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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks to the Members of the Joint Savings Bank-Savings and Loan Committee on Urban Problems.
Lyndon B. Johnson
114 - Remarks to the Members of the Joint Savings Bank-Savings and Loan Committee on Urban Problems.
March 6, 1968
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1968-69: Book I
Lyndon B. Johnson
1968-69: Book I

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I WELCOME YOU here to the Cabinet Room today.

As leaders of America's great savings bank and savings and loan industries, you have provided the bulk of the capital that has built the homes, built the great suburbs and the residential areas which are the pride of the entire world.

America has served you well, and I understand that you are here this morning to serve the Nation by helping meet one of its most urgent problems--the rebuilding of the inner city.

To be effective will require commitment and ingenuity. The problems and needs are large indeed.

We have just ourselves completed--with the assistance of Secretary Weaver, Secretary Wood, Mr. Haar, and others in their Department, Mr. Brownstein and others--the cities message. We undertook everything that we could conceive of that we had the resources to undertake--and may have undertaken more than the Congress will really give us to undertake. But we dealt with it in some detail.

I think 20 years from now you will look at that message and see that we were not unaware of the problems.

I selected the most able city officials, private officials, chiefs of police, Governors, Congressmen, and Senators in the civil disorders study--they spent an unprecedented amount of money--millions of dollars in the period of several months--and I think made one of the most thorough and exhaustive studies ever made. It outlined not only what the situation was, but why it was, and what could be done about it.

Now, every Cabinet official and every independent agency is taking that study-and I recommend it to you--and they are evaluating and trying to see first, what we already have done that is pointed up--put that in this basket; see what we have not done and what they recommend to be done, what remains to be done--and put that in this basket. Then try to get it done.

There is no group in America that can try to do more to help us improve the cities and improve the quality of men's lives and offer them hope when they have only despair than you folks who have the financial horsepower to do something about it.

We need not only your words but your actions and we need your performance. You have shown that you can act or you would not be here. You have shown that you can perform or you would not have this program outlined.

The Government has been attacking the problems of the cities as best we can with our resources. I think you ought to know that right now we have, under the direction of Mr. Henry Ford and Mr. Paul Austin, president of the Coca Cola Company, a group that will number probably 750 by the end of this week. They are top executives, presidents and leaders of big corporations in America who are out to find jobs for hard-core unemployed in these cities.

That is a massive effort, the like of which has never been made before. To me, that shows a real awakening of the American business conscience in this country and the desire to do something about it.

I had lunch with the original group. I have met with some 50 others--and now we are spreading it to 150--the day before yesterday. Now it is moving to 750. That is the private group.

In housing, renewal, poverty, health, and education when I became President, the Federal budget had $9 billion for all the programs assisting the cities.

I want you to remember this, which is why I want to try to emphasize it. Don't expect this to be printed because they always print that we don't do enough. They don't print what we do. The Republicans say that we do too much.

But that effort has moved from $9 billion in these fields--this is the Federal budget, not a State or county or private or savings and loan budget--but the Federal budget has moved from $9 billion in 1964 to $22 billion in 1969.

Any of you who have more than doubled your appropriation in any field know what that means. How much more we can get the Congress to go, I don't know. But we have moved from $9 to $22 billion and one thing is definitely clear, that if you expect to go farther you have to acknowledge what you have done and recognize it as inadequate and try to do more. We do that. We have gone from $9 billion to $22 billion and we want to go just as much as the traffic will bear--as much as the Congress and the budget can permit.

Now, we can only finance these things by two means: by taxing them and I have been trying to get a tax bill for a year and a half, or by borrowing it. I have been having difficulty with both.

We have been having difficulty getting the tax measure and difficulty borrowing with the interest rate going up. You know what is going on there because you pay interest on all your deposits.

So, we want to welcome you here as partners of ours in this great venture of trying to do something to rebuild our cities and find employment for our people and to help us with our Model Cities program, with our supplemental programs, our FHA programs and our expanded manpower and private industry programs and better jobs and better wages.

We also welcome your pledge to provide more counseling and advice to neighborhood groups and individuals. Many people in the ghetto whom you will reach wouldn't come in off the streets and talk about a loan. Many of them have never been in a bank. Many have been the victims of unjust financial arrangements themselves. So, you have to go out and talk to them. We hope that you can do that. We think that is worthy of your energy.

We have seen what frustration among people and what decay in the cities can do. We saw it in Newark. We saw it in Watts. We saw it in Detroit.

We want to do everything we can to avoid a recurrence of that. We cannot correct all the errors of centuries in 4 years or 40 years, but we can do our best and all that we are capable of doing.

I am trying to do that. Every Cabinet officer is trying to do it. I hope that most of the Members of the House and Senate will help us. I particularly welcome the savings and loan people and the business group and their cooperation.

I think when the history of the period is written they will say that labor has had a social consciousness and has tried to fight for better social conditions for the working people of this country.

I am proud to say that during the period that I have been President the businessmen have answered every call that I have made upon them.

If you had told me 4 years ago that you could expect the industrial giants of this country, the head of Coca Cola, the head of Ford, heads of the big insurance companies, and heads of the banking industry to be out here finding jobs for hard-core unemployed and developing plans for every city in the country I would have told you that it is going to be tough to get it done.

