planning of others, like Dr. Evans and Dr. Flowers, are willing to reciprocate by helping those less fortunate. So I call upon every student of this institution and every graduate of this college, every faculty member, to pledge himself not to the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln signed a hundred years ago, or not to freeing the slaves, but, instead, to declaring a war and abolishing poverty in this land.
  • The great leadership that is being given this State now by your Governor, one of the ablest chief executives and one of the soundest leaders that we have known, was made possible because when he came from Floresville without a dollar in his pocket, he got an NYA job at 17 cents an hour--and he is now the chief executive of what was once the largest State in the Union. So the opportunity is here if you have the will and the leadership and the determination. I could think of no better epithet, I could think of no greater sense of satisfaction or achievement that could come to anyone than to have it said of him that he led this way in this noble undertaking. I believe and I know that you and all of my fellow Americans will be equal to this task. So let's be on our way.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts remarks (December 1964)

President Johnson's address at the ground-breaking ceremony for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. (December 2, 1964). Source: Remarks at the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The American Presidency Project.
  • John Kennedy once said, "I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens." As I sat here on the platform this morning, I reviewed some of the efforts that were made as a result of his inspiring leadership to make possible the ground breaking that will take place here today. I recalled that we all met in the White House under the leadership of his mother-in-law, and we used the first house of this land one of the first times to raise funds to make this event possible. I remember going to Mrs. Post's home and meeting with patriotic and dedicated citizens who in their generosity were willing to come there and spend the evening to try to add their bit to this great effort. I recall the contribution of the Members of the Congress, and, through them, all the people of the United States who took the funds from the farmer and the laborer, the banker and the artist, to appropriate them so that we might be here today and participate as we are.
  • We are taking a very important step toward that dream that President and Mrs. Kennedy had, and to which most of you have contributed your bit. This center will brighten the life of Washington, but it is not, as I have said, just a Washington project. It is a national project and a national possession, and it became a reality, as General Kennedy has observed, because of the willingness of all the representatives of all the people to make it possible. It is dedicated to the common awareness of all men. It was conceived under the administration of President Eisenhower. It was inspired and encouraged and led by the imagination and the purpose of President Kennedy. And after his death, the Congress, realizing that, named it in his memory and generously, and I think wisely, provided the matching funds so that we could get on our way.
  • If it fulfills our hopes, this center will be, at once, a symbol and a reflection and a hope. It will symbolize our belief that the world of creation and thought are at the core of all civilization. Only recently in the White House we helped commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare. The political conflicts and ambitions of his England are known to the scholar and to the specialist. But his plays will forever move men in every corner of the world. The leaders that he wrote about live far more vividly in his words than in the almost forgotten facts of their own rule. Our civilization, too, will largely survive in the works of our creation. There is a quality in art which speaks across the gulf dividing man from man and nation from nation, and century from century. That quality confirms the faith that our common hopes may be more enduring than our conflicting hostilities. Even now men of affairs are struggling to catch up with the insights of great art. The stakes may well be the survival of civilization. The personal preferences of men in government are not important--except to themselves. However, it is important to know that the opportunity we give to the arts is a measure of the quality of our civilization. It is important to be aware that artistic activity can enrich the life of our people, which really is the central object of Government. It is important that our material prosperity liberate and not confine the creative spirit.
  • The role of Government must be a small one. No act of Congress or Executive order can call a great musician or poet into existence. But we can stand on the sidelines and cheer. We can maintain and strengthen an atmosphere to permit the arts to flourish, and those who have talent to use it. And we can seek to enlarge the access of all of our people to artistic creation. As a veteran of 24 years in the Congress, I am not a prophet but I do want to suggest to my friend, the new Senator from New York, he is in for listening to more poetry than he would surmise in some of the morning sessions of the Senate.
  • Last September, I signed a bill establishing the National Council on the Arts. Versions of this proposal had been under consideration since 1877. I intend to consider other ways in which Government can appropriately encourage the arts. I want to, as the leader of this country, express my personal gratitude to the persons on the platform with me, and particularly to the persons like Mrs. Auchincloss and others that I see in the audience, for the sacrifices in time and effort they have made to encourage, lead, and direct this effort.
  • This center will reflect the finest artistic achievements of our time. It is our hope that it will house the leading artists and performers. Almost every industrialized nation in the world, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, has one or more national centers for the arts. Washington has lagged behind. Far too often, American actors and singers and musicians must travel to foreign countries to even be heard. Now, because of President Kennedy's leadership and your efforts, they will have a stage here in the Capital of their own country. I expect this center to be a living force for the encouragement of art. Washington needs new theaters and new concert halls. But if that is all that we are building, we will have fallen far short of today's expectation and promise.
  • This center will have a unique opportunity to bring together worlds of poetry and power--and bring it to the benefit of each of us. It must give special attention to the young; to increasing their interest and stimulating their creativity. It can serve as a model and instructor to other cultural centers around our Nation. It should open up new opportunities to be heard to young singers and filmmakers and playwrights. It must take the lead in bringing the best in the performing arts to every part of our beloved and rich country; so that theater and opera are not the privilege of the lucky citizens of just a few metropolitan centers. Yes, this is our ambitious program. But so was the vision of the man in whose memory this center is today named.
  • Pericles said, "If Athens shall appear great to you, consider then that her glories were purchased by valiant men, and by men who learned their duty." As this center comes to reflect and advance the greatness of America, consider then those glories were purchased by a valiant leader who never swerved from duty--John Kennedy. And in his name I dedicate this site.

Special Message to the Congress on the State of the Nation's Defenses (January 1965)

Written document Lyndon B. Johnson: "Special Message to the Congress on the State of the Nation's Defenses" (January 18, 1965) online at The American Presidency Project by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley
  • One hundred seventy-five years ago, in his first Annual Message, President Washington told the Congress: "Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." For the Eighty-ninth Congress--as for the First Congress--those words of the first President remain a timely charge. In the twentieth year since the end of mankind's most tragic war you and I are beginning new terms of service. The danger of war remains ever with us. But if the hope of peace is sturdier than at any other time in these two decades, it is because we--and free men everywhere--have proved preparedness to be "the most effectual means of preserving peace." Arms alone cannot assure the security of any society or the preservation of any peace. The health and education of our people, the vitality of our economy, the equality of our justice, the vision and fulfillment of our aspirations are all factors in America's strength and well-being.
  • Today we can walk the road of peace because we have the strength we need. We have built that strength with courage. We have employed it with care. We have maintained it with conviction that the reward of our resolution will be peace and freedom. We covet no territory, we seek no dominion, we fear no nation, we despise no people. With our arms we seek to shelter the peace of mankind. In this spirit, then, I wish to consider with you the state of our defenses, the policies we pursue, and--as Commander in Chief-to offer recommendations on our course for the future.
  • Under our free and open society, the American people have succeeded in building a strength of arms greater than that ever assembled by any other nation and greater now than that of any combination of adversaries. This strength is not the handiwork of any one Administration. Our force in being and in place reflects the continuity and constancy of America's purpose under four Administrations and eight Congresses--and this responsible conduct of our system is, of itself, a source of meaningful strength. For the past four years, the focus of our national effort has been upon assuring an indisputable margin of superiority for our defenses. I can report today that effort has succeeded. Our strategic nuclear power on alert has increased three-fold in four years. Our tactical nuclear power has been greatly expanded. Our forces have been made as versatile as the threats to peace are various. Our Special Forces, trained for the undeclared, twilight wars of today have been expanded eight-fold. Our combat-ready Army divisions have been increased by 45 percent. Our Marine Corps has been increased by 15,000 men. Our airlift capacity to move these troops rapidly anywhere in the world has been doubled. Our tactical Air Force firepower to support these divisions in the field has increased 100 percent. This strength has been developed to support our basic military strategy--a strategy of strength and readiness, capable of countering aggression with appropriate force from ballistic missiles to guerrilla bands.
  • Our forces are balanced and ready, mobile and diverse. Our allies trust our strength and our adversaries respect it. But the challenge is unceasing. The forms of conflict become more subtle and more complex every day. We must--and we shall--adapt our forces and our tactics to fulfill our purposes. If our military strength is to be fully usable in times requiring adaptation and response to changing challenges, that strength must be so organized and so managed that it may be employed with planned precision as well as promptness. The state of our defenses is enhanced today because we have established an orderly system for informed decision-making and planning. Our planning and budgeting programs are now conducted on a continuing five-year basis and cover our total military requirements. Our national strategy, military force structure, contingency plans and defense budget are all now related in an integrated plan. Our orderly decision-making now combines our best military judgment with the most advanced scientific and analytical techniques. Our military policy under the Secretary of Defense is now more closely tied than ever to the conduct of foreign policy under the Secretary of State. Thus, we now have the ability to provide and maintain a balanced, flexible military force, capable of meeting the changing requirements of a constantly changing challenge.
  • Four years ago, President John F. Kennedy stated to the Congress and the world, "The primary purpose of our arms is peace, not war." That is still their purpose. We are armed, not for conquest, but to insure our own security and to encourage the settlement of international differences by peaceful processes. We are not a militaristic people, and we have long denounced the use of force in pursuit of national ambition. We seek to avoid a nuclear holocaust in which there can be neither victory nor victors. But we shall never again return to a world where peace-loving men must stand helpless in the path of those who, heedless of destruction and human suffering, take up war and oppression in pursuit of their own ambitions.
  • While confident that our present strength will continue to deter a thermonuclear war, we must always be alert to the possibilities for limiting destruction which might be inflicted upon our people, cities and industry--should such a war be forced upon us. Many proposals have been advanced for means of limiting damage and destruction to the United States in the event of a thermonuclear war. Shifting strategy and advancing technology make the program of building adequate defenses against nuclear attack extremely complex. Decisions with respect to further limitation of damage require complex calculations concerning the effectiveness of many interrelated elements. Any comprehensive program would involve the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars. We must not shrink from any expense that is justified by its effectiveness, but we must not hastily expend vast sums on massive programs that do not meet this test. It is already clear that without fall-out shelter protection for our citizens, all defense weapons lose much of their effectiveness in saving lives. This also appears to be the least expensive way of saving millions of lives, and the one which has clear value even without other systems. We will continue our existing programs and start a program to increase the total inventory of shelters through a survey of private homes and other small structures. We shall continue the research and development which retains the options to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system, and manned interceptors and surface-to-air missiles against bombers.
  • Our military forces must be so organized and directed that they can be used in a measured, controlled, and deliberate way as a versatile instrument to support our foreign policy. Military and civilian leaders alike are unanimous in their conviction that our armed might is and always must be so controlled as to permit measured response in whatever crises may confront us. We have made dramatic improvements in our ability to communicate with and command our forces, both at the national level and at the level of the theatre commanders. We have established a National Military Command System, with the most advanced electronic and communications equipment, to gather and present the military information necessary for top level management of crises and to assure the continuity of control through all levels of command. Its survival under attack is insured by a system of airborne, shipborne and other command posts, and a variety of alternative protected communications. We have developed and procured the Post Attack Command Control System of the Strategic Air Command, to assure continued control of our strategic forces following a nuclear attack. We have installed new safety procedures and systems designed to guarantee that our nuclear weapons are not used except at the direction of the highest national authority. This year we are requesting funds to extend similar improvements in the survivability and effectiveness of our command and control to other commands in our overseas theatres.
  • America will continue to be first in the use of science and technology to insure the security of its people. We are currently investing more than $6 billion per year for military Research and Development. Among other major developments, our investment has recently produced anti-satellite systems that can intercept and destroy armed satellites that might be launched, and such revolutionary new aircraft as the F-111 fighter-bomber and the SR-71 supersonic reconnaissance aircraft. Our investment has effected an enormous improvement in the design of anti-ballistic missile systems. We will .pursue our program for the development of the Nike-X anti-missile system, to permit deployment of this anti-ballistic missile should the national security require. Research will continue on even more advanced anti-missile components and concepts. About $2 billion a year of this program is invested in innovations in technology and in experimental program. Thus, we provide full play for the ingenuity and inventiveness of the best scientific and technical talent in our nation and the Free World. American science, industry, and technology are foremost in the world. Their resources represent a prime asset to our national security.
  • Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, from whom we ask so much, are the cornerstone of our military might. The success of all our policies depends upon our ability to attract, develop fully, utilize and retain the talents of outstanding men and women in the military services. We have sought to improve housing conditions for military families and educational opportunities for military personnel. Since 1961, we have proposed--and the Congress has authorized--the largest military pay increases in our history, totaling more than $2 billion. To ensure that the pay of military personnel, and indeed of all government employees, retains an appropriate relation to the compensation of other elements of our society, we will review their pay annually. The procedures for this review will be discussed in my budget message. It is imperative that our men in uniform have the necessary background and training to keep up with the complexities of the everchanging military, political, and technical problems they face each day. To insure this, the Secretary of Defense is undertaking a study of military education to make certain that the education available to our service men and women at their Academies, at their War Colleges and at the Command and Staff Colleges, is excellent in its quality. In recent years large numbers of volunteers have been rejected by the military services because of their failure to meet certain mental or physical standards, even though many of their deficiencies could have been corrected. To broaden the opportunity for service and increase the supply of potentially qualified volunteers, the Army is planning to initiate an experimental program of military training, education and physical rehabilitation for men who fail at first to meet minimum requirements for service. This pilot program, which will involve about 10, 000 men in 1965, will establish how many of these young volunteers can be upgraded so as to qualify for service.
  • Our citizen-soldiers must be the best organized, best equipped reserve forces in the world. We must make certain that this force, which has served our country so well from the time of the Revolution to the Berlin and Cuban crises of recent years, keeps pace with the changing demands of our national security. To this end, we are taking steps to realign our Army Reserves and National Guard to improve significantly their combat-readiness and effectiveness in times of emergency. This realignment will bring our Army Reserve structure into balance with our contingency war plans and will place all remaining units of the Army reserve forces in the National Guard. At the same time, by eliminating units for which there is no military requirement, we will realize each year savings approximating $150 million. Under our plan, all units will be fully equipped with combat-ready equipment and will be given training in the form of monthly weekend drills that will greatly increase their readiness. Under the revised organization, both the old and the new units of the National Guard, as well as individual trainees who remain in the Reserves, will make a much greater and continuing contribution to our national security. We shall continue to study our reserve forces and take whatever action is necessary to increase their combat effectiveness.
  • The Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of Defense must continue to receive the best professional military advice available to the leaders of any government in the world. The importance of a strong line of command running from the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Unified and Specified Commanders in the field has been repeatedly demonstrated during recent years. The Secretary of Defense will present to you certain recommendations to strengthen the Joint Staff.
  • We will strengthen our military alliances, assist freedom-loving peoples, and continue our Military Assistance Program. It is essential to continue to strengthen our alliances with other free and independent nations. We reaffirm our unwavering determination that efforts to divide and conquer free men shall not be successful in our time. We shall continue to assist those who struggle to preserve their own independence. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a strong shield against aggression. We reaffirm our belief in the necessity of unified planning and execution of strategy. We invite our NATO allies to work with us in developing better methods for mutual consultation and joint strategic study. We shall continue to seek ways to bind the alliance even more strongly together by sharing the tasks of defense through collective action. We shall continue our program of military and economic assistance to Allies elsewhere in the world and to those nations struggling against covert aggression in the form of externally directed, undeclared guerrilla warfare. In Southeast Asia, our program remains unchanged. From 1950, the United States has demonstrated its commitment to the freedom, independence, and neutrality of Laos by strengthening the economic and military security of that nation. The problem of Laos is the refusal of the Communist forces to honor the Geneva Accords into which they entered in 1962. We shall continue to support the legitimate government of that country. The Geneva Accords established the right of Laos to be left alone in peace. Similarly, the problem of Vietnam is the refusal of Communist forces to honor their agreement of 1954. The North Vietnam regime, supported by the Chinese Communists, has openly and repeatedly avowed its intention to destroy the independence of the Republic of Vietnam through massive, ruthless, and incessant guerrilla terrorism against Government and people alike. Our purpose, under three American Presidents, has been to assist the Vietnamese to live in peace, free to choose both their own way of life and their own foreign policy. We shall continue to honor our commitments in Vietnam.
  • The world's most affluent society can surely afford to spend whatever must be spent for its freedom and security. We shall continue to maintain the military forces necessary for our security without regard to arbitrary or predetermined budget ceilings. But we shall continue to insist that those forces be procured at the lowest possible cost and operated with the greatest possible economy and efficiency. To acquire and maintain our unprecedented military power, we have been obliged to invest more than one-half of every dollar paid in taxes to the Federal Government. The Defense budget has grown from $43 billion in Fiscal Year 1960 to more than $51 billion in Fiscal Year 1964. I now estimate the Defense expenditures for Fiscal Year 1965 to be about $49.3 billion, or approximately $2 billion less than in Fiscal Year 1964. I further estimate that Defense expenditures for Fiscal Year 1966 will be reduced still another $300 million. There are two main reasons for this leveling-off in Defense expenditures: First, we have achieved many of the needed changes and increases in our military force structure; Second, we are now realizing the benefits of the rigorous Cost Reduction Program introduced into the Defense establishment during the past four years. As I have stated--and as our enemies well know--this country now possesses a range of credible, usable military power enabling us to deal with every form of military challenge from guerrilla terrorism to thermonuclear war. Barring a significant shift in the international situation, we are not likely to require further increments on so large a scale during the next several years. Expenditures for Defense will thus constitute a declining portion of our expanding annual Gross National Product, which is now growing at the rate of 5 percent each year. If, over the next several years, we continue to spend approximately the same amount of dollars annually for our national defense that we are spending today, an ever-larger share of our expanding national wealth will be free to meet other vital needs, both public and private. Let me be clear, however, to friend and foe alike. So long as I am President, we shall spend whatever is necessary for the security of our people.
  • While our primary goal is to maintain the most powerful military force in the world at the lowest possible cost, we will never be unmindful of those communities and individuals who are temporarily affected by changes in the pattern of Defense spending. Men and women, who have devoted their lives and their resources to the needs of their country, are entitled to help and consideration in making the transition to other pursuits. We will continue to help local communities by mobilizing and coordinating all the resources of the Federal Governments to overcome temporary difficulties created by the curtailment of any Defense activity. We will phase out unnecessary Defense operations in such a way as to lessen the impact on any community, and we will work with local communities to develop energetic programs of self-help, calling on the resources of state and local governments--and of private industry--as well as those of the Federal Government. There is ample evidence that such measures can succeed. Former military bases are now in use throughout the country in communities which have not only adjusted to necessary change, but have created greater prosperity for themselves as a result. Their accomplishments are a tribute to the ingenuity of thousands of our citizens, and a testimony to the strength and resiliency of our economy and our system of government.
  • The Secretary of Defense will soon come before you with our detailed proposals for the coming year. He will have recommendations for further strengthening of our strategic forces and our conventional forces. He will have additional suggestions for achieving greater efficiency, and therefore greater economy. As you consider the state of our defenses and form your judgments as to our future course, I know that you will do so in the knowledge that today we Americans are responsible not only for our own security but, in concert with our Allies, for the security of the Free World. Upon our strength and our wisdom rests the future not only of our American way of life, but that of the whole society of free men. This is an awesome responsibility. So far, we have borne it well. As our strength rose--and largely as a consequence of that strength--we have been able to take encouraging steps toward peace. We have established an Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. We have signed a limited nuclear test ban agreement with the Soviet Union. We have, at the same time, met the challenge of force, unflinchingly, from Berlin to Cuba. In each case, the threat has receded and international tensions have diminished. In a world of 120 nations, there are still great dangers to be faced. As old threats are turned back, change and turmoil will present new ones. The vigilance and courage we have shown in the last twenty years must be sustained as far ahead as we can see. The defense of freedom remains our duty-twenty-four hours a day and every day of the year. We cannot know the future and what it holds. But all our experience of two centuries reminds us that--"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."

