Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at City Hall in Los Angeles

October 28, 1964

Which Johnson do you want? Lady Bird? All right.

[At this point Mrs. Johnson spoke briefly. She said, "It is a thrilling thing to look at the faces so many of the people for whom my husband tries very hard to do a good job. Thank you for coming out to welcome us to your beautiful State." The President then resumed speaking.]

All right, now, I guess it is all right for me to go ahead.

My fellow Americans:

It is great to be back in the biggest city in America, to see the biggest crowds of all time, and to have you tell me that you are going to the polls next Tuesday and give the Democrats the biggest election victory in the history of California.

Ever since the war California has been the biggest in everything. Coming from Texas, where I do, that is really saying something. California has the biggest growth of any State in the Union. California has the biggest problems of any State in the Union.

Your great Republican Governor, Earl Warren, saw those problems coming and he made long-range plans to solve them. Your beloved and great Democratic Governor Pat Brown reworked those plans and has carried on and has worked out new programs to solve those problems to the point that today California is the number one State in the Union. And your brand new Senator, Pierre Salinger, is going to come down to Washington, and with Senator Kuchel, and with your good delegation in the House, and with what I hope will be a Democratic President, we are going to continue to keep California moving.

You need Pierre Salinger in the Senate. I need him in Washington. The Nation needs him, because this forward-looking State must have a forward-looking Senator, not a turn back one. California must have a Senator who says, "I believe we can do it, I am a 'can-do man'" instead of one who says, "It is socialism. I doubt it. We have failed. Let's go back to the status quo."

You need, and the Nation needs, Ed Roybal back in the House, where he can continue to fight the people's battles for the people's good. He has stood by my side when I was Vice President, when I was President, and helped me represent all the people of this Nation, the richest and the poorest, the wisest and the ones that were dropouts. But he has stood up there fighting every inch of the way that we have equal opportunity for every American, regardless of how he spells his name, regardless of what church he goes to, regardless of his color--equal opportunity for all, special privilege for none.

Chet Holifield nominated me for Vice President. Jimmy Roosevelt brought me to Washington and helped me when I was a secretary there. I would like to tell you all about this wonderful California delegation, but my wife has already told me that I speak too long and we have five more speeches today, so all I want to do is to thank you for the good Democrats like Chet Holifield, Cecil King, Jimmy Roosevelt, and the dozens of others that you send to Washington, and that includes all the Democratic Members of your delegation. I commend you for it, because no State in the Union can boast of a harder working, a more effective group of Congressmen than the State of California.

Now, I want to get down to a little business with you. This session of Congress that has just ended accomplished so much for just one reason: The responsible leaders of both political parties worked together for the good of the country. That is the way I think it ought to be. Pat Brown is a great Democrat, but he has carried on in the great tradition of a Republican Governor, Earl Warren. And that is the way it ought to be.

In the White House for the last 20 years, five Presidents from both parties have adopted a bipartisan foreign policy. That bipartisan foreign policy has kept us out of war and has kept us at peace, and has left your boy at home. And that is the way it ought to be, and that is the way it is going to be after November 3d.

As we meet here today, the United States is in the 44th month, almost 4 years, of unprecedented national prosperity. We have 72.5 million men and women working. They are drawing an average weekly wage of $104, the highest in the history. They are working fewer hours per day, fewer days per week, fewer weeks per month, fewer months per year. The corporations of this country that employed them in the last 12 months made $12 billion more after taxes than they did the year before, and I am glad they did, because the laborers that work for them made $60 billion more after taxes than they did the year before.

So we have peace in the world and we have peace between the employer and the employee.

We had a little argument up at General Motors, but it didn't last very long. We didn't get very tough. We didn't issue any ultimatums. We didn't put any pistols on our hip. And we didn't shoot from our hip, either.

But we talked to both Mr. Reuther of the UAW and we talked to Mr. Donner of General Motors, and we said, "Both of you are responsible, both of you are smart, both of you are intelligent"--General Motors is the biggest corporation in this country, they spent $16 billion last year; Mr. Reuther is the head of one of the strongest unions--"Now, you sit there across that table and in the words of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah, you reason together and you find some solution. And if you don't do it, when it gets to hurting America, I am going to come up there and pull my chair up to that table and talk to you!"

