Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64. Volume II, entry 648, pp. 1281-1288. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1965.
June 6, 2007
The President spoke at 9:40 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Jung Hotel in New Orleans. In his opening remarks he referred to the chairman of the dinner, Ray Morvant, State Director, U.S. Savings Bond Division, Department of the Treasury, Governor John J. McKeithen of Louisiana, Senator Allen I. Ellender of Louisiana, Mayor Victor H. Schiro of New Orleans, Senator and Mrs. Russell B. Long and Representatives Edwin E. Willis, James H. Morrison, T. A. Thompson, and Gillis W. Long, all of Louisiana, Marshall Brown, Louisiana State Democratic committeeman, and Thomas F. Donelon, president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Later he referred to Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana and Mrs. Boggs, and their son Tommy. He also referred to Huey P. Long, U.S. Senator from Louisiana from 1932 to 1935 and father of Senator Russell B. Long.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson
[ Broadcast from the East Room at the White House at 6:45 p.m. ]
Mr. Chairman; Governor McKeithen; your great senior Senator Allen Ellender, my old friend; your fine mayor, Mayor Schiro; Mrs. Long; my longtime and my valued friend and colleague, one of the most promising young men in this Nation, Russell Long; Congressman Willis, Congressman Morrison, Congressman Thompson, Congressman Gillis Long—all of whom serve this Nation and this State with great distinction and with credit to Louisiana and the Congress; Mr. Marshall Brown; Mr. Donelon—all my friends in Louisiana:
You have touched me with your generosity and your cordiality. I deeply appreciate the very fine welcome that you gave Lady Bird and Luci when they came in this evening. Every 4 years we seem to have a habit of coming home to New Orleans, and ending our trip on a whistlestop in this lovely, enterprising city. I, through the years, have always felt close to the people of Louisiana because I was born and reared in an adjoining State, in a neighboring State.
I have, as Russell said, spent some time in the Congress, and through those almost 30 years there the Louisiana representatives have always been fair, and just, and effective. I would much rather have them with me than against me, and I have had them both ways.
Finally—after having opposed Russell on two or three items, on various amendments, on my bill, just before they got ready to pass them, he would get up and offer an amendment and take that left hand and talk Senators into voting for it—I finally just told the Secretary of the Senate that I was going to start voting for Russell’s amendments—it was easier to join him than to fight him. And I have been doing that through the years now, and I have been signing his bills.
Senator Ellender gets me to do nearly everything he wants me to without any pilon or lagniappe. But when the going gets tough and he just really has to move heaven and earth, he will put on one of those good feeds of his and he will bring up some of this New Orleans candy that he makes, that we call pralines.
I thought he just reserved it for myself until the other day when I went over to have lunch at the White House and the table was empty, with just one plate there. I said, “Where in the world is Mrs. Johnson?” And they said, “She is up eating with Senator Ellender.”
I said, “How long has she been gone?” And they said, “About 15 minutes.”
So I put on my hat and invited myself. I went up there and I was the only man there except Allen, and he had all the pretty women in Washington up there in the room eating with him!
So this Louisiana delegation is something that I am very proud of, something that I have enjoyed working with. And I want to remind the people in New Orleans and all Louisiana what Mr. Rayburn said one time when they asked him why Texas had such a good, effective delegation in the Congress. He said, “Well, we pick them young, and we pick them honest. We send them there, and we keep them there.”
The last 4 days I have followed that train trip through every yard of the South, and I have called three or four times a day myself just to see how everything was getting along. I don’t need to tell you what great pride I have had in my wife and in my daughters and, most of all, in their affection for the people of their homeland and their willingness to come out and stand up on their tiptoes and look them straight in the eyes and tell them what they thought of them and how much we cared and how much we needed them. And I particularly appreciate the way you have reciprocated here in Louisiana.
Now, on this occasion, at the close of this week of our campaign, there ought to be grateful pride in the heart of every American. On the main streets of America, history is being made. From Maine to California, from the Midwest to the Deep South, the people of America are coming out. And they are coming out to stand up and be counted for their country.
On the streets of all sections we are seeing the largest crowds that we have ever seen in any election period. You know, and I think I know, what this means, and if you don’t know what it means, I am going to tell you what it means.
Our cause is no longer the cause of a party alone. Our cause is the cause of a great Nation. Our cause is the cause of the country that you love. Our cause is the country that you would die for, and the people are laying down their partisanship.
They are asking us to take up their trust. They are asking us to keep this Nation prosperous. They are asking us to keep this Nation progressive. They are asking us to keep this country, and all the world, at peace.
The party of the people will not fail the trust of the people. And our first trust is victory, itself, on November 3d, and that is what we are going to have.
