Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967

Author: Lyndon B. Johnson  | Date: June 27, 1967

Remarks in Baltimore to Delegates to the National Convention of the United States Jaycees.
June 27, 1967

President Suttle; Governor Agnew; Senators Brewster and Tydings; Congressmen Garmatz, Fallon, Machen, Long, and Friedel; Mayor McKeldin; Mr. D’Alesandro; Mr. Shriver; distinguished Jaycees and your ladies:

I am glad that you asked me to come here today and I am so happy that I could come. Someone said recently that "I am for the future. I expect to live the rest of nay life there."

So all of us here this morning are going to live the rest of our lives in the future-most of us in this country. Not only are we going to live our lives in the future, what is more important, our children and our grandchildren are.

We can give them a country where crime is commonplace, where strife is certain, where free enterprise is frowned upon, where the state is everything—or we can invest our money and our efforts wisely enough to make the next generation freer and happier than ours has been.

A former President of the United States once said—when he was speaking about our living under the first amendment and exercising the freedoms that go with it—that "criticism is no doubt good for the soul." But we must beware that it does not upset our confidence in ourselves.

You would hardly expect a man who had an automobile for sale to tell you that the motor heated, the wheels had not been put on properly, the horn wouldn’t blow, that the automobile itself had a very short life-and then expect you to buy it.

But we hear other nations say so many things about our own in criticism—and we say so many things ourselves—that I sometimes wonder if the rest of the world hears only what is wrong with America.

It is good that we have a system where we can freely talk about what is wrong because when we have the proper information, we make the proper judgments. We can only get information by communication.

Proceeding on the assumption this morning that you young leaders of America have heard some of the things about what is wrong with this country, I am going to assume that I may be permitted to talk about some of the things that are right with America.

I should like to ask each person here to engage in a little introspection for the next few minutes I am privileged to be with you. I would like you to ask yourselves to count your own blessings—to ask yourself: "What do I have to be thankful for; what do I have to appreciate; what do I have to be proud of; what do I have to look forward to? What do I have that my grandfather did not have—or that my father did not have—or that my brother did not have?"

Let us compare some of the present day conditions to "the good old days."

Or if we could—and still be polite—we might compare some of our conditions in America to some of the conditions in other countries that we have had pointed up to us from time to time.

Let us look at our educational system-because the very basis of a great nation is an educated mind, a healthy body, and a free enterprise system.

Fifty years ago in our educational system, only 10 percent of our boys and girls graduated from high school. Today that figure is not 10 percent. It is 75 percent. And that is more than double that of France or West Germany, Italy or Great Britain.

Fifty years ago only about 4 percent of our young people went to college. Today that figure is about 40 percent. Only 10 percent of the young people of Great Britain and France go on to institutions of higher learning.

Now, let us look at some other education we are getting from protesting and expressing dissent in this country. During a week a short time ago, our newspapers and our TV programs and our radio commentators, informed us fully about the protestorsand the "peace-niks" who invaded the Pentagon.

They came there to stay—they walked over the tulips; they sat down on the steps; they slept in the halls. After we had analyzed it all carefully and the reports had been fully given—sometimes dramatically and occasionally emotionally—the "sleep—ins" numbered 12, a bare even dozen.

During the very same week, there were 10,000 young Americans who voluntarily-on their own—walked into the military enlistment centers directed by the Pentagon and volunteered their services and their lives for America.

Let me repeat, there were over 10,000 first term enlistments in 1 week.

Unfortunately, a student carrying a sign or a protester wearing a beard, or an attention-seeker burning a draft card in front of a camera can get more attention—and more billing—than all 10,000 of these volunteers.

So we will continue to have those visit the Pentagon to speak their mind. We will continue to have those visit the enlistment stations to give their lives—but let us keep the two in perspective.

In exercising our freedoms, let us check on them as we go along—and be sure that we never abuse them.

Americans are the best fed, the best paid, and the best educated people in the world. That is something we ought to be proud of in America. I know what we do when we are not the best fed, or the best read, or the best paid.

All we have to do is look back to the situation in Washington when I first came there in 1931—when the bonus marchers were driven down Pennsylvania Avenue-and the emergency legislation that was required in the days following, when the banks had to be closed and reopened again, when our farm commodities were being burned, when our soup kitchens stretched for half a mile in some of the main centers of our towns.

Well, so much for our employment and our education. What about our health conditions?

Deaths from the dread diseases have been cut in half in the last 50 years. Life expectancy has doubled in the last 100 years. Infant mortality rates have been cut in half in the last 30 years. Artificial kidneys now in use soon will be joined by the artificial heart.

Measles have been retired from the pages of history. Polio is no longer the fear of every mother in the land—thanks to our great medical profession, and thanks to a country which has concentrated on trying to do what is right—and correct what is wrong.

Medical care has recently forged an extraordinary partnership. We have almost 20 million elderly persons. We have over 200,000 doctors working with this group. Under the medical care program, over 5 million Americans in the last year—and the first anniversary is coming up very soon—have received physician services. Almost 3 million have received hospital care.

I have not come here to say to you that all is right and ’perfect. We still have many problems. We are facing up to them. We are recommending measures to deal with them. We won’t get them all. We may just get a fraction of them—but we are not ignoring them—we are not running away from them—and we are not cutting out on them.

I saw in some report from some great university yesterday something about how we had cut back on our poverty programs, and how we had denied our people education programs and health programs because we were defending our country.

Well, that is just not true. That is just not so. A little over 3 years ago—when I becamePresident—we had no poverty program. We were in Vietnam, but we had no poverty program. We started one—and we have increased it every year since.

This year, we are increasing it by 25 percent—without tucking tail and running in Vietnam.

More money will be spent on poverty in the United States in trying to do something about it this year by the Federal Government than we spend in Vietnam.

In our educational program—when I became President a little over 3 years ago—we were spending $4 billion a year. This year our budget is $12 billion—three times as much for education in 3 years—and we are still doing our duty in Vietnam.

In our health program 3 years ago, we were spending a little over $4 billion a year in the Federal Government for health needs. This year our budget is a little over $12 billion-three times as much for health in 3 years as we were spending 3 years ago.

We still have many problems of unemployment and poverty. Even though America’s poorest housing is in a luxury class for the masses of some other countries, we do have slums. We want to do something about them. And we are doing something about them.

We passed our model cities program this year. That is the most far-reaching step in that direction that this Nation has ever taken.

Today there are 7 million fewer people living in poverty than there were 7 years ago. The unemployment rate has dropped from 5.7 to in the neighborhood of 3.7. Operation Head Start has already given three-quarters of a million children from poor families a leg up on education; and it is growing every day.

More than a million persons are receiving job training under Federal programs compared to none 7 years ago.

Almost one million people are going to college this year because of higher educational programs enacted under our administration and passed by our Congress.

We all owe a debt to the Congress which has enacted this legislation for us.

So when you go back and talk about something that went wrong—how a motor failed—or how a red light stuck—or how someone looked on television—or how long they spoke—or what they didn’t say—ask yourself to remember some of the good things that you have produced.

Our educational system—summarizing-is second to none anywhere in the world. Our prosperity is second to none anywhere in the world. Our standard of living is second to none anywhere in the world.

We produce more goods; we transport more goods; we use more goods than anyone in the world.

We own almost a third of the world’s railroad tracks. We own almost two-thirds of the world’s automobiles—and we don’t have to wait 3 years to get a new one either.

I shouldn’t be surprised—if you are anxious enough right now—but what some people on this very floor will take your orders.

The Baltimore New Car Dealers Association had better be careful or they will get out-figured. Someone will make you a cut-rate proposition.

We own half the trucks in the world. We own almost half of all of the radios in the world. We own a third of all of the electricity that is produced in the world. We own a fourth of all of the steel. Our health conditions rank favorably with those of other countries in the world. Although we have only about 6 percent of the population of the world, we have half of its wealth.

Bear in mind that the other 94 percentof the population would like to trade with us.

Maybe a better way of saying it would be that they would like to exchange places with us.

I would like to see them enjoy the blessings that we enjoy. But don’t you help them exchange places with us—because I don’t want to be where they are.

Instead, I believe we are generous enough—I believe we are compassionate enough—and I believe we are grateful enough that we would like to see all of them enjoy the blessings that are ours.

So I say to you young business leaders of America, there never has been a time when the business groups of this country—the young leaders of this country—the employees and the labor leaders of this country have cooperated with their Government more than now. And your President is grateful for it.

I want to leave one thought with you. If you forget everything else I say, please remember this when you go back to your own community to provide them with the leadership that I want to provide you-that I am trying so hard to provide you.

You say to them that it is not absolutely essential—it is not a prerequisite—it is not required that you tear our country down, and our flag down, in order to lift them up.

I want to conclude now by just quietly saying a word to you about this larger world that we all live in. I think it is on your mind and in your heart—as it is on mine and in mine.

We are in South Vietnam today because we want to allow a little nation self-determination. We want them to be able to go and vote for the kind of leaders they want and select the type of government they want. We want them to be free of terror and aggression in doing that—as we want it for ourselves.

We made a contract. We had an agreement. We entered into a treaty that was confirmed by our Senate, 82 to 1, saying that in the face of common danger, we would come and help.

We came. We are helping. We are doing our best. I solicit the cooperation of each of you to the extent that you can give it.

We Americans are deeply concerned about the recognition of the right of self-determination. That is what each of you demands for yourself. So let us help your fellow man in other parts of the world enjoy it, too.

Self-determination is really the right to live. That is what we ask for all of the nations of the Middle East—not just for some of them.

We believe that for the peoples of the 122 nations of the world, speaking now of the underdeveloped nations of the world specifically, real self-determination only comes when hunger and disease and ignorance and poverty are overcome. We believe that the peoples of all of these nations are entitled to that self-determination. They won’t have it until we can conquer those ancient enemies—illiteracy, ignorance, disease, and poverty.

Just as it is here in our home, we believe in the first amendment, in free speech and in a free press. We believe in the Bill of Rights. We believe what matters abroad is also freedom from fear and freedom from want—the freedom to make choices and not just to submit to a brutal destiny.

Two days ago, not very far from here, I met with Chairman Kosygin of the SovietUnion. The nations we spoke for are two of the most powerful nations in all the world. In the family of nations, two of the strongest have two of the greatest responsibilities.

For my part, and for our Nation, that responsibility involves helping other nations to choose their own futures as they see it.

We seek as well maximum understanding between these two great powers. For 10 hours we looked at each other with only the interpreters present in a very small room.

Though our differences are many, and though they run very deep, we knew that in the world’s interest it was important that we understand, if we could, the motivations as well as the commitments of each other. We religiously, dedicatedly, and determinedly worked at that assignment for those 2 days.

That is why we met in the house called Hollybush. To bring about better understanding, and to discuss respective goals and commitments, we came there.

When we left I believe we had achieved that. We agreed we would continue to maintain contact through diplomatic channels, through other means of communication, and direct contact.

In Saigon, in the Sinai, at Hollybush in New Jersey, in the slums of our cities, in the prairies of our land, in the hollows of Appalachia, in scores of underdeveloped countries all around the world where men struggle to make their own future and to secure their little families, that is what we are all about.

If the young leadership of our country supports us over the long hard pull that lies ahead, if you can endure the tensions, if you can understand that the air is going to be rough and the road is going to be bumpy, you can, in the words of your own creed, "Help us unlock earth’s great treasure-human personality."

Then the cussers and the doubters will be relegated to the rear; the doers and the builders will take up the front lines.

Now you are going to return to your homes. You have engaged in looking at yourselves and at your country. I have been able to discuss it for only a very brief time.

I am going back to attend a 1 o’clock meeting with Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara and others who are giving everything they have to your country. We are not only going to talk and plan and work and pray to develop ways and means of keeping your country and your families secure, but we are going to do our dead—level best to bring peace to every human being in the world.

Our problems are many. Our solutions are few. I am not as concerned about the individual differences that we have with other nations—because with few exceptions I think those can be reconciled—but I am concerned that every boy and girl, that every man and woman who enjoys citizenship and freedom and prosperity and the blessings of this land know what they have and are determined to build upon it, to improve it—and by all means to keep it.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:08 p.m. at the Civic Center in Baltimore, Md. In his opening words he referred to William W. Suttle, president of the United States Jaycees, Spiro T. Agnew, Governor of Maryland, Senators Daniel B. Brewster and Joseph D. Tydings and Representatives Edward A. Garmatz, George H. Fallon, Hervey G. Machen, Clarence D. Long, and Samuel N. Friedel, all of Maryland, Theodore R. McKeldin, Mayor of Baltimore, Thomas J. D’Alesandro 3d, president of the City Council of Baltimore, and R. Sargent Shriver, Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.


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Chicago: Lyndon B. Johnson, "286 Remarks in Baltimore to Delegates to the National Convention of the United States Jaycees.," Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1196 656–659. Original Sources, accessed June 16, 2024,

MLA: Johnson, Lyndon B. "286 Remarks in Baltimore to Delegates to the National Convention of the United States Jaycees." Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1196, pp. 656–659. Original Sources. 16 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Johnson, LB, '286 Remarks in Baltimore to Delegates to the National Convention of the United States Jaycees.' in Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1196, pp.656–659. Original Sources, retrieved 16 June 2024, from