Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at an Airport Rally in Chattanooga

October 24, 1964

Governor Clement, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:

I am very happy to see so many proud and happy and smiling faces here in this great section of the United States. My grandfather was born just across the line in Georgia--and Georgia has never gone Republican, I remind you, and is not going this year--and my wife came from Alabama, and I am just about to claim Tennessee.

I appreciate that fine introduction that Governor Clement gave me. It is the second best introduction I ever had in my life. The other one was when he was supposed to introduce me once before and he didn't get there, and I had to introduce myself.

This new terminal has a special meaning today, as I know it does to you, because it is dedicated to the memory of Estes Kefauver, the great Senator from Lookout Mountain who died just a year ago. In Washington we miss Estes Kefauver. We miss his humanity and his dedication to the cause of equal opportunity for all of our citizens.

You have an outstanding opportunity here in this State this year to elect not one great Senator, but two great Democratic Senators: Albert Gore is one of the real leaders of the Congress, and you have another man here who will be a source of pride to this State in the Senate. I have served with Albert in both the House and the Senate, and I look forward to having him help me put my program through the next Congress. Stand up, Albert.

Ross Bass has made one of the most distinguished records in the Congress, and he is going to make it more distinguished after you elect him in November. We want to hear his voice in the United States Senate for the next 6 years, and many more. Stand up, Ross.

Senator Waiters has done an able job in filling Estes Kefauver's old seat in the Senate and he is one of my dear friends. Stand up, Herb.

These men are carrying on a great tradition. They tell me--I asked Nancy Gore this afternoon--someone told me that I was running about 55-45 down here in Tennessee.

I said, "How is Albert running?" And they said, "He is running 85-15."

I said, "Who is helping him get that 85 ?" And they said, "Nancy is his campaign manager."

Stand up, Nancy, I want them to meet you. I hope after that kind of bragging and introduction, I hope she will be mine the last week of the campaign.

The Volunteer State of Tennessee has given this Nation three Presidents, and some of the most distinguished leaders in our history. Tennessee sent Sam Houston to build Texas. Tennessee sent David Crockett to give his life at the Alamo. And this is still frontier country with a great frontier spirit that I believe believes in the New Frontier, and I think will vote Democratic come November 3d.

I am very pleased to see that you people here in Chattanooga have bright, young, able public servants, like Bob Summitt, and I hope you send him to Congress from this District. Stand up, Bob.

We really have two big problems confronting us, and your President needs a Congress to help him. One is to continue the bipartisan foreign policy that we have had for 20 years. Republican Arthur Vandenberg helped Democrat Harry Truman stop the Communists in Greece and Turkey. Democrat Lyndon Johnson helped Dwight Eisenhower, when I was Democratic leader, on his problems in the Suez and the Formosa Strait, and politics stopped at the waterline. Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, helped John F. Kennedy on the test ban treaty when we all needed to pass that treaty so we could stop the pollution of the air and the food we eat and the milk we drink. All bipartisans, working together for a foreign policy. I want to continue that foreign policy.

My opponent has different ideas about it. I don't want to see the bipartisan foreign policy of this country go down the drain. For that reason, I need men like Bob Summitt up there to help me.

No man has served his Nation, his State, with more patriotism than my old friend Congressman Joe Evins. Today is his birthday. I hope he is as happy on November 3d as campaign manager in this State as he is today by seeing this large crowd. Stand up, Joe.

I am glad to see Mayor Kelley. I am grateful to him for this warm turnout of hospitality, and I appreciate more than you know all these happy, smiling faces that are here today.

Here in Tennessee you are fortunate in having Frank Clement as your Governor, fortunate for many reasons. I am particularly fortunate because he gave me two of the best introductions I have ever had today. He has given this State strong and vigorous and able leadership, and this State deserves it.

