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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks at the Post Office in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Lyndon B. Johnson
353 - Remarks at the Post Office in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
July 23, 1966
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1966: Book II
Lyndon B. Johnson
1966: Book II

United States
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Governor Branigin, Mayor Vissing, Senator Hartke, Senator and Mrs. Bayh, Congressman and Mrs. Hamilton and their three lovely children, distinguished Members of the United States Senate, Governors, Members of the Congress, Postmaster James Stanforth, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:

I came here to Jeffersonville for two reasons: to please my wife and to please myself. Postmaster General Larry O'Brien has been telling Lady Bird that the Jeffersonville Post Office has been in the forefront of the beautification program.

Your own very able, progressive, fine leader, your Congressman Lee Hamilton, has been telling me that Jeffersonville has some of the finest people in the United States.

If you haven't already guessed it, I think I should let you in on a secret. I value Postmaster General Larry O'Brien's judgment. I value Lady Bird's judgment. I value Lee Hamilton's judgment. And here I am.

Without indicating any preference, I will deal with Mrs. Johnson's project first.

About a year ago we had 16 postmasters at the White House to receive an award. Mrs. Johnson presented each one of them with a citation for their outstanding efforts to make their post offices a beautiful addition to their community.

Your own Postmaster James Stanforth was not there. The post office here was so new that he and his staff had not had a chance to prove themselves. Since then, in record time, they have become one of the less than 300 out of some 34,000 possible candidates to deserve this citation. And so tonight we are going to present it to them and to you wonderful people in this community.

The inscription reads: "President Lyndon B. Johnson's natural beauty program citation of merit to the community of Jeffersonville, Indiana, and all of its postal employees for maintaining the grounds and the exterior of their postal unit in such a manner as to reflect credit upon the community and the Post Office Department."

[At this point Postmaster Stanforth spoke briefly. The President then resumed speaking.]

I think if Thomas Jefferson, for whom I assume your community was named, could be here tonight he would like what I see.

You know Thomas Jefferson was the father of the Democratic Party. Thomas Jefferson felt that the judgment of the many was much to be preferred to the decision of the few.

I am so happy that we can come in here this late in the evening--it is 9 o'clock by a watch that was set in some State that we appeared in today; I don't know what time it is here--to see hundreds or thousands of people who think enough of their community, their State, and their country to come here and give us this welcome, and to participate in this civic affair.

Thomas Jefferson said that the care of human life and happiness is the first and only legitimate object of government. And that is what we have been doing today. We have been trying to show our concern for the care of human life and happiness. We have been trying to make it evident that it was the first and legitimate objective of this administration and of this Government.

We believe that we must be strong in order to protect the things that we have that other people would like to take away from us. And after seeing the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division this afternoon, we have no doubt about our strength.

But we do not want to be strong in order to be able to wage or win wars. We want to be strong so we can prevent war and bring peace.

Your Government, and your administration, is ready at this hour, as it has been every hour since I have been President, to talk instead of fight, to negotiate instead of bomb, to reason instead of try to force.

But this is not a one-way street. It takes two to enter into an agreement. You can't have a unilateral treaty. You can't stop everything you are doing unless the other fellow will stop some of the things that he is doing.

So we continue to hope and work and try to hold our hand out, but keep our guard up.

We want to be strong so that we can have the better things of life, better education for our children. We have 24 new education bills that we have enacted, we are putting into effect, that will make this year the greatest year for education in the history of this Nation.

We want to be strong so we can have good health, health for our older people with medical care so, for the first time in their lives, they will not have to depend on their son or son-in-law, or their daughter or daughter-in-law, to minister to their needs. So that with dignity and respect they can take their admission card and go to a home or to a hospital and receive doctors' care and nursing care and medicine.

We not only are proud of what we have done for the medical care for our older people. But we are glad of what we are doing in the field of medical research for our younger people, how we are detecting the deficiencies as they appear and trying to correct them before a life is ruined or a soul is lost.