But they are doing it and you are doing it, too. We welcome you as a partner in this venture. I hope all of you will have a chance to read the cities message. I don't want to cram it down anyone's throat. I don't want to comment on it. It is there and anyone can see it. You don't have to be led up to it.

I hope all of you will have a chance to read the Civil Disorders Commission report. It is a very distinguished group and a lot of talent went into that report after hearing witness after witness.

Then you will see what our problems are and what the recommended remedies are.

I won't ask you to embrace every recommendation they make, but I hope you can help us all that you can in good conscience.

I would note one thing: It is easier to build than it is to destroy. If we don't get on with our building we are not going to prevent destruction that ought to be prevented.

Mr. Rayburn used to have a favorite saying in the House of Representatives when I was a Member. He said, "Any donkey can kick a barn down, but it takes a good carpenter to build one."

I want to appeal to you to be good carpenters. We have enough folks who can kick and find things wrong and be out of humor with their country and their Government. They will trample just anything.

But what we need is some cheerful people with optimism and a vision who want to help their fellow man and who will do it.

We have so much to be thankful for. We should not be feeling sorry for ourselves too much in this country. There is no other citizen of any other country who is as blessed as our citizens with the fruits of its products.

We ought to put a little bit of that back as seed corn and I know you will. I thank you for coming.

[At this point Secretary Weaver and several members of the Committee addressed the group. The President then resumed speaking.]

We have had the insurance industry in with private meetings with the President and others in connection with the rent supplements and model cities and other legislation very important to the cities.

We have had the leaders of the labor groups in. We have had this very important group here today. In the months ahead I will be having a series of meetings asking them to study the cities message and the Civil Disorders Commission recommendations and any private suggestions that the insurance companies may make, the banking industry may make, or the savings and loan institutions may make--we want to explore them all. We want to try to get the Congress to go along with the recommendations we have made that you have just endorsed in connection with VA, FHA, Model Cities, and rent supplements, and so on.

We hope someday that we can look back on the meetings I have been having every day now where we are just talking, but we can see that this talk has resulted in some action.

You have a definite program that you are committed to here that will be a great breakthrough if we can carry it out together--and I think we can.

If there is any encouragement at all that comes to me it is the reawakening on the part of Americans to their social responsibilities.

We talked about the health care for people in their sixties for 20 years and did absolutely nothing about it but talk. But there are literally millions in hospitals at this moment because we finally took some action and did something about it.

We are talking about poverty now and every President has talked about it. But we got $1.77 billion up there last year and we have raised that this year to $2.2 billion, approximately.

We are doing something about it. It is not as much as we would like to do. If we had $200 billion we could not cover it all, but we are taking some of our resources at a very critical time and going into it. We have to do it here.

I think for the first time the American business community is realizing that there is a part that it needs to play and it is playing.

I sat in this room 2 years ago when people were talking about and criticizing the regulations that had been issued back in President Kennedy's administration on financing a house. I asked for open housing and I said: "How can I ask a man to come back from Vietnam--and he has the money he has saved and his wife has held together the family, and he wants to get a roof over his head, and how can I tell him no because he happens to be brown or black and he has to go someplace else? We have to have the congressional commitment. Let's ask them for open housing."

People went wild. I didn't think there was anybody in the room for it. And there wasn't.

Within 2 years we have come where we passed it through the House and we actually got cloture. We didn't have a vote to spare, not a single one.

But if we go on with it now, there are going to be a lot of houses to be built for the people who will have new opportunities and you will be surprised how people are going to adjust to it. People will look back and say, "Did we oppose that? Did we oppose that man--the fellow who lost an arm or leg to protect us?" If a man can buy it and pay for it, they are willing to do it.

So, we are moving ahead, but nobody is moving ahead more than the American businessmen. I am proud of them. I am proud of you bankers.

You can't exist unless you can get your money back with a little profit to pay for your work. I don't expect you to be unsound. I expect you to be prudent because if you are not, why, we are all in trouble.

But I am glad that you have enough adventure left in you, enough patriotism left in you, and interest in your fellow man because after you are gone from here they are not going to remember much about your financial statement. Your neighbors are not going to say how much you had in real estate, how much you had in interest, stocks, and so on. They don't remember that about my daddy or granddaddy--there wasn't much to remember--they didn't have much.

It is what you are doing to help your fellow human beings that will be remembered.

You are doing a lot by saying that you are going to help undertake the problem in the cities.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Robert C. Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Robert C. Wood, Under Secretary, Charles M. Haar, Assistant Secretary for Metropolitan Development, Philip N. Brownstein, Assistant Secretary for Mortgage Credit and Federal Housing Commissioner, Henry Ford II, Chairman of the National Alliance of Businessmen, Paul Austin, President of Coca Cola Company and Vice Chairman of the Alliance, and the late Sam Rayburn of Texas, former Speaker of the House of Representatives.

A White House announcement listing the members of the Joint Savings Bank-Savings and Loan Committee on Urban Problems is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 451).

As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks to the Members of the Joint Savings Bank-Savings and Loan Committee on Urban Problems.," March 6, 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28710.
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