Inaugural address (January 1965)

Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his fellow, saying, "His color is not mine," or "His beliefs are strange and different," in that moment he betrays America, though his forebears created this Nation.
We are all fellow passengers on a dot of earth. And each of us, in the span of time, has really only a moment among our companions. How incredible it is that in this fragile existence, we should hate and destroy one another. There are possibilities enough for all who will abandon mastery over others to pursue mastery over nature. There is world enough for all to seek their happiness in their own way.
Let us reject any among us who seek to reopen old wounds and to rekindle old hatreds. They stand in the way of a seeking nation. Let us now join reason to faith and action to experience, to transform our unity of interest into a unity of purpose. For the hour and the day and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve change without hatred—not without difference of opinion, but without the deep and abiding divisions which scar the union for generations.
Lyndon Baines Johnson: Inaugural Address (20 January 1965)
  • We are one nation and one people. Our fate as a nation and our future as a people rest not upon one citizen, but upon all citizens. This is the majesty and the meaning of this moment.
  • For every generation, there is a destiny. For some, history decides. For this generation, the choice must be our own. [...] Our destiny in the midst of change will rest on the unchanged character of our people, and on their faith.
  • They came here—the exile and the stranger, brave but frightened—to find a place where a man could be his own man. They made a covenant with this land. Conceived in justice, written in liberty, bound in union, it was meant one day to inspire the hopes of all mankind; and it binds us still. If we keep its terms, we shall flourish.
  • First, justice was the promise that all who made the journey would share in the fruits of the land. In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry. In a land of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended. In a great land of learning and scholars, young people must be taught to read and write.
  • Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his fellow, saying, "His color is not mine," or "His beliefs are strange and different," in that moment he betrays America, though his forebears created this Nation.
  • Liberty was the second article of our covenant. It was self-government. It was our Bill of Rights. But it was more. America would be a place where each man could be proud to be himself: stretching his talents, rejoicing in his work, important in the life of his neighbors and his nation. This has become more difficult in a world where change and growth seem to tower beyond the control and even the judgment of men. We must work to provide the knowledge and the surroundings which can enlarge the possibilities of every citizen. The American covenant called on us to help show the way for the liberation of man. And that is today our goal. Thus, if as a nation there is much outside our control, as a people no stranger is outside our hope.
  • We are all fellow passengers on a dot of earth. And each of us, in the span of time, has really only a moment among our companions. How incredible it is that in this fragile existence, we should hate and destroy one another. There are possibilities enough for all who will abandon mastery over others to pursue mastery over nature. There is world enough for all to seek their happiness in their own way.
  • We aspire to nothing that belongs to others. We seek no dominion over our fellow man, but man's dominion over tyranny and misery. But more is required. Men want to be a part of a common enterprise—a cause greater than themselves. Each of us must find a way to advance the purpose of the Nation, thus finding new purpose for ourselves. Without this, we shall become a nation of strangers.
  • The third article was union. [...] By working shoulder to shoulder, together we can increase the bounty of all. We have discovered that every child who learns, every man who finds work, every sick body that is made whole—like a candle added to an altar—brightens the hope of all the faithful. So let us reject any among us who seek to reopen old wounds and to rekindle old hatreds. They stand in the way of a seeking nation. Let us now join reason to faith and action to experience, to transform our unity of interest into a unity of purpose. For the hour and the day and the time are here to achieve progress without strife, to achieve change without hatred—not without difference of opinion, but without the deep and abiding divisions which scar the union for generations.
  • I do not believe that the Great Society is the ordered, changeless, and sterile battalion of the ants. It is the excitement of becoming—always becoming, trying, probing, falling, resting, and trying again—but always trying and always gaining.
  • In each generation, with toil and tears, we have had to earn our heritage again. If we fail now, we shall have forgotten in abundance what we learned in hardship: that democracy rests on faith, that freedom asks more than it gives, and that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most favored. If we succeed, it will not be because of what we have, but it will be because of what we are; not because of what we own, but, rather because of what we believe. For we are a nation of believers. Underneath the clamor of building and the rush of our day's pursuits, we are believers in justice and liberty and union, and in our own Union. We believe that every man must someday be free. And we believe in ourselves.
  • Our enemies have always made the same mistake. In my lifetime—in depression and in war—they have awaited our defeat. Each time, from the secret places of the American heart, came forth the faith they could not see or that they could not even imagine. It brought us victory. And it will again. For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say "Farewell." Is a new world coming? We welcome it—and we will bend it to the hopes of man.
  • To these trusted public servants and to my family and those close friends of mine who have followed me down a long, winding road, and to all the people of this Union and the world, I will repeat today what I said on that sorrowful day in November 1963: "I will lead and I will do the best I can." But you must look within your own hearts to the old promises and to the old dream. They will lead you best of all.

Anti-Defamation League Award remarks (February 1965)

Written document Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks Upon Receiving the Anti-Defamation League Award" (February 3, 1965) online at The American Presidency Project by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley
  • Unworthy as I am of your honor, I deeply appreciate your generosity. The torch of John Kennedy that I picked up when he faltered I shall proudly carry on as long as I have the energy and the life to carry it. I am most grateful to B'nai B'rith and the Anti-Defamation League. They have the gratitude of this Nation. In your half century of fighting discrimination you have never tired, you have never faltered, you have never lost faith in your cause and your cause has given faith to your Nation.
  • Mr. Vice President, I think it is no wonder that so many Presidents have cheerfully and gratefully been the guests of the Anti-Defamation League. For the work that you have done in the local communities as well as in the halls of Congress, you have ignited the flames of freedom across this great country. Wherever your torches burn, there tolerance and decency and charity have been illuminated. Bigots and bias hide whenever you come into view. But you are much more than anti-prejudice--you are pro-justice and you are pro-freedom. So it is with great pride and satisfaction that I come here this evening to commend you and to salute you. And I am very proud to share this platform tonight with a man whose whole life has been a visible dedication to truth and to justice and to leadership in the field of fair play. I judge him to be one of those eloquent and uncommon men who feels in his faith and who holds in his heart the compassion that is a sure sign of a man's real strength of character. Your President is proud to have as our Nation's Vice President your own devoted friend, Hubert Humphrey.
  • Tonight, I want to share with you some thoughts on what I conceive to be the meaning of this moment in our national life. In all of history, men have never lived as we are privileged to live tonight, at this rare and at this precious moment. Our arms are strong--our freedoms are many. Our homes are secure--and our tables are full. Our knowledge is great--and our understanding is growing. We enjoy plenty--we live in peace. And this is much--but there is more. Out of the years of fire and faith in this 20th century, our diverse peoples have forged together a consensus such as we have not known before--a consensus on our national purposes and our national policies and the principles that guide them both. This consensus is new. We have come to it more suddenly than we foresaw--and more fully than we anticipated. Tonight questions are being asked about the meaning of that consensus--proper, penetrating, and profound questions. Thoughtful men want to know--are we entering an era when consensus will become an end in itself? Will we substitute consensus for challenge? Will a devotion to agreement keep us from those tasks that are disagreeable?
  • Tonight, for myself, I want to turn back to the ancient Scriptures for the answer: "He that observeth the wind shall not sow and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." If we were to try, this restless and stirring: and striving nation would never live as the captive of a comfortable consensus. So we must know that the times ahead for us--and for the world, for that matter--are not to be bland and placid. We shall know tests. We shall know trials--and we shall be ready. For I believe more will be demanded of our stewardship than of any generations which have ever held the trust of America's legacy before us. So let me be specific. We are at the threshold of a new America-new in numbers, new in dimensions, new in its concepts, new in its challenges. If the society that we have brought already to greatness is to be called great in the times to come, we must respond to that tomorrow tonight. The unity of our people--the consensus of their will--must be the instrument that we put to use to strengthen our society, undergird its values, elevate its standards,. assure its order, advance the quality of its justice, nourish its tolerance and reason, and enlarge the meaning of man's rights for every citizen. For I believe with the Justice Brandeis that: "If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold." And this is what we are striving to do here in your Capital City--and in your National Government.
  • Invested just a few weeks ago with the trust of America's consensus, we are grasping the nettles of our society. We are not avoiding controversy to prolong the political consensus--rather, we are striving to use the consensus to resolve and to remove the political controversies that have already stood too long across the path of our people's progress and their fulfillment.
  • I took the oath as the President only 12 or 13 days ago. Since my State of the Union Message on January 4 before my inauguration, I have sent to the Congress--will have, by the end of this week--16 messages--messages that are facing up to conflicts, messages that involve controversy, and don't doubt it, and messages that respond to the needs of this society. For what we have asked, we stand ready tonight to welcome all support and to confront all opposition. Believing that our requests are right, and that our cause is just, this administration is determined that the opportunity of this rare and most precious moment shall not be denied, defaulted, or destroyed. If some say our goals are idealistic, we welcome that as a compliment. For 188 years, the strongest fiber of America has been that thread of idealism which weaves through all our effort and all our aspiration. So let the world know--and let it be known throughout our own land--that this generation of Americans is not so cynical, and not so cool, not so callous that idealism is out of style. In a national house that is filled to overflowing, we are determined that the lives we lead shall not be vacant and shall not be empty. Your Government is concerned not with statistics but with the substance of your schools, and your jobs, and your cities, and your family life, and your countryside, your health, your hopes, your protection, your preparedness--and your rights and opportunities. For as Emerson once said: "The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of cities nor the crops, but the kind of man that the country turns out." So we are concerned tonight with the kind of man that the country turns out in these times and the times that are to come.
  • We must meet the responsibilities here if we are to be equal to the opportunities there. But the success of all we undertake--the fulfillment of all that we aspire to achieve--rests finally on one condition: the condition of peace among all people. Mr. Schary and Mr. Feinberg, in your citation tonight, the words expressed the essence of America in the thought that--"As a country, we try." I believe that it is the highest legacy of our democracy that we are always trying--trying, probing, failing, resting, and up trying again--but always trying and always gaining. And this is the pursuit and the approach that we must make to peace. Not in a day or a year or a decade in 120 nations or more-not, perhaps, in a lifetime--shall we finally grasp the goal of peace for which we reach tonight. But we shall always be reaching, always trying--and, hopefully, always gaining.
  • Toward that end, when I spoke last month to the Congress, I expressed the hope that the new leadership of the Soviet Union might come and visit our land--come to see us, to meet us, to learn firsthand the determination here in our beloved America for peace and the equal determination to support freedom. I am gratified that this expression is receiving the active, the constructive--and, I hope, the fruitful--attention and the interest of the Soviet Government. I have reason to believe that the Soviet leadership would welcome my visit to their country--as I would be very glad to do. I am hopeful that before the year is out this exchange of visits between us may occur. As I have said so often before, the longest journey begins with a single step--and I believe that such visits would reassure an anxious world that our two nations are each striving toward the goal of peace. So let it be said and let it be known that wherever America has responsibility, wherever America has opportunity, we shall be found always trying. So I believe it is for the long effort ahead-not for the end of the passing moment--that our great national consensus has formed and will actually be preserved.
  • In division, there is never strength. In differences, there is no sure seed of progress. In unity our strength lies and on unity our hope for success rests. So let us never forget that unity is the legacy of our American democracy. Through the veins of America flows the blood of all mankind--from every continent, every culture, every creed. If we built no more arms, or no more cities, or no more industries, or no more farms, we would be remembered through the ages for the understanding that we have built in human hearts. It is in the heart that America lives and has its being--and it is there that we must work, all together and each of us alone. We must work for the understanding, the tolerance, and the spirit of benevolence and brotherly love that will assure every man fulfillment and dignity and honor whatever his origins, however he spells his name, whatever his beliefs, whatever his color, whatever his endowments. If this be our purpose, and if this be our accomplishment, then our society will be great.

