Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks in Harrisburg at a Dinner Sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee

September 10, 1964

Governor Lawrence, Senator Clark, Miss Blatt, Chairman Morse, Governor Leader, Reverend Clergy, my devoted friends in the Pennsylvania congressional delegation who are doing such a fine job for all of your great State in Washington, my fellow countrymen:

In what I say now, I speak beyond this hall--to all my fellow Americans, regardless of political persuasion or party membership.

One week from tonight we commemorate a proud anniversary, on the 17th of September. It was 177 years ago, here in Pennsylvania, that the Constitution of the United States was born.

Since then the world has been swept by change. Empires have fallen. Thrones have been overturned. Virtually no other country on any other continent is governed now as it was governed then. But the oath that I took last November 22d as the 36th President of the United States was the same oath taken by the first President of the United States, Gen. George Washington.

Our free government and our system stand tonight as the most stable and the most successful in the history of man. This is not a victory of party or of politicians, or even of Presidents. America's great success is the achievement of the American people.

For the American people, this year is a year of great decision. For the 45th time since our great Republic was born, these free people will freely decide the direction that they want America to move. Whatever our allegiance politically, whatever our interests privately, whatever our concerns personally, we must not let our year of decision become our year of division.

The first stated purpose of those who gave the Constitution to us was "to form a more perfect union." That tonight is still our first purpose. If we are to establish justice, to ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for our posterity, we must labor together to make this Nation whole and this people one.

So long as there has been an America, there have always been white and black, red and brown, Protestant and Catholic, Quaker and Jew, German and Dutch, Italian and Swede, rich and poor, capital and labor. And I would remind you good people tonight that these distinctions have never stood in our way, and they do not stand in our way tonight.

The one division that our forefathers most feared, the division that they warned us against, was the division of extreme factionalism. Jefferson warned against it, Hamilton and Madison warned against it.

In his Farewell Address, the first President, George Washington, warned against it, warned against allowing parties to become "Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western." He told us to beware of that kind of partisanship which, in his words, "agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms .... kindles the animosity of one party against another, ... foments occasionally riot and insurrection."

Well, my fellow countrymen, in this year of 1964, those are words and those are warnings that all responsible Americans must remember. From the election of 1789 to the election of 1960, the choices for the American Presidency have never meant changes in the broad purposes of the American people.

But that is not the choice this year.

There are abroad in this responsible land reckless factions, contemptuous toward the will of majorities; callous toward the plight of minorities; arrogant toward allies; belligerent toward adversaries; careless toward peace. These factions wear many names. They espouse many causes. Standing together they confront the American people and they demand that you make a choice.

They demand that you choose a doctrine that is alien to America--that would lead to a tragic convulsion in our foreign relations; a doctrine that flaunts the unity of our society and searches for scapegoats among our people. It is a doctrine that invites extremism to take over our land. It is a doctrine that plays loosely with human destiny, and this generation of Americans will have no part of it.

I have great faith in the American people. They are neither sick in spirit nor faint in moral courage. They have never been more capable of choosing for themselves what they think is right or wrong. They will reject a spirit of party which Washington once said "agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, or kindles the animosity of one party against another."

Those are the words of the first President. But I believe that spirit must be the spirit of the next President, and every President who follows him.

I know this is the spirit of the men and women of Pennsylvania. It is the spirit of great men of whom we are so proud, like Dave Lawrence of your great State; and my friend Senator Joe Clark, who proudly carries your banner in the Senate of the United States; it is the spirit of great and lovable women like Emma Guffey Miller and Genevieve Blatt. And I am so happy that you are sending her to Washington to work with us next January.

Yes, I am very proud to say tonight that it is the spirit of Bill Scranton and Dwight D. Eisenhower. These Pennsylvanians believe what the majority of Americans believe, that our Nation can only be served by parties which serve all of America, and which serve all Americans in all segments in all sections of the country.

Woodrow Wilson once said that the "success of a Party means little unless it is being used by the Nation for a great 'purpose." I repeat those words tonight to the members of my own party. But I urge their consideration by those members of the other great party who believe that our highest purpose is still to "form a more perfect union."

Tonight, at this moment of our national history, we stand at the very summit of human success. "A perfect union" is within our reach. We are a people prospering; a Nation progressing. We enjoy freedom; and, thank God, we live in peace. We are prepared, as no other nation has ever been prepared, to defend that freedom and to preserve that peace.

We are realists. We know that if life is good for many, it is not easy for any. Too many men who want jobs still cannot find work. Too many factories stand idle tonight. Too many mines are closed down. Too many families are still poor. But we are resolved to meet these challenges. Our success in the past 4 years points to greater achievements ahead.

