Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at an Airport Rally in Evansville, Indiana

October 27, 1964

Senator Hartke, my dear friend Senator Hartke, Senator Bayh, Mayor McDonald, Governor Welsh, Governor Branigin, Governor Breathitt, Congressman Denton, my fellow Americans:

I really came here to Evansville tonight to meet Lady Bird. I wanted to check up on how many votes she had gained this week. But I guess as long as I am here, we might as well talk a little politics.

I never saw a Hoosier, or a Texan, who minded talking politics. I didn't come out here to say anything bad about anybody. I am not mad at anybody.

I don't want to fight anybody. I want to unite. I want to unite this Nation.

We do have a story to tell in Evansville, in Indiana, and in the country. It is a story of the greatest peacetime prosperity in the history of any land. It is the story of peace, and I think you are going to keep it that way--by your votes next Tuesday.

I worked in the office until 4 o'clock this afternoon and then I went up to Boston and had tea. After we saw our first half million, we decided we better leave town before sundown and we went over to Pittsburgh and had dinner. I guess we will just have a nightcap here in Evansville and go to sleep in Albuquerque.

But I have traveled across the Nation this fall. When I get to Albuquerque tonight I will have been in 43 States since Labor Day, and everywhere I have gone, everywhere I have been, everything I have seen, the signs all read the same: "Men at work." That looks good to me. I know that you, too, here in Evansville, have had more than your share of hard times, but you didn't surrender. You shouldered primary responsibility for helping yourselves, and this administration, with its manpower retraining program, with its area redevelopment programs, tried to come in and help. And we stand ready to continue to do that.

I think you can see the results all around this Nation. New industry is under construction, men are back at work. There are more than 5 million more at work than there were when President Kennedy took the oath of office, and an unemployment rate that has been cut almost in half in the last 3 years.

This prosperity just didn't happen. It came about because of the tax cut, a $12 billion tax cut, and other economic policies of this administration; because this administration cooperated with State and local governments; because this administration helped responsible business and responsible labor work together; because this administration helped responsible private citizens do their part; and because the responsible leaders of both political parties in the Congress voted together, not for their parties but for their country.

And that's the way it ought to be.

Two of the most responsible men in the United States Senate today are your own Senators, Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh. I came to Indiana in 1958 to try to help Vance Hartke come to the Senate. I got here about this time of night and I met Vance and we went to the hotel to unpack my suitcase. I told him that I would speak for him the next day. I would speak either for him or against him, whichever he thought would help him the most, and Vance outlined how he wanted me to recommend him and what he wanted me to say about him, and just where to say it and when to say it, and how to say it.

I spent a very pleasant day in the Hoosier State asking you people to give him a chance and let him come to the Senate and make his mark. Evansville can be proud of Vance and Martha Hartke, and we hope so much that all of you in Evansville, all of you in Indiana, will send them back to Washington to help us out and help you out, and help the world out.

I have two young daughters, one is 20 and one is 17, and I just see them as they flit down the hall going out on a trip or coming back from one. Luci told me this morning that she had been in 19 States, and she said, "What do you think about a young lady of 17 that hasn't had a free weekend since May?"

Well, I didn't think very long, but I guess the reason she hasn't is because Birch Bayh took the Young Democrats and he has perfected them with Marvella's help into one of the finest organizations in this entire campaign. I want to publicly thank them both for their great contribution to the Democratic Party.

Your responsible and experienced Congressman, Winnie Denton, is playing an increasingly important role in the Congress. He has fought consistently for better flood control programs for the Ohio valley, and he has gotten those programs. As a key member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, he is one of the few men who lead the Congress. Seven good terms, I think, deserve another.

They asked our beloved Speaker Sam Rayburn one time why it was that Texas had a Speaker, a Vice President, a majority leader, and 8 of the 15 chairmanships in the House of Representatives. And he said, "Because Texas people have the good judgment," speaking of picking their Congressmen and their Senators, "to pick them young, to pick them honest, to send them there, and to keep them there."

I know you have picked them young and I know you have picked them honest. I know you have sent them there. Now, let's finish up the job and let's keep them there!

You need responsibility here in Indiana, and I hope you won't mind if I commend to you a man with a brilliant future who is going to make a great chief executive, your next Governor, Roger Branigin. He has a program for a new Indiana, and if you will just give it that little extra "umph," that little extra push that he needs between now and next Tuesday, he will put Indiana on the map. Roger has worked with business and industry in this State. He has worked for the Federal Government. He knows from his long experience what Indiana needs, and if Roger is Governor of this State and if I am President of this country, this State and this Nation will work arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, to get the job done for the people of Indiana.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. We want to expand our social security program. We don't want to destroy it, either, by making it voluntary.

We want to improve, not shrink, our children's education. We think that it ought to be the right of every American boy and girl that is born under that flag to have all the education that he or she can take. To do that job, we need to unite our people instead of divide them, and we need to have national unity and for all of us to work together. To do it, we must have aggressive, prudent, responsible leadership.

If we want to go on to the Great Society where there is full employment for our workers, where there is maximum development for our industry, where there is full education for our children, where there is adequate protection for our parents, and where there is full opportunity and equal opportunity for all of our citizens, then we are going to have to unite and start working with each other instead of fighting each other, start loving each other instead of hating each other, start uniting with each other instead of dividing with each other.

I have talked to you about some of the lesser issues in this campaign. I talked to you about conservation and social security, full employment, area redevelopment, flood control. But beyond all of this, and far above all of this, lies the greatest single issue in all of our lives. That issue is peace.

