Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Humphrey, distinguished Governors and outstanding Mayors of the Nation, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Congress, and my beloved friends:
Thank you so much.
This is a very enjoyable evening. And it is very thoughtful, to say nothing about how generous it is of you to bring us all together for this most pleasant evening.
You know I have been watching the polls pretty closely here of late. And as you might imagine, I like some of them quite a lot more than I like others. The ones I like best are those that like me best.
But in this era in which we are living, I wasn't too sure of their credibility--so the other day I just went out and had a poll of my own made.
You may be interested. The question went this way:
"If President Johnson were to run against the following nationally known Republican leaders, who would you vote for?"
The first pairing showed:
Lyndon B. Johnson--73 percent.
William E. Miller--27 percent.
Then we added another picture that would involve the entire ticket. The second pairing dealt with the ticket of both President and Vice President. Once again I am happy to report that I think we did very well under the circumstances.
Lyndon Johnson and Hubert H. Humphrey--71 percent.
Harold E. Stassen and Ezra Taft Benson--29 percent. I think
I should tell you that we circulated our poll among leading editors throughout the country--and other experts. The response seemed to be very good. One telegram I remember came in from a very important national magazine. It said:
"Congratulations, Mr. President, on a very fine and well conducted poll."
It was signed, "Editor, Literary Digest."
A President, of course, sees a great many expressions of public opinion. The other day someone handed me this evaluation of the state of the world:
"The earth is degenerating these days. Bribery and corruption abound. Children no longer mind parents. Every man wants to write a book and it is evident that the end of the world is approaching fast."
I wondered who the columnist was. Later I discovered that, whoever he was, he wrote what he had to say on an Assyrian tablet almost 5,000 years ago.
You don't have to look far to see the same kind of thing today--much of it is directed at the man in the kitchen that President Harry Truman talked about.
--Some people think we are spending too much, and some think we are not spending enough.
--Some people think we shouldn't raise taxes, and some think we should have raised them last year.
--Some think that we are not doing enough for the people in need, and some think we have done too much already.
--Some think we should escalate the war in Vietnam, and some think we should get out of there tomorrow.
There is no lack of advice--however contradictory. In the crisis of this hour--as in all others that we have faced since our Nation began--there are plenty of recommendations on how to get out of trouble cheaply and fast.
Most of them in the last analysis really come down to this: Deny your responsibilities.
In world affairs, behave as if you were a small nation with few interests; behave as if the oceans were twice as wide as they really are; behave as if you don't care what happens to people with different tongues or different cultures, or colors of skin--so long as they aren't shooting at your house--just now.
Here at home, behave as if every baby is born with the same chance to succeed in life--although his crib may lie in the squalid back room of a slum. Behave as if rats were funny--too funny to fight with Federal help. Behave as if health and education and jobs were somebody else's concern--not yours. Behave as if the farmer is getting as much as he deserves. Behave as if you have no interest in helping local authorities protect their communities from crime and violence. Behave as if runaway inflation is inevitable-above all, never send up a tax bill designed to fight inflation.
I hear and read a good deal of this kind of advice. It is much more subtle than I have described it tonight, more "reasonable." It is the voice not of the dove or the hawk, but of the ostrich.
Be certain of this--in the time that I have been given to lead this country, I shah not follow that kind of advice.
The Democratic Party has never chosen the road of irresponsibility. In the 1960's, America, under Democratic leadership, has faced up to the poverty and discrimination in its midst. It has not yet mastered them. But it has started--started on the road toward mastery--toward healing and educating and training and employing those whom life was passing by.
This party, and the programs it has inspired and legislated and turned into action, has set a standard in the 1960's by which every administration that follows must be judged.
For it was we who said:
--poverty must be abolished,
--a good education must be the birthright of every child,
--our cities must be made fit for a free people,
--the environment must be cleansed and protected for every family,
--our streets must be made safe for law-abiding citizens, and
--basic human rights must be made real for every man and woman among us.
Let them say that we have aroused expectations. So have all of those who have liberated men from dreamless sleep and sullen apathy--and set them on the way to becoming what their Creator intended them to be.
Let them say that we have not accomplished our goals entirely--that there is still ignorance and misery and despair in our cities and in our rural towns. Yes, there is-and there always will be, unless America completes the work we have already begun in these 7 years.
My friends, next year will be a testing time for America.
The question our people are going to have to answer is dear:
--Shall we go on building?
--Or shall we become discouraged with ourselves, impatient that the work is not yet finished? Shall we bury all that we have begun--begun with such hope and promise--and bury it in a shroud of inaction and reaction?