Do you know that since November 22d, when I became President, we have not lost even 1 percent of the number of hours that we have worked because of strikes, not even one-half of 1 percent, not even one-quarter of 1 percent. We have lost fourteen one-hundredths of 1 percent of the hours we have worked--that is almost too small to calculate--and we did that accidentally.

So I think it is good when business is doing well, when labor is doing well, because if they have a great big pie that they can divide when they get through paying their expenses and their wages do you know what happens? I come in representing all the people, Uncle Sam, and I take my butcher knife and I slice out 52 percent of it for the Government. So the better business is, the better wages are, the better times are, the better off it is for the Government.

I don't believe in harassing people; I believe in encouraging them. I don't believe in hating people; I believe in loving them. I am not filled with fear; I am filled with faith. I am not going around grouchy always doubting that it will work.

I remember we had an old man in my town in Texas. We lived way out in the country. Finally we got a little railroad 30 miles from where I lived. When it got there, the old man said it would never work, and so forth. Finally the day came and we had the queen cut the ribbon and the train started off for San Antonio. The old man said, "Well, I have been saying now for 3 months they would never get her started and I don't think they will ever get her stopped."

Now, that kind of faith in the future is not what built California. That kind of faith in the future is not what made this the greatest educational State in the Union. That kind of faith in the future is not what made this the greatest space and the greatest aeronautical and the greatest missile, the greatest technological State in the Union. That kind of faith is not what has given you your great University of California and all your fine institutions of higher learning.

But we are not satisfied. We are going ahead full speed. We are going forward to a future of horizons that are unlimited.

The first horizon that we seek is unlimited opportunity for every citizen, regardless of where his poppa came from, regardless of the color of his skin, regardless of the church that he goes to, regardless of the region where he lives. We are all Americans.

The second horizon that we seek is the best educational opportunity that every child can get, and we want every boy and girl born under that flag, when he or she discovers America and comes in squealing, we want him to know that he has the right to all the education that he can absorb. Because I will tell you, these dropouts and these folks that finish grade school in the year 2000, when we have an average income predicted of $15,000 per family per year, it is going to be pretty hard for them to compete in this technological age, so we ought to prepare them for what they face up to. Twenty-one million dropped out of high school and didn't go on to college.

If we are going to compete with the Soviet Union, we are not only going to have to have the best heels and the best hearts that we can, but we are going to have to have the best heads. You don't want some boy that went to a red schoolhouse and dropped out in the third grade and went off as a road hand like I did when I ran off to California when I finished school, you don't want him to be in your spaceship with John Glenn orbiting the earth. You want somebody that knows where the buttons are and how to mash them and touch them.

The third horizon that we seek is the horizon of personal security. We are not going to make our social security system voluntary. That is just another way of saying, "Well, let her go."

I don't know how much you have--you may have some debts, and you may have a husband at home, and you may have some grandchildren but the thing that is really important to every person out there in that audience today is that social security card, because that is going to permit you to live out the twilight of your career in decency and dignity without going to the poorhouse or without having to have your kids come and take care of you.

I was so glad to see some of the leaders that had been active here in California in promoting the cause of our elder citizens. I was so happy to see them standing out there today--Mr. McLain and others--on the sidewalks waving as we went by.

I came here to tell you direct, not through any interpreter or third person, that if you will send Ed Roybal back there and these Democratic Congressmen to help me, and give me Pierre Salinger, to represent the State of California and stand up on that floor and fight like a tiger, we are going to expand that social security system and we are going to strengthen it. We are going to make it stronger and better, and we are going to add medical care under social security.

They say I have talked 20 minutes. I have five more speeches today. They don't want me to run down before next Tuesday.

[At this point there was a disturbance in the crowd.]

Don't you Johnson people do that. Let's always be nice. When your neighbor comes over to your house, and he has been living there alone for a long time and he gets lonesome, and he comes to visit you, even if he does kind of start doing all the talking, you be nice to him and courteous, because everybody is entitled to associate with good company every once in a while.

A fellow told me yesterday, I guess it was in Boston, they actually found an adult up there with one of those signs. We had about a 33-mile caravan and they looked it all over very carefully, but they finally found one adult that had one of those signs. I asked him what was on it, and he said, "Well, we thought it was an ugly sign until we got up close to where we could read. It was a homemade sign and it said, 'Gold for the rich, and water for the poor, and Johnson for President.'"

