Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966

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Author: Lyndon B. Johnson  | Date: May 12, 1966

221
Remarks at a Congressional Dinner Held in the National Guard Armory.
May 12, 1966

Thank you Senator Magnuson, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Majority Leader Mansfield, Majority Leader Albert, Senator Smathers, Congressman Boggs, my dear friend Jess Larson, who has been chairman for this great occasion, my fellow Democrats:

I am delighted to be here tonight with so many of my very old friends as well as some members of the Foreign Relations Committee. [Applause]

You can say one thing about those hearings, although I don’t think this is the place to say it.

Will Rogers once said, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." I ran across that quotation last night in a magazine article, and I jotted down what it said:

"This week, any Democrat in the United States could borrow Will Rogers’ words and describe his own status with as much accuracy as humor. The Democratic Party is disorganized, in debt, and leaderless. Democrats are wondering where their next candidates are coming from."

That article appeared shortly before the congressional campaign of 1954, and I must confess it had a very personal meaning for me. It said the Democrats might do all right in the House, but we were in such great trouble in the Senate "that Lyndon Johnson has very little chance of ever becoming majority leader."

Well, the voters thought otherwise. They gave President Eisenhower a Congress that could get things done. I bring this up tonight because we are in an election year and I want to remind you of how much trouble the Democrats always seem to have in an election year before the votes are counted.

I know that when election time rolls around this year, the American people are not going to disown the most productive Congress ever assembled under the greatest leadership that ever led a Congress in the city of Washington. I know I am not going to, and I don’t think Senator Long, the Democratic whip and the Chairman of the Finance Committee, and Wilbur Mills, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Anderson and others who made such a contribution are ever going to let our people forget that we worked together to pass the Health Insurance Act for the Aged, which means Medicare, and the Older Americans Act, which means new security and hope for all the older people of this country.

Our young people will not forget that we passed the first Elementary and Secondary Education and the Higher Education Acts for all the young people of this country.

Our poor will not forget that this Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1965, the Appalachian Regional Development Act, the Public Works and Economic Development Act. They will not forget Project Head Start, or the Job Corps, or the Neighborhood Youth Corps, or VISTA, or the Urban and Rural Community Action Program.

Our servicemen will never forget that it was this Congress that passed the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act and the GI bill.

Our immigrants and their families are not going to forget that it was this Congress that passed the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Our farmers will not forget that when the Democratic administration came into power, our farm income was a little over $11 billion,and it has increased now to over $15 billion.

Our workers will not forget the fact that we passed the Manpower Act, the Job Development Act, and the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.

I don’t think that our minorities will ever forget that this Congress passed the historic Voting Rights Act. That is the first effective voting rights act that has been passed in 100 years.

Our city dwellers will not forget the Housing and Urban Development Act, or the pioneering program of rent supplements for low-income people, or the new grant program for the urban growth and renewal projects. Nor will they forget the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will turn the legislative promises into live realities all down through the years to come.

Our travelers and our conservationists will not forget the Highway Beautification Act, or the Water Pollution Act, or the air control pollution bill.

Our sick and our suffering citizens will not forget the heart and stroke measure.

Our businessmen will not forget that together we have tonight created and sustained the longest and the brightest season of prosperity in all American history.

Nor will labor, or the consumer, or the wage earner, or the housewife forget the place that all of them have enjoyed under the Democratic sun.

All this was only a promise when this Congress, that meets here tonight, met for the first time. It was in our platform. I am proud tonight that the promises in that platform have been redeemed. Between 80 and 90 percent of the pledges in that platform are now the laws of the United States of America!
I defy any Congress or any administration to ever equal that percentage record. And I thank the Speaker and the leadership and every Member of the Congress here for it.

I said 2 years ago that our society will never be great until every young man and woman is set free to scan the farthest reaches of the human mind. So this Congress heard, and this Congress acted. We lifted the sights and we stretched the horizons of every child by education. We made every classroom a treasure house, and every teacher the guardian of the riches by which a great nation is built.

I said 2 years ago that our cities are decayed and our housing is inadequate and our transportation is inefficient. This Congress heard, and this Congress acted. We have created a landmark Department of Housing and Urban Development, and we will soon create another Department of Transportation.

I said 2 years ago that the beauty of our countryside was in danger; that our air and our water were polluted; that our parks and our seashores were overcrowded. And again this great Congress, led by great leaders, heard and acted. We added 186,000 acres to our parks, and 100 miles to our national seashores. We acted to beautify our highways. We passed the first comprehensive antipollution measure in the history of the Federal Government.