This will be the greatest year for health in this country in the history of the American Government. You read all about the prophets of gloom and doom. You heard all about the protests. You had all the warnings of what was going to happen when we put medical care in. But July 1st came and went.

The program was put in with a minimum of inconvenience and with a maximum of efficiency. And while every hospital didn't qualify, 90-odd percent of them did. The most revolutionary medical program in the history of our Nation is now in effect and it is going to serve our country long and well.

It is here because of people like you--men, women, and children like you--that Jefferson believed in, people who would come here and participate in the affairs of their Government, people who believe that the care of human life and happiness is the first and only legitimate object of government.

So I think that Jefferson would have been pleased to know what we have done in education, what we have done in health, what we have done in beautification, what we have done to conserve our resources, what we have done to develop our recreation areas, what we have done to try to wage a war on poverty, what we have done to improve our skills, what we have done to train additional manpower, what we have done to reduce unemployment, what we have done to increase wages, what we have done to improve minimum wages and hours.

All of these things involve the care of human life and happiness. That is the first and only legitimate object of government.

Here, tonight, in Jeffersonville, I salute Thomas Jefferson and his followers. I also salute Lee Hamilton because that is the second reason that I wanted to come here. I wanted to meet personally you people that he has been talking to me so much about.

Lee Hamilton has been one of the outstanding freshmen Congressmen ever since the first day he appeared in Washington. He has always voted his conscience and he hasn't always voted for me. The people of Indiana have done the same.

Even when we disagree, it is easy to respect people who stand up and look like he looks, who stand up and state what they believe with the sincerity and the conviction that he does. This Congressman, and his new generation which he represents, has joined with other Congressmen from both parties to help us pass more creative legislation for the care of human life and happiness, for the benefit of human beings, than any Congress has ever passed in all the history of the United States.

Now I have made no secret of the fact that in my opinion there has never been a better Congress. There have been few times in American history when a President of the United States would ever make a statement like that, though. I am not sure that all of you would want to make a statement like that if you would pick up a paper and see what the Congress says about me sometimes. George Washington, our first president, once warned that his Congress was about "to form the worst government on earth."

Another great President, Theodore Roosevelt, said that he would like to turn 16 lions loose on his Congress. When someone pointed out that the lions might make a mistake, he replied, "Not if they stay there long enough."

Well, I spent almost 24 years in the Congress as a Member and about 5 years as a congressional secretary, 5 years as majority leader and 2 years as minority leader. So it is with some humility that I say tonight that this present 89th Congress, as Luci would say, is "the greatest."

Well now, how do you confirm that? And why do you say that? What proof do you have?

First of all, they passed legislation to fulfill a promise made more than a century ago, a promise of emancipation. Abraham Lincoln, more than 100 years ago, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But it was a proclamation and not a fact.

Today, where once some people were afraid to vote, they now proudly walk into the polling place with their chin up and their chest out.

This Congress passed legislation to ease the burden of sickness. Today, although everyone must face old age, they are no longer dependent on their kinfolks for their medical care.

They passed legislation that should brighten every classroom in America. This year we will spend, in appropriations, $10 billion more on education and health than we were spending on those subjects when I became President less than 3 years ago. That is progress.

And that does show that the Congress, as well as the Cabinet and the President, are concerned with what Jefferson said was the object of government: the care of human life and happiness.

Once the children of poverty began life on a hopeless road toward despair. Tonight they at least have some new hope. They are at least receiving some new training. And we are at least making taxpayers out of taxeaters of a few weeks ago.

We passed a poverty program for $750 million for 1 year and then $1 billion 500 million for the next year, more than double. For the third year, notwithstanding the fact that we have 400,000 men in the Vietnam area fighting to protect our security, our liberty, and our freedom, we will pass a program of $1 billion 750 million this year in order to provide for the needs of the underprivileged and try to 'prepare them and train them to make their own way in life.