University of Kentucky speech (February 1965)

Written document Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks at the University of Kentucky" (February 22, 1965) online at The American Presidency Project by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley
For our democracy has proven the most powerful secular idea in the history of man. But the record of success does not mean that we will continue to be successful. The spread of freedom does not guarantee freedom will continue to flourish. The fact we have grown does not mean we will continue to grow.
  • I come here today to speak not to posterity but to your generation. In a new and changing world you receive the oldest trust of all. George Washington, in his first Inaugural Address, said: "The destiny of the republican model of government is justly considered... as deeply, as finally staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people." In the years since he spoke the great experiment has prospered. Where we once stood alone, today the sun never sets on free men, or on men struggling to be free. Even where dictators rule, they often find it necessary to use the language of the rights of man and sometimes find it necessary to modify other dictatorships. For our democracy has proven the most powerful secular idea in the history of man. But the record of success does not mean that we will continue to be successful. The spread of freedom does not guarantee freedom will continue to flourish. The fact we have grown does not mean we will continue to grow.
No longer can we ignore the hopes of the poor and the oppressed. And for the first time we have the power to fulfill those hopes. You may witness a rebirth of hope or the ruin of civilization, you may witness the defeat of misery or the destruction of man. These are choices which you, too, are called upon to make.
  • As it has come to every generation of Americans, to your hands--to your willingness to work and sacrifice and dare--will be entrusted the fate of the American experiment. Though the responsibility is the same, your task is different and much more difficult than any that have gone before. First, your world will be a young person's world. Fifty-five percent of the world's population is under the age of 25. By 1968 the average age of an American citizen will have dropped to 25. Your generation, the younger generation, is the world's majority. Second, you inherit a world with the greatest of danger, the largest difficulties, and the most promising destiny in history. No longer can we ignore the hopes of the poor and the oppressed. And for the first time we have the power to fulfill those hopes. You may witness a rebirth of hope or the ruin of civilization, you may witness the defeat of misery or the destruction of man. These are choices which you, too, are called upon to make. Third, as an American citizen today, you are also a citizen of the world. Your cause is truly the cause of all mankind.
  • We are the children of revolution. The history of America is the history of continuing revolution. That revolution has conquered a continent and it has extended democracy. It has given us unmatched mastery over nature, and it has given us the tools to conquer material wants. It has set the stage for a new order of society--devoted to enriching the life of every human being on a scale never before thought possible. True, these revolutions have been peaceful; but they have shaken the entire globe. Our struggle against colonial rule is still reshaping continents. Our achievements have lifted the hopes and ambitions of men who live everywhere, lifted him for a better life. Our political ideas have helped to make "freedom" a rallying cry in every corner of the world. And if the consequences of these forces sometimes cause us difficulty or create danger, then let us not be dismayed. For this is what America is all about; to show the way to the liberation of man from every form of tyranny over his mind, his body, and his spirit. We cannot, and we will not, withdraw from this world. We are too rich, too powerful, and too important. But most important, we are too concerned.
George Washington fought for a Declaration of Independence which said "all men are created equal." It did not say "all Americans," or "all Westerners" or "all white men." All are equal in the eyes of God; and in the right to use their talents, and to provide for their families, and to enjoy freedom. This is our goal in America.
  • I do not speak of the grave and immediate issues of foreign policy, although they concern me constantly. I speak of the great transcendent issues which affect the life of nearly every human being on this planet. We care that men are hungry--not only in Appalachia but in Asia and in Africa and in other spots in the world. We care that men are oppressed--not only among ourselves but wherever man is unjust to man. We care that men should govern themselves and shape their own destinies--not only in Kentucky but in every corner of every continent. We care for peace, not only for ourselves but for every country that is torn by conflict. George Washington fought for a Declaration of Independence which said "all men are created equal." It did not say "all Americans," or "all Westerners" or "all white men." All are equal in the eyes of God; and in the right to use their talents, and to provide for their families, and to enjoy freedom. This is our goal in America. This is our concern, not simply as a matter of national interest or national security. It is part of the moral purpose of the American Nation. So this is the measure of your responsibility. I know that you are willing to accept that responsibility and that you want to share in the life of America. We have always believed that each man could make a difference. This faith in each man's significance is at the root of human dignity. Yet, it is often difficult to see how an individual young person can make a difference in today's world.
  • Science has shown the complexities of nature to be beyond ordinary understanding. World events--the rise and fall of nations--even survival and death--may seem at times beyond ordinary human control. Enormous factories and great cities seem to exist and grow apart from those who run them and live in them. The old, tried values of family and neighborhood and community are imperiled or eroded. Man himself seems to be in danger; trapped between contending forces of science and growth, increasing numbers and movements that he can hardy understand. Yet this is our world. The discoveries are ours. We raised the cities and we reach for the stars. We unveiled the mysteries and wove the intricate patterns of today. It is our central task to make this world serve to enrich the dignity and the value of the human being. We will do this not through riches or position, or power, or comfort. You will find meaning only by sharing in the responsibilities, the dangers, and the passions of your time. A great American told us to ask what we could do for our country. By asking, you will not only help others, you will be ling purpose to your own life.
  • Think with me today of just how much there is to do about us. You must rebuild the cities of America and you must rescue the countryside from destruction. You must wipe out poverty and you must eliminate racial injustice. You must labor for peace and freedom and an end to misery around the world. The Great Society will offer you the chance to do this work. It does not promise luxury and comfort and a life of ease. It does promise every American a chance to enrich his spirit and to share in the great common enterprises of our people.
  • Your energy and your sacrifice are needed. It is our job to tap those resources, and to help provide the chance to serve. We have already begun. Thousands of volunteers are needed today for the Peace Corps--to bring hope and the ideals of freedom to the villages and towns of more than half the world. Thirteen thousand young Americans have already accepted this responsibility in 46 countries. In the next 4 years we hope to double the size of this effort. Five thousand VISTA volunteers are needed this year to enlist in the war against poverty. All our programs for Appalachia will not succeed without the work of individual volunteers that are filled with compassion for their fellows, and a willingness to serve their country. I am so glad that it seems to me that here at the crossroads of this great university is where education and Appalachia meet.
  • Twenty thousand women will be needed, this summer, to help prepare deprived young children for success in school. All of you are needed to organize community action programs--to map the strategy and to carry out the plans for wiping out poverty in each community. The effort to restore and to protect beauty in America demands the volunteer efforts of private citizens, alert to danger, demanding always that nature be respected. In every area of national need the story is almost the same. The Great Society cannot be built--either at home or abroad-by government alone. It needs your sacrifice and it needs your effort. I intend to continue to search for new ways to give all of you a chance to serve your country and your civilization. And I hope to move toward the day when every young American will have the opportunity-and feel the obligation--to give at least a few years of his or her life to the service of others in this Nation and in the world.
  • And you will bring to this work, not only skills and energy, but the most important ingredient of all: the idealism and the vision of the young. Of course, specific problems demand specific answers. Programs must take into account the realities of power and circumstance. But all the practicality in the world is useless unless it is informed by conviction, by high purposes, and by standards which are never sacrificed to immediate gains. Unless this is done we will be submerged in the day-to-day problems and, having solved them, find that we have really solved nothing. For only those who dare to fall greatly, can ever achieve much.
  • So, guided by the great ideals of this country, willing to work and dare to fulfill your dreams, there is really no limit to the expectations of your tomorrow. If you wish a sheltered and uneventful life, then you are living in the wrong generation. No one can promise you calm, or ease, or undisturbed comfort. But we can promise you this. We can promise enormous challenge and arduous struggle, hard labor and great danger. And with them we can promise you, finally, triumph--triumph over all the enemies of mankind.

Special message to Congress on the right to vote (1965)

Government is best which is closest to the people.
The first right and most vital of all our rights is the right to vote.[...] It is from the exercise of this right that the guarantee of all our other rights flows. Unless the right to vote be secure and undenied, all other rights are insecure and subject to denial for all our citizens.
A people divided over the right to vote can never build a Nation united.
We cannot have government for all the people until we first make certain it is government of and by all the people.
Written document Lyndon B. Johnson: "Special Message to the Congress on the Right To Vote" (15 March 1965) online at The American Presidency Project by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley
  • In this same month ninety-five years ago-on March 30, 1870 — the Constitution of the United States was amended for the fifteenth time to guarantee that no citizen of our land should be denied the right to vote because of race or color. The command of the Fifteenth Amendment is unequivocal and its equal force upon State Governments and the Federal Government is unarguable. Section 1 of this Amendment provides: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  • By the oath I have taken "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," duty directs — and strong personal conviction impels — that I advise the Congress that action is necessary, and necessary now, if the Constitution is to be upheld and the rights of all citizens are not to be mocked, abused and denied. I must regretfully report to the Congress the following facts:
    1. That the Fifteenth Amendment of our Constitution is today being systematically and willfully circumvented in certain State and local jurisdictions of our Nation.
    2. That representatives of such State and local governments acting "under the color of law," are denying American citizens the right to vote on the sole basis of race or color.
    3. That, as a result of these practices, in some areas of our country today no significant number of American citizens of the Negro race can be registered to vote except upon the intervention and order of a Federal Court.
    4. That the remedies available under law to citizens thus denied their Constitutional rights — and the authority presently available to the Federal Government to act in their behalf — are clearly inadequate.
    5. That the denial of these rights and the frustration of efforts to obtain meaningful relief from such denial without undue delay is contributing to the creation of conditions which are both inimical to our domestic order and tranquillity and incompatible with the standards of equal justice and individual dignity on which our society stands.
    I am, therefore, calling upon the Congress to discharge the duty authorized in Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment "to enforce this Article by appropriate legislation."
  • The essence of our American tradition of State and local governments is the belief expressed by Thomas Jefferson that Government is best which is closest to the people. Yet that belief is betrayed by those State and local officials who engage in denying the right of citizens to vote. Their actions serve only to assure that their State governments and local governments shall be remote from the people, least representative of the people's will and least responsive to the people's wishes.
  • The challenge now presented is more than a challenge to our Constitution — it is a blatant affront to the conscience of this generation of Americans. Discrimination based on race or color is reprehensible and intolerable to the great American majority. In every national forum, where they have chosen to test popular sentiment, defenders of discrimination have met resounding rejection. Americans now are not willing that the acid of the few shall be allowed to corrode the souls of the many.
  • The purposeful many need not and will not bow to the willful few.
  • In our system, the first right and most vital of all our rights is the right to vote. Jefferson described the elective franchise as "the ark of our safety." It is from the exercise of this right that the guarantee of all our other rights flows. Unless the right to vote be secure and undenied, all other rights are insecure and subject to denial for all our citizens. The challenge to this right is a challenge to America itself. We must meet this challenge as decisively as we would meet a challenge mounted against our land from enemies abroad.
  • In the world, America stands for — and works for — the right of all men to govern themselves through free, uninhibited elections. An ink bottle broken against an American Embassy, a fire set in an American library, an insult committed against our American flag, anywhere in the world, does far less injury to our country and our cause than the discriminatory denial of the right of any American citizen at home to vote on the basis of race or color.
  • The issue presented by the present challenge to our Constitution and our conscience transcends legalism, although it does not transcend the law itself. We are challenged to demonstrate that there are no sanctuaries within our law for those who flaunt it. We are challenged, also, to demonstrate by our prompt, fitting and adequate response now that the hope of our system is not force, not arms, not the might of militia or marshals-but the law itself.
  • Unless we act anew, with dispatch and resolution, we shall sanction a sad and sorrowful course for the future. For if the Fifteenth Amendment is successfully flouted today, tomorrow the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment-the Sixth, the Eighth, indeed, all the provisions of the Constitution on which our system stands — will be subject to disregard and erosion. Our essential strength as a society governed by the rule of law will be crippled and corrupted and the unity of our system hollowed out and left meaningless.
  • For these reasons, therefore, I ask the Congress under the power clearly granted by the Fifteenth Amendment to enact legislation which would:
    1. Strike down restrictions to voting in all elections--Federal, State, and local--which have been used to deny Negroes the right to vote.
    2. Establish in all States and counties where the right to vote has been denied on account of race a simple standard of voter registration which will make it impossible to thwart the Fifteenth Amendment.
    3. Prohibit the use of new tests and devices wherever they may be used for discriminatory purposes.
    4. Provide adequate power to insure, if necessary, that Federal officials can perform functions essential to the right to vote whenever State officials deny that right.
    5. Eliminate the opportunity to delay the right to vote by resort to tedious and unnecessary lawsuits.
    6. Provide authority to insure that properly registered individuals will not be prohibited from voting.
  • Our purpose is not — and shall never be-either the quest for power or the desire to punish. We seek to increase the power of the people over all their governments, not to enhance the power of the Federal Government over any of the people. For the life of this Republic, our people have zealously guarded their liberty against abuses of power by their governments. The one weapon they have used is the mightiest weapon in the arsenal of democracy — the vote. This has been enough, for as Woodrow Wilson said, "The instrument of all reform in America is the ballot."
  • A people divided over the right to vote can never build a Nation united.
  • We cannot have government for all the people until we first make certain it is government of and by all the people.

The American Promise (1965)

Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.
It is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.
At the real heart of battle for equality is a deep-seated belief in the democratic process. Equality depends not on the force of arms or tear gas but upon the force of moral right; not on recourse to violence but on respect for law and order.
We seek and pray for peace. We seek order. We seek unity. But we will not accept the peace of stifled rights, or the order imposed by fear, or the unity that stifles protest. For peace cannot be purchased at the cost of liberty.
I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion. I want to be the President who educated young children to the wonders of their world. I want to be the President who [...]
Address to the US Congress Lyndon B. Johnson: "Special Message to the Congress: The American Promise" (15 March 1965) online at The American Presidency Project by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley
  • I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.
    I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause.
    At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed.
  • Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.
    In our time we have come to live with moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues; issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For with a country as with a person, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?".
  • There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans — not as Democrats or Republicans-we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.
  • This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: "All men are created equal" — "government by consent of the governed" — "give me liberty or give me death." Well, those are not just clever words, or those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives.
    Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man's possessions; it cannot be found in his power, or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, and provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.
    To apply any other test–to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race, his religion or the place of his birth — is not only to do injustice, it is to deny America and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom. Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish, it must be rooted in democracy. The most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country, in large measure, is the history of the expansion of that right to all of our people.
  • Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument : Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.
    Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.
    Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists, and if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application.
    And if he manages to fill out an application he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of State law. And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write.
    For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin.
  • Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books-and I have helped to put three of them there — can ensure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it.
    In such a case our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution. We must now act in obedience to that oath.
  • Open your polling places to all your people.
    Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin.
    Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land.
    There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain.
    There is no moral issue. It is wrong — deadly wrong — to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.
    There is no issue of States rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.
  • The last time a President sent a civil rights bill to the Congress it contained a provision to protect voting rights in Federal elections. That civil rights bill was passed after 8 long months of debate. And when that bill came to my desk from the Congress for my signature, the heart of the voting provision had been eliminated.
    This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, no hesitation and no compromise with our purpose.
    We cannot, we must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to vote in every election that he may desire to participate in. And we ought not and we cannot and we must not wait another 8 months before we get a bill. We have already waited a hundred years and more, and the time for waiting is gone.
  • But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.
  • As a man whose roots go deeply into Southern soil I know how agonizing racial feelings are. I know how difficult it is to reshape the attitudes and the structure of our society. But a century has passed, more than a hundred years, since the Negro was freed. And he is not fully free tonight. It was more than a hundred years ago that Abraham Lincoln, a great president of another party, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact. A century has passed, more than a hundred years, since equality was promised. And yet the Negro is not equal. A century has passed since the day of promise. And the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come. I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come. And when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American.
  • For Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated, how many white families have lived in stark poverty, how many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we have wasted our energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror? So I say to all of you here, and to all in the Nation tonight, that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future. This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all: black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are the enemies and not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too, poverty, disease and ignorance, we shall over, come.
  • For at the real heart of battle for equality is a deep-seated belief in the democratic process. Equality depends not on the force of arms or tear gas but upon the force of moral right; not on recourse to violence but on respect for law and order.
  • We must preserve the right of free speech and the right of free assembly. But the right of free speech does not carry with it, as has been said, the right to holler fire in a crowded theater. We must preserve the right to free assembly, but free assembly does not carry with it the right to block public thoroughfares to traffic. We do have a right to protest, and a right to march under conditions that do not infringe the constitutional rights of our neighbors. And I intend to protect all those rights as long as I am permitted to serve in this office. We will guard against violence, knowing it strikes from our hands the very weapons which we seek — progress, obedience to law, and belief in American values.
  • In Selma as elsewhere we seek and pray for peace. We seek order. We seek unity. But we will not accept the peace of stifled rights, or the order imposed by fear, or the unity that stifles protest. For peace cannot be purchased at the cost of liberty.
  • All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race. And they are going to have those privileges of citizenship regardless of race. But I would like to caution you and remind you that to exercise these privileges takes much more than just legal right. It requires a trained mind and a healthy body. It requires a decent home, and the chance to find a job, and the opportunity to escape from the clutches of poverty. Of course, people cannot contribute to the Nation if they are never taught to read or write, if their bodies are stunted from hunger, if their sickness goes untended, if their life is spent in hopeless poverty just drawing a welfare check. So we want to open the gates to opportunity. But we are also going to give all our people, black and white, the help that they need to walk through those gates.
  • This is the richest and most powerful country which ever occupied the globe. The might of past empires is little compared to ours. But I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion. I want to be the President who educated young children to the wonders of their world. I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of taxeaters. I want to be the President who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election. I want to be the President who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races and all regions and all parties. I want to be the President who helped to end war among the brothers of this earth.
  • Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States it says, in Latin: 'God has favored our undertaking.' God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. But I cannot help believing that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight.