This Congress that is here tonight did it, and you can be proud of it. Your people can be proud of you.

But the task is not yet finished. We still have work to do. The Great Society is not a safe harbor. It is not a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly to be renewed. That is our goal—and the country needs every one of you back here next January, not to get the country moving again—some thinkit is moving too much now—but to build a foundation, and to move our Nation forward.

I want to say one other thing to you tonight. I spent the afternoon walking among the armless and legless men—our fighting men who yesterday were in Vietnam carrying our burdens for us. I hear every day from those who are troubled and frustrated about Vietnam. Some doubt the wisdom of any action there, but I receive thousands of letters from people all over this land, from our men in Vietnam—and I talked to 40 of them this afternoon.

They tell me that the people of our country have not lost the spirit, and have not lost the courage, and have not lost the wisdom which has kept America a free people all these years.

I came to this town 35 years ago. Fresh in my memory then were the problems that confronted another Democratic President in World War I, and I saw men here and there, in both bodies of the Congress, and in various sections of the country, who had opposing views about the wisdom of the leadership of Woodrow Wilson.

I ran for the Senate in 1941, and was defeated in July by 1,311 votes. I have always wondered if it wasn’t intended that I should have been, because the next month, as a Member of the House, I cast my vote to support the President to keep from sending the Army home. That vote prevailed by only one vote—203 to 202. I am glad that my district was represented on that vote-that I hadn’t moved over to the Senate.

But when you think what those Democratic Presidents went through, when freedom and liberty were threatened, and the load and the burden that they and their Congresses carried, and the division that then existed, you can be thankful tonight for this Congress, for these leaders, for the American people who have learned at painful cost that freedom is not indivisible.

Our people have learned that aggression, I think, in any part of the world, carries the seeds of destruction to American freedom. I believe, I think I know, that the majority of our countrymen still agree with the words that a great American hero spoke a long time ago. It was Sergeant Alvin York who once said, "Liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and then stop. You do not do that. Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes that are awarded only to those people who fight to win them and then keep on fighting eternally to hold them."

Sergeant York was not a man of war, but of peace. His message has meaning, great meaning, for every American, and every generation of Americans. We are and always will be men of peace. We have always hated the horror of war. We will have our differences and our disputes and we will do it without questioning the integrity or the honor of our fellow man.

But we as a nation have never abandoned and we will never surrender this world to those who want to dominate it and to those who want to destroy it.

If we were to turn our backs on freedom in South Vietnam, if Vietnam were to fall to an aggressor’s force, what an empty thing America’s commitment to liberty would really turn out to be.

So I say tonight to my party and to my countrymen: We shall stand there with honor. We shall stand there with courage. We shall stand there with patience. That is the stand that this Congress has taken, and that is the stand that we will continue to take. It is the stand, I believe, that the vast majority of the free people of the world will respect. It is the stand that the vast majorityof Americans will demand.

So I say to you, my great leaders in the Congress, to our committee chairmen in the House and the Senate, to the members of every one of those committees, go out there in the countryside and tell them this fall that America will persevere until peace comes to Vietnam. That is our dream. That is our hope. That is our prayer. And when that day comes there will be rejoicing in our land and in the world.

And once again we will not only have a peace-loving people that seek no territory, that seek no domination, but we will have a peaceful 50 States that are prosperous as they have never been before. We will have the highest per capita income of any people anywhere. We will have the best housing and the best health and the best education and the best food and the best clothes and the best recreation. But most of all, we will have a liberty and a freedom that was dreamed of by our forefathers and that is preserved by you.
Good night.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:42 p.m. at the National Guard Armory in Washington before a group of 6,000 Democrats present at the fundraising dinner. In his opening words he referred to Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana, House Majority Leader Carl Albert of Oklahoma, Senator George A. Smathers of Florida, Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana, and Jess Larson, former Administrator of General Services, who served as chairman for the occasion.

During his remarks the President referred to, among others, Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana, Representative Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas, and Senator Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico.

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Chicago: Lyndon B. Johnson, "221 Remarks at a Congressional Dinner Held in the National Guard Armory.," Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1465-1466 503–505. Original Sources, accessed April 20, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DBZKPXS4LYYMDMU.

MLA: Johnson, Lyndon B. "221 Remarks at a Congressional Dinner Held in the National Guard Armory." Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1465-1466, pp. 503–505. Original Sources. 20 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DBZKPXS4LYYMDMU.

Harvard: Johnson, LB, '221 Remarks at a Congressional Dinner Held in the National Guard Armory.' in Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1465-1466, pp.503–505. Original Sources, retrieved 20 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DBZKPXS4LYYMDMU.