The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Lyndon B. Johnson
Remarks at the Johnson County Courthouse, Paintsville, Kentucky.
April 24, 1964

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:

In the early part of the 19th century my grandmother's people all lived in Kentucky. We just came over here from Martin County and that was a family name. Now we are in Johnson County, and I hope to meet any Johnsons that are still around here.

My mother told me that my early ancestors reached Kentucky and were told that there were two ways to go up: they could either go up in the world or they could go to Texas. This branch of the Johnsons went to Texas. Some of them stayed here and I guess you named the county for them.

I am here to look over this area of the State because of your fine Congressman Perkins, your able Senator Cooper, your brilliant young Governor, who have asked me to come here and learn something about the fine work that you are doing in retraining people for jobs, to learn something about the coal industry, and the problems that face it.

I know something about poverty. I have worked with my own hands. I have done everything from shine shoes to work on a highway crew for a dollar a day. I am here to pay tribute to Carl Perkins, who has held many distinguished posts. He was once counsel of the Kentucky Highway Department.

I remember one time as a boy I went in to the State capital to get some supplies for my road job. I sought out the district engineer. I told him what I needed for my tractor. The next day the engineer was out and nearly fired everybody on our job. My father said to me, "Lyndon, I don't know what will happen to you, but I will tell you right now I don't believe that you are smart enough to talk to a highway engineer."

I believe it is time for this great and strong and good-hearted and rich Nation to give attention to the needs of its own cities who have been passed by, and to give needs to its own people. We are just not willing to accept the necessity of poverty. We in the Johnson administration, we hope with the support of Johnson County, have already declared war on poverty in all of its forms, in all of its causes, and we intend to drive it underground and win that war with your help.

We are making some efforts in eastern Kentucky under our winter relief program. We have $8,700,000 going into vocational training of 3,000 persons for 50 occupations. We have $4 million in loans and grants for housing. We have surplus food distribution in all the eastern Kentucky counties. We have 360 schools, 10,000 pupils, participating in the school lunch program. Under our community work and training program, we have 48 programs going, 1,400 men in action.

I am very proud that the absentee rate in eastern Kentucky is only 1 percent, and for the first month not a single absentee on 46 of the 48 projects. That is a record that all of you ought to point to with pride.

The people of America are not asking for handouts. They want a chance to support themselves. They want a fair chance to get ahead. That is what we are going to try to provide for them, for everybody, wherever they live. Poverty isn't a matter of partisanship. I am very proud of all of those in all parties who work together on this important work. I am particularly proud that I could be here with your Congressman and your Senator, both of whom always work and fight and give in order to help people.

Eastern Kentucky has produced some giants of our times. One of the greatest Chief justices was Fred Vinson. He was born in an adjoining county of Lawrence. My hope and my aim in life is to keep that road open and to make it wide and make it smoother, and make it straighter for all Americans. I would like to think out in that crowd today, here in Johnson County, is a future President, a future Chief Justice, future members of the Cabinet.

Kentuckians have a glorious history. You are walking in the tradition of that history. We have brought to you today some of the men who want to see some of the conditions in Kentucky so we can listen and learn and know firsthand what your Government can do, working with you, to help make this a better land.

I now want to present to you the distinguished Secretary of Labor, Mr. Willard Wirtz, who helped us settle the railroad strike day before yesterday. He is probably settling another strike somewhere now.

I also have with me Secretary Celebrezze, Secretary of the Health, Education, and Welfare Department. Secretary Celebrezze, will you come up and take a bow?

And here is Secretary Wirtz.

And now I am going to ask your Governor to say a word before we conclude our ceremonies.

At this point Governor Edward T. Breathitt, Jr., spoke briefly, following which Mrs. Johnson expressed her thanks for the warm welcome accorded them. The President then resumed speaking.]

We want to thank all of you for coming and waiting so long. We are very sorry that we were late.

But we have talked about our program, I would say, 8 or 10 times in various places today. The crowds have just been magnificent and overwhelming. We are not going to be satisfied in this administration until we drive poverty underground and until we find jobs for all people who can and want to work.

We are not going to be satisfied in this country until we have a home for every family. We are not going to be satisfied until we have an opportunity for education of all of our children, and when our people have the equality of jobs and the equality of opportunity. We are not going to be satisfied until we have medical care for our aged. We are not going to be satisfied until we pass some kind of an equal rights bill that will take the demonstrations out of the streets and put them in the courts where they belong.

So we want to ask all of you good people to try to support our program and let's have an administration of the people, by the people, for the people, giving the greatest good to the greatest number all the time.

Thank you and goodby.

Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks at the Johnson County Courthouse, Paintsville, Kentucky.", April 24, 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=26190.
 
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