Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner in Detroit

June 26, 1964

Senator Hart, Senator McNamara, Governor Staebler, Mayor Cavanagh, Governor Williams, members of the great Michigan Democratic delegation, my fellow Americans:

In 1960, in this city, John Fitzgerald Kennedy began his campaign for President. He asked you then to make a choice for progress. You made that choice. The result has been 4 years of unmatched progress in this Nation.

This year you and all the American people are going to choose 4 more years of progress. And who knows, if things work out, I might be with my old friend Walter Reuther back in Cadillac Square on Labor Day! And may I express the hope that you will be there, too. I know that your great and popular, and wonderful Senator Phil Hart will be there with me. And I know that Neil Staebler, who will make one of the best Governors Michigan ever had, will be there with me, too. And Pat McNamara, one of the finest men that I have ever served with in all my public career--he will be there with me, too.

I am proud and inspired and stimulated that there is a Ford in my future. And with Jack Gordon here tonight, I hope there is a Chevrolet, too. For Lady Bird and I have waited so, so long, to be a two-car family. With the help of all of you, all good Americans, doing what we conceive to be best for our country, we will continue to work together for the people of Michigan and the people of America.

It is perhaps typical of the others that their major issue in this year of change and crisis, this year of great hazard and emerging hope, their great issue is who is going to stop what.

I have no opinion about the outcome of that battle. But I can tell you that, if we stand together, if we are united, if we join hands, there are some things that no party, no group, or no person is going to stop. No one will stop America from moving toward a world where every child will grow up free from the threat of nuclear war.

Do we stand together on that?

No one will stop America from wiping out racial injustice and liberating every citizen, of every race and color, to share in all the blessings of our freedom. No one will stop America from feeding the hungry, and caring for the helpless, and giving dignity and self respect to the old.

Do we stand together on that?

No one is going to stop the great forward march that we began 4 years ago. Because you are not going to let them. The American people are not going to let them. And as long as I am President of the United States, so help me God, I am not going to let them.

In 1960 when we asked the people of Michigan to choose progress, the cynics dismissed it as a slick slogan, as only ringing rhetoric.

But the people, all the good people, of Michigan, listened. They made their choice and they have reaped the rewards.

They chose to reduce unemployment in Michigan from more than 10 percent in 1961 to 5.3 percent last year, cutting it in half, and this year it is going to be even lower.

They chose to increase annual personal income in Michigan, your income, by $2 1/2 billion from 1961 to 1963.

They chose to increase average manufacturing wages in Michigan in that short period by 21 percent.

They chose to cut their taxes, returning $368 million to the people of Michigan this year alone. That tax cut set off an upward spiral which, in Michigan, will create 90,000 new jobs, increase State and local revenues $158 million, and generate a rise in income of almost $1 1/2 billion.

They chose to avoid recessions. They chose to avert inflation. In 1958 your unemployment was 14 percent and per capita income actually declined almost 4 percent. But behind these grim statistics were workers unable to provide for their families. Businessmen faced failure and declining production, and diminishing profits, and shrinking opportunity for all our people. Well, I am proud to say tonight that we are, tonight, entering our 40th straight month without any indication of a recession. And we shall never again permit this country to retreat toward the ravages of economic decline.

We can all, each of us, take great pride in our own tax paying, profit-sharing, private enterprise system of government where incentive has its reward, and all the nations of the world look to us with envy.

In every area of activity that we chose to be part of, we have moved farther and faster than at any time in our history. These have been exciting and these have been rewarding years. But the job is not yet done. We have barely begun our drive toward prosperity. Men of little vision and men of small vitality have always underestimated the American potential for progress. If we work together in a policy of prosperity, we can build an America where every man can meet his desires for a decent life, where no man lacks the dignity of labor.

This is the kind of America that we are going to build. This is the policy we have. This is our policy for prosperity.

First, we will continue to direct the enormous impact of the Federal budget toward stimulating growth and toward controlling inflation.

Second, we will work with industry and labor to discourage destructive inflation. The responsibility for prices and wage decision belongs to private enterprise. But we have a common interest in controlling inflation. For inflation undermines alike the profits of business, the wages of workers, and the savings and the profits of all of our people.

Third, we will encourage and expand investment in material and human resources. We will stimulate them. We will take great pride in aiding them and supporting them. This is the core of the poverty program. Our war against poverty seeks to give the desperate and the downtrodden the skills and the experience that they need to lift themselves from poverty. We are going to pass this program, and in our lifetime we, God willing and with your help, we are going to wipe out poverty in America.

Fourth, with the help of people of all faiths, doing it in the American way, we will bring resources together with needs, matching skills to jobs, incentives to lags, and focusing our help where help is most needed.

Fifth, we will encourage technology and modernization, through research and tax incentives. At the same time we will not forget our responsibility to find jobs for those thrown out of work by machines.

These policies offer us the prospect of an abundance beyond the furthest aims of an earlier generation.

And with these possibilities within our reach, the people of this great State of Michigan are never going to choose to return to stagnation and drift. They are going to rally behind and support, and they are going to select and choose, those leaders who are willing to stand up and fight for the future. I am here to tell you tonight that that fight for the future we are going to win.