This Congress told our cities and told our industries that they had to stop polluting our water and poisoning our air.

This Congress passed legislation to dam our rivers to prevent floods, to produce power, to provide beaches, to build playgrounds for our children, and to add more parks to the national domain than any other similar period in history.

They gave us the blueprints for a rapid rail system to carry our commuters of tomorrow. We have designed and will shortly let a contract on a supersonic airplane that will fly more than 2,000 miles an hour and transport hundreds of passengers around the globe.

They passed a farm bill that puts more income in the farmer's pocket and at the same time allows him to compete at home and abroad. They have reduced farm surpluses that one time hung heavy over every farmer's head to the lowest minimum that we have had in a dozen years.

And finally, with some help, some pleasant persuading, they served notice that we will battle with all we have to preserve the bounty of the land and the beauty of the countryside.

Thanks to Senator Yarborough, they passed a new GI bill to help our veterans get an education after they have fought for our liberty.

And lest Lee Hamilton, Senator Yarborough, and the other Senators and Congressmen think that we say, "Well done," and "This is the end of the day and there is nothing for tomorrow," I might add quickly, "The job is not yet finished."

Democracy's work is never finished. But there is no doubt in my mind of the road that we are going to take. We are going to continue to plow the furrow and go full steam straight ahead.

We will give new meaning to the American promise of justice and equality.

We will honor our commitments abroad. And we will do it without neglecting our duties at home.

While we are doing all that I told you we are doing, we have been maintaining 400,000 men--and they have been giving a mighty good account of themselves--in Vietnam, and we have got the lowest deficit this year that we have had since 1960.

Now I am not sure you have read about that. I have announced it. But if you haven't read about it, you have heard about it, and you are going to hear more about it between now and the time I leave my present office.

We are going to do all of this, and we are going to do more of it because we know now that it can be done. Men like your Congressmen have proved for us that this job can be done during the last 2 years and we are going to do it the next 2 years.

We have proved that there is enough room at the table for all of us. We don't have to fight like cats--the businessman, the worker, the farmer, the Democrat and the Republican. I am here to tell you that notwithstanding any rumors you might have heard, that big table is growing bigger every day.

Two years ago, in the heat of a presidential election campaign, I came to Indiana. I told your neighbors in Evansville that I was not mad at anybody. I said that I had not come to Indiana to say anything bad about anybody. I said that I did not want to fight with anybody; that all I wanted was to try to do my best to put my Nation's best foot forward, to try to find an area of agreement for my fellow men and try to help unite my country instead of divide my country. It may be old-fashioned, but I still believe that my country does most things right.

I know there are some that like to keep it a secret, but I take great pride in talking about what we are doing to educate little children, what we are doing to help older people when they are sick, what we are doing to try to increase the freedom of the farmer and increase his income at the same time, and what we have done in 5 years to get 7 million more people jobs at an average factory wage in this country of $112 a week, the highest that was ever realized by any industrial nation. I am proud of those things.

I am sorry that we had difficulties in the Dominican Republic. But I am glad that it is not a Communist government today.

I am sorry that we have our men in Vietnam. But I had rather have them there with honor, doing their duty, keeping their commitment, carrying that flag with pride and honor, than to tuck their tail and come running home and break their word. And if I know anything about those men, they had rather be there doing it, too.

When they talk to you about all these horrors, you ask them whether it is from the men who are there or the men who don't want to be there, or who it is that feels that this Nation should not act with honor. I get about 100 letters a week from those men. And I have yet to get one letter from a man that says to me that he wants to get out and come home; that he does not want to stay there and do his job.

They are my single greatest source of strength, the men on the front lines. I saw them in the hospitals the first of the week. I saw them on the boat, the ones that are now being treated. I saw them at the 101st Airborne this afternoon. I take great pride in how our men feel about their country.

I think the time has come in America for us to find some of the good things that America is doing instead of spending all of our time complaining about the faults we have.

