Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at an Airport Rally in Detroit

October 30, 1964

Governor Williams, Senator Hart, Governor Staebler, Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, my old friend Pat McNamara:

I am so happy to be back here in Detroit again. I want to thank all of you for coming out here this morning. You have made this a great Democratic rally for Detroit, and we are going to make next Tuesday a great Democratic day for Michigan.

Four years ago a young man stood on Michigan soil and asked for a chance to get this country moving again. His name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. You gave him that chance and he got this country moving again, and if you will vote the Democratic ticket next Tuesday, we will keep this country moving again.

We have a lot of work to do, and I ask your help in doing it. I know you will send back to the Senate a man that we know, a man that we can always count on, a man that will work with his colleague, one of the great Senators in the Senate, Pat McNamara.

I want all of you to go to the polls early, stay late, and vote for Phil Hart all day long.

We have a House of Representatives. We have close votes. We have votes between the interests and between the people, and we need people who will come there and vote for the people. So I hope you will send back to the House of Representatives men and women who always have a record for voting for the folks. That is John Dingell, that is Martha Griffiths, that is Charlie Diggs, that is Lucien Nedzi.

But they are not enough. We need some more Democratic Congressmen from Michigan, and there is not a reason in the world why you can't send Weston Vivian and Billie Farhum and John Conyers and Frank Sierawski and Bill Ford.

I don't know whether you know it or not, but if you don't, you ought to: The whole United States is watching and waiting for you to elect a new Governor in Michigan, Neil Staebler. Neil and I don't mind working together, don't mind having our picture made together, don't mind standing for the same things.

I have known him for many years, in and out of Government. I knew him as a veteran of the last war. I know him as a dedicated leader of our party and this great State. I know him as an able, hard-working, responsible Member of the Congress, and I don't think that he is ashamed to stand up on the same platform with his nominee for President.

So if you will give us a Democratic delegation in Washington, and a Democratic Governor in Michigan, we will keep these people working and we will keep Michigan moving forward.

It is mighty nice to be welcomed by these candidates on this platform. I don't have the slightest bit of hesitancy about endorsing any of them, and I don't detect any hesitance on their part to come out here and be seen with me.

They tell me that the time is past in this campaign to talk facts and figures, and they say it is not good to talk facts and figures at an airport rally, anyway, but this wasn't a scheduled rally. You know, I got my arm twisted on this one. I am due in Milwaukee right now, but ever since this campaign began, I have had so many friends that made me do so many things that I have always run an hour late and a dollar short.

I received last night some figures that say a lot about one thing that I really think this election is all about. First of all, prices--prices of the things you buy--are up only one-fifth of 1 percent over August. This puts them only 1.2 percent above September, 1 long year ago. We wish that they weren't up at all, but what this record says is that we have the most stable price level of any single industrial nation in all the world.

This is going to be the first airport rally arithmetic lesson in the history of all of American politics. I suspect that some of you folks out there listening to me--and any of you that may watch the television that is recording it--are interested in wages and earnings last month. These figures are about prices and wages and earnings.

Weekly wages in September averaged $103.94. And that is the highest level in the history of the United States of America. I think I will interpolate a little bit here and say I think that wages like that are good for the workers, and I think what is good for the workers of this country is good for the United States of America.

But there is more. This September figure is $14.86 higher than it was the day our late, beloved President John F. Kennedy took the oath of office. That was some 44 months earlier.

But here is another comparison. If you take an average worker with three dependents and you calculate his weekly earnings and his taxes and the change in the cost of living, he and his family are $9.84 a week better off than they were in January 1961 when John F. Kennedy became President.

What does that mean? That is an 11.8 percent increase, really 12 percent increase, in these last 44 months. And then if you look at what happened to that same average worker during the preceding 44 months, he had a gain during that period of $1.31, or only 1.7 percent compared to 12 percent. You know which administration is best for you--1.7, less than 2 percent, compared to 12 percent, 6 to 1. So the improvement in that family situation during these 44 months is exactly a little over 6 times what it was during the preceding 44 months.

All right. That is the prosperity story, and I have tried to tell it in a nutshell where each one of you can figure it out in your own pocketbook. This is the pledge that I want to make to you: We are not going to repeal that prosperity and that progress next Tuesday. We are going to renew and extend that prosperity and that progress next Tuesday. And after that, we will talk about it again.

It was 35 years ago yesterday, on October 29, 1929, that the New York stock market crashed and brought the American economy crashing with it.

We have learned in these 35 years that the price of prosperity is not repeated depressions. The price of prosperity is only responsibility.

The prosperity of the past 44 months didn't just happen. It is the result of responsible management and responsible labor leadership. It is the result of responsible restraint about wages and prices.

It is the result of responsible Government policy, and as long as I am your President, I am going to spend my time trying to have peace in the world and peace at home. I am going to try to encourage business and encourage labor to work out their problems between themselves as they have here in Detroit, instead of having a Government harass them and put them in a straitjacket.

Then there was the Area Redevelopment Act that I think ought to interest you. I intend to ask the Congress to extend it and strengthen it next year, because no wise and no humane nation can ignore the depressed communities where their distress is caused by the reduction of job opportunities in privately-owned plants, the closing of public facilities, or other factors.

