Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Message on the Occasion of the Launching of the Nuclear Submarine Sam Rayburn.

December 20, 1963

My fellow Americans:

Today in Newport News you gather to participate in the traditional ceremony of launching a new U.S. ship. With the christening of the nuclear submarine SSB (N) 635, we commemorate a great American--and a friend I dearly loved--Sam Rayburn.

A little over a year ago, as I participated in the keel-laying ceremony there in the same yard where you gather today, I expressed my conviction that Sam Rayburn's name was symbolic of the legislative courage and wisdom which helped to build and keep in being the economic, moral, and national strength on which our hopes for world peace rest today.

A great many people learned the really important things about America and her Government from Sam Rayburn, and I am proud to include myself in that number. President Kennedy and President Truman were also graduates of his unique one-man school in patriotism. Of the eight Presidents he served with--he despised the phrase "served under"--four were Democrats, four Republicans. He served them all with equal integrity and loyalty.

He served nearly half a century in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was Speaker for 17 years, more than twice as long as Henry Clay, the previous recordholder.

Through all his years of serving the American people, he never changed his honest character or his high ideals.

He well understood the nature of true leadership in our complex democratic republic. He used to say: "You cannot lead people by trying to drive them. Persuasion and reason are the only ways to lead them. In that way the Speaker has influence and power in the House."

He understood the House of Representatives better than any other man, and he demonstrated throughout his years there the wisdom and validity of what he was saying. But his understanding and insight extended far beyond the House of Representatives, to all parts of our Government, and those Senators and Presidents who have been privileged to learn from Sam Rayburn are in his debt.

The outstanding characteristic of Speaker Rayburn was rugged honesty. This was coupled with another quality--a mixture of youthful enthusiasm and mature judgment that I have found in very few men during my lifetime. He was one of those rare individuals who are to be eternally blessed--one who has learned the lessons of the past but who lives in the present and who works for the future.

The only thing he disliked more than an old fogey was a young fogey. And he lived absolutely without fear--without fear of life, without fear of death, and without fear of the new forces constantly arising in the world.

He could face, without flinching, the challenge to freedom presented by war. And he could face, without shrinking, the challenge to vision and imagination presented by peace. He did not reject the marvels of modern science and he did not retreat from new currents in society.

Speaker Rayburn was dedicated to peace, freedom, and the integrity of the individual. And we do ourselves honor when we walk in his footsteps.

We are today dedicating in his name a vessel which has been made possible by the knowledge gleaned by modern science and which will enter the service of our country. It is the fulfillment of the dedicated work of the Americans who conceived it and the Americans who built it.

To all who have participated in this enterprise and to the men who will command the Sam Rayburn, Godspeed! Your country thanks you and wishes you well.

Note: The message was read by Kenneth Belieu, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Logistics, at the launching ceremony at the Newport News Naval Shipyard, Newport News, Va.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Message on the Occasion of the Launching of the Nuclear Submarine Sam Rayburn. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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