Let's let them come in here and talk about socialism. When I went to Washington under President Roosevelt in 1933, when he was talking about keeping the banks from being closed, and he was trying to reopen them again, when he had the soup lines, when he had the CCC, when he was trying to do things where people didn't starve to death, they just talked about socialism, socialism. And finally one old boy said, "You can't eat socialism."

It is that same old crowd. I remember when we had the minimum wage up. We had a minimum wage in 1938 for 25 cents an hour. My daddy was on this death bed and he died that night, and I was sitting there listening to the radio with him when President Roosevelt went on the radio and appealed to us to come back to Congress so that widow women wouldn't have to work in pecan-shelling plants for 7 cents an hour, 56 cents a day, trying to feed their families. He said, "Let's come back and have a minimum wage of 25 cents an hour." They all said, "socialism." And the same old crowd is saying the same old lines, and I think they are written by the same old man.

But it takes all kinds of people to make a world. We don't all see everything alike. If we did, we would all want the same wife.

Things are getting better, things are getting better every day. All we need to do now is to go around and talk about positive things, about the issues, about peace, about prosperity, about social security, about jobs, about medical care. We talk issues; we don't talk personalities. And listen, let them talk about anything they want to, because if they get happy and enjoy it, and they get a great thrill out of hollering "socialism," let them be happy.

That is one thing that worries me about seeing some of these folks that oppose us, because I like the lot of them. But if you look at them with these signs, you rarely ever see a fellow that has one who is smiling. I asked a little boy the other day, and they just paid him 50 cents an hour to carry them. And the minimum wage is $1.25!

But let me talk about the horizons now. I got interrupted. I want to talk about the horizons.

The fourth horizon--some of these people don't understand horizons because they look backward, they don't look forward-the fourth horizon is the horizon of discovery. We face the unknown challenge of outer space. When the Russians sent up Sputnik I, anybody that could read and write in this country got frightened.

I immediately went to Washington and called an investigation, and we had the best military experts in the world come there and testify. While they were testifying, the Russians sent up Sputnik II, "Beep, beep, beep," around in the air.

They called for some comments from some leaders. I said we better get going, we better step up our effort. My opponent said, and this is approximately what he said, about what he said, "I am not worried about somebody putting a basketball in the air that says, 'Beep, beep, beep.' I would rather lob one into the men's room in the Kremlin."

That is a problem for us. You cannot be first on earth and second in space. That is just impossible. If you want to lead the world, you have to lead it. The British had the greatest navy in all the world and she dominated the seas and she led the world for centuries. We came along with the airplane, an industry that was begun here in California, and because we had the greatest air power in the world we have led the world and we have preserved peace for 20 years. We won World War II with the airplane.

Now what we do in space is going to determine how we live. Tiros IV told us 48 hours in advance that we were going to have Hurricane Carla, and we moved all the people from Galveston, Tex., up to our capital, 200 miles, bumper to bumper, and we never lost a life because we had that notice. In 1905 we had the same kind of a hurricane and we lost 100 or 200 lives.

So that is what space is doing for us. That is what your technicians are doing. That is what your scientists are doing. We face tremendous revolutions in science and technology.

John Glenn came in yesterday and I promoted him to full colonel. I had a little fun out of him. I said a fellow that can orbit the earth and didn't know how to stand up in a bathtub--there is something wrong with him.

But we must act now to control and to apply what we learn to improve our daily lives.

First, we have to learn to discover the cause of disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, cancer. I have a committee working on that now and they are eagerly searching, trying to find that answer.

Second, we are going to have to rebuild our cities. They have filled up with slums and we see kids out there playing in the streets when the cars are trying to drive by. It is a terrible disgrace. We are going to have to reshape our mass transit facilities because some men spend 3 hours going to and from work every day--3 hours wasted. They ought to go in 20 minutes. We can't go in a horse and buggy any more. We have to improve our mass transit. If John Glenn can go around the world, we have to find some way to get from a suburb to our plant.

We have to purify our air and we have to desalt our oceans. Now just put your head to working just a minute. Think about when we are able to go out in the Atlantic and the Pacific and the other great bodies of water in the world and take all the salt out of it and make pure water. We are going to make all the deserts bloom.