But abundance is not an end in itself. Our concern is with the quality of the life of our people, not with just massive statistics, not with just mounting bank balances. The purpose and the values of our party and our Nation can never be listed in the ledgers of accountants. They are inscribed in the hearts of our people, in the history of our Nation, and the heritage of our civilization.

So the ultimate test of our beloved America is the larger purpose to which we turn our prosperity.

We must first turn it toward relief of the oppressed, the underprivileged, and the helpless. We must, in the words of the Bible, "Learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."

In this pursuit we will turn special attention to the problems of older Americans. Retirement should be a time of serenity and fulfillment, not deprivation and fear.

We are going to provide hospital care through social security to older Americans under a Democratic administration, and that administration will never permit a lifetime of savings to be wiped out by the ravages of illness.

And we will go on from this to increase benefits and build better housing, and expand employment opportunities, and do all in the power of a nation grateful for a lifetime of service and labor.

But this is only part of our service.

We stand at the edge of the greatest era in the life of any nation. For the first time in world history we have the abundance and the ability to free every man from hopeless want, and to free every person to find fulfillment in the works of his mind or the labor of his hands.

Even the greatest of all past civilizations existed on the exploitation of the misery of the many.

This Nation, this people, this generation, has man's first chance to create a Great Society: a society of success without squalor, beauty without barrenness, works of genius without the wretchedness of poverty. We can open the doors of learning. We can open the doors of fruitful labor and rewarding leisure, of open opportunity and close community--not just to the privileged few, but, thank God, we can open those doors to everyone.

For we will not allow the ancient values of the human spirit and the visions of the human heart to be submerged in unbridled change.

This is a vision and a task that is worthy of the highest labors of any generation. This is the vision and this is the task that the American people are asking of us tonight. And I pledge to you in your name and in mine, and in the name of our party and our country, we will be ready.

We must never forget that beyond the chambers of government and beyond the councils of industry--beyond the works of economists and the words of leaders--are the men and the women of this land. Each day they renew the struggle, the struggle to provide for their families and to educate their children, to ease their labors and to increase their comforts. Each day they pursue their individual dreams and they seek their individual happiness.

My fellow Americans, let me say to you tonight that these are the people that are the source of all of our American strength and they must be the objects of our American labor.

We can be proud that we have served them well.

But this is no time to take comfort in past conquests, because the future is crowding in around us.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "Democracy is the one form of society which guarantees to every generation of men the right to imagine and attempt to bring to pass a better world."

Well, he did bring a better world. And we too, in our time, will bring a better world, too.

It is a great stimulant to me to be here tonight with those of you who are interested in the affairs of your country and your Government. We are challenged tonight as we have never been challenged before. We must transform the hopes of today into the triumphant reality of tomorrow.

And the almost 3 billion people in the rest of the world who have never known the pleasure and prosperity that is ours, who have never shared the freedom that belongs to us--they watch our every move to see which direction our life will take in the hope that they, too, some day, may enjoy the blessings that are ours.

In this land in which we live we have much to be proud of, much to protect and a great deal more to preserve. It is the kind of people like you who have made the sacrifice to come out here and spend this evening listening to speeches and to reach down in your pocket and pay the fare that supports one of the two great parties in America that are responsible for this great system that we have.

Sometimes many people are concerned with the conflict of ideologies in the world, and they feel that we are in a race with another philosophy. Well, if that race were to be won on the basis of the number of people, we would be the losers, because their population exceeds ours. If that race were to be won on the comparative resources, water, or oil, or land, we would be the losers.

But what is finally going to determine the winner of that race is not the quantity of our people but the quality of our citizens; not the measure of our acres, but the type of system of government that we have.

In our land we are due our forefathers great thanks for evolving a system where there is incentive, where the capitalist can take his dollar and invest it in a stable undertaking with the knowledge that he will not wake up some morning and find it confiscated; and where he can hope, if he is wise and prudent, that some day he will get that investment back with a fair return; where the managers of our great profit systems, some of the most outstanding in the world being here in this room tonight, can get up at daylight and work to midnight and develop stomach ulcers in the hope that they can keep their production line going, and perhaps they can participate in a profit-sharing system; where labor is worthy of its hire, and by moving that production line all day long can turn out a better mousetrap at a cheaper price, and it can have social security in its old age and a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.

The average worker in this country doesn't ask for much. A great labor leader, Phil Murray, once said about all the worker hopes for is a school that his children can attend, a church his family can worship, a roof over their heads, some food for their bodies, a picture on the wall and a rug on the floor, and some music in the house.

But the capitalist and the manager and the worker have built the kind of a system that has made us the envy of all of the world. And they are all here tonight in this one room, determined and dedicated and pledged to leave America better than they found it.

Note: The President spoke in the evening at Cobo Hall in Detroit. In his opening words he referred to Senators Philip A. Hart and Pat McNamara, of Michigan, Representative Neil Staebler, Democratic candidate for Governor of Michigan, J. P. Cavanagh, Mayor of Detroit, and G. Mennen Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and former Governor of Michigan. Later he referred to Walter Reuther, president, United Automobile Workers, AFL-CIO. He also referred to Henry Ford II, chairman of the board of Ford Motor Company, a Republican, who had announced on May 22 that he would vote for President Johnson, and John Gordon, president of General Motors Corporation.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner in Detroit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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