The partnership of the Federal Government with State and local governments and with private business is essential to lift up these communities and to help get their citizens off relief rolls and back on payrolls. This act will help us to make taxpayers out of taxeaters.

Again, there was the Accelerated Public Works Act that Pat McNamara has had so much to do with.

There is the Manpower Development and Training Act that has meant retraining projects for over 11,000 Michigan workers.

Then there is the increase in the amount of minimum wage, and its extension to over 3 million additional employees.

This year's Federal tax cut has already had a substantial effect, and the leaders in the State of Michigan had as much to do with helping us get that tax cut as the leadership in any State in the Union, and I want to thank them for it. That doesn't mean just political leaders. That means labor leaders, and that means business leaders.

Henry Ford and Walter Reuther smiled at each other and Pat McNamara and Phil Hart looked at that smile and decided they both better vote with me and pass that tax cut, and they did. It has made jobs and it has fed hungry mouths, and it has brought prosperity to every State in this Union.

When it is fully effective, here is what it will mean in Michigan: an increase in total income of over $1.3 billion a year, 89,000 new jobs, an increase in average family income of $476 per family.

Well, it just didn't happen. We planned it that way. We worked long and hard to get it done that way. We did it even though my opponent opposed it every step of the way. So we are prosperous in the United States today because we have been responsible in the United States.

That is really the basic issue in this campaign: responsibility for prosperity at home; responsibility for peace in the world.

I want to tell you about a new step forward that we are taking with the Peace Corps, which is another form of responsibility.

The AFL-CIO and 20 leading industrial concerns, some of them located here in this industrial State of Michigan, are working together with the Peace Corps to put into effect a program to use skilled American workers all over the world.

The Peace Corps is going all out to recruit the blue-collar worker to fill the needs for skilled workers in the developing nations. Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Chrysler, International Harvester, Mack Truck, John Deere, and other major United States industries, have instituted leaves of absence, policies that guarantee reemployment, seniority, pension rights to workers that volunteer for Peace Corps service.

These men will be invaluable to these new, developing nations.

And I will tell you, no one has done a better job with the new, developing nations than your own Michigan Governor--Soapy Williams. He and I have at least some things in common. We both outmarried ourselves and his wife has been helping him.

These new nations need people who can do things, who can roof houses, who can build buildings, who can fix automobiles, teach wood and metal working.

This program opens up a whole new field for the Peace Corps, and although the Peace Corps never was intended only for college graduates, many people thought it was. Sargent Shriver told me this morning that he plans to have at least 2,000 skilled workers in the Peace Corps before Christmas of 1965.

George Meany has appointed AFL-CIO Vice President Joseph Beirne to head the committee that will work with the Peace Corps.

Let me say just this much about the overriding issue of peace and war. For 20 years now a mushroom cloud has shadowed our lives. For 20 years every American President has worked to reduce that danger. Today we must work more urgently than ever before.

Harry Truman worked with the Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg. Lyndon Johnson worked with the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in the Formosa Strait and in the Suez crisis, just as Vandenberg worked in Greece and Turkey. Everett Dirksen worked with the Democratic President on the test ban treaty, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

If you want to junk this bipartisan foreign policy and flush it down the drain, then you don't go vote next Tuesday or you go vote Republican, because we are not going to junk it if we have Democratic leadership. We are going to preserve peace in the world.

We have a problem not of creating tensions, but reducing tensions among nations. We don't believe the United Nations ought to be abolished. we believe that it has prevented many wars.

So today we must work ever more urgently and more earnestly to try to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The peace depends upon our strength. As your Commander in Chief, I report to you today that the military might of the United States of America is greater than that of all the other nations in the world put together, but might doesn't make right. Peace also depends not just upon might, but upon responsibility in using it, and upon reason.

We, of course, must be strong, but we must not be reckless. We, of course, must be firm, but we must not be foolish. One miscalculated, impulsive, reckless move of a dingle finger could incinerate our civilization and wipe out the lives of 300 million men before you could say "scat."

That is what it means to be President of the United States in this nuclear age, and, really that is what is at stake in this election.

Jobs are important, schools are important, medicare is important--all of these things are important. But they fade into insignificance compared to the one overriding important issue, and that is peace in the world.

Yes, we are a mighty nation. We know it and they know it. We covet no one's territory. We seek to dominate no people. We know it and they know it. That is why you gain nothing form bravado; that is why you gain nothing from rattling you rockets and bluffing with your bombs. That is why you get nowhere by saying you'll lob one into the men's room in the Kremlin.

That is why I say to you most earnestly today that the United States of America loves peace and hates war, and we do not intend to be buried.

If your life was at stake, if your country faced a crisis, every man and woman out there would take their boy to the railroad station to see him go away to boot camp to put on that khaki uniform as they did in world War I and as they did in World War II. You are not being asked to do that today. But you are being asked to go not to the railroad station, but go to the polling booth and vote for what in your heart you know is right. The vote you cast will be your own, and the world that you save will be your own.

These rallies are nice. they give you a chance to see the people that you work for.

