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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks to the National Legislative Conference, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Lyndon B. Johnson
261 - Remarks to the National Legislative Conference, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
June 12, 1967
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1967: Book I
Lyndon B. Johnson
1967: Book I

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Mr. Haggerty, presidents of the internationals, delegates to the Building and Construction Trades Legislative Conference, my friends in the labor movement:

As President of the United States, this is the third time that I have had a chance to come and speak to you. Because I so deeply appreciate your invitation, I will not take much of your time this morning--because I am very mindful of the old saying:

"Blessed are the brief, for they shall be invited again."

As most of you know, the Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, had planned to speak to you today, but he went into the hospital for some minor surgery Friday night. I spoke to him on the telephone just before I left the White House this morning and he is feeling as fine and as chipper as ever, and he expects to be back on the job day after tomorrow. He asked me to extend to each of you his warmest, best wishes and his regrets that he could not be with you today.

He does plan to see you later--in the days ahead.

I don't think I have to tell this audience that Hubert has had a lifelong dedication to the cause of organized labor. I think you might be interested, though, in some of the reports that have come out of Bethesda since he went there for this operation.

The first thing the Vice President wanted to know was if the surgeon had a union card.

Then he inquired if the operating room was an open shop or a dosed shop.

He constantly referred to the head nurse as the job steward.

He, finally, checked carefully to see that his hospital room number was not 14(b).

The Vice President is such a firm believer in organized labor that about a month ago I asked him to lend me a hand in trying to organize the Congress. Unfortunately, as of this morning, I must report that so far we have not recruited even one member for the "International Brotherhood of Congressmen."

It is good to be back here before the Conference of the Building and Construction Trades Department. I have always felt much in common with this group and with this membership. You are engaged in doing the thing that I think speaks best for America-you are builders. You are building up America.

Recently, I realized that we even had more in common than that. As I have looked out my White House window onto Pennsylvania Avenue these last few months, and as I have traveled about America--and I have seen an occasional demonstrator here and there--I realized that I could assure you this morning, with very deep personal feeling, that you are not the only ones concerned with on-site picketing.

Seriously, now, I said a moment ago that you were the builders of America. I don't think I exaggerate that. Each year more than 80 percent of all the building in America is built through the labor of your 18 international unions. What is perhaps even more significant is that in the 22 years since World War II, America has been built once over again. The value of our postwar structures in America exceeds that of all the construction accrued through to 1945.

In other words, we have built more since the war ended than we had in all the time up to 1945. So you not only do most of the building of a nation, but you do it in a nation that is one of the buildingest nations in the history of all mankind.

I am not here to just pat you on the back, for the future is even more exciting than the past. If it took two decades to build America over again once, it will take much less time-probably closer to one decade--to do that much more building again.

So your job and my job and the job of all Americans who are interested in the future of their country is really, literally, just beginning.

America will be built over again in the years to come--and again and again. And if she is to retain her vitality and her life, we are going to have to watch this building and do it constructively.

Each time this Nation rebuilds itself, it must be better. It must improve itself; it must correct the errors and the omissions of the previous generations.

On the Federal level, we have already begun:

We are encouraging the building of highways. We are doing almost twice as much as we were in 1961.

We are encouraging the building of hospitals. We are constantly expanding that program.

This year, in the field of health, our program will be about three times as large as it was 3 years ago. This year we will allocate, on the Federal level, to health expenditures, about $12 billion. It was $4 billion 3 years ago when I became President.

We are encouraging the building of schools. This year we will spend about $12 billion in the field of education in the United States. Three years ago we were spending about $4 billion. So in 3 years we are spending three times as much to educate your child and to bring health to your body than we were 3 years ago.

We are encouraging the building and the rebuilding of our central city areas; first, through urban renewal and now through the model cities program.

We have tried rent supplements. We have tried to expand our housing efforts every way in the world that we can.

So, what it adds up to is: The group of men here, working with their Government, are the builders of America. That is why I wanted to come and be with you.

You know the old story--you don't have to be organized; you don't have to have any leadership; you don't have to be constructive to kick a barn down--any donkey can do that. But it takes a mighty skilled carpenter to build one.