Voting Rights Act signing speech (1965)

It is not enough just to give men rights. They must be able to use those rights in their personal pursuit of happiness.

President Lyndon B. Johnson's Remarks in the Capitol Rotunda at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act (August 6, 1965). Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965. Volume II, entry 394, pp. 811-815. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1966.

  • In 1957, as the leader of the majority in the United States Senate, speaking in support of legislation to guarantee the right of all men to vote, I said, "This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies."
  • This law covers many pages. But the heart of the act is plain. Wherever, by clear and objective standards, States and counties are using regulations, or laws, or tests to deny the right to vote, then they will be struck down. If it is clear that State officials still intend to discriminate, then Federal examiners will be sent in to register all eligible voters. When the prospect of discrimination is gone, the examiners will be immediately withdrawn. And, under this act, if any county anywhere in this Nation does not want Federal intervention it need only open its polling places to all of its people.
  • Presidents and Congresses, laws and lawsuits can open the doors to the polling places and open the doors to the wondrous rewards which await the wise use of the ballot. But only the individual Negro, and all others who have been denied the right to vote, can really walk through those doors, and can use that right, and can transform the vote into an instrument of justice and fulfillment.
  • If you do this, then you will find, as others have found before you, that the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.
  • For it is not enough just to give men rights. They must be able to use those rights in their personal pursuit of happiness.
  • There is no room for injustice anywhere in the American mansion. But there is always room for understanding toward those who see the old ways crumbling. And to them, today, I simply say this: It must come. It is right that it should come. And when it has, you will find that a burden has been lifted from your shoulders, too.

Remarks at the signing of the Immigration Bill (1965)

Remarks at the Signing of the Immigration Bill (3 October 1965)
  • Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ambassador Goldberg, distinguished Members of the leadership of the Congress, distinguished Governors and mayors, my fellow countrymen. We have called the Congress here this afternoon not only to mark a very historic occasion, but to settle a very old issue that is in dispute. That issue is, to what congressional district does Liberty Island really belong; Congressman Farbstein or Congressman Gallagher? It will be settled by whoever of the two can walk first to the top of the Statue of Liberty. This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or really add importantly to either our wealth or our power. Yet it is still one of the most important acts of this Congress and of this administration. For it does repair a very deep and painful flaw in the fabric of American justice. It corrects a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation. Speaker McCormack and Congressman Celler almost 40 years ago first pointed that out in their maiden speeches in the Congress. And this measure that we will sign today will really make us truer to ourselves both as a country and as a people. It will strengthen us in a hundred unseen ways.
  • I have come here to thank personally each Member of the Congress who labored so long and so valiantly to make this occasion come true today, and to make this bill a reality. I cannot mention all their names, for it would take much too long, but my gratitude; and that of this Nation; belongs to the 89th Congress. We are indebted, too, to the vision of the late beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and to the support given to this measure by the then Attorney General and now Senator, Robert F. Kennedy. In the final days of consideration, this bill had no more able champion than the present Attorney General, Nicholas Katzenbach, who, with New York's own "Manny" Celler, and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Congressman Feighan of Ohio, and Senator Mansfield and Senator Dirksen constituting the leadership of the Senate, and Senator Javits, helped to guide this bill to passage, along with the help of the Members sitting in front of me today.
  • This bill says simply that from this day forth those wishing to immigrate to America shall be admitted on the basis of their skills and their close relationship to those already here. This is a simple test, and it is a fair test. Those who can contribute most to this country; to its growth, to its strength, to its spirit; will be the first that are admitted to this land. The fairness of this standard is so self-evident that we may well wonder that it has not always been applied. Yet the fact is that for over four decades the immigration policy of the United States has been twisted and has been distorted by the harsh injustice of the national origins quota system. Under that system the ability of new immigrants to come to America depended upon the country of their birth. Only 3 countries were allowed to supply 70 percent of all the immigrants. Families were kept apart because a husband or a wife or a child had been born in the wrong place. Men of needed skill and talent were denied entrance because they came from southern or eastern Europe or from one of the developing continents. This system violated the basic principle of American democracy; the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man. It has been un-American in the highest sense, because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country. Today, with my signature, this system is abolished. We can now believe that it will never again shadow the gate to the American nation with the twin barriers of prejudice and privilege. Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide. The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources; because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples. And from this experience, almost unique in the history of nations, has come America's attitude toward the rest of the world. We, because of what we are, feel safer and stronger in a world as varied as the people who make it up; a world where no country rules another and all countries can deal with the basic problems of human dignity and deal with those problems in their own way. Now, under the monument which has welcomed so many to our shores, the American nation returns to the finest of its traditions today. The days of unlimited immigration are past. But those who do come will come because of what they are, and not because of the land from which they sprung.
  • When the earliest settlers poured into a wild continent there was no one to ask them where they came from. The only question was: Were they sturdy enough to make the journey, were they strong enough to clear the land, were they enduring enough to make a home for freedom, and were they brave enough to die for liberty if it became necessary to do so? And so it has been through all the great and testing moments of American history. Our history this year we see in Vietnam. Men there are dying; men named Fernandez and Zajac and Zelinko and Mariano and McCormick. Neither the enemy who killed them nor the people whose independence they have fought to save ever asked them where they or their parents came from. They were all Americans. It was for free men and for America that they gave their all, they gave their lives and selves. By eliminating that same question as a test for immigration the Congress proves ourselves worthy of those men and worthy of our own traditions as a nation.
  • So it is in that spirit that I declare this afternoon to the people of Cuba that those who seek refuge here in America will find it. The dedication of America to our traditions as an asylum for the oppressed is going to be upheld. I have directed the Departments of State and Justice and Health, Education, and Welfare to immediately make all the necessary arrangements to permit those in Cuba who seek freedom to make an orderly entry into the United States of America. Our first concern will be with those Cubans who have been separated from their children and their parents and their husbands and their wives and that are now in this country. Our next concern is with those who are imprisoned for political reasons. And I will send to the Congress tomorrow a request for supplementary funds of $12,600,000 to carry forth the commitment that I am making today. I am asking the Department of State to seek through the Swiss government immediately the agreement of the Cuban government in a request to the President of the International Red Cross Committee. The request is for the assistance of the Committee in processing the movement of refugees from Cuba to Miami. Miami will serve as a port of entry and a temporary stopping place for refugees as they settle in other parts of this country. And to all the voluntary agencies in the United States, I appeal for their continuation and expansion of their magnificent work. Their help is needed in the reception and the settlement of those who choose to leave Cuba. The Federal Government will work closely with these agencies in their tasks of charity and brotherhood. I want all the people of this great land of ours to know of the really enormous contribution which the compassionate citizens of Florida have made to humanity and to decency. And all States in this Union can join with Florida now in extending the hand of helpfulness and humanity to our Cuban brothers. The lesson of our times is sharp and clear in this movement of people from one land to another. Once again, it stamps the mark of failure on a regime when many of its citizens voluntarily choose to leave the land of their birth for a more hopeful home in America. The future holds little hope for any government where the present holds no hope for the people. And so we Americans will welcome these Cuban people. For the tides of history run strong, and in another day they can return to their homeland to find it cleansed of terror and free from fear. Over my shoulders here you can see Ellis Island, whose vacant corridors echo today the joyous sound of long ago voices. And today we can all believe that the lamp of this grand old lady is brighter today; and the golden door that she guards gleams more brilliantly in the light of an increased liberty for the people from all the countries of the globe. Thank you very much.

State of the Union Address (1966)