How do you attain peace in a dangerous world? In a matter of minutes--well, in a matter of moments on that tragic day November 22d, before I had a chance to consult any adviser, before I could even walk in a library and get back into the stacks, before I could even think what I should really do, I found myself on the bottom of a Ford police car with a Secret Service man on top of me, racing to an airport, and in the back end of Air Force One, with one hand on the Bible and the other raised to my side, taking the oath of office of President of the United States, with the most awesome responsibilities that go with it. I said then to the people of this country and to the people of the world, that with God's help, with your prayers, I would do the best I could.

We went through the transition period. We visited with the leaders of 85 nations. We submitted the Federal budget. We took up President Kennedy's unfinished program that he had worked out in great detail with all of his leaders and the leaders of his Cabinet, and one of the most constructive and comprehensive programs ever submitted by any President to any Congress, and we started to work to do the best we could.

There were 51 major measures in that legislative program, and your two Senators and your Congressmen have worked their hearts out trying to help me do the best I could. The other evening I came home from another trip out to see the people and I went to my desk that was piled high with reports and papers, and one of them was a comprehensive report on the Congress. The Congress had come since November 22d, and the Congress had gone away.

I looked down that list of 51 major bills and every single one of those 51 bills had passed the United States Senate, and all but three or four had also passed the House of Representatives. And if God is willing and the creeks don't rise, they are going to pass the House of Representatives next year.

But in a matter of minutes that catastrophe happened to America, and in a matter of minutes a nuclear catastrophe could overwhelm us all.

Next Tuesday, the 3 billion people of the world are going to be looking at you in Indiana and 49 other States to see which man, to see what man, to see the kind of man and type of man, and what experience he has, and what his temperament is, and what his judgment is--what kind of man you are going to select to have his thumb near that button, what kind of man you are going to select when that telephone rings on that "hot line" from Moscow, who you want to answer that phone, and what you want him to say.

That is your decision, and now, as never before in man's history, you are going to be called upon to exercise your priceless privilege of citizenship. You are going to need all the responsibility that you can summon. The stakes are much too high to be negligent. And the cause is much too great to be reckless. The finger on the nuclear button can trigger hundreds of millions of deaths.

As your Commander in Chief, I tell you tonight that we are the mightiest and we are the strongest nation on earth. Our military might is greater than that of all the other nations in the world combined. But we must be wise as well as strong. We must be reasonable and never be rash. We must always be intelligent and never impulsive. We must be resolute, but never reckless. We must always be alert and keep our guard up but our hand out. We don't want to bury anyone, but we don't intend to be buried, either.

I didn't stop by here tonight to talk about petty little things or little men. I didn't come here tonight to talk about personalities. I came here to talk to you about the issues of peace in the world and prosperity at home. I think you will have a lot to do with what happens. I think your decision may make the difference. I think every single person is equal on election day. And I think every single ballot is going to be needed.

And if the bell should ring, if the call should come, if the summons should arrive, I have not the slightest doubt that every man and woman here would take their son to the railroad station tonight to see him go away to boot camp and put on the khaki uniform, maybe never to return again, just as they did in World War I and World War II.

But for 20 years now we have had a bipartisan foreign policy. Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a great Republican Senator from Michigan, joined President Harry Truman, a Democratic President, and together they stopped the Communists in Greece and Turkey. Lyndon Johnson joined with Dwight Eisenhower in the Formosa Strait. In the last year of his administration in 960, Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic leader, voted with Dwight David Eisenhower, the Republican President, 95 percent of the time on his foreign policy, while the present leader of the Republican Party voted with him only 25 percent of the time.

When the test ban treaty was before the Senate, which prevents our air from being polluted, which prevents your children from drinking milk with radioactive poison in it. that prohibits your mothers from giving birth to babies that are deformed--when that test ban treaty was before the Senate, it was Everett Dirksen from the State of Illinois, a Republican Senator, that stood there with John Fitzgerald Kennedy and helped that treaty become a reality, and it has now been affirmed by 105 other nations, while the present leader of the Republican Party was one of 12 Senators to oppose it.

If you want to junk all we have done for 20 years trying to preserve the peace of the world, if you want to see bipartisanship go down the drain and flush out of existence, then you ignore my warning. But if you want to continue to put your country ahead of your party, and if you want peace in the world more than you want anything else, then you appeal to the good men of both parties to join together and let politics stop at the water's edge; and let them come with the leaders of other nations and not rattle their rockets and not bluff with their bombs. But in the words of the prophet Isaiah, come and reason together.

Now we are going on to Albuquerque and we won't see you for a long time. I have told you what we think about the wonderful people you have sent us to help us. I hope that each one of you will go home tonight and feel like there is just some little extra something you can do between now and next Tuesday. I hope you realize that we know how important you are or we wouldn't be out here this time of night talking to you. We need your help. We want your support.

We ask you to give us your hand, to give us your heart, to give us your prayers, because this is a mighty nation of patriotic people whose ancestors came from many shores and spelled their names in many ways. They are made up of many colors, many religions. But there is one thing about them, they are Americans first, and they put their country ahead of their party. And if next Tuesday you will go early and cast your ballot and do what you know in your heart is right, we will be happy.

Note: The President spoke at 11 p.m. at a rally at the Evansville Airport, Evansville, Ind. His opening words referred to Senators Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh of Indiana, Mayor Frank McDonald of Evansville, Governor Matthew E. Welsh of Indiana, Roger D. Branigin, Democratic candidate for Governor of Indiana, Governor Edward T. Breathitt, Jr., of Kentucky, and Representative Winfield K. (Winnie) Denton of Indiana. Later he referred to Senator Hartke's wife, Martha, and Senator Bayh's wife, Marvella.

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

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