Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at an Airport Rally in Wilmington, Delaware

October 31, 1964

I hope you want me that much next Tuesday morning!

We are going up to New York and New Jersey, and we are going to record a program with some of the outstanding women in the United States, Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby, who was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in Mr. Eisenhower's Cabinet; Mrs. Patricia Harris; Mrs. Clark Kerr, the wife of the president of the University of California, and other very talented ladies. We will spend most of our afternoon working there and then this evening we will have a big rally at Madison Square Garden.

But I didn't want to pass over the State of Delaware and, just because they had always been so good to me and to my family, let them think that in the closing days of the campaign that I had been in 43 States and I was just going to take them for granted, because I don't know whether you are going to vote for me or not but I sure hope you do.

I think the American people are taking this election very seriously, and you boys and girls, I have a little special message for you, and I am going to put you to work before this day is over with.

The American people have, this year, registered in record numbers, and in the States that I have been in, and this is 44 of them, I have never seen as many people come and make a sacrifice to leave their work or their home to listen eagerly and earnestly to a candidate talk and try to make up their minds what was right and what they ought to do.

The people are listening closely, and they are listening critically. They are doing this, I think, because they are deeply concerned with the leadership of their country, and they are deeply concerned with the outcome of November 3d.

They are right to be deeply concerned because many elections have come and gone without raising any question about the basic structure of American life. But this year, this time, you face a very fundamental decision. For the last 30 years practically all of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, have gotten together and agreed on the general direction in which we wanted our country to go, and we have agreed on the policies of strength and peace, prosperity. And some of the leaders in the peace movement are leading Republicans, men like Senator Arthur Vandenberg, men like my old friend Doc Eaton, over in the House of Representatives; men like Jim Wadsworth, a great Republican who did more to make this Nation strong than almost any Democrat; men like Senator Hickenlooper now; men like Senator Everett Dirksen.

I have worked--I saw Senator Vandenberg. I served on the same committee with him, the Atomic Energy Committee, and I saw him work every day and you couldn't tell whether he was a Democrat or a Republican. He was an American first and he did what was best for his country.

Then when President Eisenhower came in, he was a Republican President for 8 years, but the Democrats controlled the Senate 6 of those 8 years, and I worked with him in the Strait of Formosa and in the Suez crisis, and in Dien Bien Phu and other places, and we tried to put our country first and our party second.

But today, now, this year, a very small group of men declare that these policies are wrong, this bipartisan foreign policy we have been following ought to go out the window. They want to veto the programs that we have worked out together. They want to turn and change course and go in another direction. They want to do it in foreign policy and they want to do it in domestic policy.

I think their meaning is clear. I don't criticize them for it. You can't find one ugly word that I am going to say here in this State today about anybody, whether he agrees with me or disagrees with me. I am going to try to talk about the issues, not the personalities. But I do think these people want to turn back, they want to return to what they believe were "the good old days."

But those days, as I remember them, were not very good. I grew up in the middle of some of them, in the thirties, and I think some of you did.

America is just not going to repeal all that we have done under the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Let's just visit here a little bit on this Saturday afternoon. We are not in any hurry. Let's go back for a minute to October 1929. That was 35 years ago last Thursday, October 29, 1929, 35 years ago last Thursday.

At the New York Stock Exchange, scrambling and yelling traders radically dumped 16,410,000 shares of stock. Shortly after that, unemployment started rocketing toward the 13 million mark and the price of corn started sinking toward 30 cents.

Two years later, a Chicago newspaper reported "men, women, and children are digging in the garbage dump. They are grabbing bits of food and vegetables."

I personally, in 1935, saw little Mexican children go into the garbage cans in San Antonio, Tex., in the back of cafeterias, and take grapefruit rinds that had been discarded from the tables at breakfast that morning and take those grapefruit rinds out and hull them with their teeth to get something to eat. The poor were everywhere.

That is what they talk about as "the good old days."