State of the Union Address (12 January 1966).
  • Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the House and the Senate, my fellow Americans. I come before you tonight to report on the State of the Union for the third time. I come here to thank you and to add my tribute, once more, to the nation's gratitude for this, the 89th Congress. This Congress has already reserved for itself an honored chapter in the history of America. Our nation tonight is engaged in a brutal and bitter conflict in Vietnam. Later on I want to discuss that struggle in some detail with you. It just must be the center of our concerns. But we will not permit those who fire upon us in Vietnam to win a victory over the desires and the intentions of all the American people. This nation is mighty enough, its society is healthy enough, its people are strong enough, to pursue our goals in the rest of the world while still building a Great Society here at home. And that is what I have come here to ask of you tonight.
  • I recommend that you provide the resources to carry forward, with full vigor, the great health and education programs that you enacted into law last year. I recommend that we prosecute with vigor and determination our war on poverty. I recommend that you give a new and daring direction to our foreign aid program, designed to make a maximum attack on hunger and disease and ignorance in those countries that are determined to help themselves, and to help those nations that are trying to control population growth. I recommend that you make it possible to expand trade between the United States and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. I recommend to you a program to rebuild completely, on a scale never before attempted, entire central and slum areas of several of our cities in America. I recommend that you attack the wasteful and degrading poisoning of our rivers, and, as the cornerstone of this effort, clean completely entire large river basins. I recommend that you meet the growing menace of crime in the streets by building up law enforcement and by revitalizing the entire federal system from prevention to probation. I recommend that you take additional steps to insure equal justice to all of our people by effectively enforcing nondiscrimination in federal and state jury selection, by making it a serious federal crime to obstruct public and private efforts to secure civil rights, and by outlawing discrimination in the sale and rental of housing. I recommend that you help me modernize and streamline the federal government by creating a new Cabinet-level Department of Transportation and reorganizing several existing agencies. In turn, I will restructure our civil service in the top grades so that men and women can easily be assigned to jobs where they are most needed, and ability will be both required as well as rewarded. I will ask you to make it possible for members of the House of Representatives to work more effectively in the service of the nation through a constitutional amendment extending the term of a Congressman to four years, concurrent with that of the President. Because of Vietnam we cannot do all that we should, or all that we would like to do. We will ruthlessly attack waste and inefficiency. We will make sure that every dollar is spent with the thrift and with the commonsense which recognizes how hard the taxpayer worked in order to earn it. We will continue to meet the needs of our people by continuing to develop the Great Society. Last year alone the wealth that we produced increased $47 billion, and it will soar again this year to a total over $720 billion. Because our economic policies have produced rising revenues, if you approve every program that I recommend tonight, our total budget deficit will be one of the lowest in many years. It will be only $1.8 billion next year. Total spending in the administrative budget will be $112.8 billion. Revenues next year will be $111 billion. On a cash basis—which is the way that you and I keep our family budget—the federal budget next year will actually show a surplus. That is to say, if we include all the money that your government will take in and all the money that your government will spend, your government next year will collect one-half billion dollars more than it will spend in the year 1967. I have not come here tonight to ask for pleasant luxuries or for idle pleasures. I have come here to recommend that you, the representatives of the richest nation on earth, you, the elected servants of a people who live in abundance unmatched on this globe, you bring the most urgent decencies of life to all of your fellow Americans.
  • There are men who cry out, 'We must sacrifice'. Well, let us rather ask them: Who will they sacrifice? Are they going to sacrifice the children who seek the learning, or the sick who need medical care, or the families who dwell in squalor now brightened by the hope of home? Will they sacrifice opportunity for the distressed, the beauty of our land, the hope of our poor? Time may require further sacrifices. And if it does, then we will make them. But we will not heed those who wring it from the hopes of the unfortunate here in a land of plenty. I believe that we can continue the Great Society while we fight in Vietnam. But if there are some who do not believe this, then, in the name of justice, let them call for the contribution of those who live in the fullness of our blessing, rather than try to strip it from the hands of those that are most in need. And let no one think that the unfortunate and the oppressed of this land sit stifled and alone in their hope tonight. Hundreds of their servants and their protectors sit before me tonight here in this great chamber. The Great Society leads us along three roads—growth and justice and liberation. First is growth—the national prosperity which supports the well-being of our people and which provides the tools of our progress. I can report to you tonight what you have seen for yourselves already—in every city and countryside. This nation is flourishing. Workers are making more money than ever—with after-tax income in the past five years up 33 percent; in the last year alone, up 8 percent. More people are working than ever before in our history—an increase last year of two and a half million jobs. Corporations have greater after-tax earnings than ever in history. For the past five years those earnings have been up over 65 percent, and last year alone they had a rise of 20 percent. Average farm income is higher than ever. Over the past five years it is up 40 percent, and over the past year it is up 22 percent alone.
  • I was informed this afternoon by the distinguished Secretary of the Treasury that his preliminary estimates indicate that our balance of payments deficit has been reduced from $2.8 billion in 1964 to $1.3 billion, or less, in 1965. This achievement has been made possible by the patriotic voluntary cooperation of businessmen and bankers working with your government. We must now work together with increased urgency to wipe out this balance of payments deficit altogether in the next year. And as our economy surges toward new heights we must increase our vigilance against the inflation which raises the cost of living and which lowers the savings of every family in this land. It is essential, to prevent inflation, that we ask both labor and business to exercise price and wage restraint, and I do so again tonight. I believe it desirable, because of increased military expenditures, that you temporarily restore the automobile and certain telephone excise tax reductions made effective only 12 days ago. Without raising taxes—or even increasing the total tax bill paid—we should move to improve our withholding system so that Americans can more realistically pay as they go, speed up the collection of corporate taxes, and make other necessary simplifications of the tax structure at an early date.
  • I hope these measures will be adequate. But if the necessities of Vietnam require it, I will not hesitate to return to the Congress for additional appropriations, or additional revenues if they are needed. The second road is justice. Justice means a man's hope should not be limited by the color of his skin. I propose legislation to establish unavoidable requirements for nondiscriminatory jury selection in federal and state courts—and to give the Attorney General the power necessary to enforce those requirements. I propose legislation to strengthen authority of federal courts to try those who murder, attack, or intimidate either civil rights workers or others exercising their constitutional rights—and to increase penalties to a level equal to the nature of the crime. Legislation, resting on the fullest constitutional authority of the federal government, to prohibit racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. For that other nation within a nation—the poor—whose distress has now captured the conscience of America, I will ask the Congress not only to continue, but to speed up the war on poverty. And in so doing, we will provide the added energy of achievement with the increased efficiency of experience. To improve the life of our rural Americans and our farm population, we will plan for the future through the establishment of several new Community Development Districts, improved education through the use of Teacher Corps teams, better health measures, physical examinations, and adequate and available medical resources.
  • For those who labor, I propose to improve unemployment insurance, to expand minimum wage benefits, and by the repeal of section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act to make the labor laws in all our states equal to the laws of the 31 states which do not have tonight right-to-work measures. And I also intend to ask the Congress to consider measures which, without improperly invading state and local authority, will enable us effectively to deal with strikes which threaten irreparable damage to the national interest. The third path is the path of liberation. It is to use our success for the fulfillment of our lives. A great nation is one which breeds a great people. A great people flower not from wealth and power, but from a society which spurs them to the fullness of their genius. That alone is a Great Society. Yet, slowly, painfully, on the edge of victory, has come the knowledge that shared prosperity is not enough. In the midst of abundance modern man walks oppressed by forces which menace and confine the quality of his life, and which individual abundance alone will not overcome. We can subdue and we can master these forces—bring increased meaning to our lives—if all of us, government and citizens, are bold enough to change old ways, daring enough to assault new dangers, and if the dream is dear enough to call forth the limitless capacities of this great people.
  • This year we must continue to improve the quality of American life. Let us fulfill and improve the great health and education programs of last year, extending special opportunities to those who risk their lives in our armed forces. I urge the House of Representatives to complete action on three programs already passed by the Senate—the Teacher Corps, rent assistance, and home rule for the District of Columbia. In some of our urban areas we must help rebuild entire sections and neighborhoods containing, in some cases, as many as 100,000 people. Working together, private enterprise and government must press forward with the task of providing homes and shops, parks and hospitals, and all the other necessary parts of a flourishing community where our people can come to live the good life. I will offer other proposals to stimulate and to reward planning for the growth of entire metropolitan areas. Of all the reckless devastations of our national heritage, none is really more shameful than the continued poisoning of our rivers and our air. We must undertake a cooperative effort to end pollution in several river basins, making additional funds available to help draw the plans and construct the plants that are necessary to make the waters of our entire river systems clean, and make them a source of pleasure and beauty for all of our people. To attack and to overcome growing crime and lawlessness, I think we must have a stepped-up program to help modernize and strengthen our local police forces. Our people have a right to feel secure in their homes and on their streets—and that right just must be secured. Nor can we fail to arrest the destruction of life and property on our highways.
  • I will propose a Highway Safety Act of 1966 to seek an end to this mounting tragedy. We must also act to prevent the deception of the American consumer—requiring all packages to state clearly and truthfully their contents—all interest and credit charges to be fully revealed—and keeping harmful drugs and cosmetics away from our stores. It is the genius of our Constitution that under its shelter of enduring institutions and rooted principles there is ample room for the rich fertility of American political invention. We must change to master change. I propose to take steps to modernize and streamline the executive branch, to modernize the relations between city and state and nation. A new Department of Transportation is needed to bring together our transportation activities. The present structure—35 government agencies, spending $5 billion yearly—makes it almost impossible to serve either the growing demands of this great nation or the needs of the industry, or the right of the taxpayer to full efficiency and real frugality. I will propose in addition a program to construct and to flight-test a new supersonic transport airplane that will fly three times the speed of sound—in excess of 2,000 miles per hour. I propose to examine our federal system-the relation between city, state, nation, and the citizens themselves. We need a commission of the most distinguished scholars and men of public affairs to do this job. I will ask them to move on to develop a creative federalism to best use the wonderful diversity of our institutions and our people to solve the problems and to fulfill the dreams of the American people. As the process of election becomes more complex and more costly, we must make it possible for those without personal wealth to enter public life without being obligated to a few large contributors. Therefore, I will submit legislation to revise the present unrealistic restriction on contributions—to prohibit the endless proliferation of committees, bringing local and state committees under the act—to attach strong teeth and severe penalties to the requirement of full disclosure of contributions—and to broaden the participation of the people, through added tax incentives, to stimulate small contributions to the party and to the candidate of their choice.
  • To strengthen the work of Congress I strongly urge an amendment to provide a four-year term for Members of the House of Representatives—which should not begin before 1972. The present two-year term requires most members of Congress to divert enormous energies to an almost constant process of campaigning—depriving this nation of the fullest measure of both their skill and their wisdom. Today, too, the work of government is far more complex than in our early years, requiring more time to learn and more time to master the technical tasks of legislating. And a longer term will serve to attract more men of the highest quality to political life. The nation, the principle of democracy, and, I think, each congressional district, will all be better served by a four-year term for members of the House. And I urge your swift action. Tonight the cup of peril is full in Vietnam. That conflict is not an isolated episode, but another great event in the policy that we have followed with strong consistency since World War II. The touchstone of that policy is the interest of the United States—the welfare and the freedom of the people of the United States. But nations sink when they see that interest only through a narrow glass. In a world that has grown small and dangerous, pursuit of narrow aims could bring decay and even disaster. An America that is mighty beyond description—yet living in a hostile or despairing world—would be neither safe nor free to build a civilization to liberate the spirit of man. In this pursuit we helped rebuild Western Europe. We gave our aid to Greece and Turkey, and we defended the freedom of Berlin. In this pursuit we have helped new nations toward independence. We have extended the helping hand of the Peace Corps and carried forward the largest program of economic assistance in the world. And in this pursuit we work to build a hemisphere of democracy and of social justice. In this pursuit we have defended against Communist aggression—in Korea under President Truman—in the Formosa Straits under President Eisenhower—in Cuba under President Kennedy—and again in Vietnam.
  • Tonight Vietnam must hold the center of our attention, but across the world problems and opportunities crowd in on the American Nation. I will discuss them fully in the months to come, and I will follow the five continuing lines of policy that America has followed under its last four Presidents. The first principle is strength. Tonight I can tell you that we are strong enough to keep all of our commitments. We will need expenditures of $58.3 billion for the next fiscal year to maintain this necessary defense might. While special Vietnam expenditures for the next fiscal year are estimated to increase by $5.8 billion, I can tell you that all the other expenditures put together in the entire federal budget will rise this coming year by only $0.6 billion. This is true because of the stringent cost-conscious economy program inaugurated in the Defense Department, and followed by the other departments of government. A second principle of policy is the effort to control, and to reduce, and to ultimately eliminate the modern engines of destruction. We will vigorously pursue existing proposals—and seek new ones—to control arms and to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. A third major principle of our foreign policy is to help build those associations of nations which reflect the opportunities and the necessities of the modern world. By strengthening the common defense, by stimulating world commerce, by meeting new hopes, these associations serve the cause of a flourishing world. We will take new steps this year to help strengthen the Alliance for Progress, the unity of Europe, the community of the Atlantic, the regional organizations of developing continents, and that supreme association—the United Nations. We will work to strengthen economic cooperation, to reduce barriers to trade, and to improve international finance.
  • A fourth enduring strand of policy has been to help improve the life of man. From the Marshall Plan to this very moment tonight, that policy has rested on the claims of compassion, and the certain knowledge that only a people advancing in expectation will build secure and peaceful lands. This year I propose major new directions in our program of foreign assistance to help those countries who will help themselves. We will conduct a worldwide attack on the problems of hunger and disease and ignorance. We will place the matchless skill and the resources of our own great America, in farming and in fertilizers, at the service of those countries committed to develop a modern agriculture. We will aid those who educate the young in other lands, and we will give children in other continents the same head start that we are trying to give our own children. To advance these ends I will propose the International Education Act of 1966. I will also propose the International Health Act of 1966 to strike at disease by a new effort to bring modern skills and knowledge to the uncared—for, those suffering in the world, and by trying to wipe out smallpox and malaria and control yellow fever over most of the world during this next decade; to help countries trying to control population growth, by increasing our research—and we will earmark funds to help their efforts. In the next year, from our foreign aid sources, we propose to dedicate $1 billion to these efforts, and we call on all who have the means to join us in this work in the world.
  • The fifth and most important principle of our foreign policy is support of national independence—the right of each people to govern themselves—and to shape their own institutions. For a peaceful world order will be possible only when each country walks the way that it has chosen to walk for itself. We follow this principle by encouraging the end of colonial rule. We follow this principle, abroad as well as at home, by continued hostility to the rule of the many by the few—or the oppression of one race by another. We follow this principle by building bridges to Eastern Europe. And I will ask the Congress for authority to remove the special tariff restrictions which are a barrier to increasing trade between the East and the West. The insistent urge toward national independence is the strongest force of today's world in which we live. In Africa and Asia and Latin America it is shattering the designs of those who would subdue others to their ideas or their will. It is eroding the unity of what was once a Stalinist empire. In recent months a number of nations have east out those who would subject them to the ambitions of mainland China. History is on the side of freedom and is on the side of societies shaped from the genius of each people. History does not favor a single system or belief—unless force is used to make it so. That is why it has been necessary for us to defend this basic principle of our policy, to defend it in Berlin, in Korea, in Cuba—and tonight in Vietnam.
  • For tonight, as so many nights before, young Americans struggle and young Americans die in a distant land. Tonight, as so many nights before, the American Nation is asked to sacrifice the blood of its children and the fruits of its labor for the love of its freedom. How many times—in my lifetime and in yours—have the American people gathered, as they do now, to hear their President tell them of conflict and tell them of danger? Each time they have answered. They have answered with all the effort that the security and the freedom of this nation required. And they do again tonight in Vietnam. Not too many years ago Vietnam was a peaceful, if troubled, land. In the North was an independent Communist government. In the South a people struggled to build a nation, with the friendly help of the United States. There were some in South Vietnam who wished to force Communist rule on their own people. But their progress was slight. Their hope of success was dim. Then, little more than six years ago, North Vietnam decided on conquest. And from that day to this, soldiers and supplies have moved from North to South in a swelling stream that is swallowing the remnants of revolution in aggression. As the assault mounted, our choice gradually became clear. We could leave, abandoning South Vietnam to its attackers and to certain conquest, or we could stay and fight beside the people of South Vietnam. We stayed. And we will stay until aggression has stopped.
  • We will stay because a just nation cannot leave to the cruelties of its enemies a people who have staked their lives and independence on America's solemn pledge—a pledge which has grown through the commitments of three American Presidents. We will stay because in Asia and around the world are countries whose independence rests, in large measure, on confidence in America's word and in America's protection. To yield to force in Vietnam would weaken that confidence, would undermine the independence of many lands, and would whet the appetite of aggression. We would have to fight in one land, and then we would have to fight in another—or abandon much of Asia to the domination of Communists. And we do not intend to abandon Asia to conquest.
  • Last year the nature of the war in Vietnam changed again. Swiftly increasing numbers of armed men from the North crossed the borders to join forces that were already in the South. Attack and terror increased, spurred and encouraged by the belief that the United States lacked the will to continue and that their victory was near. Despite our desire to limit conflict, it was necessary to act: to hold back the mounting aggression, to give courage to the people of the South, and to make our firmness clear to the North. Thus. we began limited air action against military targets in North Vietnam. We increased our fighting force to its present strength tonight of 190,000 men. These moves have not ended the aggression but they have prevented its success. The aims of the enemy have been put out of reach by the skill and the bravery of Americans and their allies—and by the enduring courage of the South Vietnamese who, I can tell you, have lost eight men last year for every one of ours. The enemy is no longer close to victory. Time is no longer on his side. There is no cause to doubt the American commitment. Our decision to stand firm has been matched by our desire for peace.
  • In 1965 alone we had 300 private talks for peace in Vietnam, with friends and adversaries throughout the world. Since Christmas your government has labored again, with imagination and endurance, to remove any barrier to peaceful settlement. For 20 days now we and our Vietnamese allies have dropped no bombs in North Vietnam. Able and experienced spokesmen have visited, in behalf of America, more than 40 countries. We have talked to more than a hundred governments, all 113 that we have relations with, and some that we don't. We have talked to the United Nations and we have called upon all of its members to make any contribution that they can toward helping obtain peace. In public statements and in private communications, to adversaries and to friends, in Rome and Warsaw, in Paris and Tokyo, in Africa and throughout this hemisphere, America has made her position abundantly clear. We seek neither territory nor bases, economic domination or military alliance in Vietnam. We fight for the principle of self-determination—that the people of South Vietnam should be able to choose their own course, choose it in free elections without violence, without terror, and without fear. The people of all Vietnam should make a free decision on the great question of reunification. This is all we want for South Vietnam. It is all the people of South Vietnam want. And if there is a single nation on this earth that desires less than this for its own people, then let its voice be heard. We have also made it clear—from Hanoi to New York—that there are no arbitrary limits to our search for peace. We stand by the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962. We will meet at any conference table, we will discuss any proposals—four points or 14 or 40—and we will consider the views of any group. We will work for a cease-fire now or once discussions have begun. We will respond if others reduce their use of force, and we will withdraw our soldiers once South Vietnam is securely guaranteed the right to shape its own future. We have said all this, and we have asked—and hoped—and we have waited for a response. So far we have received no response to prove either success or failure.
  • We have carried our quest for peace to many nations and peoples because we share this planet with others whose future, in large measure, is tied to our own action, and whose counsel is necessary to our own hopes. We have found understanding and support. And we know they wait with us tonight for some response that could lead to peace. I wish tonight that I could give you a blueprint for the course of this conflict over the coming months, but we just cannot know what the future may require. We may have to face long, hard combat or a long, hard conference, or even both at once. Until peace comes, or if it does not come, our course is clear. We will act as we must to help protect the independence of the valiant people of South Vietnam. We will strive to limit the conflict, for we wish neither increased destruction nor do we want to invite increased danger. But we will give our fighting men what they must have: every gun, and every dollar, and every decision—whatever the cost or whatever the challenge. And we will continue to help the people of South Vietnam care for those that are ravaged by battle, create progress in the villages, and carry forward the healing hopes of peace as best they can amidst the uncertain terrors of war. And let me be absolutely clear: The days may become months, and the months may become years, but we will stay as long as aggression commands us to battle. There may be some who do not want peace, whose ambitions stretch so far that war in Vietnam is but a welcome and convenient episode in an immense design to subdue history to their will. But for others it must now be clear—the choice is not between peace and victory, it lies between peace and the ravages of a conflict from which they can only lose.
  • The people of Vietnam, north and south, seek the same things, the shared needs of man, the needs for food and shelter and education—the chance to build and work and till the soil, free from the arbitrary horrors of battle, the desire to walk in the dignity of those who master their own destiny. For many painful years, in war and revolution and infrequent peace, they have struggled to fulfill those needs. It is a crime against mankind that so much courage, and so much will, and so many dreams, must be flung on the fires of war and death. To all of those caught up in this conflict we therefore say again tonight, 'Let us choose peace, and with it the wondrous works of peace, and beyond that, the time when hope reaches toward consummation, and life is the servant of life'. In this work, we plan to discharge our duty to the people whom we serve. This is the State of the Union. But over it all—wealth, and promise, and expectation—lies our troubling awareness of American men at war tonight.
  • How many men who listen to me tonight have served their nation in other wars? How very many are not here to listen? The war in Vietnam is not like these other wars. Yet, finally, war is always the same. It is young men dying in the fullness of their promise. It is trying to kill a man that you do not even know well enough to hate. Therefore, to know war is to know that there is still madness in this world.
  • Many of you share the burden of this knowledge tonight with me. But there is a difference. For finally I must be the one to order our guns to fire, against all the most inward pulls of my desire. For we have children to teach, and we have sick to be cured, and we have men to be freed. There are poor to be lifted up, and there are cities to be built, and there is a world to be helped. Yet we do what we must. I am hopeful, and I will try as best I can, with everything I have got, to end this battle and to return our sons to their desires. Yet as long as others will challenge America's security and test the clearness of our beliefs with fire and steel, then we must stand or see the promise of two centuries tremble. I believe tonight that you do not want me to try that risk. And from that belief your President summons his strength for the trials that lie ahead in the days to come. The work must be our work now. Scarred by the weaknesses of man, with whatever guidance God may offer us, we must nevertheless and alone with our mortality, strive to ennoble the life of man on earth. Thank you, and goodnight.

Statement on the Freedom of Information Act (1966)


"Statement by the President Upon Signing the "Freedom of Information Act" (4 July 1966) online at The American Presidency Project by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley

  • A democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest. At the same time, the welfare of the Nation or the rights of individuals may require that some documents not be made available. As long as threats to peace exist, for example, there must be military secrets. A citizen must be able in confidence to complain to his Government and to provide information, just as he is–and should be–free to confide in the press without fear of reprisal or of being required to reveal or discuss his sources.
  • I have always believed that freedom of information is so vital that only the national security, not the desire of public officials or private citizens, should determine when it must be restricted.
  • I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded.

Letter to Ho Chi Minh (1967)

Letter from President Johnson to Ho Chi Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, February 8, 1967
  • I am writing to you in the hope that the conflict in Vietnam can be brought to an end. That conflict has already taken a heavy toll-in lives lost, in wounds inflicted, in property destroyed, and in simple human misery. If we fail to find a just and peaceful solution, history will judge us harshly.
  • Therefore, I believe that we both have a heavy obligation to seek earnestly the path to peace. It is in response to that obligation that I am writing directly to you.
  • We have tried over the past several years, in a variety of ways and through a number of channels, to convey to you and your colleagues our desire to achieve a peaceful settlement. For whatever reasons, these efforts have not achieved any results. . . .
  • In the past two weeks, I have noted public statements by representatives of your government suggesting that you would be prepared to enter into direct bilateral talks with representatives of the U.S. Government, provided that we ceased "unconditionally" and permanently our bombing operations against your country and all military actions against it. In the last day, serious and responsible parties have assured us indirectly that this is in fact your proposal.
  • Let me frankly state that I see two great difficulties with this proposal. In view of your public position, such action on our part would inevitably produce worldwide speculation that discussions were under way and would impair the privacy and secrecy of those discussions. Secondly, there would inevitably be grave concern on our part whether your government would make use of such action by us to improve its military position.
  • With these problems in mind, I am prepared to move even further towards an ending of hostilities than your Government has proposed in either public statements or through private diplomatic channels. I am prepared to order a cessation of bombing against your country and the stopping of further augmentation of U.S. forces in South Viet-Nam as soon as I am assured that infiltration into South Viet-Nam by land and by sea has stopped. These acts of restraint on both sides would, I believe, make it possible for us to conduct serious and private discussions leading toward an early peace.
  • I make this proposal to you now with a specific sense of urgency arising from the imminent New Year holidays in Viet-Nam. If you are able to accept this proposal I see no reason why it could not take effect at the end of the New Year, or Tet, holidays. The proposal I have made would be greatly strengthened if your military authorities and those of the Government of South Viet-Nam could promptly negotiate an extension of the Tet truce.
  • As to the site of the bilateral discussions I propose, there are several possibilities. We could, for example, have our representatives meet in Moscow where contacts have already occurred. They could meet in some other country such as Burma. You may have other arrangements or sites in mind, and I would try to meet your suggestions.
  • The important thing is to end a conflict that has brought burdens to both our peoples, and above all to the people of South Viet-Nam. If you have any thoughts about the actions I propose , it would be most important that I receive them as soon as possible.

