Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Barbecue in Stonewall, Texas

August 29, 1964

Mr. Stehling, Reverend Clergy, Senator and Mrs. Yarborough, Congressman Pickle, Mrs. Stehling, Mrs. Weinheimer, the next Vice President of the United States and Mrs. Humphrey, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:

This is a very nice thing for you to do for us, and we appreciate it very much. We have had a long and an exciting week. It is nice to end it here at home among friends that we have known for 56 years. I know that a lot of hard work has gone into this effort that makes this such a pleasant evening for all of us. I want to thank all of you who served on the committee that brought us this barbecue, the fine singing, the good band, the excellent speaker that you will hear a little later, and these distinguished guests.

I need not take any of your time to tell you how much this State and this particular area of the State means to me. I do want to take this opportunity to tell you how proud I am of the people that you send to Washington to help us there do the work that needs to be done for you here.

I am particularly proud of Congressman Jake Pickle, who serves the 10th District, beginning down here at the Blanco County line, whose district runs almost to Houston. He has been in Congress only a short time, but he has caught on. He knows his way around Washington; he is doing a good job; he is genuinely and sincerely interested in making life better for our people; and he has contributed a great deal to the program that we have passed this year that we think will do just that.

Now if I can have a few more words, I want to take this chance to tell you how proud I am and how grateful I am for the steadfast, courageous support that I have received from Senator Yarborough and his wife, Opal Yarborough.

You have heard and you have read that Senator Yarborough and I have had differences at times. I have read a good deal more about them and I have heard a good deal more about them than I was ever aware of.

But I do want to say this, that I don't think that Texas has had a Senator during my lifetime whose record I am more familiar with than I am with Senator Yarborough's. And I don't think Texas has had a Senator that voted for the people more than Senator Yarborough has voted for them. And no Member of the United States Senate has stood up and fought for me or fought for the people more since I became President than Ralph Yarborough. He is the Democratic nominee of the good Democrats of this State for the 6-year assignment of United States Senator.

We have one Republican Senator from Texas already, and I hope that all of you who claim to be Democrats, all of you who pretend to be Democrats, all of you who want to be Democrats, all of you who are really good Americans will go out, come election day, and send to Washington to help Hubert Humphrey and me in the program for all the people of this Nation, Senator Ralph Yarborough.

Thank you very much for this nice party. I want to assure you that we are going to have a long and rough campaign. It is not going to be any new adventure for us or any new experience because we have cut our teeth on campaigns for 30 or 40 years around this place. We are not afraid of what we face. We will not indulge in any fear or any smear. We will put the searchlight on and the spotlight out there and we will tell the people what we stand for.

In very brief terms, we stand for them. We want prosperity here at home where the laborer is worthy of his hire and where he gets a chance to get decent wages for his work; where the farmer can have stable income, and can enjoy the fruits of this rich land, and educate his children and provide them with clothes and food and some of the luxuries of life; we want a place where business can prosper and earn a fair return on their investment and a fair profit on the capital that they have put into their venture; we want to build a Nation of peace lovers, who do not seek war, but who yearn for peace, but who realize that we cannot build fortress America and put our heads in the sand, and let the rest of the world go by.

We do not covet the acreage of anyone else. We seek to dominate no other people. All we try to do is promote peace and harmony in the world, and we like peace so much that we want everybody to have some of it.

We don't question the motives of our adversaries; we don't spend the time talking about the people that oppose us. We don't think you are really interested in my personal opinion of the man who may be on the Republican ticket in various places. What you are interested in is what we stand for, what we are going to do about it, how prepared we are to accept the challenge, how experienced we are to render the judgment that will preserve for you the kind of a land that you want to live in.

I spent a good many serious evenings studying the problems of this land, and what could confront us the next 4 years. After doing that to the best of my ability, I came to the conclusion that the man and woman on this platform tonight could do more to help us to do what you need to have done for you than anyone else that was available.

