Remarks in Des Moines at a Democratic Party Dinner
Governor Hughes, Governor Guy, Governor Morrison, Congressman Schmidhauser, Congressman Smith, Congressman Callan, Congressman Culver, Congressman Bandstra, Congressman Greigg, Congressman Hansen, my dear First Lady of the great State of Iowa, fellow Democrats:
I think I ought to make it clear at the outset tonight that this is a very selfish visit. In the grade school history books, most Presidents are pictured as forever smiling and always self-sufficient, altogether content to be desk-bound in Washington.
They never seem to need anything. Besieged by problems on every hand, with the winds of crisis always howling all around them, they seem to rest like some Gibraltar on a sea of self-assurance.
Some day I may rewrite a few chapters of those books. If I do, I will have something to say about the needs of a President, the needs of a President to get away from the big desk in the Oval Room, away from the telephone and the briefing papers that are brought in every minute of every hour; the needs of a President to go out again among the men and the women and the children whose servant he is; the needs of a President to experience, again, the strength that comes from the power for good that lies out there in the fertile lands and the great cities of America; to be refreshed once more by America's deep confidence in itself, by its conviction that we don't have any problem that we are not big enough to solve ourselves--and always remembering that all of our successes are always subject to improvement.
I confess tonight that I did not come out here just to talk to you. But I did come out here to draw strength from you. For no matter how steadfast in his determination a President may be, he is not, I can assure you, a Rock of Gibraltar.
As you may have heard on the grapevine, he is just a plain, simple, human being.
Two generations ago a President might have come to Iowa prepared to talk only about the farm program, more specifically and particularly about corn and hogs, as he might have talked only of cotton and trade in the South, or as he might have talked only of manufacturing and tariffs in New England.
Well, tonight I want to talk of other things. I want to tell you about some of the things that we have to be thankful for, some of the things that we have a right to appreciate.
The first thing that I want to mention from that high priority list of mine that I am thankful for is the Governor of the great State of Iowa, Harold Hughes.
And the Governor of your neighboring State, the great State of Nebraska, Frank Morrison.
And the Governor who has honored us with his presence tonight by coming here to Des Moines, the great Governor of the State of North Dakota, Governor Guy.
I want to thank each and every citizen of the great State of Iowa, their uncles, their cousins, and their aunts, for sending to the House of Representatives one of the greatest Democratic delegations that any State in the Union ever sent to Washington.
I don't think you are going to change horses in the middle of the stream. Polls notwithstanding, I have not the slightest doubt that every man, woman, and child in this room is ready to go out of here tonight and tomorrow, and the next week, and every day until November, to see that Schmidhauser, Smith, Culver, Bandstra, Greigg, and Hansen--and if you get over the line in Nebraska, Callan--are all sent back to Washington with a resounding vote.
Last year we passed 85 percent of our platform. This year we submitted 90 major measures for the benefit of all the people of America. With the help of this delegation in the House, we have already passed through the House of Representatives 60 of those 90 measures.
While I don't speculate, I anticipate that we are going to pass some more of the 90 before I let them come back to campaign for re-election.
But it is hot here tonight and I have had a long day, and I am going home. So I am not going to speak as long as I would like to, or as I am accustomed to. But I do want to speak to you of a whole nation, your Nation, that is remaking itself year by year, that is multiplying the abundance of all of its people.
Since January 1961, annual per capita income in America after taxes--since the Democrats came into office following a Republican administration--annual per capita income, the income of every individual in this country, after taxes, has been increased by 28 percent. And don't you let them forget it!
Now I don't want to give you a lot of statistics. I didn't ask you to bring your yellow tablet and take notes all evening as if you were in college history class. But I want to give you enough statistics to permit you to defend yourself between now and November.
You hear a lot of talk about people who want to leave politics at the water's edge and support us in Vietnam.
Well, the best way to support us in Vietnam is to support us--not to hamstring us, not to harass us, not to humiliate us, not to send word that broadcasts throughout the world that this is a divided Nation.
I am in contact with a lot of these folks who give me advice every day. I get a reasonable amount of it. If I don't have a chance to read my mail, I do have a chance to get the papers. And I get a good deal of it through the newspapers.
I want to say to all those people that I appreciate their advice. A man's judgment is no better than his information. I particularly appreciate the advice that contains information. I particularly appreciate judgments that are based on facts, on information, on knowledge, on evaluation.
The United States Government has the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the greatest intelligence services in the country, and has a network of ambassadors in every capital of the world, 120 capitals. It has a flow of information from every capital, even the few that it doesn't have representation in.
I use that information--and I need it. I am glad to have it supplemented by any volunteers who feel they have a little bit better approach or they have a little inside information.
But I do want you to know that in the final analysis, when the decision is made and you have to mash the button and the bell rings, it is like Mr. Truman said: "You can get all the advice from all the world, but you have to act on your own head, your own heart, and your own conscience."
Under our constitutional system, one man has the horrifying, terrifying duty to finally make the decision.
So this year I am told that we are going to talk about two things--about the war in Vietnam and about inflation.
The war in Vietnam is something we must talk about, spend a lot of time on, think about, and work at. We have a terrific responsibility there to provide the maximum deterrent possible to keep an aggressor from conquering 14 million innocent men, women, and children, with the minimum cost to the United States of America.
We have lost 2,000 lives, a little over, in Vietnam this year. We lost 50,000 lives on the highways. We could lose 200,000 in Vietnam. So every move we make must be deliberate, careful, prudent, and cautious, and must be based on the very best comprehensive information available anywhere.
I come here to pledge you tonight that without regard to party, race, religion, or any other element except what is right, the decisions affecting our men in Vietnam and affecting the foreign policy of the United States are going to be based on only one thing: that is, what is good for the United States of America and the free world.
Now on the inflation front, if you are distraught, if you are worried about high prices, if you have a stomach ulcer because of high wages, if you are concerned about hogs bringing too much, or calves bringing too much, or wages getting too high, and you are really worked up about inflation, it may be that you ought to vote Republican, because there is one guarantee I can give you from my 35 years' experience: If you vote Republican and by chance you should win, you won't have to worry very long about high prices--or high wages.
When I went to Washington we were worrying about some of these things. We were worrying about those 3-cent calves that we were raising down in Texas that I sold under contract last week for 28 cents. We were worrying about those $2.40 hogs that are bringing $22.40 today.
We were worrying about corn at 12 cents a bushel; that is, the corn you were not burning out here, that today sells for $1.13.
We were worrying about that $65-an-acre land that the insurance companies were foreclosing.
That is when I went to Washington following a Republican administration of 35 years ago.
After the last administration, your net farm income was $11 billion when you elected a Democratic President. In 1965 that $11 billion had gone to $14 billion.
Your net income per farm was $2,900. That has gone from $2,900 to $4,200.
Your calves that brought 21 cents brought an average of 23 cents.
Your hogs that brought 15 cents under the last administration bring 22 cents.
Your corn that brought $1.07 brings $1.19.
Your grain sorghum that brought $1.54 brings $1.79.
Your soybeans that brought $2 brought $2.09.
Your milk that brought $3.09 brings $3.65.
Those are the latest official figures of the average prices of the Department of Agriculture.
I want to ask someone to take enough of the proceeds of this dinner this evening-at least that which the Congressmen haven't already gotten off with--and get this little card mimeographed and put it on everybody's plate in lieu of that $100 ticket they bought. Because this is $100 worth of information to you. It may be worth thousands of dollars to you when you go to the ballot box.
When these folks start talking to you about inflation, you tell them that is something that you only have to worry about in Democratic administrations.
The unfinished economic business in America is for us to make a place at the table of our abundance for our brothers and for our countrymen. Who is it that can look out here into the Iowa countryside that I saw today and say that we cannot make such a place?
Surely not the Iowan whose personal income has risen faster than the national average in the last 5 years.
Surely not the Iowan whose hybrid seed corn is one of the 20th century's greatest blessings to mankind.
Surely not the men and women who exported almost a half-billion dollars of farm commodities to the world last year and who led all the States in livestock receipts with $2 billion in sales.
Harold Hughes is traveling throughout the Far East trying to find a market for more exports, for more Iowa products, all the time. And with your support, he is going to find them.
Now as I said, there are a few voices in the air tonight that tell us--and there will certainly be more as we get along between now and November--who tall the Midwest farmer that he has to beware. They are saying that someone over there in Washington is out to deprive him of his fair share of the Nation's prosperity.
They try to divide farmers from consumers; but they never remind you that farmers are consumers, too. No industry has more consumers of goods and services than the great basic industry of agriculture.
I want to let you in on a secret: Your Government in Washington is interested in consumers, too, just as the farmers are. Nothing can sap the prosperity that our people enjoy tonight faster than runaway price increases. No one is going to be hurt more than the farmers if inflation does run away and destroy our prices.
We have acted boldly, but we have not acted rashly, to keep price increases within tolerable limits. With management and labor, with manufacturers and farmers, we have sought to protect the interests of all of our people in price stability.
But there is another story about farm incomes in the 1960's. It is the story of a successful farm policy.
I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to that great leader of the farmers of America, Orville Freeman, the Secretary of Agriculture, who is here tonight.
That record shows that net income on individual farms right here in the great State of Iowa climbed 47 percent since Orville Freeman became Secretary of Agriculture.
That record shows that farm exports were up from $4.8 billion to $6.2 billion since Orville Freeman became Secretary of Agriculture.
I came out here to Iowa tonight to look you straight in the eye and to say to you something that you don't have to read in the New York Times: We in Washington are proud of that record.
We have promised plentiful food at fair prices for the consumer. We have promised full parity of income for the American farmer in the 1960's. And we stand tonight on that pledge and that promise.
I want to close this evening on another little
Note: The President spoke at 8:48 p.m. at the Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa. In his opening words he referred to Governor Harold E. Hughes of Iowa, Governor William L. Guy of North Dakota, Governor Frank B. Morrison of Nebraska, Representative Clair E. Callan of Nebraska, Representatives John R. Schmidhauser, Neal Smith, John C. Culver, Bert Bandstra, Stanley L. Greigg, and John R. Hansen, all of Iowa, and Mrs. Harold Hughes, wife of the Governor of Iowa.
For the President's speech on the same day in Omaha, Nebr., see Item 311.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Des Moines at a Democratic Party Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238555