National Farmers Union Convention remarks (March 1968)

President Johnson's address at the Leamington Hotel. (March 18, 1968). Source: Remarks to Delegates to the National Farmers Union Convention in Minneapolis, The American Presidency Project.
  • I think, I hope, I believe I know what the farmer wants--and I want the farmer to have it. I think that all of you want a fair price for your products--and if I have the power, you will have it. I think that all of you want assurance that rising costs will not wipe out a lifetime investment--and I pledge you that if I can help you, every resource of mine you will have, including assurances that we will do everything that we can to control rising costs. You want parity--you want a fair deal-you want an even chance to share in the rich and good life of this Nation--and I want you to have it. You want the justice, the decency, and the opportunity that every American has the right to claim as his native right--and you will have them. And so long as I am your President, you will always have my understanding, my admiration, and my wholehearted support in fighting with you to try to reach these goals. And we know that it will be a fight.
  • There are some people in this country who have forgotten that without farms there would be no factories. There are some people who must know that without our people, there would be no cities. There are those who no longer believe, it seems, in the partnership between the farmer and the Government--who tell us, on the airwaves from time to time, that we should "Get the Government out of agriculture." There are those who fail to realize that many of the problems of urban America are a reflection of the failures in rural America. And when you get the Government out of agriculture, you sometimes get the farmer off the farm. You know--as I know--that the farmer's problems are the problems of all America, and not any one group. And you know that the solutions to those problems are going to require the sympathy, the understanding, and the help of each good American in this country. So I did my spring planting a little early this year. Three weeks ago, the President sent to the Congress a message on the farmer and rural America. Just as I asked the mayors and the businessmen and other good Americans to read the report made by the national disorder commission on the problems in the cities, I ask each of you and all of you to get a copy of that message, and read the farm program outlined in that message. Try to help us preserve this freedom for the farmer and a reasonable amount of prosperity for his family. Now, when you read that message, or when you see that message, much of it is going to sound familiar to the Farmers Union, because you and your leaders designed much of it, recommended much of it, and supported all of it.
  • I asked Congress to extend the supply management programs of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1965, and I asked them to extend it this year. Chairman Poage tells me that his committee will give consideration to these recommendations shortly. We hope that with his assistance, and with Walter Mondale's assistance, with the help of all the Minnesota delegation, we can get permanent authority. The farmer should not be asked to grow more than the market can take at a fair price. I have asked the Congress to continue the direct payment programs of the 1965 act-they are the difference between profit and loss for many farmers each year. I have asked the Congress to extend the Food for Freedom Act for an additional 3 years--because it is right for this Nation, whose sons came from many nations, to try to help hungry people eat when we have an abundance--and because I think it is good business for our farmers to help build new markets for our products in other lands around the world. I have asked the Congress to authorize a National Food Bank--a security reserve for wheat, feed grains, soybeans--which would give the farmer higher prices, protect the consumer from food scarcities and shortages, and provide the Government with an emergency food "cushion" in reaching supply-management decisions so we would not get caught short when we had a bad estimate. I have asked the Congress to find the ways to give the farmer more bargaining power in the marketplace. Our working people and our good laboring friends in this country have not met all their needs or their desires. They still have many objectives and goals that we want to help them reach. But the reason the farmer's income does not compare favorably with a laboring man's income is one reason, primarily, in my judgment: Labor has bargaining power; the farmer has none. If you are to continue to pay the prices that industry charges and sets, if you are to continue to pay the wages that American workers are entitled to get, you are going to have to be put on an equal basis with industry and labor in bargaining power. As you have so many times in the past, the Farmers Union has joined with us to help us to work, strive, and fight in order to get bargaining power for the American farmer. Finally, I have asked the Congress for the programs to bring parity of opportunity to the rural children in America; to give them better elementary education; to give them better library facilities; to give them better transportation; to give us better farm credit; to give us more rural jobs; to give us decent housing; to give us adequate diets, with adequate consumer protection for the housewives; to give us the chance to lead a full and productive life.
Some voices today express doubt that the American farm and the American farmer can survive. They say that we must sacrifice that priceless heritage--that American dream--on the altar of progress. I say that they are just as wrong as they can possibly be.
  • The average farm family doesn't ask for much: the right to earn enough to clothe the bodies of their children, and to fill the stomachs of their hungry; to provide a roof over their house where they live; to have a school that their children can attend and a church where they can worship according to the dictates of their own conscience; and occasional recreation--to ride a boat, to see a movie, or some little something once in a while. That is not asking much. It is not too much. But until we get it, we are not going to be satisfied--and we are going to fight together--until we reach those goals, until we reach those objectives. During the months to come, you are going to hear these programs cussed--you may hear something cussed besides programs, too--and you are going to hear them discussed. I tell you now, it is not going to be easy to pass them. It is going to be harder this session than it would be in a normal session, because some of you may remember that there is something coming up down the road in November. Some voices today express doubt that the American farm and the American farmer can survive. They say that we must sacrifice that priceless heritage--that American dream--on the altar of progress. I say that they are just as wrong as they can possibly be. If the farmers of America will only wake up and speak up courageously and forcefully in their own behalf--if we and you together have the patience and the determination, and the good, common horse sense to preserve, improve, and build upon the progress we have made in our agricultural programs-if we trust our hopes instead of relying on our fears and the demagogues who would mislead us, American agriculture can grow and prosper as it has never grown before. I believe--and I have been in most of the 50 States of this Union, and I am just a few hours away from rural America at this moment--that rural America stands for the very best in all America.
  • For many years we have been engaged in a struggle in Southeast Asia to stop the onrushing tide of Communist aggression. We faced it when the Greek Communists were a few miles out of Athens a few years ago. We faced it when we had to fly zero weather into Berlin to feed the people when that city was beleaguered and cut off. We faced it on the Pusan Peninsula when our men were fighting for the hills of Korea and everybody said, "They are not worth it." We fight Communist aggression the same today in Southeast Asia. This tide threatens to engulf that part of the world, and to affect the safety of every American home. It threatens our own security and it threatens the security of every nation allied with us. The blood of our young men this hour is being shed on that soil. They know why they are there. I read 100 letters from them every week. They do not have the doubts that some at home preach. They have seen the enemy's determination. They have felt his thrust trying to conquer those who want to be left alone to determine their government for themselves, but whom the aggressor has marched over to try to envelop. Our fighting men know, from the evidence in their eyes, that we face a ruthless enemy. You make a serious mistake if you underestimate that enemy, his cause, and the effect of his conquest. They know from the carnage of the enemy's treacherous assaults that he has no feelings about deliberate murder of innocent women and children in the villages and the cities of South Vietnam. They are not misled by propaganda or by the effort to gloss over the actions of an enemy who, I remind each of you, has broken every truce, and who makes no secret whatever of his intention and his determination to conquer by force and by aggression his neighbors to the south. At the same time, during these past 4 years, we have made remarkable strides here at home. We have opened the doors of freedom, full citizenship, and opportunity, to 30 million minority people, and we have sustained the highest level of prosperity for the longest period of time ever known. But the time has come this morning when your President has come here to ask you people, and all the other people of this Nation, to join us in a total national effort to win the war, to win the peace, and to complete the job that must be done here at home. I ask all of you to join in a program of national austerity to insure that our economy will prosper and that our fiscal position will be sound.
I believe all peoples want peace. I know that our peoples want peace, because we are a peace-loving nation. There is none among you who desires peace more than your own President and your own Vice President. We hope to achieve an honorable peace and a just peace at the negotiating table. But wanting peace, praying for peace, and desiring peace, as Chamberlain found out, doesn't always give you peace.
  • I am consulting with the Congress now on proposals for savings in our national budget--in nondefense, non-Vietnam, in other items all across the board. If I can get the help of the Congress--and it is their will---we shall make reductions in that budget. They will postpone many needed actions that all of us would like to see taken in another time. All travel outside the Western Hemisphere by Government officials and by all private citizens which is not absolutely essential to you should, in the interest of your country, be postponed. I have already called for savings and cuts in expenditures and investments abroad by private corporations. We are going to intensify this program. We have spent the weekend in an attempt to deal with the very troublesome gold problem. We have said that we are no longer going to be a party to encouraging the gold gambler or the gold speculator. Most of all, I ask your help, and I come here to plead for your patriotic support, for our men, our sons, who are bearing the terrible burden of battle in Vietnam. We seek not the victory of conquest, but we do seek the triumph of justice--the right of neighbors to be left alone; the right to determine for themselves what kind of a government to have. We seek that right and we will--make no mistake about it--win. I am deeply aware of the yearning throughout this country, in every home of this land and throughout the Western world, for peace in the world. I believe all peoples want peace. I know that our peoples want peace, because we are a peace-loving nation. There is none among you who desires peace more than your own President and your own Vice President. We hope to achieve an honorable peace and a just peace at the negotiating table. But wanting peace, praying for peace, and desiring peace, as Chamberlain found out, doesn't always give you peace. If the enemy continues to insist, as he does now--when he refuses to sit down and accept the fair proposition we made, that we would stop our bombing if he would sit down and talk promptly and productively-if he continues to insist, as he does now, that the outcome must be determined on the battlefield, then we will win peace on the battlefield by supporting our men who are doing that job there now. We have a constitutional system. A majority of Americans have the right to select the leaders of their own choosing. That is all we are asking for in South Vietnam.
  • Your President welcomes suggestions from committees, from commissions, from Congress, from private individuals, from clubs, from anyone who has a plan or program that can stand inspection and can offer us any hope of successfully reaching our goal, which is peace in the world. We consider them all, long and late. We work every day of every week trying to find the answer. But when aggressors in the world are on the march, as they were in World War I and II, as they were in Korea, as they were in Berlin, and as they were in other places in our national history, then we must unite until we convince them that they know they cannot win the battle in South Vietnam from our boys, as they are trying to win the battle from our leaders here in Washington in this country. That is very dangerous for them, to think for a moment that they can attack the moral fiber of our own country to the point where our people will not support the policy of their own Government, of their own men whom they have committed to battle. You may not have a boy in that battle that is going on now---or you may. But whether you do or you don't, our policy ought to be the same. We ought not let them win something in Washington that they can't win in Hue, in the I Corps, or in Khe Sanh. And we are not going to.
  • Now, this one final word: We ask every Senator, every Congressman, every farmer, and every businessman to join with us in our program of trying to unite this Nation, and trying to support our commitments and our own security. We thought in the early years of World War I, before the Lusitania was sunk, that we had no concern with what happened across the waters. But we soon found out that we couldn't stand on that position. We thought in World War II that we had no concern with what Hitler was doing in other parts of the world, and he wasn't very dangerous anyway, and we could sit this one out. But we soon found that we lived in a very small world. Even though we hadn't gone beyond our shores, they sank our fleet at Pearl Harbor. We soon learned that we must never permit an aggressor's appetite to go uncontrolled because the person he eats up today may make him more hungry for you tomorrow. We want peace and we are ready to meet now, this minute. But you may want peace with your neighbor, too, and you may be willing to go across the road and into his yard to try to talk him into it. But if he keeps his door barred and every time you call him the call goes unanswered, and he refuses to meet you halfway, your wanting peace with him won't get it for you. So as long as he feels that he can win something by propaganda in the country--that he can undermine the leadership-that he can bring down the government--that he can get something in the capital that he can't get from our men out there--he is going to keep on trying.
  • There are good, sincere, genuine people who believe that there are plans that could bring us to peace soon. Some think that we ought to get it over with, with a much wider war. We have looked at those plans, and looked at them carefully. We have looked at the possible danger of involving another million men. We have tried to evaluate how you could get it over with, with less cost than we are now paying. We do not seek a wider war. We do not think that is a wise course. There is another extreme that thinks that you can just have peace by talking for it, by wishing for it, by saying you want it, and all you need to do is to pull back to the cities. We had that plan tested in the Tet offensive. They killed thousands and thousands in the cities. Those of you who think that you can save lives by moving the battlefield in from the mountains to the cities where the people live have another think coming. If you think you can stop aggression by getting out of its way and letting them take over, roll over you, you have another think coming, too. Most of these people don't say, "Cut and run." They don't say, "Pull out." They don't want a wider war. They don't want to do more than we are doing. They say that they want to do less than we are doing. But we are not doing enough to win it the way we are doing it now, and we are constantly trying to find additional things that it is reasonable, and prudent, and safe to do. So you have one extreme that says, "Let's go in with flags flying and get it over with quickly, regardless of the dangers involved." You have another group that says, "We are doing too much. Let's pull out. Let's be quiet. We want peace." Then you have a third group that says, "We don't want to conquer you. We don't want to destroy your nation. We don't want to divide you. We just want to say to you that we have an obligation. We have signed 42 alliances with people of the world. We have said that when an aggressor comes across this line to try to dominate other people, and they call on us to help, we are going to come and help, until you decide to leave your neighbors alone."
  • We think that we are making progress on getting them to decide. They think they are making progress on getting us to decide to give up and pull out. But I think they will find out in the days ahead that we are reasonable people, that we are fair people, that we are not folks who want to conquer the world. We don't seek one acre of anybody else's soil. We love nothing more than peace, but we hate nothing more than surrender and cowardice. We don't ask anybody else to surrender. We just ask them to sit down and talk, meet at a family table and try to work out our differences. But we don't plan to surrender, either; we don't plan to pull out, either; we don't plan to let people influence us, pressure us, and force us to divide our Nation in a time of national peril. The hour is here. This Government has the best diplomats. This Government has the best generals. This Government has the best admirals. This Government has the best resources in every corner of the globe. Although I have had more Secretaries of State than any President in modern times, or more would-be Secretaries of State, I still think this Government has one of the most able and patriotic men I have ever known sitting in that chair, and I think his policy is sound. So as we go back to our homes, let's go back dedicated to achieving peace in the world, trying to get a fair balance here at home, trying to make things easier and better for our children than we had them, but, above all, trying to preserve this American system, which is first in the world today. I want it to stay first, but it cannot be first if we pull out and tuck our tail and violate our commitments.

Televised speech declining re-nomination (March 31, 1968)

I am a free man, an American, a public servant, and a member of my party, in that order always and only.
We must always be mindful of this one thing, whatever the trials and the tests ahead. The ultimate strength of our country and our cause will lie not in powerful weapons or infinite resources or boundless wealth, but will lie in the unity of our people.
  • Of those to whom much is given, much is asked. I cannot say and no man could say that no more will be asked of us.
  • I believe that we must always be mindful of this one thing, whatever the trials and the tests ahead. The ultimate strength of our country and our cause will lie not in powerful weapons or infinite resources or boundless wealth, but will lie in the unity of our people.
  • Throughout my entire public career I have followed the personal philosophy that I am a free man, an American, a public servant, and a member of my party, in that order always and only. For 37 years in the service of our Nation, first as a Congressman, as a Senator, and as Vice President, and now as your President, I have put the unity of the people first. I have put it ahead of any divisive partisanship. And in these times as in times before, it is true that a house divided against itself by the spirit of faction, of party, of region, of religion, of race, is a house that cannot stand.
  • What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust, selfishness, and politics among any of our people. Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year. With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office — the Presidency of your country. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.

Remarks on the Civil Rights Act (1968)

  • In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we affirmed through law that men equal under God are also equal when they seek a job, when they go to get a meal in a restaurant, or when they seek lodging for the night in any State in the Union.
  • In the Civil Rights Act of 1965, we affirmed through law for every citizen in this land the most basic right of democracy—the right of a citizen to vote in an election in his country. In the five States where the Act had its greater impact, Negro voter registration has already more than doubled.


  • It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.


If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.
Negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days and that's a problem for us since they've got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we've got to do something about this.
I'll have them niggers voting Democratic for two hundred years.
  • As long as you are black, and you're gonna be black till the day you die, no one's gonna call you by your goddamn name! So no matter what you are called, nigger, you just let it roll off your back like water, and you’ll make it! Just pretend you're a goddamn piece of furniture!
    • Said to his chauffeur, Robert Parker, when Parker said he’d prefer to be referred to by his name rather than "boy," "nigger" or "chief." As quoted in Parker, Robert; Rashke, Richard L. (1989). Capitol Hill in Black and White. United States: Penguin Group. p. v. ISBN 0515101893. Retrieved on 6 January 2015. 
  • These Negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days and that's a problem for us since they've got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we've got to do something about this, we've got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don't move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there'll be no way of stopping them, we'll lose the filibuster and there'll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It'll be Reconstruction all over again.
    • Said to Senator Richard Russell, Jr. (D-GA) regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1957. As quoted in Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1977), by Doris Kearns Goodwin, New York: New American Library, p. 155
  • I'll have them niggers voting Democratic for two hundred years.
    • Said to two governors regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to then-Air Force One steward Robert MacMillan. As quoted in Inside the White House (1996), by Ronald Kessler, New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 33.