This little problem that you have with my friend, who has temporarily captured the Republican Party, about water in Arizona; I want all these folks that are asking me what about this other fellow--I don't want to call his name--I want to ask what is Arizona really going to do to California in this water situation?

I want each of you to give a little thought to it and ask yourself that question. But our program has to be to desalt the seas and rebloom the deserts. There are a hundred other ways that we can make our world a better place to live. So why do we want to go around being grouchy?

Fifth, we must pursue with patience and perseverance, with strength and with sanity, the unlimited horizon of universal peace.

When I was a young man first entering politics, I had an argument about an REA project and I got very irritated after 2 or 3 days because the old president of the power company wouldn't give in at all. I finally got up one day and made a little speech before the board of directors, and I said, "You can take a running jump, as far as I am concerned, and go straight to you know where," and everybody applauded me. I was mighty brave. I was bravado. I talked big, and I told the president of the biggest power company in the State of Texas to go straight to-and they all applauded me except one old man who was general counsel, a lawyer. I went by, and he was my friend, and I said, "How did you like my speech?" I could tell from the way he looked how he liked my speech. He said, "Come by the office, son, when this is over. I want to talk to you." I went by, and he said, "You are young, and I worked up this meeting and got the board of directors of the REA and the power company together. It took me 2 months to get the meeting together, and you busted it up in 2 minutes." He said, "Any jackass can kick a barn down. It takes a carpenter to build one."

He said, "Let's analyze what you said. You said that this fellow could go straight to hell. In the first place, he doesn't want to go, and you have no power to make him go." He said, "It is hot down there, and from what he has heard about it, it is not a very desirable place to live. And if you can't get him to enter into this agreement on REA, you can't get him to agree with you to go straight to."

He said, "The first thing I think you ought to learn, because I hope that you go somewhere in public life--you are a young Congressman, you have great chances, President Roosevelt has tried to help you--the first thing that you ought to get in your noggin is telling a man to go to hell and making him go are two different propositions."

I thought about that when Bob Taft was the Republican leader of the Senate and I was Democratic. A lot of times I felt like getting up and saying, "You go straight to--" When Bill Knowland from your great State of California, when he was the leader, I had on occasions some indications that I might want to express very freely, but I kept thinking about what that old man told me. When Senator Dirksen came along and we disagreed, I thought the same thing.

So now that we live in a world with 120 other nations and 112 of them are in the United Nations, you can't have government by ultimatum. Just because we are powerful, we can't just mash a button and tell an independent country to go to--because they don't want to go to--and we don't get very far rattling our rockets or lobbing them into the men's rooms, or bluffing with our bombs.

I saw President Kennedy in the Cuban crisis in 38 different meetings, and we got up to the last hours. Khrushchev had his missiles trained on this country that would completely wipe out San Francisco and Los Angeles. There would be no life left.

Those men stood there, one speaking for the United States and the free world, and the other speaking for the Communist world. They got eyeball to eyeball, and I saw the generals with their stars come into the room and the admirals with their braid, and the Secretary of State with all of his diplomatic experience. I listened to every word.

I never left home a single morning that I knew I would get back that night to see Lady Bird and those daughters.

So as a little boy in my country used to say, we were doing some pretty heavy thinking, because we were right up to the gun. But Mr. Kennedy put his knife right there in his ribs and he held it, Khrushchev put his there and he held it, and neither one of them shook or trembled or developed palsy; neither one of them wobbled. Our planes were in the air. They had their bombs in them. Our Navy was on the seas; they were ready.

But Mr. Khrushchev finally decided rather than to see 300 million people killed and the Soviet Union wiped out--and they could wipe out America, too--that humiliating as it was, it might be a little wiser to wrap up his missiles in those tarpaulins and put them on those ships and take them back home, and that is what he did.

We are going to educate our people, we are going to give them jobs, we are going to provide social security, we are going to give them more leisure time, we are going to improve the countryside, we are going to have more recreational areas, we are going to treat all Americans equally and then there won't be a single one that will want communism.

