Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey, Mr. Speaker and Mrs. McCormack, Senator Mansfield and Mrs. Mansfield, Senator Long, Senator Byrd and their ladies, Senator Muskie, Congressman Albert, Congressman Boggs, my dear friend--thanks for your introduction--Congressman Kirwan, Mr. Minow, Mayor Daley, Reverend Clergy, Chairmen Bailey and Price, my fellow Democrats:
I am glad to see so many unarmed Democrats in one meeting tonight.
There may even be a couple of Republicans here. I notice you are charging Republican prices.
But there couldn't be many more than a couple, because I see so many familiar Democratic faces--all of them members of our quiet, orderly, completely unified Democratic Party.
As the Duke of Wellington once said, "If you can believe that, you can believe anything."
But if the description seems incredible-there's that word again--the pleasure of this evening is self-evident. We Democrats like to be together, and we like to fight. We always start by fighting each other. That gets us ready--it says here--to take on the other party.
Judging by the results over the past 35 years, I think that you will have to conclude that that is a pretty good system--though it can be a little strenuous at times.
! don't intend to get too serious in an after-dinner atmosphere. "Larry O'Brien's Law" states that the more expensive the meal, the less expansive the speakers.
But I think it is vital--at a time when many are harping on the alleged disunity of our party--to reemphasize some of the things we have in common as Democrats.
We have been for half a century the guardians of the American dream.
It has been our proud task to take a set of aspirations and then, in a long, hard campaign, bring them home to reality.
There were those who talked about "industrial democracy"--but we Democrats passed the minimum wage amendments that gave, last year, increases to 31 million workers, brought more than 8 million others under the protection of that law for the first time, and will add another million this year.
There were those who talked about equality-but we Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act which gave legal substance to the ideal of brotherhood.
There were those who talked about medical care for the aged--but we Democrats passed Medicare and 23 more health measures in the 89th Congress, and now a generation of elderly Americans have been liberated from the threat of being pauperized by disease.
There were those who talked about education-but we Democrats passed the greatest series of educational measures in the history of this Republic--18 of them in the last 3 years.
These are the generalizations, but to you and to me, they are more, much more--for we have seen the impact of these changes on our individual Americans.
We have seen the great abstractions-education, health, and conservation--begin to come true. We have seen them translated into happier lives. That is what makes all the late sessions, all the long, irritating hearings, and all the talks and the arguments worth the time that we spend. That is what justifies the life of a legislator--the life of an Executive--the life of a man who is proud to call himself a Democrat.
But our job has only just begun.
The 89th Congress put a great many far-reaching laws on the statute books. But they remain only documents--unless we provide the means to carry them out.
The 89th Congress wrote a great education program for the children who need education the most. But unless we turn back the wreckers who want to dismantle it this year, hundreds of thousands of those children will never be helped by that law.
The 89th Congress wrote a model cities program that can give urban America-small towns and great cities--the means to change blight into beauty. But, unless we give it the muscle of appropriations, it will remain only the skeleton of an idea that might have worked.
In health, in the war against poverty, in the campaign to make our country more beautiful, the 89th Congress worked wonders of legislation. It is up to this Congress to turn those legislative wonders into living works for all the people of this land.
There is creative work to be done by the 90th Congress, as well as laws to be written, laws that will
--give us stronger tools to control air pollution,
--make our streets safer, and our criminal justice system fairer and more effective,
--provide greater economic security for millions of older Americans,
--and strengthen our efforts to secure the rights of all Americans.
These proposals represent my notion of what is needed now if we are to meet the needs of the people of America now. I welcome your ideas--I welcome your innovations and your responses to those needs. Many of the greatest achievements of the 89th Congress were not written at the western end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The same can and should be true of the 90th Congress.
I genuinely believe that our success next year as a party will depend on how wise we were in these 2 years--how true we were to the ideals of Jefferson and Jackson, of Roosevelt and Truman and John F. Kennedy.
That will demand of us, at home and abroad, the will--yes, the character--to persevere when the going gets tough.
It will take character to stand by programs that have only just begun to change people's lives for the better.
It will take character to stand for both individual rights and individual responsibility in the long city summers.
It will take character to stand for freedom against naked aggression, and when some say it is really none of our business to resist it.
We became an independent nation because enough of our people possessed that kind of character. We fought a war against American slavery and we fought another to destroy Nazi slavery, because Americans had that character. It built a nation once, and saved it later when depression threatened to tear down what that great American character had built.
I do not believe that affluence has dulled it, nor that long struggles have sapped it.
I believe there is enough of it left in this room tonight, and in the men and women that you represent, to take us proudly and bravely through whatever our country needs to face in the years that face us. And I believe it will win and retain the overwhelming mandate of all the good people of this Nation, if we will only serve by giving the greatest good to the greatest number.
My fellow Democrats, throughout our history you have been the party of the people. And in the year 1968, as we come around the turn, the party with leadership of men like Bailey and Daley and women like Price, we will come home for the victory that the people deserve.
Thank you very much.