Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner in Minneapolis

June 27, 1964

Governor Rolvaag, esteemed Governor Rolvaag; my old friend and one of the great leaders of the Senate, Hubert Humphrey; my good friend and patriot, Senator Gene McCarthy; distinguished Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman; my indispensable Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Walter Heller; your own outstanding congressional delegation, my friends, John Blatnik and Joe Karth, Don Fraser, Alec Olson; my fellow Americans:

Every year for more than 40 years Minnesota has cast its vote for the winning side on election day, and this year you are going to keep that record. Minnesota can be pleased with its contribution to the growth and the wisdom of our country. The men that you have sent to Washington are your proudest assets, men like Hubert, Gene, Orville, Waiter Heller, Lee Loevinger, Gene Foley, Lud Andolsek, and the able Congressmen in your delegation. As Lady Bird has already done and I want to repeat, I thank each of you and the Nation thanks you for men like these.

Someone asked Mr. Rayburn one time why Texas had so much influence and power in the House when they had a Vice President back in the early Roosevelt period, they had a majority leader of the House, they had 8 of the 15 chairmanships. He said, "We have a very simple formula. We pick 'em young, we pick 'em honest, we send 'em there and we keep 'era there."

In the past 4 years you good people of Minnesota have seen your principles and your beliefs shape the course of an entire Nation. The result has been unmatched progress for all the people of this country.

Minnesota believes in growing opportunities for all Americans. In the past 4 years, under Democratic leadership, we have reached new heights of prosperity. Since 1960, in your State alone, personal income-your income--has gone up more than $1 billion. Wages, your wages, under Democratic administration, have gone up 10 percent. And taxes, under the leadership of Gene McCarthy on the Finance Committee, have gone down. This tax cut, and we probably wouldn't have had it except for a Minnesota legislator on the Finance Committee in the grueling days when one vote and one voice meant the difference--this tax cut this year will return more than $100 million to the people of Minnesota, and will create thousands of jobs for the people of Minnesota.

And that is just the beginning as we enter our 41st straight month of expansion free from any semblance of recession, the longest period in this decade.

Minnesota believes in human rights.

Under the leadership of Hubert Humphrey and with an assist every now and then from some of the rest of us, we are about to pass the strongest and the best civil rights bill in this century. We are going on from this bill to give every American citizen, of every race and color, the equal rights which the Constitution demands and justice directs.

This will not be a simple task. The events of the past few days again illuminate how painful can be the path to racial justice. No law can instantly destroy the differences that are shaped over centuries. But that is not the question. For once a law is passed, no man can defy it, and no leader can refuse to enforce it. For if our laws are flouted, our society will fail.

And I would remind you good Americans tonight that there is a law more hallowed than the civil rights bill, more hallowed than even the Constitution of the United States. That law commands every man to respect the life and dignity of his neighbor; to treat others as he would be treated. That law asks not only obedience in our action, but it requires understanding in our heart. And may God grant us that understanding.

Minnesota also believes in peace.

In the last 4 years we have moved a long way down the road to peace. We signed a treaty ending nuclear tests in the atmosphere. We have called a halt to the spreading poison of radioactive fallout. We have cut back on our nuclear production and persuaded our adversaries to cut back on theirs, too. We have signed agreements increasing the exchange of men, and of ideas, and of scientific knowledge.

And this year, I can assure you neither the acts of enemies or the demands of elections will cause us for a moment to cease our constant search for a world at peace.

I want to repeat again to you good people who have made this sacrifice to come out here this evening, in all of these fields your principles, Minnesota principles, have helped to shape the progress of all America.

But we will not let the record of the last few years lull us into confidence or complacency or contentment. For, most important of all, Minnesotans have always believed in the future, and that future contains battles to be fought, enemies to be faced, and victories to be won. The problems are new, but their solution rests tonight, as it has always rested, on the resources of our land and on the strength of our people.