For nearly 44 consecutive months now we have had the longest rise in our prosperity in peacetime history, without recession or depression, and with the most stable prices in the Western World.

Our system is functioning as it was meant to function. America is getting answers from this session of Congress. Our people are working together. State governments, local governments, and the Federal Government are working for the people, not against one another.

This is the America that our allies trust and this is the America that our adversaries respect. I say to you tonight that it is a matter of no small significance that no one anywhere is boasting now of burying us. This is America at its best. This is America moving again. This is America as it always ought to be, prosperous and progressive, peaceful and prepared.

The position of your President is clear. The policies of my party are clear.

We intend to keep America prosperous, powerful, and unafraid, unafraid to stand against any enemy in the defense of freedom, and unafraid to sit at any table in pursuit of honorable peace.

We intend to keep America united.

We intend to keep America free and undivided.

We intend to keep America a land of free labor, a land of free enterprise, a land where all free people alike will respect the law and the law respects the people.

We are a nation of lovers and not a nation of haters. We are a land of good homes and good schools, decent wages and decent medical care for the aged. Yes, we want a land of hope and happiness, but never a land of harshness and hate.

Are these your goals? Is this your spirit? Is this the America that you want to produce, and that you want to see, and that you want to fight for ?

Then I ask you to join with us tonight in the time ahead. I respect the loyalty of men to the parties of their fathers. But I trust the faithfulness of men and women to the future of our children.

This is, as I said in the beginning, the year of decision. This is the year that you decide not the future of a party or the fate of a man. This is the year that you will be voting on the future of your own prosperity, on your own Nation's progress, and the peace of the world in your time and in times to come.

We do have a choice this year. It is the choice between the mighty voice of the American majority saying "yes" and the fading echo of the few who still say "no."

The majority said "yes" long ago to social security. The echo still says "no."

The majority says "yes" to minimum wage, "yes" to the rights of the workingmen, "yes" to full employment and equal opportunity. The echo still says "no."

The majority says "yes" to responsible relations with our allies, "yes" to the United Nations, "yes" to the opening of the markets of the world to the products of American business and American labor. But the echo still says "no."

The majority says "yes" to better education for our young, "yes" to hospital care for our aged under social security, "yes" to a war on poverty. But the echo still says "no."

The majority says "yes" to equal rights for all, equal hopes for all, equal happiness for all. But the echo still says "no."

This year the mighty voice of the American majority will be heard throughout our land, and it will be heard also around the world. It will be heard saying "yes" to the future, and saying "no" to the echoes of the past.

And how are we going to say it? Well, since the month of May, gains have been recorded in Democratic registrations in nearly every county of this great State of Pennsylvania. And we didn't have to buy a poll to prove that, although we like the polls, too.

In Philadelphia, since the last primary we have registered 100,595 Democrats and 31,049 Republicans, or 74 percent Democrats and 22 percent Republicans. And the edge is the kind of an edge that we like-better than 3 to 1.

In Allegheny County, more new Democrats have registered than in any other presidential year in history, 24,000 new Democrats to 10,000 new Republicans--an edge of better than 2 to 1. In Lancaster County, just next door, new Democrats are outnumbering new Republicans.

I want to conclude by reminding you that you still have 3 more days to register.

Today when great issues of war and peace are before us, the man that I look to and the Nation looks to for help and steady and able guidance is the distinguished Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Doc Morgan, from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Democrats have a capacity for greatness, and we are going to have two great ones leading us in the Senate come next January, Joe Clark and Genevieve Blatt.

So I ask you tonight to join us in this campaign. I ask you to join hands and work with me, to build a greater America for all of our people. You know in your heart that this is right. You know that this is the way that you want to go. So join with me and let us be on our way.

We want to, before we leave, see as many of you as we can and say to all of you and to each of you how grateful we are and how very much we appreciate the sacrifice that you have made for your party and your country. Democrats in Pennsylvania appreciate it and it will help good people everywhere.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at the Farm Show Arena Building in Harrisburg. In his opening words he referred to David L. Lawrence, former Governor of Pennsylvania, Joseph S. Clark, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Genevieve Blatt, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, Otis B. Morse IV, Democratic State Chairman, and George Leader, former Governor of Pennsylvania. He later referred to Emma Guffey Miller, Democratic State Committeewoman, William W. Scranton, Governor of Pennsylvania, and U.S. Representative Thomas E. Morgan of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Harrisburg at a Dinner Sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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