So I recommended to the Democratic National Convention for their consideration Senator Humphrey. I did this after reviewing the recommendations made by the various Presidents that preceded me for their running mates. I observed that a few Presidents didn't have the privilege of recommending their running mates and, generally speaking, where they didn't they had very poor running mates.

So I was glad that after I made my recommendation at the Democratic Convention, made up of more than 2,000 delegates, there wasn't one single "no" in that hall.

I think that is a great tribute to Senator Humphrey and Mrs. Humphrey, and the kind of life they have led.

Now we bring you no ready-made answers and we don't know the answers to all the problems we have. We have them in various parts of the world tonight. We have serious problems in Viet-Nam. We have serious problems on the continent of Africa. We have serious problems on the little island of Cyprus that Lady Bird and I visited just a few weeks ago.

Any one of those problems can turn into serious events that would bring great shock to our country. We are doing our dead level best to find the solutions to those problems, and we appreciate the support we have from the people of America.

I particularly appreciate the faith of my home folks. I can't tell you that every decision I make will be the right one. But I can tell you that when I had to issue the order the other day to send the boys off of that carrier with the bombs in their planes to destroy the nests of those PT boats that had fired on our destroyer, that it was an order that I didn't want to give. It was an act that I realized was a very serious act. But I felt that it was in the best interest of this Nation and it was the only course I could follow if I really wanted peace, to let them know that we meant what we said and said what we meant, and we were prepared to back it up. And we did that.

We didn't bomb any cities. As a matter of fact, we carefully refrained from doing that. We didn't kill any women and children. We didn't invade any metropolitan areas. We didn't provoke any great nations. We said to them, "You must leave your neighbors alone and you mustn't ever shoot at United States destroyers without expecting a reply."

I get a lot of advice and I need a lot, and I seek it all the time. I am very happy that the men on this platform with me tonight are the kind of men that I can counsel with and I can trust. I have had advice to load our planes with bombs and to drop them on certain areas that I think would enlarge the war and escalate the war, and result in our committing a good many American boys to fighting a war that I think ought to be fought by the boys of Asia to help protect their own land.

And for that reason, I haven't chosen to enlarge the war. Nor have I chosen to retreat and turn it over to the Communists. Those are two alternatives that we have to face up to. The third alternative is neutralization in Viet-Nam. We have said that if anyone was willing to come forward and guarantee neutralization, in other words guarantee the independence of these free people and guarantee them security from their neighbors who are trying to envelop them, we would be the first to stand up to the table and say to them, "Show us that you can guarantee their independence and we will salute you and we will be very proud of you."

But there is no country that is willing to do that, that we know of, so neutralization is not very practical at this stage of the game. There are three alternatives we considered.

The fourth alternative is to do what we are doing, to furnish advice, give counsel, express good judgment, give them trained counselors, and help them with equipment to help themselves. We are doing that. We have lost less than 200 men in the last several years, but to each one of those 200 men--and we lose about that many in Texas in accidents on the 4th of July--to each one of those 200 men who have given their life to preserve freedom, it is a war and a big war and we recognize it.

But we think that it is better to lose 200 than to lose 200,000. For that reason we have tried very carefully to restrain ourselves and not to enlarge the war. We have had a good many difficulties that could have sprung into major events. We had four of our soldiers killed in Panama, and some of our people thought I ought to send in paratroopers, and that we ought to launch a strong force against the small group of folks that live in Panama.

But we told them that they couldn't behave this way, and that they would have to sit down and reason with us across the table, that we could not make any precommitments and we wouldn't sign a blank check to a treaty that we didn't know what was in it, but that we would do what was fair, what was right, and what was just.

It took us 60 days to work out an agreement with them, but they finally came to us and said, "We think that is fair enough," and so we worked out an agreement. Now we have rather peaceful relations and we are on the way to making amendments and modifications in the arrangements between the two nations that will be satisfactory.