Only 7 percent of our people feed the rest of us better and cheaper than in any land in the world. Yet for years we neglected the men and women whose toil and talent worked this wonder. Well, since 1961 we have begun to move toward giving them a fair reward for their labor under the leadership of one of the greatest Americans I know--Orville Freeman.

Since 1960 our farmers have realized an income gain totaling $2 billion. Farm income is 16 percent higher on a per farm basis. And the farmer has been rescued from the despondency and the despair of the fifties. And we are going to continue to give the farmer his rightful place, his rightful share, in American society. And I am going to keep looking to the men of Minnesota to lead the way.

We will not limit our efforts in rural areas to commodity programs. We are pledged to an all-out effort to create more jobs and greater prosperity for all the inhabitants of the countryside. Our commitment to eliminate poverty is a total commitment, in the countryside as well as in the city. We can never be content with anything less than parity of income and full participation in the Great Society for all our farm families and their neighbors.

I have lived most of my life close to the soil. I know the doubts and the toil of seeking sustenance from the land. But I have also been to every part of this Nation. And I also know that modern America was possible because of the produce of our farms. I have traveled to the capitals of far countries. And I know how our country is the envy and the wonder and the model of all the world.

I do not yet know the answer to all the problems of agriculture. But I have good men to help me--and a good many of them are at this table tonight. And I do have an immovable intention that those who sacrificed to create America--and who sustain it still--shall never be shut out from the triumphs of its success.

Partnership is the path to the future. For tonight progress does not come from being antibusiness or antilabor, anticonsumer or antiproducer.

More and more, all Americans are realizing that programs which fairly benefit one group usually benefit all. And as long as I am your President, this Government will not set one group against another. We will build a creative partnership between business and labor, between farm areas and urban centers, between consumers and producers. And this is what I mean when I choose to be a President of all the people.

Next year, and the years ahead, contain new and vast challenges.

But we still have an important job to do this year.

We must help complete one of the most dynamic, progressive sessions in the history of the Congress. We have already passed the largest tax cut in the history of any Congress. We have already passed and signed into law the most comprehensive education program in history. We are about to pass the most hopeful, comprehensive civil rights bill in the history of our land.

And after coming out here and getting the inspiration and stimulation that comes from looking into your good faces and shaking your hands, we are going back to Washington to fight for a poverty program, a program which will launch an all-out war to end poverty in this rich country once and for all. And I ask you now: Will you help us?

We are going back to Washington tomorrow to fight for hospital care for older Americans, under social security, so that our senior citizens will not be rewarded for a lifetime of labor with a nighttime of fear. Will you help us ?

We are going back to Washington to fight for a food stamp program so no American will ever go hungry; a housing bill to give every American a decent roof over his head; an extension of Hill-Burton to provide hospitals for the sick. Will you help us ?

And we are going back to fight for more than 20 other bills, each of which will help some of our fellow human beings to ease their burden and improve their life, and move America forward.

We will move toward our new problems, guided by a great tradition. Under Franklin Delano Roosevelt we established the principle that it was every American's right to share in the progress of his Nation. The result has been the highest standard of living in the history of the world. Some say that this standard has restricted freedom. But the fact is, because of it every American is freer to shape his own activities, set his own goals, do what he wants with his own life, than at any time in the history of man in any country in all the world. And in the future we are going to enlarge that freedom.

But in some ways our problems are more difficult than those of Roosevelt. Then the need for action was plain. Tonight the primary task of leadership is not only to solve problems but to alert the Nation to the need to solve them.

We will undertake that task, too.

We will use this year to set before the American people both the danger and the opportunity that lie ahead. Because, with their understanding support, no job, no program, no height of greatness is beyond the grasp and the hope of this Nation.

We are a very fortunate few, 190 million Americans, in the sea of a world that is made up of 3 billion people. As I said, we have more freedom than any society has ever known. We have more to eat and more to wear, and more luxuries to enjoy--television, automobiles--more recreation, more free time, than any people have ever known. We have much to preserve and much to protect.

