Miller Center

Speech at the Jung Hotel, New Orleans (October 9, 1964)

Lyndon B. Johnson


Mr. Chairman; Governor McKeithen; your great senior Senator AllenEllender, my old friend; your fine mayor, Mayor Schiro; Mrs. Long; my longtimeand my valued friend and colleague, one of the most promising young men in thisNation, Russell Long; Congressman Willis, Congressman Morrison, CongressmanThompson, Congressman Gillis Long--all of whom serve this Nation and this Statewith 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. Ideeply appreciate the very fine welcome that you gave Lady Bird and Luci whenthey came in this evening. Every 4 years we seem to have a habit of coming hometo New Orleans, and ending our trip on a whistle-stop in this lovely,enterprising city. I, through the years, have always felt close to the peopleof Louisiana because I was born and reared in an adjoining State, in aneighboring State.

I have, as Russell said, spent some time in the Congress, andthrough those almost 30 years there the Louisiana representatives have alwaysbeen fair, and just, and effective. I would much rather have them with me thanagainst me, and I have had them both ways.

Finally--after having opposed Russell on two or three items, onvarious amendments, on my bill, just before they got ready to pass them, hewould get up and offer an amendment and take that left hand and talk Senatorsinto voting for it--I finally just told the Secretary of the Senate that I wasgoing to start voting for Russell's amendments-it was easier to join him thanto fight him. And I have been doing that through the years now, and I have beensigning his bills.

Senator Ellender gets me to do nearly everything he wants me to withoutany pilon or lagniappe. But when the going gets tough and he just really has tomove heaven and earth, he will put on one of those good feeds of his and hewill bring up some of this New Orleans candy that he makes, that we callpralines.

I thought he just reserved it for myself until the other day whenI went over to have lunch at the White House and the table was empty, with justone plate there. I said, "Where in the world is Mrs. Johnson?" Andthey 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. f went up there and I wasthe only man there except Allen, and he had all the pretty women in Washingtonup there in the room eating with him!

So this Louisiana delegation is something that I am very proudof, something that I have enjoyed working with. And I want to remind thepeople in New Orleans and all Louisiana what Mr. Rayburn said one time whenthey 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 themthere, and we keep them there."

The last 4 days I have followed that train trip through everyyard of the South, and I have called three or four times a day myself just tosee how everything was getting along. I don't need to tell you what great prideI have had in my wife and in my daughters and, most of all, in their affectionfor the people of their homeland and their willingness to come out and stand upon their tiptoes and look them straight in the eyes and tell them what theythought of them and how much we cared and how much we needed them. And I particularlyappreciate 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 mainstreets of America, history is being made. From Maine to California, from theMidwest to the Deep South, the people of America are coming out. And they arecoming out to stand up and be counted for their country.

On the streets of all sections we are seeing the largest crowdsthat 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 youwhat it means.

Our cause is no longer the cause of a party alone. Our cause isthe cause of a great Nation. Our cause is the cause of the country that youlove. Our cause is the country that you would die for, and the people arelaying down their partisanship.

They are asking us to take up their trust. They are asking us tokeep this Nation prosperous. They are asking us to keep this Nationprogressive. They are asking us to keep this country, and all the world, atpeace.

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 aregoing to have.

Too much that is precious, too much that we prize, too much thatis part of America itself is at stake for any Democrat, anyone who takes pridein being a Democrat, to rest these next 24 days.

This year, as in no year before, you work not as partisans forparty, but you work as Americans for America. If victory is our first trust, noless 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 tospare ourselves wasteful years of antagonism and division, and animosity hereat home, the American people on November 3d must give a decisive reply thatwill be understood and heard throughout the world. And make no mistake aboutit, the spotlight of the world is on you November 3d.

When victory is ours--for our country, not for ourselves--I wantit to mean a mandate for beginning a new era in American affairs, an era ofcourage, an era of commonsense, and an era of American confidence.

When the next President takes the oath of office next year, itwill be 20 years since the end of World War II. When that war ended, youremember and I have not forgotten what we were told.

Voices at home, and voices abroad, predicted:

--That depression would beinevitable.
--That communism would be irresistible.
--That war would be unavoidable.

And the American people listened and heard, but refused to acceptthose doctrines. Inhope, in faith, in confidence, we took our stand.

In the Full Employment Act of 1946 America made a commitmentagainst depression-and made a commitment for prosperity--here at home.

In the Truman doctrine and the Marshall plan of 1948 we made ourcommitment against the spread of communism and for the strength of freedomthroughout the world.

In all that we did, we honored our oldest commitment as a Nationand 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 torespond to America's steadfast purpose.

This administration is the first in a century not to experience arecession or a depression. This administration is the first since midcenturyunder which no Nation in the world has fallen to communism. This administrationis the first of the postwar age to offer a record not only of peace preservedbut 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, askyourselves or your wife when you go home tonight if that is true. You know itis real.

Others would have you believe that freedom is faltering, but youknow that you are freer now than you were when you were 21. And the yoke ofdictatorship and the yoke of colonialism is being thrown off of nations allaround the world, and new nations are being born, and independence and freedomare on the march.