Quotes about Johnson

In alphabetical order by author or source.
Like Doctor King, like Abraham Lincoln, like countless citizens who have driven this country inexorably forward, President Johnson knew that ours in the end is a story of optimism, a story of achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. He knew because he had lived that story. He believed that together we can build an America that is more fair, more equal, and more free than the one we inherited. He believed we make our own destiny. And in part because of him, we must believe it as well. ~ Barack Obama
  • I actually have spent the most time reading Robert Caro’s compendium on Lyndon B. Johnson. I think President Johnson was an extraordinary leader and a deeply flawed man who made terrible mistakes and did extraordinary things. The Years of Lyndon Johnson [taught me] the best way to be a leader — whether it’s in politics, or in business, or in life — is to recognize that very few people are one dimensional. We are often comprised of tremendous capacity and terrible fears and failures. I’ve used his journey to really help remind me of how to be a better person, but also, what are the stakes and how far can we reach?
  • Seeking to capture the essence of Johnson and his presidency, Obama revealed something about his own. Johnson was a larger-than-life figure when he was president. In memory, he has sometimes become an even larger presence, one that has been a source of both inspiration and exasperation to those around Obama. The question they hear so often is: Why can’t this president be more like LBJ? Commentators on cable television talk about it all the time. They say Johnson possessed legendary powers of persuasion and a mastery of the legislative process, and they contrast LBJ’s successes in Congress with those of a president whose legislative agenda has repeatedly stalled and whose relationships on Capitol Hill are notably lacking.
  • During the 2012 campaign, Obama’s advisers heard the same thing in focus groups with sympathetic voters. These voters had no truck with the Republican tactics of obstruction, but they wondered why Obama lacked whatever LBJ had. Why couldn’t Obama make the machinery work better? Why couldn’t he cajole and threaten and sweet talk and bully the Congress into action the way Johnson had? Obama is a far different person than Johnson. He is cool, cerebral and detached. Johnson was the earthy, insecure political seducer. Still, it is questionable whether even LBJ could be LBJ in today’s polarized political climate. Could he really have found a way to bring tea party Republicans to the bargaining table with any more success than has Obama? Even some who have studied Johnson’s presidency wonder.
  • Johnson’s presidency will always be shadowed by the tragedy of the Vietnam War and the domestic civil unrest it triggered. But his domestic achievements now compete for attention in the shaping of his legacy, though as Obama noted, the Great Society remains a source of debate and disagreement 50 years on. The record of Obama’s presidency is still incomplete. How much more will his remaining days in office answer the question Johnson posed with such passion half a century ago?
  • This year, while House Speaker Paul D. Ryan helped to shape the Trump proposal, the president did not show deep knowledge of the bill and relied largely on congressional Republicans to manage its progress. By contrast, Mr. Johnson mastered the details of his own legislation, and through inspiration, arm twisting and other maneuvering, pushed it through the House and Senate despite powerful opponents like the American Medical Association. Whereas Mr. Trump tried to ram his bill quickly through the House, Mr. Johnson patiently orchestrated a six-month effort to circumvent the reefs and shoals of the legislative process. And unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson would never have dreamed of sending a White House aide to harangue his party caucus to support his bill. Mr. Trump did little to suggest that he had an emotional commitment to transform health care in the United States. Mr. Johnson’s passion came naturally. He had suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1955, and his life was saved by the excellent doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was keenly aware that had he not been a United States senator or otherwise well-to-do, he might well have died at age 46. By fighting for Medicare, Mr. Johnson was building on the efforts of earlier presidents of his own party. Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy had both tried to persuade Congress to approve government-backed health insurance.
  • We know that Mr. Trump dismissed the counsel of some advisers not to risk his entire legislative program by asking Congress for a controversial bill so early. Mr. Johnson was advised to sequence his demands for federal aid to education, his War on Poverty and other issues so that the House and Senate would not be bombarded by them all at once. But Mr. Johnson insisted on striking on all of them while the iron was hot. He warned aides that despite his electoral landslide and congressional majorities, lawmakers would soon resent him for compelling them to cast votes that might infuriate the voters back home. He predicted that by the time they came back from their August recess, they would be in a rebellious mood. Unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson knew many of the members well, and understood instinctively, without coaching, how to appeal, behind closed doors, to both their aspirations and their fears in order to persuade them not to obstruct his Medicare plan, phoning them in their beds long before dawn.
  • At his best, Lyndon Johnson was one of the greatest of all American presidents. He did more for racial justice than any president since Abraham Lincoln. He built more social protections than anyone since Franklin Roosevelt. He was probably the greatest legislative politician in American history, but he was also one of the most ambitious idealists. He had the rare ability to understand his own flaws and limitations, and he worked hard to overcome them. During the battle over the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a reporter asked him why he was fighting so strenuously for a cause to which he had previously demonstrated only a faint commitment. Johnson replied, “Some people get a chance late in life to correct the sins of their youth, and very few get a chance as big as the White House.” Johnson sought power not just to have it, but to use it to accomplish great things — and for a while he was spectacularly successful. But Johnson was not always at his best. He could be crude, overbearing, arrogant and often cruel. He harbored deep resentments that frequently undermined his own stature. He had terrible relations with the press. He was personally (and sexually) reckless in ways that make Bill Clinton seem a model of rectitude. He pushed his staff and his congressional colleagues so relentlessly that his legislative achievements were often rushed and deeply flawed. And, of course, he was largely responsible for one of the greatest disasters in American history: a war in Vietnam that he inherited, escalated, fiercely defended and failed to examine with the same courage and clarity of mind that he brought to so many other issues. He was, paradoxically, at once one of America’s most successful presidents and one of its most conspicuous failures.
  • Among Woods’s many achievements in this fine biography is to allow us to see not only the enormous, tragic flaws in this extraordinary man, but also the greatness.
  • When Lyndon Johnson -- President Johnson -- spoke here in 1964, he addressed issues that remain with us. He proposed revitalizing cities, rejuvenating schools, trampling down the hoary harvest of racism, and protecting our environment -- back in 1964. He applied the wisdom of his time to these challenges. He believed that cadres of experts really could care for the millions. And they would calculate ideal tax rates, ideal rates of expenditures on social programs, ideal distributions of wealth and privilege. And in many ways, theirs was an America by the numbers: If the numbers were right, America was right. And gradually, we got to the point of equating dollars with commitment. And when programs failed to produce progress, we demanded more money. And in time, this crusade backfired. Programs designed to ensure racial harmony generated animosity. Programs intended to help people out of poverty invited dependency. We should have learned that while the ideals behind the Great Society were noble -- and indeed they were -- the programs weren't always up to the task. We need to rethink our approach. Let's tell our people: We don't want an America by the numbers. We don't want a land of loopholes. We want a community of commitment and trust.
  • During the sixties and seventies we did really learn that change was possible. Not, ultimately, the kind of change we really wanted. I shouldn't put it that way. I should say not enough change because change did occur within the sphere of the law, which was extremely important. But we did not experience the economic change and other modes of structural change that we will need in order to begin to root out racism. That's the thing. How can movements pressure even the most reluctant politicians? Well, Lyndon B. Johnson, who was the president during that era he was a reluctant southern politician who clearly assented to racism. But it was under his administration that important laws were passed. So I think movements can indeed force reluctant politicians to take steps.
    • Angela Davis Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2015)
  • lame-duck president Lyndon Johnson sat cloistered in his White House, guarded by armed marines, protected from the chants outside on Pennsylvania Avenue: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"
  • Bobby doubted Johnson's liberalism, thought him insufficiently liberal. Ted Kennedy did not; in fact, Johnson's new liberal fervor seemed to have stoked Ted's and made him more liberal than he had been during his own brother's administration. He was catching the gust of liberal wind. And Johnson appreciated the support, even as he curried it.
    • Neal Gabler, Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975 (2020), p. 256
  • In this respect, Ted Kennedy was more like Lyndon Johnson than like his brothers. He was laying down his marker on the Senate as Johnson had. He was demonstrating that he could make the institution work. It was as if he was seeking to escape the politics of charisma that his brothers had personified and that had, arguably, cost them their lives; as if he was seeking reposition himself as a pol, not a messiah, burying himself in Senate drudgery, retreating into the institution, following Johnson's lead and Humphrey's, both of whom had been whips, protecting himself physically but also spiritually. It was totally uncharacteristic for a Kennedy to do so. No Kennedy had ever been an institutionalist, much less an errand boy.
    • Neal Gabler, Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975 (2020), p. 434
  • An extraordinarily gifted president who was the wrong man from the wrong place at the wrong time under the wrong circumstances.
  • Johnson was a dirty fighter. Any campaign with him in it would involve a lot of innuendo and lies. Johnson was a wheeler-dealer. Neither he nor anyone else could change that. That's what he was. And Johnson was a treacherous boot. He'd slap you on the back today and stab you in the back tomorrow. Moreover, LBJ was dull. He was a lousy public speaker. The man didn't believe half of what he said. He was a hypocrite, and it came through in the hollowness of his speech. LBJ made me sick.
  • And we need to remind people — and I’m saying this because I would say this anywhere in the country — we need to remind people that Texas Democrats are Texas tough. You are Texas tough. Tough like Texan President Lyndon B. Johnson — whose family is here with us. Luci Baines Johnson — I spent time with them earlier at the library — a leader in her own right, who reminds us every time that President Johnson, he never backed down from the hardest fights. Against fierce opposition, he worked beside leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, the labor movement, mobilizing Americans to enact the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid. Think about how tough he and you were to understand the odds against getting any of that done — the inability of a lot of people to be able to see that it was possible. But you and he did.
  • The reaction to Bob Woodward’s new book Fear has been almost completely devoid of historical context. The very folks who are trying to convince us, based on Woodward’s account, that Donald Trump is unhinged are ignoring the fact that Trump is hardly the first American president to have temperamental deficiencies. Many of Trump’s alleged personality-related problems are not new in presidential history. Presenting his eccentricities as evidence of a constitutional crisis reflects a clear bias of omission by those doing the reporting.
  • Johnson was unquestionably an insecure man. A graduate of Southwest Texas State Teachers College, he’d forever felt inferior to anyone with an Ivy League degree, especially if their last name was Kennedy.
  • As noted previously, Lyndon Johnson and Woodrow Wilson are ranked among the top 11 presidents in American history. Yet how much did their personality flaws actually inhibit their overall records of accomplishment? The same question must be asked of Donald Trump.
  • President Obama is no President Lyndon Johnson — and wouldn't be even if he tried. To those who might wish the president would emulate Johnson's hands-on approach with Congress, Obama and his supporters say the times — and the Republicans — have changed too much in the past five decades. "LBJ does not live in these times, and Obama would be a stranger in his," says former Johnson aide Bill Moyers. Memories of the Johnson presidency are in vogue. Obama will speak next week at a conference on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the president occasionally hears a variation of this question: Why can't you be more like LBJ?
  • There are also stylistic differences between LBJ and Obama. The earthy, rough-hewn Texan often applied what came to be known as "the Johnson treatment," leaning into people, rubbing their elbows, cajoling, threatening and sometimes even begging lawmakers to do his bidding. It's hard to imagine the bookish, professorial Obama grabbing someone by the lapels and pulling him (or her) close in – and harder still to imagine that style might be effective today.
  • Mr. Speaker, as a proud Texan, I rise today to pay tribute to Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States and the greatest "Education President" in the history of our Nation. It is no exaggeration to say, Mr. Speaker, that Lyndon Baines Johnson's record of extending the benefits of education to all Americans in every region of the country, of every race and gender, irrespective of economic class or family background, remains unsurpassed. Lyndon Johnson recognized that the educated citizenry is a nation's greatest economic asset and most powerful guardian of its political liberties. Mr. Speaker, Lyndon Johnson did more than any single American, living or dead, to make the federal government a partner with states and localities in the vitally important work of educating the people of America, from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate school. It makes perfect sense, therefore, to name the headquarters building of the U.S. Department of Education in his honor.
  • Mr. Speaker, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who died January 22, 1973, will be remembered not only as a great President and Member of Congress, but also as the greatest champion of accessible and affordable quality education for all. President Johnson truly understood the importance of leaving no child behind, and he didn't. For all these reasons, Mr. Speaker, it is most appropriate that the House voted to rename the headquarters building of the Department of Education located at 400 Maryland Avenue Southwest in the District of Columbia as the "Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building."
  • Between 1825 until the late 1960s, the prison population is stable and pretty low. In the late 1960s you've got all these scholars and activists talking about the end of prison. People are talking about the prison as being over. You have to think about how the United States went from the end of prison to, all of a sudden, the largest jailer in the whole world. And that's because of a set of bipartisan policies, but really takes off with Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson wants to fight the war on poverty, and he gives in on creating a war on crime arm of the war on poverty. And what do the Republicans do, which they always do so well? They defund the poverty angle and keep the war on crime.
  • I know that some of us who came to adulthood calling Lyndon Baines Johnson a fascist have a perspective problem, one which Reagan and Bush have helped us address.
  • The 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and President Johnson's 1967 Executive Order 11375, which strengthened enforcement of the policy barring hiring discrimination on the basis of sex, removed the last major legal hurdles for women who wanted to work in the mines.
  • The basic insights central to our current understanding date back to the beginning of the second half of the nineteenth century, and the first scientific breakthroughs demonstrating that burning carbon could be warming the planet were made in the late 1950s. In 1965, the concept was so widely accepted among specialists that U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson was given a report from his Science Advisory Committee warning that, "Through his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment. ... The climatic changes that may be produced by the increased CO₂ content could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings."
    • Naomi Klein This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014)
  • Even those who believe LBJ laid the groundwork for a more compassionate nation have to concede that the Great Society promised “an end to poverty and racial injustice,” which makes it, by definition, a failure. It was also an electoral loser for decades. Although Vietnam was the primary culprit, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were both elected, at least in part, because voters wanted law and order amidst a rising crime rate and heightened cultural anxiety and urban unrest. There was also the sense that the welfare state was too large and that big government liberalism had overreached its mandate.
  • Fast-forward to 2021: Joe Biden is riding high, and LBJ is back in vogue—as are many of the same issues he championed (in a sense, an ironic reminder of his failure to fix them). Voting rights and civil rights are front-page news. Police shootings and threats of riots abound. And we are spending money that would have made LBJ blush. Years of congressional gridlock and stasis have caused many to yearn for a “master of the Senate” who can steamroll the opposition and pass landmark legislation. Does Biden have what it takes to finally right our sinking ship?
  • Even if Biden avoids all of those dangers, Johnson’s legacy remains flawed. Biden might think he can simply give up on the war in Afghanistan, but the war on poverty is the real “forever war.” As the progressive outlet Mother Jones noted a few years ago, “The government’s official measure of poverty shows that poverty has actually increased slightly since the Johnson administration, rising from 14.2 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012” (although if you include “additional non-cash government aid from safety net programs,” the poverty rate fell during that time). It is impressive that LBJ enacted nearly 200 new laws in such a short timespan. That copious output, coupled with its enduring legacy (Medicaid and Medicare, for example), make Johnson a consequential president. They do not, however, make him a good one. If the goal was to win the war on poverty, we didn’t achieve it—we are still stuck in a quagmire.
  • While Lyndon Baines Johnson was a man of time and place, he felt the bitter paradox of both. I was a young man on his staff in 1960 when he gave me a vivid account of that southern schizophrenia he understood and feared. We were in Tennessee. During the motorcade, he spotted some ugly racial epithets scrawled on signs. Late that night in the hotel, when the local dignitaries had finished the last bottles of bourbon and branch water and departed, he started talking about those signs. "I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it," he said. "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."
    Some years later when Johnson was president, there was a press conference in the East Room. A reporter unexpectedly asked the president how he could explain his sudden passion for civil rights when he had never shown much enthusiasm for the cause. The question hung in the air. I could almost hear his silent cursing of a press secretary who had not anticipated this one. But then he relaxed, and from an instinct no assistant could brief — one seasoned in the double life from which he was delivered and hoped to deliver others — he said in effect: Most of us don't have a second chance to correct the mistakes of our youth. I do and I am. That evening, sitting in the White House, discussing the question with friends and staff, he gestured broadly and said, "Eisenhower used to tell me that this place was a prison. I never felt freer."