Frank Clement understands the meaning of the partnership between the Federal Government and the State Government. I am happy to say that over the last 4 years, we have gone far in this partnership. Per capita income in the State of Tennessee rose over 4 percent every year, almost twice as much as the national average in other States. That growth rate in income is twice as fast as it was between 1956 and 1960.

There were 74,000 new nonfarm jobs in this State between 1960 and 1963, and that is almost twice the increase of jobs from 1956 to 1960. Just last week, the number of nonfarm jobs in the Chattanooga area passed the 100,000 mark for the first time in this city's history, and I know you are proud of that.

Before I pass along, I want you to know how grateful I am, not only for how wonderful you make me feel and for all of you coming out here and saying hello, but I particularly want to thank the Chattanooga Times, a good newspaper, for helping me in my campaign. It has helped this city and it has helped this State move ahead, and we want you to keep moving ahead as fast as that famous old Tennessee cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest, who used to say that his only problem was to "git thar fustest with the mostest."

There is a candidate who called the Tennessee Valley Authority "an unfortunate socialistic venture," and "a Federal white elephant." In one of his more inspired moments, he referred to your TVA as a "socialistic octopus."

Well, this city of Chattanooga is in the heart of the TVA, and I think everybody in this city, and in this State, knows what this "socialistic octopus" has done for Tennessee and has done for the Nation, and I think I know what you are going to do to him November 3d• This great institution of TVA, which is the marvel of the entire world--hardly any foreign leader comes to Washington but what he wants to see the TVA--has transformed a whole region and made it better.

And I don't, as long as I am President, intend to give it up, or give it away. I think it can build this region even more. I think it is up to us to build on this foundation and not to tear it down. I want to strengthen TVA, not call it into question.

The first thing that we must do for our future, and for the world's future, is to keep the peace, and that is what I have really come here to Chattanooga to talk to you about today.

There are two central questions in this campaign.

First, will we preserve and strengthen the programs for justice and progress that have brought a better life to our people? I think I know what your decision will be. I think it will be to stand fast for justice and to stand fast for progress, and more of it.

Second, will we carry on the bipartisan foreign policy that has guided this Nation safely through 20 perilous years? Again, I know what your decision will be. I think you will stand fast for peace.

For the last 20 years the architecture of our foreign policy has been a policy of unity, and now that unity of national purpose is called into question for the first time. It is challenged by men who represent not the majority of their own party, not the majority of Americans, but a fringe that wants to repeal the present and a fringe that wants to veto the future.

Four years ago we faced a united world Communist movement. Nikita Khrushchev was boasting about his Sputniks and threatening open war over Berlin, and telling us that he was going to bury us. He had smashed the summit conference.

All over Europe the Communist satellites were following Moscow's command. They saw no other choice.

In Asia the Communists also moved as one bloc. They were on the march in Latin America. The new countries of Africa were weak targets of Communist ambitions.

Well, in 1961, when John F. Kennedy took office, and when this administration came to office, we set out firmly and patiently to frustrate communism's ambitions and to help build allies and help them build their own security.

First, we strengthened our ties with NATO. Peace Corps volunteers went forth to show the world that our interest in peace was more than a good intention. Then we launched the Alliance for Progress in Latin America. At home we set out to build our own strength as the free world's guarantee of survival.

Well, what has happened in 4 years?

The Communists are still here, although Mr. Khrushchev has not buried us and it looks like he is not in control anymore. The Communists are still dedicated. The Communists are still dangerous. But in Eastern Europe the Communist bloc no longer wears just one face. Mr. Khrushchev said some of those countries are like children that have grown too big to spank.

In Asia, in Africa, in Latin America the tide of communism is running out. In the Kremlin Mr. Khrushchev's successors know that the United States of America intends to bury no one, but they also know that we will not be buried.

But a foreign policy of resistance to aggression would be only half a policy. We here in America have combined it with an unceasing fight for peace, and I think that we are winning that fight. There is no easy way to world peace and security. They are not achieved by the jiffy solution or the reckless threat.

The Bible admonishes us to "run with patience the race that is set before us."