The Americans of 30 years ago were just as able as we are, and I think they were just as hardworking and just as honest as we are. They loved their country just as much as you do, but they had not yet learned that the 20th century requires a partnership of business and labor and farmers and consumers and Government.

Now, we want peace in the world, we want nations to get along with each other. We don't want to be dropping atomic bombs around and killing people. But we ought to also want peace at home. It is not necessary, to have good times for yourself, for the corporations you work for to have bad times. The bigger the profits and the better the company that you work for does, the more they can do for you; and the better that you do and the stronger you are, the better you feel and the healthier you are, the more likely you are to get into a trot, the better you can do for them.

If you can get the businessman, the big company, the big corporation, and the people that work for them, if you can get them to understand that what is good for one of them is good for the other, and we can have understanding instead of harassment--and I am just foolish enough to think that somehow or other we can do that, and I have been promoting it for 11 months, I have been bringing them in and talking to them.

If business puts everything that it has and all it can muster into the pot, and you put, as workers, everything you have into that pot, and then you take a spoon and scoop it up and make a big pie out of it, the bigger that pie is the more you will get and the more they get if we divide it reasonably equitably.

I will tell you something else that is important: After business gets a return on their investment and their machinery and their management, and the worker gets a return on his sweat and what he did all day long, then Uncle Sam, the Government, I come in and I take my knife, and the bigger that pie is the more I get for the Government because I get 52 percent of all that is left.

So it just seems to me that it is good sense for all of us to try to have peace at home and try to get along. That is why you don't hear me talking about economic royalists, big business, big labor, racketeers, profit-makers, and things like that.

We have laws that determine what is equitable and what is just, and we follow those laws. The laws will be just. There are some people who don't want to follow the laws, but the laws, in the end, will be just. If we will follow those, and try to all work together, in the end we will have peace at home.

Now, that is what we are trying to do in the world, too. We had a little problem right after I came in down at Guantanamo. Mr. Castro--that bearded fellow--came out there one morning and decided to cut our water off, and wouldn't let our servicemen have water at the base. We were contracting with him to buy water. And then everything went up. We have hotheads everywhere, you know, and smart alecks, and folks that have ideas. So they immediately started giving suggestions, and we got a lot of them. But we decided that we ought to move one of our plants from California and make our own water and quit paying Mr. Castro for it, let him take his outfit and go on home.

We have had a good many illustrations like that, and that is the partnership, I think, that has created our great system of Government. We have, by our economic system, dispelled fear of disasters like the depression of 1929. For 44 months now, we have had prosperity. The profits of that partnership that I talked to you about are written in the record.

Do you know that this year the companies are making $12 billion more after taxes than they did last year? Do you know the workers are making $60 billion more after taxes than they did last year?

In the 1920's only four families in ten had incomes that were sufficient to cover the real necessities. Now we have that figure up to eight out of ten, from four out of ten to eight out of ten. That is real progress.

What I want to ask you to do-and that is one reason I stopped off here in Wilmington-is we have it from four out of ten families having enough to have all the necessities-and that was a few years ago--and now we have it to eight out of ten. We have improved it--and you will admit that things have improved the last few years. Now what we want is not eight out of ten, but we want it to be ten out of ten.

The average fellow that works, his real wage in terms of what it will buy has more than doubled. There were about 2 1/2 million small businesses then. Today there are 4 ½ million. That is almost twice as many, large or small. They were failing then at about twice their present rate. I don't think we ought to turn that back.

We don't all agree about the details of how we should go forward. We know we have some differences among ourselves on how to work them out. We recognize the duty, when this election is over, to take a count of the honorable differences of reasonable men and call them in and try to get an agreement. But this election will have settled this, and this is one thing I want you to help me settle in this election. I am going to wait and hear what you do in Wilmington next Tuesday.

I want you to say loud and clear that Wilmington is not in favor of turning back. I want you to say in language that even a fellow with an earphone can understand: America doesn't want to run in reverse. More than that, we have found a new sense of what we can do, and that we can do more than we ever realized we could do. We see more clearly now. We look ahead further.