We have a wonderful setup in the country. Jefferson once said that the collective judgment of the many is much to be preferred to the individual decision of the few, and somehow or other, the people, the collective masses, know how to select their leaders.

Everyone running for office wants peace. Lyndon Johnson has no mortgage on peace. Everyone running for office, I think, is patriotic. I have no mortgage or monopoly on patriotism.

but the question you have to decide is which man's thumb you want close to that button. The thing you have to decide is when that telephone starts jingling and you hear the ring on the "hot line" and they say, "Moscow is calling," you have to decide which man you want to lift up that receiver and what you want him to say.

[At this point there was a demonstration in the crows.]

Wait a minute. They have already told me I have talked too long and I have go to finish. I want to tell you one more story.

That is not going to be any monkey business. that is going to be serious business. I will tell you why it is serious business. I don't know whether you had a newspaper strike out here 2 years ago or not. I hope you will get this one settled that you have had all these months.

I do want to commend the responsible leadership of the automobile companies and the responsible leadership of the unions for doing what is best for their country in working out their agreement. I appreciate the fact that we don't have a lot of men unemployed all over the country today.

They asked me what I was going to do about it, and I said, "Well, I think that General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors have some fellows that are experienced and know how to negotiate, and I know from some of my own experiences in this office that Walter Reuther knows how to negotiate, and I am just going to let them handle it between themselves, because we believe in collective bargaining."

We are not going to repeal it and go back to the 19th century, either, and we are not going to make social security voluntary, either, and we are not going to be satisfied the rest of our lives with Kerr-Mills, either.

But 2 years ago, I guess, yesterday, we were meeting in the White House, and they were coming in the back gate, the Army and Air Force men; the generals with the stars on their shoulders; and the Navy men with the gold braid on their arms; and the distinguished Secretary of State, with all of his diplomatic experience, a Rhodes scholar; the distinguished Secretary of Defense that used to make a half-million a year as President of Ford--all of them with their briefcases bulging.

They were sitting there realizing that 90 miles from the United States we had missiles that were almost operational, and in a matter of hours and days could be touched off to destroy the industrial might of America. The question was what do you do about it? Well, there were some of them that were saying, "Send in the Marines." There were some of them saying, "Drop your bombs." There were some of them that said, "Cut loose and let go."

But for 38 long meetings we met there every day, and I never left home in the morning when I was sure I would see my wife again that night. That is how serious I knew it was.

The coolest man at that table was the man that the collective masses of this country had selected to be their Commander in Chief, and his name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Mr. Khrushchev with those missiles already moved in and located and set up, and we had pictures of them, literally held a knife in Mr. Kennedy's ribs, and it wasn't held by a hand with palsy. It was held pretty firm and pretty straight, and it protruded enough that you could feel it.

Mr. Kennedy had a knife in his stomach, and he kept it there. And hour after hour and day after day those two leaders of millions of people, affecting billions of people, were eyeball to eyeball, and every mother, every child, and every human being that had any sense was living in great doubt about tomorrow.

Because of that leadership and because of that judgment, and because of that experience, our Commander in Chief used power with restraint. He had his airplanes in the air and he had them loaded with bombs, and he had men that knew how to open that bomb bay. He had his carriers located at their proper places, and he had his Marines ready to jump out of those planes.

But he was cool and he was calm, and finally the break came. Mr. Khrushchev picked up his missiles, put them on the decks of his ships, covered them with tarpaulins while our helicopters flew overhead counting them.

That must have been a humiliating experience for him, but it was a great source of pleasure and joy and relief not only for our people but for his people, because millions of lives were saved because of good leadership and good judgment.

We all pray that we will never have to move that thumb toward that button again. We all pray that we will somehow, some way, learn how to live in the world with other people. But we do know that we have a new government in Russia in the last few days, and we do know that Mr. Khrushchev is no longer the leader of that country. We do know that the Chinese have developed a nuclear bomb, and that they have 700 million people to develop more of them.

So we do know that we are going to require leadership and we are going to require experience, and we are going to require judgment. Well, I am not here to say that I am the only man that has those qualities. I am here to appeal to you and ask you to appeal to your neighbor and your friends and your kinfolks and your uncles and your cousins and your aunts to be patriotic enough next Tuesday to go down there and search your conscience and exercise your judgment and vote for the man that in your heart you know is the leader of this country.

Thank you and goodby.

Note: The President spoke at 11:48 a.m. at a rally at the airport, Detroit, Mich. In his opening words he referred to G. Mennen Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and former Governor of Michigan, Senator Philip A. Hart, Representative Neil Staebler, Democratic candidate for Governor, and Senator Pat McNamara, all of Michigan. Later in his remarks he referred to, among others, John D. Dingell, Mrs. Martha W. Griffiths, and Charles C. Diggs, Jr., U.S. Representatives, and to Lucien N. Nedzi, Weston E. Vivian, Billie S. Farnum, John Conyers, Jr., Frank J. Sierawski, and William D. Ford, Democratic candidates for Representative, all of Michigan.

The text of remarks of Mrs. Johnson, who spoke briefly, was also released.

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

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives