Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Following a Briefing With Space Scientists on the Successful Flight to the Moon.

August 01, 1964

I WANT to say that all Americans are very proud of you today. We are proud of this historic extension of man's knowledge. We are proud of our scientists, and our engineers, and all the great team, under the leadership of one of the greatest of all Americans, Jim Webb, who are responsible for this success. We can be duly proud of our free and open society, our system of government.

We started behind in space. We were making many apologies just a few years ago. We had our failures, but we kept our faith in the ways of freedom, and we did not follow the easy or the inexpensive course.

We know this morning that the United States has achieved fully the leadership we have sought for free men. But we do not claim this as an American triumph alone. In the brief period of time that I have occupied the office of the Presidency, I have visited with the leaders of many countries, more than 25 and less than 50, some 30 of them, big countries and small countries, densely populated peoples, sparsely populated regions, but I have found a deep and exciting interest among all these leaders in cooperating with us and extending their hands to us to supplement the work that we are doing.

I thank them for their tracking stations. I thank them for their joint participation with us. We have considered this adventure a truly peace weapon, rather than a military might.

I think we can say this morning that this is a victory for peaceful civilian international cooperation in this hour of frustration, when so many people are getting upset at some minor disappointments.

I think we can all take great pride in this development. More than 60 countries all around the world work for us and work for peaceful progress and work for peaceful uses of outer space. It is good to learn from this event that we are on the right course.

We know that if we can continue on that course, and if you great scientists, most of whom know no party and no political allegiance, who are concerned with freedom first and America second--if we continue to give you support without any tinge of partisanship, you will give us the leadership and ultimately the supremacy in an area that is essential to the prolongation of civilization itself.

If we could only supplant the fear and the hate, the bitterness and the division, the poison and the venom that our fellow man contains, with the hope and the optimism and the achievements represented by this venture here, how much better our world will be for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.

I want to say this in conclusion. In this century in which we live, all my life we have been either preparing for war or fighting a war or protecting ourselves from war. When I grew up as a kid, one of my first real memories was hearing the powder go off on an anvil on Armistice Day.

I remember the terror that flowed from the sinking of the Lusitania. I remember seeing the boys come marching home, and the welcome we gave them at our little schoolhouse. I remember leaving, the day after I voted, to go to Pearl Harbor and crossing the Pacific, and later the Atlantic, and all the men who gave their lives that we could win World War II.

I have seen the billions and billions of dollars that we have spent in the 17 years since that war to protect Western civilization. Now I think it is the most powerful Nation in the world, and I would remind you that we spent $30 billion more in the last 4 years on defense alone than was being spent 4 years ago.

We were spending about $42 billion a year then, and we are spending $51 billion now. So $7.5 billion extra a year for 4 years is $30 billion. That has bought a good many more missiles, and that has bought a good many more combat-fit men. That has bought a good many more antisubmarine weapons, and it has bought a great deal more research.

But now, today, as the most powerful nation in the world, why do we have satisfaction from that? Not just because it protects our scalps and allows us to sleep at night knowing that we are safe, but (2) it gives us the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of this society and to develop this land, not just with parks and recreational areas, highways and swimming pools, things of that kind, but all the blessings that are going to flow from these scientific discoveries and achievements.

Hundreds of lives, millions of dollars were saved in Hurricane Carla in my State alone because they gave them hours of advance notice to get ready: "This is coming, and your lives will be snuffed out if you don't get out of the way." They rode bumper to bumper for dozens of miles getting out of there, 48 hours before it hit. That is what it means to you and to your neighbors.

These men don't wear a DSM this morning, and we are not presenting them any Congressional Medal of Honor. But they do have--they and all of their associates from Mr. Webb down to the fellow who sweeps out the dust in the remote test laboratory, deserve the gratitude and the admiration of all Americans of all faiths, of all parties, of all regions.

You are welcome to the White House. The people who live here are mighty proud of you.

Note: The President spoke at 10 o'clock in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Among those present for the briefing were Donald F. Hornig, Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and the following officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: James E. Webb, Administrator, Homer E. Newell, Associate Administrator for Space Science and Application, and William H. Pickering, Director of the let Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Following a Briefing With Space Scientists on the Successful Flight to the Moon. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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