Too much that is precious, too much that we prize, too much that is part of America itself is at stake for any Democrat, anyone who takes pride in being a Democrat, to rest these next 24 days.
This year, as in no year before, you work not as partisans for party, but you work as Americans for America. If victory is our first trust, no less a trust is the margin by which that victory is won.
If our position in the world is not to be weakened, if we are to spare ourselves wasteful years of antagonism and division, and animosity here at home, the American people on November 3d must give a decisive reply that will be understood and heard throughout the world. And make no mistake about it, the spotlight of the world is on you November 3d.
When victory is ours—for our country, not for ourselves—I want it to mean a mandate for beginning a new era in American affairs, an era of courage, an era of commonsense, and an era of American confidence.
When the next President takes the oath of office next year, it will be 20 years since the end of World War II. When that war ended, you remember and I have not forgotten what we were told.
Voices at home, and voices abroad, predicted:
—That depression would be inevitable.
—That communism would be irresistible.
—That war would be unavoidable.
And the American people listened and heard, but refused to accept those doctrines. In hope, in faith, in confidence, we took our stand.
In the Full Employment Act of 1946 America made a commitment against depression—and made a commitment for prosperity—here at home.
In the Truman doctrine and the Marshall plan of 1948 we made our commitment against the spread of communism and for the strength of freedom throughout the world.
In all that we did, we honored our oldest commitment as a Nation and as a people, against war and for peace.
The years have been long. The trials have been many.
The burdens have been great. But the times are beginning to respond to America’s steadfast purpose.
This administration is the first in a century not to experience a recession or a depression. This administration is the first since midcentury under which no Nation in the world has fallen to communism. This administration is the first of the postwar age to offer a record not only of peace preserved but of peace courageously and effectively pursued.
What the American people set out to do is coming true.
Others would have you believe that prosperity is false. Well, ask yourselves or your wife when you go home tonight if that is true. You know it is real.
Others would have you believe that freedom is faltering, but you know that you are freer now than you were when you were 21. And the yoke of dictatorship and the yoke of colonialism is being thrown off of nations all around the world, and new nations are being born, and independence and freedom are on the march.
Others would have you believe that the pursuit of peace is unworthy work, but you know it is the most noble work that any nation can do.
The point that I am making is simply this: The meaning of our victory in November will be just this—to assure this confident people of leadership with confidence to match their own. There is work to do, and we can either do it together, united, or we can do it divided, eating on each other.
The platform on which I stand says: “The Federal Government exists not to grow larger, but to enlarge the individual potential and achievement of the people. The Federal Government exists not to subordinate the States, but to support them.”
I quote the words, but I might offer them as my own, for those words I wrote into the platform. Those words are my beliefs and they have been my beliefs all my life. For so long as I serve in the White House, your Government will be dedicated not to encroaching upon the rights of the States, but to helping the States meet their responsibilities to their own people.
Let me be specific.
If we are to heal our history and make this Nation whole, prosperity must know no Mason-Dixon line and opportunity must know no color line. Robert E. Lee, a great son of the South, a great leader of the South—and I assume no modern day leader would question him or challenge him—Robert E. Lee counseled us well when he told us to cast off our animosities, and raise our sons to be Americans.
From the tip of Texas to the tip of Florida, this crescent of the Gulf offers one of the great opportunities of the Western World. I want to see that opportunity fulfilled.
I want us to wipe poverty off the face of the South—and off the conscience of the Nation.
I want us to assure our young the best of education at every level, and the expectation of a good job in their home State when their school years are through.
I want us to assure our aged that when they need hospital care they will have it, and they will have paid for it in advance, by themselves, and with the help of their employers, under social security.
I may turn out the lights in the White House chandeliers but I am determined that no one will turn out the lights of the REA in the farmhouses of Louisiana.
I so much want us to maintain a prosperous, free enterprise economy, so your Governor can continue bringing in new plants and new payrolls and new jobs in the north and in the south of your State.
Yes, I see a day, and I know that you see it, too, when New Orleans will stand as a Queen City on this crescent.
—A center of trade with the world.
—A center of culture for the Nation.
—A terminal for waterways reaching the heart of America.
—A port for the spaceships that are returning from outer space.
—A good and gracious city for your families to call their home.
We are not going to lose that tomorrow in divisions over things of the past. For all America, that will be the meaning of the victory that we seek November 3d.
We are going to show the courage to unite America, the commonsense to keep America strong and prepared, and the confidence to seek after peace for the lives of our own people and the lives of all mankind.
Courage, commonsense, and confidence—those are the qualities that will serve our country’s cause, and in this election our country’s cause is the cause that we are determined to carry to victory.