    In those days, our faith was in integration. The separatist cries would come later, as white flight and black power ended the illusion that an atmosphere of genuine acceptance and respect across color lines would overcome in our time the pernicious effects of a racism so deeply imbedded in American life. But Lyndon Johnson championed that faith. He thought the opposite of integration was not just segregation but disintegration — a nation unraveling.
  • Lyndon Johnson was not known as a great orator, but 50 years ago today he stood before graduates at the University of Michigan and described his vision of "the Great Society" — a more humane society that "demands an end to poverty and racial injustice." In his efforts to achieve those goals he enacted programs like Medicare, food stamps and the Voting Rights Act, giving Johnson an image of legislative effectiveness that every president since has been measured against.
  • Mr. Obama’s critics also often fault him for failing to twist arms in Congress as effectively as Johnson, who has been mythologized as pushing the "Great Society" agenda into law by sheer force of will. In reality, Johnson’s historic legislative accomplishments were enabled by enormous Democratic majorities in Congress, especially after the 1964 election. When those majorities diminished, so too did his influence, as Mr. Obama himself pointed out this year. For these reasons, the frequent comparisons made between the two presidents are unfair. Beyond the changes in how politics works over the last 50 years, the circumstances were never as favorable for the current president, who took office with more modest demand for a liberal agenda, smaller Congressional majorities and a far more unified opposition party. Unsurprisingly, those constraints breed frustration among Obama supporters and puzzlement among observers who wonder why he can’t do what L.B.J. did. At some point, however, they will come to realize that Obama can’t change public opinion or push bills through Congress by sheer force of will – and neither could Johnson.
  • As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it. There are also those who argue, John, that nothing has changed; that racism is so embedded in our DNA that there is no use trying politics — the game is rigged. Yes, it’s true that, despite laws like the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, our society is still racked with division and poverty. Yes, race still colors our political debates, and there have been government programs that have fallen short. In a time when cynicism is too often passed off as wisdom, it’s perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change; that we are trapped by our own history; and politics is a fool’s errand, and we’d be better off if we roll back big chunks of LBJ’s legacy, or at least if we don’t put too much of our hope, invest too much of our hope in our government. I reject such thinking. Not just because Medicare and Medicaid have lifted millions from suffering; not just because the poverty rate in this nation would be far worse without food stamps and Head Start and all the Great Society programs that survive to this day. I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of LBJ’s efforts. Because Michelle has lived out the legacy of those efforts. Because my daughters have lived out the legacy of those efforts. Because I and millions of my generation were in a position to take the baton that he handed to us. Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody — not all at once, but they swung open. Not just blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability. They swung open for you, and they swung open for me. And that’s why I’m standing here today — because of those efforts, because of that legacy. And that means we’ve got a debt to pay. That means we can’t afford to be cynical. Half a century later, the laws LBJ passed are now as fundamental to our conception of ourselves and our democracy as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are foundational; an essential piece of the American character.
    • Barack Obama, in remarks by the President at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit at Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas (10 April 2014)
  • In so many ways, he embodied America, with all our gifts and all our flaws, in all our restlessness and all our big dreams. This man — born into poverty, weaned in a world full of racial hatred — somehow found within himself the ability to connect his experience with the brown child in a small Texas town; the white child in Appalachia; the black child in Watts. As powerful as he became in that Oval Office, he understood them. He understood what it meant to be on the outside. And he believed that their plight was his plight too; that his freedom ultimately was wrapped up in theirs; and that making their lives better was what the hell the presidency was for. And those children were on his mind when he strode to the podium that night in the House Chamber, when he called for the vote on the Civil Rights law. “It never occurred to me,” he said, “in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students” that he had taught so many years ago, “and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance. And I’ll let you in on a secret — I mean to use it. And I hope that you will use it with me.” That was LBJ’s greatness. That’s why we remember him. And if there is one thing that he and this year’s anniversary should teach us, if there’s one lesson I hope that Malia and Sasha and young people everywhere learn from this day, it’s that with enough effort, and enough empathy, and enough perseverance, and enough courage, people who love their country can change it.
    • Barack Obama, in remarks by the President at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit at Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas (10 April 2014)
  • Like Dr. King, like Abraham Lincoln, like countless citizens who have driven this country inexorably forward, President Johnson knew that ours in the end is a story of optimism, a story of achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. He knew because he had lived that story. He believed that together we can build an America that is more fair, more equal, and more free than the one we inherited. He believed we make our own destiny. And in part because of him, we must believe it as well.
    • Barack Obama, in remarks by the President at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit at Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas (10 April 2014)
  • What are the similarities and differences between Presidents Johnson and Kennedy? Both are political pros who exude confidence and, generally speaking, embrace the same broad philosophies. But Kennedy was an idealist; Johnson is a pragmatist. Kennedy was a voracious reader, a stickler for detail; Johnson has little patience to read, he hits at the heart of a problem rather than get enmeshed in detail. Kennedy had little luck with Congress; Johnson's 32 years' experience on Capitol Hill caught him how to handle lawmakers. Kennedy's foreign-policy style had a continental touch; Johnson's has the flavor of a Texas barbeque.
  • The president, LBJ, went on TV to declare 7 April a Day of National Mourning. This was the same man who had ordered thousands of US citizens - black and white - overseas to die in a foreign jungle while he ignored the war at home. Our president was obviously a man of violence. Why shouldn't the rest of us be the same?
  • He was just awful — so jealous, so disagreeable and ugly.
  • I sleep each night a little better, a little more confidently because Lyndon Johnson is my President. For I know he lives and thinks and works to make sure that for all America and indeed, the growing body of the free world, the morning shall always come.
    • Jack Valenti, special assistant to the president, address before the Advertising Federation of America convention, Boston, Massachusetts (June 28, 1965), Congressional Record (July 7, 1965), vol. 111, Appendix, p. A3583
  • Following the trail of some of these transactions resembles the action in a Western movie, where the cowboys ride off in a cloud of dust to the south, the herd stampedes northeastward, the Indians start to westward but, once out of sight, circle toward the north, the rustlers drift eastward and the cavalry, coming to the rescue, gets lost entirely—all over stony ground leaving little trace.
    • Keith Wheeler and Michael Lambert, discussing Johnson's financial transactions, in "The Man Who Is President," part 2, Life (August 21, 1964), p. 69
  • Johnson who had compromised too many contradictions and now the contradictions were in his face: when he smiled the corners of his mouth squeezed gloom; when he was pious, his eyes twinkled irony; when he spoke in a righteous tone, he looked corrupt; when he jested, the ham in his jowls looked to quiver. He was not convincing. He was a Southern politician, a Texas Democrat, a liberal Eisenhower; he would do no harm, he would do no good, he would react to the machine, good fellow, nice friend — the Russians would understand him better than his own. ... Johnson gave you all of himself, he was a political animal, he breathed like an animal, sweated like one, you knew his mind was entirely absorbed with the compendium of political fact and maneuver.
  • You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down—up to a man’s age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order—or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course. In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the “Great Society,” or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a “greater government activity in the affairs of the people.” But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves—and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say “the Cold War will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism.” Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. Senator Fulbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best.
  • [Former President] Lyndon Johnson in many respects was a very, very good president. Domestically he brought forth some major pieces of legislation. He chose not to run in ’68 because of opposition to his views on Vietnam, and I worry very much that President Biden is putting himself in a position where he has alienated, not just young people, but a lot of the Democratic base, in terms of his views on Israel and this war.
  • It was LBJ who pushed through the civil rights bills in 1957, 1964 and 1965 that finally gave African Americans the same rights (at least on paper) as white America. On the other hand, there can be no question that Johnson was a racist who looked down on people of color as inferior.
  • Johnson was a man of his time, and bore those flaws as surely as he sought to lead the country past them. For two decades in Congress he was a reliable member of the Southern bloc, helping to stonewall civil rights legislation.
  • As one of our interviewers... says... once you kill a sitting president in high noon in Dealey Plaza and blow his head off, you're not going to go back to normal... After Kennedy was killed, and nobody asked... what was Kennedy's real policy on Vietnam? Well... he was going to pull out of Vietnam. He was very clear about it, and that's what people get confused. Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, who took over the office went right to war quickly. He went to a far more aggressive posture of Vietnam, which resulted in more-- It was a lie, another lie, and that war was a disaster... Unfortunately, the same forces that made that war happen continued in our life, and they controlled us and pushed us into another war and another war and another war... we propagandize an enemy, make him far bigger than he is, and I don't know what we're fighting.
  • He was a vice president of a charismatic president adored by liberals. He had a long record in the Senate, with a history of savvy deal-making that was seen as an asset to a less experienced younger president, a newcomer to Washington. And as he ran for the presidency in his own right, he was distrusted by a left newly ascendant in their party. That distrust was born of a record on race that seemed anachronistic to a younger generation. That description of Lyndon Johnson could easily be used for Joe Biden. And in that symmetry is a lesson for liberals. Because as president, Johnson would have the most effective progressive record on race and class of any Democratic president in the past 80 years. The foundational principles of modern liberalism — civil rights and greater economic equality — took further strides during Johnson’s presidency than any since the New Deal.
  • Johnson was a candidate characterized as moderate who defeated an extreme Republican and thereby created a large scale governing mandate to pass popular, large scale structural changes to redress inequality and racism. There are lessons here for today’s liberals. It is to concentrate on and work toward the margin victory. A moderate president with strong margins in the House and Senate can achieve many more liberal goals than a liberal without the Senate. We live in a time of extreme polarization, so a Johnson-like landslide may not be possible. But if there’s an event that can scramble that kind of polarization, it is a global pandemic that an incumbent president badly mismanages.
  • Our 36th and 46th presidents share a number of key things in common. Lyndon Johnson and Joe Biden both got elected to Congress before the age of 30, achieved great prominence in the Senate, and became vice presidents to charismatic, younger leaders who represented generational change. They also rose to become president, promulgating ambitious domestic agendas and leading a divided nation through turbulent times. Johnson and Biden might also share something else in common; there has been wide speculation that Biden might step down from the presidency after a single term, becoming the first incumbent president to opt not to run for re-election since Johnson announced that he would not be a candidate 55 years ago today.
  • Johnson’s reasons for not running in 1968 were principally rooted to his health. He had suffered a nearly fatal heart attack in 1955, at age 46, and was acutely aware that his father and paternal grandfather had both died of heart attacks at age 62. (As it stood, Johnson died of a heart attack at 64, four years and two days after leaving the presidency). He was also conscious of the crises the country had endured when Roosevelt died unexpectedly of a stroke in 1945 and when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke in 1919 that had left him largely incapacitated. Of course, there was also the issue of the Vietnam War, which dogged Johnson’s presidency and polarized the country as he steadily escalated U.S. involvement. Johnson saw not running for re-election as an overture to the North Vietnamese to agree to peace talks, which until then, had eluded him. And surely he knew that his campaign for re-election would further divide America. As Lady Bird Johnson said of his decision, “I saluted him for being clearheaded enough to see that he wasn’t the man at that particular time who could unite the country.” It’s different for Biden who is in good health and can’t be expected to unite an America whose divisions are largely intractable. But he, as much as anyone, can ensure that America remains sound and true to our most basic ideals during a pivotal time. Johnson chose not to run in 1968 “with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day.” Biden should run for re-election for the same reasons.
  • Lyndon Johnson had fallen into popular disfavor by the time Nixon succeeded him in the White House; but in succeeding Kennedy, winning a landslide over Goldwater, and pushing through Congress not only Kennedy's remaining initiatives but his own Great Society program, Johnson had been by late 1965 perhaps literally more powerful than any of his predecessors. The Tonkin Gulf resolution he maneuvered through Congress left him and for a while Nixon virtually a free hand in Indochina; and in waging one of the biggest wars in American history without Congressional declaration, Johnson notably expanded the already extensive "war powers" of the presidency.
    • Tom Wicker, One Of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream (1991), p. 677
  • Johnson ran as the peace candidate in 1964, promising to get us out of Vietnam or at least to stop any escalation of American involvement there. The opposite happened. Johnson promised that Medicare would be efficiently run and financially self-sustaining. The opposite happened. Johnson said that his Great Society programs would usher in a new kind of America, one in which government-directed investments in anti-poverty campaigns and educational projects would not only lift up the poor but would, by helping them to maximize their own economic value, lift the entire country, too. The opposite, or something close to it, happened there, too. Johnson, who in Congress had opposed not only a great deal of civil-rights legislation but even anti-lynching bills, would in 1964 reinvent himself as a civil-rights champion. It is pleasant to think that, in whatever afterlife he finds himself in, he is both amused and pleased to see himself politically reincarnated as a black man.
  • The key difference is that while Johnson may have been a rotten S.O.B., he knew what he was doing, more or less. He didn’t fumble into Vietnam in 1965 — he lied about his intentions in 1964. He was sufficiently intelligent, and sufficiently a man of the Senate, to understand that the particulars of legislative architecture were going to be the deciding factor in the success or the failure of his programs. He knew that they would have to be revisited over the years. He was a deeply weird man — and a monster — but he was also a resident of the real world. Barack Obama? Less so.
  • Nixon’s law-and-order message wasn’t just about urban riots. It was a repudiation of the governing party for its alleged part in the general unraveling of peace, prosperity and order. The late 1960s brought mounting inflation and racial unrest, campus uprisings, a sharp spike in crime, an emerging sexual revolution and court-mandated expansion of personal liberties—all set against the backdrop of a controversial war in Vietnam that the government seemed unable to win or exit. The incumbent president, Lyndon B. Johnson, and by extension, his vice president, Hubert Humphrey, had presided over the very social unraveling that many voters were eager to reverse. This was Nixon’s opening—his appeal to swing voters, especially. Now, as in 1968, the violence of the past several days has revealed a broader pattern of social and political dissolution. Unemployment stands at 14.7 percent. Over 100,000 Americans lie dead of Covid, with no end in sight to the pandemic. Americans are bitterly divided by race, ethnicity and partisan affiliation. A foreign nation, Russia, has all but declared asymmetrical warfare against the United States. What the journalist Walter Lippmann said in 1968—“the world has never been more disorderly within memory of living man”—might credibly be said today. One key difference: Today, the candidate demanding “law and order” is the one who couldn’t preserve it. Like Johnson before him, Trump’s is the party in power—the party that has failed to provide peace, prosperity and social order. Republicans control the executive branch, the Senate and the Supreme Court. They alone own the chaos, rancor and instability that many voters have come to abhor and dread. Trump campaigns like Richard Nixon and George Wallace, but in reality, he is Lyndon B. Johnson: a man who has lost control of the machine.
  • Unlike Johnson, Trump has proved stubbornly indifferent to the responsibilities of governing. He shuns expertise, science, data or any of the other assets a typical president avails himself of. He has little in the way of achievement that he can point to. He thrives on division, where LBJ sought to make America a more inclusive place for people of color, the poor and the left behind. In this regard, the two men are night and day, both in how they’ve executed the job and the moral bearing they brought to it. But if Trump walks like Nixon and talks like Wallace, he looks a lot like Lyndon B. Johnson, a president who by 1968 seemed unable to put the country back together. If what today’s Middle Americans (or, in Nixon’s words, “forgotten Americans”) want is an end to the violence, drama and discord, this week’s unrest may ultimately benefit the one candidate who has built his brand on a basis of empathy, shared sacrifice and loss and a sunny belief in a better tomorrow. 2020 could be Joe Biden’s year.
  • The political result of this turmoil is exactly what LBJ feared the most: the election of Republican Richard Nixon, who, though moderate by modern standards, sets into motion the conservative revolution that would greatly weaken the will to grow domestic policy and place Great Society programs under continual threat. Key portions of several programs, such as the Voting Rights Act, would not survive. Schenkkan reminds us that Richard Nixon was the Donald Trump of his times when, during an Oval Office meeting with LBJ, he promises to make America great again.
  • As Democrats try to figure out what to do with President Trump, they might want to head over to the Arena Theater to get a good reminder of what happens when parties don’t take the right step to nurture their political strength. Policies are only as good or strong as the governing coalition that holds power. If a party hands control of power to the opposing party—as was the case with Obama and LBJ—the consequences could be devastating. Democrats are living through this nightmare for a second time with no end in sight.

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