Mr. Castro sought to cut our water off at Guantanamo. He notified us in a hasty moment in his own impulsive way that he would not supply water to our base. I had some military experts, some generals here and there, that hollered at me right loudly and said, "Please send in the Marines immediately."

I didn't see any reason to send in the Marines to cut the water off. I just sent in one admiral to turn it off and kept the Marines at home. I didn't start any war, although I would like very much to see the free people of Cuba be able to govern themselves without the dictations of Mr. Castro.

We are going to do everything that we consistently can in our policies to see that the people of Cuba are free people, and can govern themselves. But I would remind you that Mr. Castro came to power before Mr. Kennedy came to power. He came to power in 1959. All these people that give you solutions to Cuba today--ask them where they were in 1959.

So we have had in Viet-Nam in less than a year, three different governments. That is pretty difficult, to carry on the resistance that must be carried on when you are changing governments very often. As a matter of fact, I know how difficult it is to change governments at all, because notwithstanding the experience that we had, the transition following the tragedy in Dallas has been a very difficult one that required the cooperation of all good people, Republicans, Democrats, and independents for the last 8 months.

We just had two governments in the United States. I hope we don't have another one in November. But we do have some of our people, a rather hard core people, they make up a rather small minority, I think, of our total population.

But some of them are frustrated, some of them are over-alarmed, some of them have their blood pressure worked up, some of them are excited and think our country is not doing at all well, and everything is being mismanaged, and we have a lot of woes and a lot of troubles and a lot of headaches that we could do without.

Well, we do have troubles and we do have problems, any great nation has them. When you are the leader of the world, when you are the richest nation in the world, when you are the most prosperous people in the world, you do have difficulties.

I don't know of any people anywhere that don't look up to the United States of America and really wish that they had some of the things that we have. In all of the travels of more than 40 countries that I have had, I have had impressed upon me the great faith that the people have in our system of government and in our fairness and our justice as people. And most of them like what we have so well they would like to have a little of it themselves.

So I say to you tonight, engage in a little introspection, and ask your wife when you go home, ask your children, talk to your family about it, and see just what country you would like to live in that you think is better than this one.

Try to figure out what people you think have as high a standard of living as you have. Try to figure out the group of citizens anywhere that enjoys the freedom that you enjoy here in America.

Think about how your ancestors came across the water in risky, dangerous adventure, seeking the liberty that you now enjoy. Ask yourself what you are really doing to preserve that liberty, and to be worthy of that liberty, and to justify that liberty and that freedom.

All I can say to you is that I have talked much longer than I intended to, but I am proud of the opportunity that you have given me to try to wrestle with your safety and your security, and your future, and the future of the little ones that are here in the front row. I accepted that challenge when I accepted that nomination.

As long as the Good Lord gives me life, I am going to do my dead level best with all the energy I have, and with any talent that I may have, and with any experience and any judgment that I may have, to leave this world better than I found it. And to leave it prepared always to defend itself; to leave it willing always to meet any neighbor halfway and do him justice; leave it a prosperous Nation, where every child has an opportunity to get an education, where every man has an opportunity to get a job, where every family can worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and where we have the right of free speech and we do not discriminate against our own people, and that we try to make this one happy family made up of 200 million people in this country that can be an example for all the rest of the world to follow.

Thank you and good night.

Note: The President spoke in the local rodeo arena in Stonewall, Tex. In his opening words he referred to, among others, Arthur Stehling, an attorney of Fredericksburg, Tex., who helped in arrangements for the barbecue celebration, and Mrs. Stehling, Senator and Mrs. Ralph Yarborough of Texas, Representative J. J. Pickle of Texas, Mrs. Tom Weinheimer, Secretary to the Gillespie County Democratic Executive Committee, and Senator and Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. Later he referred to Thomas C. Ferguson, a former District Judge of Burnet County, Tex., who spoke during the program.

The barbecue, sponsored by the Gillespie County Democratic Executive Committee, was planned in honor of the President's 56th birthday anniversary.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Barbecue in Stonewall, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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