Others would have you believe that the pursuit of peace isunworthy 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 ourvictory in November will be just this--to assure this confident people ofleadership with confidence to match their own. There is work to do, and we caneither do it together, united, or we can do it divided, eating on each other.

The platform on which I stand says: "The Federal Governmentexists not to grow larger, but to enlarge the individual potential andachievement of the people. The Federal Government exists not to subordinate theStates, but to support them."

I quote the words, but I might offer them as my own, for thosewords I wrote into the platform. Those words are my beliefs and they have been mybeliefs all my life. For so long as I serve in the White House, your Governmentwill be dedicated not to encroaching upon the rights of the States, but tohelping the States meet their responsibilities to their own people. Let me bespecific.

If we are to heal our history and make this Nation whole,prosperity must know no Mason-Dixon line and opportunity must know no colorline. Robert E. Lee, a great son of the South, a great leader of the South--andI 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 raiseour sons to be Americans.

From the tip of Texas to the tip of Florida, this crescent of theGulf offers one of the great opportunities of the Western World. I want to seethat opportunity fulfilled.

I want us to wipe poverty off the face of the South--and off theconscience of the Nation.

I want us to assure our young the best of education at everylevel, and the expectation of a good job in their home State when their schoolyears are through.

I want us to assure our aged that when they need hospital carethey 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 amdetermined that no one will turn out the lights of the REA in the farmhouses ofLouisiana.

I so much want us to maintain a prosperous, free enterpriseeconomy, so your Governor can continue bringing in new plants and new payrollsand 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 NewOrleans 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 arereturning 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 thingsof the past. For all America, that will be the meaning of the victory that weseek November 3d.

We are going to show the courage to unite America, thecommonsense to keep America strong and prepared, and the confidence to seekafter peace for the lives of our own people and the lives of all mankind.

Courage, commonsense, and confidence--those are the qualitiesthat will serve our country's cause, and in this election our country's causeis the cause that we are determined to carry to victory.

When I became Democratic leader after General Eisenhower had sentthe party of which I was a member to a terrible defeat in 1952, I told theMembers of the Senate who were in the Democratic caucus that I was a free manfirst, an American second, a Senator third, and a Democrat fourth, in thatorder; that when my President was right and when he spoke for all America andwhen 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 anddignity, and I would give him my reasons for it, and I would try to suggest analternative. But I would never personally attack him or assassinate him or talkabout his wife or his children or his dogs.

I kept that pledge, and for 8 years I served as leader of theSenate during a period that we had a Republican President and a DemocraticCongress. And every election, every 2 years, they rewarded us by increasing mymajority. The people of America want public servants in America to do what isbest 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 theawesome 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 withyour prayers I will do my deadlevel best. I have done that.

I have spent long hours, I have worked hard, I have worked with aclear conscience, I have done everything that I could with the talents that thegood Lord gave me to try to unite this country and to try to have peace in theworld.

We had a crisis in Panama a few days after I went in and they shotour soldiers. We had a crisis in Guantanamo, and some of our people in thecountry hollered, "Let's send the Marines in," and I said, "No,we will sendthe 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 aprompt reply, an appropriate reply. But we have never lost our heart and I hopewe will never lose our head. We are going to keep our eyes in the stars, but weare going to keep our feet on the ground.

I think it is a wonderful thing for Louisiana to do, to give usthis dinner tonight. I am proud of your delegation. I am especially grateful toHale and Lindy Boggs and Tommy for all the hard work and days that they spentwith Lady Bird, Luci, and Lynda, helping them through these States that welove.

I don't want to conclude this talk, though, without telling youthat some of my political philosophy was born in this State. As a youngsecretary, I came to New Orleans before I ever went to Washington. I sawsomething about the political history of Louisiana. And I saw a man who wasfrequently praised, and a man who was frequently harassed and criticized, and Ibecame 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 ayoung country kid from the poor hills of Texas, I had a standing rule with thepage office that every time Senator Long took the floor, he would call me onthe phone and I would go over there and perch in the Gallery and listen toevery word he said. And I heard them all.

I heard a lot about the history of this State. I heard a lot ofnames in this State. But I never heard him make a speech that I didn't thinkwas calculated to do some good for some people who needed some speeches madefor them and couldn't make them for themselves.
The things that I am talking about from coast to coast--I talked to six NewEngland States last week and I am going to speak in six western States nextweek--the things I am talking about from coast to coast tonight and tomorrowand 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 longbefore the Full Employment Act.

He thought that every boy and girl ought to have a chance for allthe education they could take, and that is before the GI bill of rights.

He thought that the old folks ought to have social security andold 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 indecency and dignity in their declining years, without their children having tocome and move them into their house with them. He was against poverty and hatedit with all his soul and spoke until his voice was hoarse.

Well, like Jack Kennedy, he believed in those same things. Buttheir voices are still tonight, but they have left some to carry on. And aslong as the good Lord permits me, I? amgoing 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 ifthey divide us, they can make some hay. And all these years they have kepttheir foot on our necks by appealing to our animosities, and dividing us.

Whatever your views are, we have a Constitution and we have aBill of Rights, and we have the law of the land, and two-thirds of the Democratsin 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 manthat 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 buymy people by appealing to their prejudice. I heard a great son of Texas whocame from an adjoining State, whose name I won't call, but he was expelled fromthe university over there and he started West, and he got to Texas as a boy andstopped to see a schoolmate of his.

He liked things so well in Texas that he just decided to make ithis permanent address. In 4 years he went to the Congress. After he had been inthe House 2 years, he became the Democratic leader, and he served a few yearsas Democratic leader. And he went to the Senate and he served in the Senate 4years and he became the Democratic leader in the Senate. He served the districtthat Mr. Rayburn later served.

When Mr. Rayburn came up as a young boy of the House, he wentover to see the old Senator, the leader, one evening, who had come from thisSouthern State, and he was talking about economic problems. He was talkingabout how we had been at the mercy of certain economic interests, and how theyhad exploited us. They had worked our women for 5 cents an hour, they hadworked our men for a dollar a day, they had exploited our soil, they had letour resources go to waste, they had taken everything out of the ground theycould, and they had shipped it to other sections.

He was talking about the economy and what a great future we couldhave in the South, if we could just meet our economic problems, if we couldjust 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 toold"-and I won't call the name of the State; it wasn't Louisiana and itwasn't Texas--"I would like to go back down there and make them one moreDemocratic speech. I just feel like I have one in me. The poor old State, theyhaven't heard a Democratic speech in 30 years. All they ever hear at electiontime is Negro, Negro, Negro !"

So we have the law of the land, and we are going to appeal to allAmericans that fight in uniform and work in factory and on the farm to try toconduct themselves as Americans. Equal opportunity for all, special privilegesfor none, because there is only one real big problem that faces you. It is noteven the economic problem and it is not the Negro problem.

The only problem that faces you is whether you are going to liveor die, and whether your family is going to live or die.

I sat through 37 meetings of the National Security Council duringthe Cuban crisis. I never left home in the morning but what I realized I mightnot ever see her again that day. She might not be there or I might not bethere. 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 fromthis stage to that stage, and we had our fleet moving, and we had our planes inthe sky, and we had them loaded with our bombs. And we knew they had theirmissiles pointing at us.

And the coolest man in that room, whose thumb was sitting therethat could be put on the button, was the Commander in Chief, John FitzgeraldKennedy, who had been abused all over that country.

He is not here to defend himself, but I say shame on you that inhis absence would attribute to him unworthy motives.

At Oak Ridge we have developed the mightiest, most awesome powerthat human ingenuitycould contemplate or conceive. By a thumb on a button you can wipe out 300million lives in a matter of moments. And this is no time and no hour and noday to be rattling your rockets around. Or clicking your heels like a stormtrooper.

I say that because this is a moment when all nations must lookall ways to try to find some ways and means to learn to live together withoutdestroying each other. I have no reference to any nation, any country, or anyindividual. I just say that when you look at history, and you see what hashappened to us in our lifetime, we have gone through two wars, and then you seewhat 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 ofagreement, it is now. We are the mightiest nation in all the world, but thatpower 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 thatwants to start one or anyone in any other party that wants to start one. Ithink the Republicans are just as patriotic as the Democrats. And I haven't metany man that I know that I think wants to involve this country in any dangerthat 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 tohave a little trust and a little faith in each other, and to try to find someareas that we can agree on so we can have a united program.

I told you about the support that Vandenberg gave Truman inGreece and Turkey, about the support that I gave Eisenhower, Republican andDemocrat, about the support that President Kennedy received in the Cubanmissile crisis. And this is an hour when we must not become so bitter or sodivided or hate each other so much in an election period that we will let theother nations think we are divided.

The Kaiser thought we were divided and wouldn't go to war and hesank the Lusitania and we became involved. Hitler thought we were dividedbecause a few Senators were preaching isolationism and talking about munitionsmakers and he thought that he could take a part of the world and we would sitthere 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 seekany wars. But we are prepared and ready and willing to defend our freedom. Andwe 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 whoare experienced in the Congress, who served there many years. You don't have tohave anybody come down here and tell you what is right. You don't have to haveanybody come down here and tell you what you ought to do. You know what is bestfor you, and you go do it. And I am not even going to make a recommendation toyou.

If you think in your own heart that the course of wisdom for yourcountry is this course, then you follow whatever you think it is. Because Ibelieve that every other man is actuated by the same motives that I think I amactuated by. He wants to do what is right.

I have never seen a man in Congress that I thought went there ona platform of doing what is wrong. He wants to do what is right. And I know thepeople of Louisiana want to do what is right.

And I hope if you do what you think is right, that somehow or otherit is the same thing that I think is right. But if it is not, I won't questionyour patriotism, I won't question your Americanism, I won't question yourancestry. I may quietly in the sanctity of our bedroom whisper to Lady Bird myown personal opinion about your judgment.