Run with patience, and that is what I intend to do. We have grown strong in the last 4 years, and we must continue to increase that strength. We must hold firmly to these four principles of peace:

One, we must continue to resist Communist aggression.

Two, we must support the United Nations, and advance the unity of our NATO allies, and of the entire Atlantic community.

Three, we must assist the developing nations to become stable members of the free world community.

Four, we must enlarge the ban on nuclear tests, and we must keep the ultimate purpose always before us of a world that is free of the threat of nuclear destruction.

The foreign policy of this Nation is as strong as the resolve and the concern of the individual Americans who constitute this Nation.

Each one of you is an architect of that foreign policy.

Each one of you on November 3d will cast your vote for or against the policy of peace and responsibility that we have been building for 20 years.

I count on your judgment to sustain that policy. I don't think that in your lifetime you have ever faced a more important decision. I don't think that you have ever been called upon to live up to a more important responsibility or to discharge a more important obligation.

Eleven months ago, on that tragic day when we lost our President, our fallen leader had gone, I had, on a moment's notice, to assume the responsibilities of the Presidency.

I had sat with John F. Kennedy through many perilous moments. I sat in 37 meetings of the National Security Council with him when Mr. Khrushchev had brought his missiles into Cuba, 90 miles from the United States, and they were pointed toward our people.

I saw our leader meet there day after day with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with our leading naval authorities, our leading military men, our leading aviators.

I heard the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the CIA all give their judgments.

I am proud to say that the coolest man in that room was our own Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He was firm and steady. He was not frightened, but he was not provocative.

He did not rattle his rockets, and he did not bluff with his bombs, although he ordered our planes off the ground, fully loaded, fully prepared for any emergency. But he showed great patience and great judgment, and as a consequence we avoided a nuclear holocaust that would have wiped out 100 million Americans, over half of our population, in one day's time, and would have killed 100 million Russians in the same period of time.

On November 3d you are going to select the man whose thumb will have to touch that button if it is ever touched. You are going to select the than that has to pick up that "hot line" telephone when Moscow is calling. It is up to you to determine what man you want to do that job.

For 11 months I have done the best job I could for you. I told you that night, when I took over, that with God's help and with your prayers that I would do the best I could. And I have done that.

No one man can lead this Nation alone. It requires the help of all of you, and if you want me to lead it, I will tell you today, as I told you then, with God's help and with your prayers, I will do my best.

But I think you are going to have to make up your mind in the next 10 days what you are going to do about it, and then you are going to have to talk to your kinfolks and your uncles and your cousins and your aunts. And you are going to have to see on that morning of November 3d not that you take your boy down to the draft station, not that you are willing to go and volunteer yourself, but that you exercise the priceless privilege that is your heritage, to go into that polling booth and cast a secret ballot. And that ballot ought to be based on what you know in your conscience is good for your country, what you know in your heart is right.

I haven't come down here to try to mislead you or persuade you, or to convince you. I think that is a reflection on your intelligence. I came here to meet you, to look at you, to speak with you, to discuss some of our problems. And I have confidence in your decision on those problems.

I think that you know what is best for your country, and whether you are a Republican or whether you are a Democrat, or whether you are Independent, I think that you are going, on November 3d, and vote for what is best for America.

I will tell you this: If you will do what is best for America, you will do what is best for you.

Thank you and goodby.

Note: The President spoke at 3:22 p.m. at a rally at Lovell Field in Chattanooga, Tenn. His opening words referred to Governor Frank G. Clement of Tennessee. Later in his remarks he referred to Estes Kefauver, U.S. Senator from Tennessee during the fifties and early sixties, Senator and Mrs. Albert Gore, Representative Ross Bass, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator, Senator Herbert S. Waiters, Representative Joe L. Evins, and Robert M. Summitt, Democratic candidate for Representative, all of Tennessee, and Mayor Ralph H. Kelley of Chattanooga.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at an Airport Rally in Chattanooga Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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