But in that time when we sat in that room trying to decide what was best to do, and even after it was over we didn't brag about it, we didn't say much about what had happened because we didn't want to provoke anybody and make it more embarrassing-we worked out the test ban treaty a little later, we worked out the "hot line" a little later, we worked out the agreement not to use armament in space a little later, we worked out the desalinization agreement a little later--what I want to say to you is during that period I sat across on one side of the table as Vice President and the President of this country sat across on the other, and I am proud to tell you that the coolest head in that room was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

There are some voices going around talking about how he framed it all up, and they are making charges they didn't make in his lifetime. They are making accusations that he is not here to answer. But I think you are going to give them an answer loud and clear next Tuesday.

Economic and social progress are only a part of a President's job. Far above them and far above everything else is the President's inescapable and awesome responsibility that I just talked about in the Cuban missile crisis. His first responsibility, the only real issue in this campaign, the only thing that you ought to be concerned about at all, is who can best keep the peace?

There are great and troubled changes going on in the world as we meet here. I heard about some of them in the trailer when I talked to Washington a moment ago, and when they break upon the world, the Government of the United States must act.

Mr. McNamara called me and told me that our destroyers had been fired upon, our flag had been shot at, and we had to act, and we did act in the Tonkin Gulf, but we had to think before we acted. In the nuclear age, the President doesn't get a second chance to make a second guess. If he mashes that button, that is it. So we cannot make a foreign policy, we cannot keep the peace by bluff and bluster and by threats and ultimatums.

We can keep the peace and we can only keep the peace by two methods: first, with a strong defense, and we are today, I tell you as your Commander in Chief, the mightiest nation in all the world; and second, we can keep the peace in the words of the prophet Isaiah, by reasoning together, by responsibility, by negotiation.

Strong defense comes first. As your Commander in Chief I have told you of how we stand with the other nations on this earth, stronger than all of them. And you helped make it that way.

President Kennedy spent $40 billion more on defense and space in 4 years than was being spent when he went in. That is why we are strong, and that is why we are going to continue to be strong, and that is why I am going to keep it that way.

But it is not enough to be strong. You must also be prudent, and you must also be wise, and you must also be firm, and you must also be reasonable. We must be brave. I admire a brave man. But there are some people that have more guts than brains, and we must be, above all, responsible. The stakes are too high to be reckless; you have too much to lose to be reckless.

Now, more than ever before in history, now in the nuclear age, now with the world-shaking changes, now that the Communists have the bomb, that is another nation that has it. We just can't afford to take reckless or needless chances. Somebody said the other day after the Chinese got the bomb that it would really be bad if both of them got it at the same time.

We must dedicate ourselves with all of our heart and all of our strength and with all of our intelligence, all our wisdom, all of our patience, to the greatest undertaking in the world. And what is that? Bringing the peoples of the earth together in enduring peace. "Love thy neighbor as thyself," "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." No matter how long it may take, no matter how difficult it is, this above all else is the great horizon toward which we march united. I say united, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Do you know that Senator Arthur Vandenberg changed his isolationist record after he had been in the Senate many years and he went in to help President Truman stop the Communists in Greece and Turkey? Lyndon Johnson, as Democratic leader, went in and supported President Eisenhower in the Suez and in the Formosa Strait. I voted for his foreign policy 95 percent of the time in 1960, and the present Republican nominee voted for it only 25 percent of the time.

We must keep both parties trying to let politics stop at the water's edge. I have been in office 11 months. You make a decision next week whether you want me to have my first elected term, or whether you want me to go back to the ranch in Texas. I have read in the paper where some people do, but I just sure hope that they don't live in Los Angeles.

So let's keep a smile on our face, let's keep faith in our heart, let's keep hope in our vision, let's move on to conquer unknown frontiers. And let's leave this land a lot better for our grandchildren than we found it for ourselves.

Note: The President spoke at 1:23 p.m. at City Hall in Los Angeles, Calif. During the course of his remarks he referred to, among others, Chief Justice Earl Warren, former Governor of California, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Senators Pierre E.G. Salinger and Thomas H. Kuchel, and Representatives Edward R. Roybal, Chet Holifield, James Roosevelt, and Cecil R. King, all of California, Walter Reuther, .president of the United Automobile Workers, AFL--CIO, Frederic G. Donner, chairman of the board of directors, General Motors Corp., and George McLain, chairman of the board of trustees of the California League of Senior Citizens.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at City Hall in Los Angeles Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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