Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Solicitor General, Mr. Marden, distinguished officials, ladies and gentlemen:
I am sure that before this speech is over a good many of you will wish it had been no longer than the introduction.
I have spent the first 5 days of this week surrounded by lawyers--and here I am voluntarily agreeing to make it 6.
Eight members of my Cabinet were trained as lawyers--notice I said trained. Two others--who are not lawyers themselves--have lawyers acting for them as under secretaries. So you have just about succeeded already in making an LL.B. necessary to work for LBJ.
But the problem of any President requires skills that good lawyers generally have in abundance; that is:
--the ability to analyze a problem objectively,
--the ability to solve it fairly and expeditiously. Yet for all their skills, lawyers in Government have not escaped criticism either. Some people say that the lawyer is trained to react to only problems--not to create the new instruments for progress that our people need. Some feel the lawyer is temperamentally unable to say how something can be accomplished--that he too frequently is known to say, "You just can't get there from here."
My experience with lawyers is otherwise. In dealing with civil rights problems, with transportation, with poverty, and with education, their legal insight and their foresight have been invaluable to me as President. Lawyers are today supplying a very important creative force to every sector of this Nation's policy. I will be glad to testify to that in open court.
Public safety is an area of particular concern to your profession.
Past and current presidents of the ABA have had a major part in improving the fairness of our courts and our correctional systems. Many among you contributed to bringing three really landmark programs into being during my first 3 years in the Presidency:
--First was the Criminal Justice Act providing lawyers to poor defendants in Federal courts, and giving them the right to competent, concerned counsel.
--Second, the legal services program, in the Office of Economic Opportunity. Through local bars you have provided the manpower and initiative for more than 200 community legal service agencies. They have helped the neediest among our people cope with wrongs that they just had to tolerate before.
--Finally, the Bail Reform Act, a reform that exists today because of the partnership of understanding between the private bar and the Federal Government. Now you are considering another urgent proposal. I do want you to consider it and consider doing something about it--putting your shoulder to the wheel and helping us while we have time, helping us before it is too late: the Safe Streets and Crime Control Act, that I have sent forward to Congress earlier this year.
We tried to design a flexible program that leaves ultimate responsibility where it belongs--in the local governments--but that also provides the means and the impulse for reform. It provides an incentive for greater efficiency and for greater fairness: in the police force, in the courtroom, in the jail, and in the reformatory.
In great part this program is based on the conclusions of the National Crime Commission-for which I am deeply in your debt because several of your most distinguished members took part in the deliberations of that Commission. I hope you will help to explain the need for it and the reasons behind it, in your own communities when you return.
I hope, too, that you will work to improve the criminal codes in your State--to make them more responsive to the real needs of criminal justice.
Reducing crime is a matter of great urgency for the people of this Nation, and for your State, your city, your community, and in your own block. We must find better ways to secure their safety--to prevent crime, as well as to punish it--to preserve public order without denying private rights.
Finding those ways will require cool heads and understanding hearts. For 200 years that description has fitted the best American lawyers. I believe it still does--I know it still does. I believe that the country will benefit greatly from the work you have done here.
I am very, very proud of my country and the contribution that the members of the bar have made to it during the period I have tried to lead it.
I was reading last night about some of the concerns the American people have. There are many concerns. There are many frustrations. There are many worries that we carry with us. Some have more than others.
But uppermost in everyone's mind is how we can have peace in the world. We Americans are not the only ones to make that decision. There are other people who participate in it, too. We are just a small group of 200 million out of 3 billion.
We cannot control the other fellow's conduct as we have found so many times in our history. But we are trying to lead and by precept and example to do what we can to hasten the day when there will be peace throughout the world.
If any of you lawyers or any of you thinkers or any of you with logical brains can contribute to it, we will welcome it. We need any suggestion and any help that you can give.
Next to peace, I guess the thing that is troubling our people more than anything else now is crime. I didn't originate it. I am not responsible for it. I didn't start it.
There is not a great deal I can do about it. But I am doing everything I know to do. And I want to do more.
If you have any ideas where the President can, with propriety, act where he hasn't, I welcome those suggestions.
I am very proud that some of the best legal minds in this Nation spent a lot of their vacation time voluntarily working for their country--some of them in the rice paddies of Vietnam, some of them in the slums of our cities, and some of them in the National Capital.
You haven't been slackers. You haven't dodged your President's requests. And you have always responded. I don't have a great deal of difficulty finding men to become Federal judges or appellate judges.
I suppose in due time I can even find one for the Supreme Court.
It is not because there is more money in those hills, but it is because the great pride in your profession--the great opportunity you have to serve it and to help bring justice to the world.
You don't have to wait until you are tapped for a lifetime job at a low salary that has overwork. You can take all of that money you are making now--with good income-and serve your country, too:
--serve it by helping us find a way to peace in the world,
--serve it by leading your community,
--serve it by giving people the judgment, the balance, and the freedom from hysteria that they do need in times like this, and
--serve it by setting an example--providing the leadership and initiative to help us solve this problem which has crept up on us and which is so monopolizing our attention these days--the problem of crime.
There is no one who can do more about those things than the lawyers of this Nation. There is no association which, I believe, has become or is becoming more socially conscious and more understanding of their obligations than the members of the bar.
That is why I came over here today on a rather busy day--to tell you that your President is proud of you and that your Nation is better because of you.
Thank you very much.