Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to Foreign Language Newspaper Publishers on Their Role in Building American Unity.

August 03, 1964

THIS IS your House--the House of all the people.

I am honored to welcome you here--as free men and fellow Americans.

Your publications represent one of the most American of all our American institutions.

Four hundred newspapers and magazines-published in 30 languages other than English--reach into more than five million American homes.

You and your predecessors have done much to unify us, to bring us together--as one people and one Nation.

That is why I have asked you here today.

This is a great hour in our national history.

We have come far together.

We have the opportunity to move far ahead.

That opportunity must not be lost.

This is your challenge--and mine. America's leadership at every level is called now to work for America's unity--and to work against America's division.

This is not new work.

This is our oldest work.

This is the work we must always put first--if we are to keep faith with those who have come to these shores from across the seas.

Forty-three million have come--from 70 lands.

They have brought much to us.

They have found much for themselves-and their heirs.

But--for every group--the difference has been made by the American will and work for unity.

Unity closed the doors of sweatshops and opened the doors of opportunity.

Unity shut down the slums of the early century and opened the suburbs of the midcentury.

Unity said "No" to second-class citizenship and said "Yes" to one-class citizenship for all our people--without regard to origins or ancestry, flag or faith, religion or race.

Unity still is--and unity will always be-the genius of our greatness.

That is why we must work today to perfect our unity.

A divided America cannot be a prosperous America--or a peaceful America--or a progressive America. A divided America cannot fulfill its promise at home--or accomplish its purposes abroad.

On each of us, rests a great trust.

Around the world, men who love freedom look to this land for the will and the wisdom to win the victory of this century for freedom.

If we are to fulfill that trust, we must hold Our course.

We must work--with high resolve and high responsibility--for the unity of our society, the prosperity of our people, the honorable and just peace of men everywhere under freedom.

Our forefathers left the lands of their birth because cries for justice fell upon deaf ears-cries for peace fell upon closed and willful minds--cries for opportunity fell upon stony hearts.

We do not want to turn back toward what we left behind.

That is why we move with confidence, with courage and with compassion to perfect our unity--to overcome our divisions--to fulfill the great promise of this hour in American history.

And that is why I have asked you here. The challenge of unifying America--of holding our land on a straight and sure course of success--cannot be met by the man in the White House alone.

I need your help--and the help of every American.

I will say to you what I have said to leaders of every sector of American life--business and labor and education.

As President of all the people, I intend to work to ensure that every person enjoys the full constitutional rights and equal opportunity that are his birthright as an American citizen.

I intend to use all the resources I have to make sure those who claim rights--and those who deny them--bend their passions to peaceful obedience of the law of the land.

But there is more work--there is other work--we must continue to do.

Beyond this moment, beyond this hour, beyond this year, we must work for a better America--for all Americans.

We must work against poverty--and against prejudice.

We must work for more and better jobs, better schools, better cities, better neighborhoods, better futures for our young and our old alike.

This is the work we must always do.

This is the work that will fulfill the dreams of those who have chosen to come and live in our land--and contribute their great talents to the success of the American ideal.

This is the work we can only do in unity and in peace.

Standing here--talking with you--I am very proud of America and what our unity has wrought for us.

Your presence here has a special meaning for me,

Thirty years ago, I began my public life in a district where families had come from many lands to find peace--and freedom.

Newspapers were published there in seven or eight languages. My neighbors then spoke--and still speak--the tongues of many ancestries.

What I know of the mind and heart of such Americans, I knew long before coming here. No memory of my boyhood is more vivid than the memory of my father's own example.

In a time when emotions ran strong--when some sought to turn upon those from other lands--my father served in the legislature.

There he took his stand--to say "No."

No, you shall not deny the children of these Americans access to our public schools. No, you shall not discriminate against these Americans because of their ancestry. No, you shall not reduce them to second-class citizenship.

My father stood alone at first. But he stood steadfastly.

In the end, his courage and his compassion prevailed.

In this house--in the task that is mine now for all Americans--I pray to be worthy as his son, to stand as he stood for the rights, the dignity, the honor of all Americans.

The challenge is great--but it is not mine alone.

It is your challenge, too.

You are respected in your communities-by those you serve. Your example is the example others will follow. Your effort is effort others will emulate.

Your respect for law and order--your respect for human rights--will live long after you in the lives of those who look to your leadership today.

This is a great moment for America--an hour of great opportunity. It is a moment to unite--and in that unity move ahead together to win the victory for freedom and justice throughout the world.

Note: The President spoke in the late afternoon in the East Room at the White House.

As printed, this item follows the prepared text released by the White House.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to Foreign Language Newspaper Publishers on Their Role in Building American Unity. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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