When you see the building that is taking place in America, you will find the complainers will find it too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry, too big or too little, too small or too large--and there will be mistakes.

Show me a man who never made a mistake and I will show you a man who never did anything.

It is pretty difficult for a man--even at home--to get to his front gate without somebody barking at him.

But you builders will have monuments. that stand to your memory long after the complainers have been laid away. We may have to call on you from time to time to. help us deal with these complainers.

I think you know as well as I do that a nation is not rebuilt better and stronger only with bricks and mortar or wire and pipe. A new schoolbuilding with old books, and underpaid teachers and overcrowded classes and old ideas, is an old school in a new shell.

A new housing development in a ghetto does little good--for anyone--if the people in it are unemployed.

So we must rebuild America--not just the Government--in human ways as well as physical ways.

--Our schools and our education must not only be newer, but must be better.

--Our people must be trained for the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past.

--Our elderly must have the wherewithal not only for subsistence but for dignity.

--Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds must receive the equality that other Americans have taken for granted for centuries. I know that within your unions, there has been progress, great progress, over recent years, but I know, as you know, that more and more remains to be done.

And even all that will not be enough. A rebuilt America--fairer, stronger, more prosperous, better educated, with better health--will only be a hollow echo of itself if it exists in a world of chaos and tyranny and cruelty. So we strive for a better world all over the world.

When we met 2 years ago, we faced a grim and difficult situation in the Dominican Republic and in Vietnam. At that time this great organization sent a message of support to me. It was the very first organizational message that supported our commitment in Vietnam, and it was followed by many others from all over America. I have never forgotten that.

Today, thanks to your support and to the support of most of our fellow Americans, the Dominican Republic flourishes under a free and democratically chosen government-where there has been self-determination and the people, themselves, could select their leaders from the inside instead of having them selected for them from the outside.

In Vietnam, again thanks to your support and the support of most of our fellow Americans, the military situation has been reversed--has turned around totally since that time when you met 2 years ago.

So as I speak here today, we persevere militarily in Vietnam, always hoping and working for a negotiated settlement that will bring peace to that troubled country.

Last week, at another time of deep world crisis, we saw again that the peace of the entire world can hang precariously upon events occurring in very small and very faraway nations.

Today, in the Middle East--as in Vietnam and in America--we are faced with a task of rebuilding--of putting together a human equation, where men can live together in peace and harmony--where men can live as the Prophet Micah said, "Every man under his vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid."

That is America's goal in the world at large, as well as our goal at home: We covet no territory. We seek no dominion. We want not an acre of anyone else's land.

But we do want to give men the opportunity to stand straight and to stand free, to grow to the outer limits of their own ability and to be able to do this growing without fear.

If we are real builders--as you are, and as all of us should be--that is what we will build for our sons and for our grandsons.

As I said to your international presidents, we have not achieved everything we wanted to domestically. We have been engaged in some fights we have had our reverses from time to time.

But we have moved ahead. We are making progress. There is not a nation in the world that wouldn't like to emulate our growth, our prosperity, our strength, and our advantages.

During the 4 years that I have attempted to lead this country, we have had an unparalleled record of constructive, statesmanlike cooperation between the leaders of the labor movement in this country and the leaders of the business movement in this country and the leaders of the Government in this country.

Whether you are tall or short, whether you are fat or lean, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, whether you are a southerner or a northerner, easterner or westerner, I can truthfully say to each of you this morning that in my associations with you--under the leadership of that grand American, George Meany--you have always put your country first. You have been a source of strength and comfort to your President instead of harassment and tirade.

I came here to tell you that--and to say to you that I am not only grateful, but I think free men everywhere ought to be thankful for the job of building that you have done for America and other free nations.

I--on behalf of all the American people-want you to know that we do appreciate what you have done.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:45 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel before more than 100 delegates to the National Legislative Conference, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO. In his opening words he referred to G. J. Haggerty, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Later he referred to George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO.
Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks to the National Legislative Conference, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.," June 12, 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28296.
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