When I became Democratic leader after General Eisenhower had sent the party of which I was a member to a terrible defeat in 1952, I told the Members of the Senate who were in the Democratic caucus that I was a free man first, an American second, a Senator third, and a Democrat fourth, in that order; that when my President was right and when he spoke for all America and when he sought to unite us against a common enemy, he would have my support.
When I thought he was wrong, I would oppose him with decency and dignity, and I would give him my reasons for it, and I would try to suggest an alternative. But I would never personally attack him or assassinate him or talk about his wife or his children or his dogs.
I kept that pledge, and for 8 years I served as leader of the Senate during a period that we had a Republican President and a Democratic Congress. And every election, every 2 years, they rewarded us by increasing my majority. The people of America want public servants in America to do what is best for their country first, and if they do what is best for their country, they will do what is best for themselves.
When I was called upon in a matter of moments to assume the awesome responsibilities of the Presidency following that tragic day in Dallas, I said to the people of this Nation and the world that with God’s help and with your prayers I will do my deadlevel best. I have done that.
I have spent long hours, I have worked hard, I have worked with a clear conscience, I have done everything that I could with the talents that the good Lord gave me to try to unite this country and to try to have peace in the world.
We had a crisis in Panama a few days after I went in and they shot our soldiers. We had a crisis in Guantanamo, and some of our people in the country hollered, “Let’s send the Marines in,” and I said, “No, we will send the admiral in to cut the water off instead of a Marine in to turn it on.”
We had our ships fired on in the Tonkin Gulf, and we made a prompt reply, an appropriate reply. But we have never lost our heart and I hope we will never lose our head. We are going to keep our eyes in the stars, but we are going to keep our feet on the ground.
I think it is a wonderful thing for Louisiana to do, to give us this dinner tonight. I am proud of your delegation. I am especially grateful to Hale and Lindy Boggs and Tommy for all the hard work and days that they spent with Lady Bird, Luci, and Lynda, helping them through these States that we love.
I don’t want to conclude this talk, though, without telling you that some of my political philosophy was born in this State. As a young secretary, I came to New Orleans before I ever went to Washington. I saw something about the political history of Louisiana. And I saw a man who was frequently praised, and a man who was frequently harassed and criticized, and I became an admirer of his because I thought he had a heart for the people.
When I went to Washington in the dark days of the depression as a young country kid from the poor hills of Texas, I had a standing rule with the page office that every time Senator Long took the floor, he would call me on the phone and I would go over there and perch in the Gallery and listen to every word he said. And I heard them all.
I heard a lot about the history of this State. I heard a lot of names in this State. But I never heard him make a speech that I didn’t think was calculated to do some good for some people who needed some speeches made for them and couldn’t make them for themselves.
The things that I am talking about from coast to coast—I talked to six New England States last week and I am going to speak in six western States next week—the things I am talking about from coast to coast tonight and tomorrow and next week are the things that he talked about 30 years ago.
He thought that every man had a right to a job, and that was long before the Full Employment Act.
He thought that every boy and girl ought to have a chance for all the education they could take, and that is before the GI bill of rights.
He thought that the old folks ought to have social security and old age pensions, and I remember when he just scared the dickens out of Mr. Roosevelt and went on a nationwide radio hookup talking for old folks’ pensions. And out of this probably came our social security system.
He believed in medical care for those so that they could live in decency and dignity in their declining years, without their children having to come and move them into their house with them. He was against poverty and hated it with all his soul and spoke until his voice was hoarse.
Well, like Jack Kennedy, he believed in those same things. But their voices are still tonight, but they have left some to carry on. And as long as the good Lord permits me, I am going to carry on.
Now, the people that would use us and destroy us first divide us. There is not any combination in the country that can take on Russell Long, Allen Ellender, Lyndon Johnson, and a few others if we are together. But if they divide us, they can make some hay. And all these years they have kept their foot on our necks by appealing to our animosities, and dividing us.
Whatever your views are, we have a Constitution and we have a Bill of Rights, and we have the law of the land, and two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate voted for it and three-fourths of the Republicans. I signed it, and I am going to enforce it, and I am going to observe it, and I think any man that is worthy of the high office of President is going to do the same thing.
But I am not going to let them build up the hate and try to buy my people by appealing to their prejudice. I heard a great son of Texas who came from an adjoining State, whose name I won’t call, but he was expelled from the university over there and he started West, and he got to Texas as a boy and stopped to see a schoolmate of his.
He liked things so well in Texas that he just decided to make it his permanent address. In 4 years he went to the Congress. After he had been in the House 2 years, he became the Democratic leader, and he served a few years as Democratic leader. And he went to the Senate and he served in the Senate 4 years and he became the Democratic leader in the Senate. He served the district that Mr. Rayburn later served.