We can see an abundant America where science and technology have been fully harnessed to the needs of all our people. We see a skilled America in which every child knows the richness of learning and is prepared to the limit of his capacity. We can see over there an America where our cities are not a problem, but a glory, and where from sea to shining sea the works of man blend with the beauties of nature.

We can see a compassionate America, where no one is ill without hospital care, medicare, and no one is in trouble without help. We can see a lively America where the lamps of variety are lit in every home and that knows all the wondrous world of good books and the arts.

We see these things not a hundred years away, but we see them within our reach, in this period of the American breakthrough. So let the old days lie dead and buried. We are ready to move on to that America that we can vision and that we can see. We must keep our eyes in the stars and our feet on the ground. We must be progressive, but we must be prudent. We must be conservative and careful and cautious and not reckless, but we don't have to be right-wing reactionaries.

So I think that is the kind of an America you want. Isn't it?

The Soviet Union last week changed its leaders. We don't know what that means for America. Mr. Khrushchev is no longer in charge. We don't know what it means. But Mr. Khrushchev sat there 2 years ago with Mr. Kennedy, our President, and they were eyeball to eyeball, and I sat in those meetings, 38 meetings, when the National Security Council met and those missiles were pointed towards us, 90 miles off our shores in Cuba.

I never left home a single morning when I knew I was coming back that night. I didn't know what would happen that day.

I saw the Army generals come in with all their stars and the Navy men with all their braid, and the Secretary of State, a great Rhodes scholar, the Secretary of Defense-the president of Ford Motor Co. at a half-million a year--all the men with the big brains, and they all tried to figure out what to do. Any fool could have put his thumb on the button and turned on the atomic bomb. Anyone could have started a war right quick.

We have an old saying in Texas--you may not have ever heard it: "Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a good carpenter to build one." So we want to be careful and not kick anything down. We want to be careful not to start anything that would wipe out a hundred million Americans, and wipe out a hundred million Soviets. So we considered and we thought and we deliberated. I sat there as Vice President, I am proud to tell you.

As Thomas Jefferson said a long time ago, your third President and former Vice President, one of the greatest men we have produced--he said that the decision of the many is much to be preferred to the judgment of the few. Hitler found out that when he could mash a button and make a decision, it wasn't always a wise one. We found out that the decision of the many, those in Dover, those in Wilmington, those in New York, and those in Johnson City, Tex., every 4 years they have to make this decision, and now you are going to have to make it. You made it in 1960, and the man that you sent into that room, that sat at the head of that table, that watched those movements over 38 long meetings of the Security Council, he was the calmest and the coolest and the wisest man in that room--John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

So you are going to have to select the man whose thumb will be close to that button. You are going to have to select the man who will answer that telephone, that "hot line" from Moscow, when that bell starts jingling, ring-a-ling-a-ling, and they say, "Moscow is calling." You are going to have to select the President, and you have only one President.

You are going to decide that next Tuesday, and you are going to decide it not on what is best for me, because you have done everything in the world anybody can do for me. You gave me a place as a congressional secretary, and an NYA administrator, in 1931, Mr. Hoover's administration; you made me a Congressman for 12 years; you made me a Senator for 12 years, and you made me a leader, a Democratic leader, minority leader and majority leader of the United States Senate, the greatest deliberative body in the world for 8 years; and then you made me Vice President by the votes of all the people.

For almost a year I have been your President. You can turn me out next Tuesday, or you can--well, what you ought to do is search your own conscience and summon all the sincerity and intelligence at your command and in your family, and you ought to do what is best for your country.

I would hope that after you have thought it over and after you have considered both sides, and after you have looked at what is happening, after you see the experience record of both men, and after you have heard them all, I would hope that you would reach up there and take that Democratic lever and pull it down all the way.

Someone down there in the ranch country started a slogan back in 1960, and wonderful little Delaware stayed with me all along. They were my friends. But they had a slogan, "All the way with LBJ."