You here tonight have come a long way to give your answer. Every State in the Union is represented in this hall tonight.
You are making it possible for the party that believes in building to take its case to the people--to tell them what we promised to do on that August evening in 1964 at Atlantic City we have done--and that America is a richer and a stronger and a fairer Nation today because Democrats made it so. And we have only begun.
Our party and our country is greater than any of us. It is entitled to the best from all of us.
As for myself, my first and last business is trying to win and trying to secure the peace. That task will take all that I have--and I shall give it gladly.
So tonight I tell you that I will work as hard as any man can work for his country, and I will do everything in my power to build a record for our Democratic Party that America will enthusiastically embrace 13 months from now.
I regret that I cannot predict, this evening, when the issue that most concerns us will be resolved.
I do know that we are following the road of responsibility in Vietnam, as we are here at home. I know--I know probably as well as any man, save those who are fighting for us out there tonight, at this very hour--that it is a rough road to travel. But the road, I think, does lead to a free Asia--and the road does lead, I think, to a freer and a happier and a more secure United States.
I believe the American people will follow its course--not blithely, not cheerfully--for they all lament the waste of war; but they will follow it with a firm determination, now that we have begun it, to see it through all the way.
A very brave man, reflecting on the years that lay ahead for his country, back in 1960, had this to say:
"Now the age of consolidation is over and once again the age of change and challenge has come upon us."
The result, John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, is that:
"The next year, the next decade, in all likelihood the next generation, will require more bravery and wisdom on our part than any period in our history. We will be face to face, every day, in every part of our lives and times, with the real issue of our age--the issue of survival."
And so we are.
I live with that knowledge.
I live every day with the responsibilities it entails--with those our country bears, because it is the strongest and it is the freest of all nations--and also with those that I bear, because of the office I hold.
If I may, let me speak quite personally to you for a moment.
I have--as you know--spent my entire life in the political arena. I treasure the support of our people. I treasure that support as much, I think, as any man could. And I know, as you must know, that there are many who suggest ways to increase that support--temporarily:
--by softening or renouncing the struggle in Vietnam, or escalating it to the red line of danger,
--by giving in and retreating on the tax proposal,
--by abandoning the fight against discrimination--the fight for the poor-- here at home.
Some may say there is short term political gain for me, and for our party, if we could follow this kind of a course.
But what about a year from now? What about 5 years from now? What would choosing that course mean--not just for Lyndon Johnson, and not just for the Democratic Party, but for the glorious United States of America?
It would mean, in my opinion, greatly increasing the chances of a major war--not this year, but in the years immediately ahead.
It would mean imposing a far more onerous tax, a tax of inflation, on all of our people--and the poorest among us--not just this year, but next year.
It would mean dooming our cities to angry strife and squalor--in every year yet to come.
So we do have a choice.
We can take the easy road tonight, denying our responsibilities, hoping that a rise in our polls will compensate for what we ought to have done for our country.
Or we can take the harder road of responsibility. We can do what we believe is right for our children's future, though it may mean a great deal of present pain.
Well, I have made my choice. And I pray that I--and we--will have enough of that bravery, unselfishness, and wisdom that Jack Kennedy said we would need--to see it through, all the way.
Just an additional minute. I won't be long. You have been here too long, I'm sure, already.
This is not in the text, I do want to say it while I have the chance.
This party tonight, this salute, should have been given to the man who really deserves it. The next one that the Democratic Committee gives is going to be for the man who deserves it more than any Vice President who ever served this Nation--Hubert Humphrey.
And to those great Governors of great Democratic States, those outstanding mayors from Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and throughout the country, who have come a long way to be here tonight to give us their support and their inspiration, to those of you who have made sacrifices from your family and your own luxury to come here and make it possible for your country to get the truth message, I want to tell you that we are so grateful.
It gives us such encouragement and strength to know that all of you in this room, and in the other room, would want to do what you have done.
To the National Committee, the chairman and vice chairman, Mr. Bailey and Mrs. Price, to Mr. Criswell, who has done a remarkable job, I want to say thank you very much.
This is not a group of big men, rich men. This is not a group of little men and poor men. This is not a group from the eastern seaboard or the west coast.
This group comes from every State in the Union--more from New York, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, some of the larger States, than from the smaller ones. But every State has sent someone here tonight.
The person who is most responsible for that, and the person who is most responsible for ridding us of all the troubles and heartaches that come from trying to meet leftover bills, is a quiet, silent, humble man from New York named Arthur Krim, who the people who believe in the Democratic Party owe as much to as any man who ever served the Democratic Party.
Thank you very much.