When Mr. Rayburn came up as a young boy of the House, he went over to see the old Senator, the leader, one evening, who had come from this Southern State, and he was talking about economic problems. He was talking about how we had been at the mercy of certain economic interests, and how they had exploited us. They had worked our women for 5 cents an hour, they had worked our men for a dollar a day, they had exploited our soil, they had let our resources go to waste, they had taken everything out of the ground they could, and they had shipped it to other sections.
He was talking about the economy and what a great future we could have in the South, if we could just meet our economic problems, if we could just take a look at the resources of the South and develop them. And he said, “Sammy, I wish I felt a little better. I would like to go back to old”—and I won’t call the name of the State; it wasn’t Louisiana and it wasn’t Texas—“I would like to go back down there and make them one more Democratic speech. I just feel like I have one in me. The poor old State, they haven’t heard a Democratic speech in 30 years. All they ever hear at election time is Negro, Negro, Negro!”
So we have the law of the land, and we are going to appeal to all Americans that fight in uniform and work in factory and on the farm to try to conduct themselves as Americans. Equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none, because there is only one real big problem that faces you. It is not even the economic problem and it is not the Negro problem.
The only problem that faces you is whether you are going to live or die, and whether your family is going to live or die.
I sat through 37 meetings of the National Security Council during the Cuban crisis. I never left home in the morning but what I realized I might not ever see her again that day. She might not be there or I might not be there. I sat at that table with the most trained generals and admirals we had, with four and five stars, and their war maps were out, and they took us from this stage to that stage, and we had our fleet moving, and we had our planes in the sky, and we had them loaded with our bombs. And we knew they had their missiles pointing at us.
And the coolest man in that room, whose thumb was sitting there that could be put on the button, was the Commander in Chief, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who had been abused all over that country.
He is not here to defend himself, but I say shame on you that in his absence would attribute to him unworthy motives.
At Oak Ridge we have developed the mightiest, most awesome power that human ingenuity could contemplate or conceive. By a thumb on a button you can wipe out 300 million lives in a matter of moments. And this is no time and no hour and no day to be rattling your rockets around. Or clicking your heels like a storm trooper.
I say that because this is a moment when all nations must look all ways to try to find some ways and means to learn to live together without destroying each other. I have no reference to any nation, any country, or any individual. I just say that when you look at history, and you see what has happened to us in our lifetime, we have gone through two wars, and then you see what the next war could bring us, it is no time to preach division or hate.
If there ever was a time for us to try to unite and find areas of agreement, it is now. We are the mightiest nation in all the world, but that power must be used to prevent a war, instead of starting one.
I don’t want to imply that there is any man in my party that wants to start one or anyone in any other party that wants to start one. I think the Republicans are just as patriotic as the Democrats. And I haven’t met any man that I know that I think wants to involve this country in any danger that he can avoid.
I just say it is time for all of us to put on our thinking caps. It is time for all of us to follow the Golden Rule. It is time for all of us to have a little trust and a little faith in each other, and to try to find some areas that we can agree on so we can have a united program.
I told you about the support that Vandenberg gave Truman in Greece and Turkey, about the support that I gave Eisenhower, Republican and Democrat, about the support that President Kennedy received in the Cuban missile crisis. And this is an hour when we must not become so bitter or so divided or hate each other so much in an election period that we will let the other nations think we are divided.
The Kaiser thought we were divided and wouldn’t go to war and he sank the Lusitania and we became involved. Hitler thought we were divided because a few Senators were preaching isolationism and talking about munitions makers and he thought that he could take a part of the world and we would sit there in our rocking chairs and do nothing about it. And he got fooled.
Let no would-be conqueror ever mistake Uncle Sam. We do not seek any wars. But we are prepared and ready and willing to defend our freedom. And we are not about to yield it or sacrifice it or whittle it away to anybody.
The election is coming up November the 3d. You have your choice. You have two parties. You have two tickets. You have men on both tickets who are experienced in the Congress, who served there many years. You don’t have to have anybody come down here and tell you what is right. You don’t have to have anybody come down here and tell you what you ought to do. You know what is best for you, and you go do it. And I am not even going to make a recommendation to you.
If you think in your own heart that the course of wisdom for your country is this course, then you follow whatever you think it is. Because I believe that every other man is actuated by the same motives that I think I am actuated by. He wants to do what is right.
I have never seen a man in Congress that I thought went there on a platform of doing what is wrong. He wants to do what is right. And I know the people of Louisiana want to do what is right.
And I hope if you do what you think is right, that somehow or other it is the same thing that I think is right. But if it is not, I won’t question your patriotism, I won’t question your Americanism, I won’t question your ancestry. I may quietly in the sanctity of our bedroom whisper to Lady Bird my own personal opinion about your judgment.