We have a system of government that is the envy of men around the globe; a system where the capitalist can put in his capital and have a reasonable expectancy to get it back with a fair return and without fear of going to bed tonight to wake up and see it confiscated or burned the next morning.

We have a system where the manager of that capital can get up at daylight and work to midnight, and develop stomach ulcers trying to manage money and men and bring them together, but he still has the hope of retiring at 65 and sharing in the profits that he helped to create. And finally we have the producers, the men, the horny-handed sons who get out and produce a better mousetrap at less cost than can be produced anywhere in the world. And capital and management and labor divide the fruits of their joint effort.

If our future depended on our numbers, our adversaries could defeat us tonight. If our future depended solely on our resources, I can look to another land that has more acres, that has more people, that has more resources, water, oil, than we have. But our future doesn't depend on that and that is not the strength of our future.

Our forefathers left us a system of government, and it is from that system that we get our strength, from that system that provides an incentive to every person, that says give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.

I never for a moment entertain a doubt that there is any commissar or any regimented slave labor anywhere in the world that can outproduce or outsurpass or outlive our system of capital, management, and labor in the good old U.S.A. But our job is to let our own people know that we not only never had it so good--we got to make it better.

We must not be content to sit back in our rocking chair and let the rest of the world go by, because we must have objectives, we must have ambitions, we must have the pioneering spirit today that came to this Nation 200 years ago. And we have got to move it further in the next two centuries than it has moved in the last two. And that is saying something, isn't it?

And how are we going to move it? Not by eating on ourselves, not by blaming each other, not by dividing up in harassing groups that can find something wrong with what their fellow man does. We are going to build it by uniting our people, by bringing our capital and our management and our labor and our farmers all under one great Democratic tent, and saying to all of them, "Contribute your part, do your share, and you will share in the fruits that are ours."

I know there is not a man and woman in this hall tonight that doesn't want to move America forward. And you have moved it forward, by coming here and giving us this inspiration, in addition to that $100.

And just to show you how much I appreciate it, and I want each person in that chair tonight to know that I realize you could have taken that $100 and gone to a cool spot to spend a 2 weeks' summer vacation-you could have taken that $100 and bought some things for your family that they needed; you could have found many uses for that $100, but you decided you would invest it in leadership for your country. Whether you are Republicans or Independents or Democrats or Farm Laborites, or whatever you are, you are good Americans and we are going to try to justify your expectations.

I am not like Al Smith was, when he was making a great campaign speech in New York one time. I am not like Hubert Humphrey is when he is speaking with unlimited debate rules in the Senate where he can speak all evening. I am just somewhere in between. But maybe some of you will ask me how was Al Smith. Well, I will tell you.

Al was out speaking one night on the sidewalks of New York and he had a pretty enthusiastic crowd. One old boy stepped out of a bar, kind of unfriendly to Al--he had had himself a beer or two--and he said, "AI, tell them all you know. It won't take you very long."

And AI said, "I will tell them all we both know and it won't take any longer!"

Well, I haven't told you all I know or all that we all know. But I do want to tell you this: You have so much to be proud of. Don't go home tonight with a martyr complex feeling sorry for yourself. Think about how the less fortunate in this country and in the world are, and count your blessings.

Resolve tonight to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And let's all leave here thankful for what we have and determine to leave this world a better place than we found it.

Note: The President spoke at 8:40 p.m. in the Minneapolis Municipal Auditorium. In his opening words he referred to Governor Karl F. Rolvaag of Minnesota, Senators Hubert H. Humphrey and Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota, Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Walter Heller, and Representatives John A. Blatnik, Joseph E. Karth, Donald M. Fraser, and Alec G. Olson, all of Minnesota. Later he referred to Lee Loevinger, member of the Federal Trade Commission, Eugene P. Foley, Administrator, Small Business Administration, and L. J. Andolsek, Vice Chairman of the U.S. Civil Service Commission.

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

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