I remember a great man who served 50 years in Washington and heard a lot of speeches made. He served with over 3,000 Congressmen and Senators. He served with 6 or 7 Presidents. He used to say he served "with" them, not "under" them. He was Speaker Sam Rayburn.

He always said, when he had finished the day's work and he had come down and had heard about the complaints and the errors, and the mistakes and the criticism, "It is mighty easy to make a point about anything and anybody." He said he never could forget what his father of 11 children said to him one time: that any donkey can kick a barn down, but it takes an awful good carpenter to build one.

So I want to try to unite this country, to bring peace to it and to bring progress to it. I believe all my fellow men want to do the same. We may have different views and different routes to follow, but as your President tonight I want to say that is what I am trying to do. I am trying it with all the energy and whatever ability I possess.

I am trying to use whatever experience I have gained in the House, in the Senate, and in the Government to make progress for our people.
And we are having some little success.

My short visit to four States today tells me that we have reason to raise our hopes. For "if," as Abraham Lincoln said, "the end comes out all right, it will not be the President who does it, it will not be the Congress which does it, but it will really be the good sense of the American people."

I have seen that good sense today. As I leave here after my seventh or eighth appearance, I want to say that you have helped to refill the wells of my hopes for my country. I never have any doubt about it. But now and then we have some writers that go out on the countryside and make their private reports. I read those reports and wonder. But today I came and I saw.

I don't want to put my judgment up against theirs. And I don't want to speak with any finality. But before I conclude I just want to say that whatever little experience I have had in understanding human nature and knowing and loving people, somehow or other I get the general impression that the people of this country are ready and willing to follow a constructive course instead of a destructive course; that they want one who builds instead of one who tears down, that they would rather have a carpenter handling matters than a donkey handling them.

I don't have any particular sample polls to give you here tonight. But somehow or other I think that in the good old American tradition, in the city hall, the county seat, the statehouse, and finally in the Congress, that the American people are going to vote for the men that try to unite them instead of the men that try to divide them, that they are going to support the men that they think refuse to play on the bigotry and the prejudice and spend their time complaining. They are going to vote for the people who spend their time building and speaking constructively.

So it gives me a lot of pleasure to come here to this beautiful site and look at what you have done with your post office, and most of all look at what you have done with yourselves.

I owe Lee Hamilton a debt for really making me come. We have a lot of pickets that like to set themselves up around the White House. This is a day when people like to march. And Lee has really been picketing the White House. I thought it would be easier to come over here tonight than to spend next month explaining to him why I couldn't.
So here I am!

You have done more for me than I have done for you. But in the days ahead, let's enter a little compact. Let's do something for each other and thus do something for the men that are protecting our freedom and our liberties and thus doing something for our country.

We have the very best system of government in all the world. And we have the very best country in all the world. We have more prosperity than any other people in all the world.

Instead of feeling sorry for yourselves and developing a martyr complex, I would like to express this hope: that you go home tonight and think about how many blessings you have.

As I walked down that line today and I saw those seriously wounded men, I thought of the men that had died for me in order that I could be free, not only my generation, but several before mine.

So I think we ought to count our blessings once in a while. We have a lot to be thankful for. So when you leave here, go home and thank Him who is responsible for it all. Thank the good Lord Almighty.

Note: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. at the Post Office in Jeffersonville, Ind. In his opening words he referred to Governor Roger D. Branigin, Mayor Richard Vissing of Jeffersonville, Senator Vance Hartke, Senator and Mrs. Birch Bayh, Representative and Mrs. Lee Hamilton and their children, Tracy Lynn, Deborah Lee, and Douglas Nelson, and to James K, Stanforth, postmaster of the Jeffersonville Post Office, all of Indiana. Later the President referred to Sam Rayburn, Representative from Texas 1913-1961, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives 1940-1947, 1949-1953, 1955-1961.
Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks at the Post Office in Jeffersonville, Indiana.," July 23, 1966. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=27741.
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