We are going to have a Democratic Senate. It is going to be made up, in my judgment, of about 70 men and women. It is going to be predominantly Democratic. Out of the 100, I think we will have 70. I think in the House of Representatives we will have a majority. I think you want to send a Democrat to work with a Democrat, and I need some help.

I hope that when you give consideration to everything that you will look at the fine, solid record that your good Governor has made and send him down there to help me. Delaware needs Bert Carvel in the Senate. He can work with the other Democratic Senators and with the President, and with the Democrats in the Cabinet, and he can do more for Delaware than anyone I know. I think the Nation needs him in the United States Senate.

You have a wonderful Congressman, and you don't know how much Harris McDowell has helped me, all through the year when we had difficult bills and we wanted to do something. We just didn't want to talk, talk, talk; we wanted to get some action. We passed education bills, we passed other good measures, we passed a tax bill that turned back $12 billion in taxes. We cut our budget $1 billion.

In every one of those votes, Harris McDowell was over in the House of Representatives, and there are not many Congressmen from Delaware--just Harris McDowell. But I will tell you, so far as your President was concerned, I went home many nights after midnight, tired and distressed and depressed, but never on account of him, because Delaware was always 100 percent with me.

They say there is a lot of moral decay in the country and they say we can't trust our young people anymore, and we do have a disturbance here and there and a riot here and there, and we all deplore them. A lot of it is on account of the families and a lot of it is because of the schools, and a lot of it is on account of poverty, and a lot of it is because the kids play in the streets. But in my judgment, the children of today are morally all right and they are stronger and better. I have two daughters, one of them is 17 and one of them is 20, and I think they are both better at their age than I was, and I know they are smarter than I was.

So I have faith in you. We have to work at this problem and we have to improve on the situation we have. We have to have not just some of you educated; we have to have all of you educated. First we have to have a job for every man and woman that wants to work in this country. That just has to be the rule.

Second, every boy and girl born has to have the right to have an education to all he or she can take, even if they are from poor families they have that right, and we have to do something about it.

Third, we have to improve our social security system and we have to strengthen it, and we have to make it better. As the cost of living goes up, we have to increase it. We have to have medical care so that when they get sick and go in the hospital they don't have to send for their daughter, their brother-in-law, their son-in-law, or somebody to haul them over to their house to try to take care of them. We have to have medical care for them so they can live their lives in decency and dignity. And we are not about to, under the Johnson administration, if I have anything to do with it, and you will decide that next Tuesday, we are not about to make social security voluntary and kill it that way.

What can you do about it? You have Lyndon Johnson and you have Hubert Humphrey, Bert Carvel and Harris McDowell, and you have your candidate for Governor, all of these Democrats. Don't go to messing around there and looking here, there, and over yonder, trying to pick over everything and nibble here and nibble there. The best thing to do is to just walk in with your chin in and chest out and say, "I believe in peace and prosperity."

I asked an old boy the other day, I said, "What do they ask you down here about the election?" He said, "Well, all the salesmen come in so often and ask me about the election that I just went out and got 15 of these Kennedy half-dollars. I put them in my pocket and every time a fellow asks me, I just rattle them and say, 'I like her pretty well as she is.'"

So what you do is just reach up there and get that lever and just say, "All the way with LBJ ."

Your mamas and your papas and your grandpas, some of them are going to forget this. But I am depending on you young folks who are going to have to fight our wars, and who are going to have to defend this country, and who are going to get blown up if we have a nuclear holocaust--I am depending on you to have enough interest in your future and what is ahead of you to get up and prod mama and papa and make them get up early and go vote.

Note: The President spoke at a rally at the airport at Wilmington, Del. During his remarks he referred to, among others, Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in President Eisenhower's Cabinet and Director of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II, Mrs. Patricia Roberts Harris, of Washington, D.C., member, United States-Puerto Rico Commission on the Status of Puerto Rico, Mrs. Clark Kerr, wife of the president of the University of California, and Governor Elbert N. Carvel, Democratic candidate for Senator, and Representative Harris B. McDowell, Jr., both of Delaware.

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

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives