Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks on Immigration Policy to a Group Interested in the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Commemorative Stamp.

September 18, 1964

YOUR VISIT today reminds me of one of the most memorable and inspiring experiences of my life.

Two years ago this month I visited the city of Naples. There I was privileged to speak to and meet with several hundred families who were leaving their native land to become citizens of our land.

There is no more difficult decision men can make than to leave their homeland and their family ties to begin life anew in another land. In this office I think always of the more than 40 million men and women who since 1820 have made that choice. A President has no greater duty than to use every strength and talent to keep America as a land to which many will want to come--and none will want to leave.

We must have laws regarding immigration. Personally, I believe our laws should not say that the relatives of any Americans are not welcome to become Americans themselves. We are committed to eliminating discrimination in our society. I believe we should also eliminate discrimination in the laws relating to those who would join our society from abroad.

The strength of our Nation has been built from many groups from many lands.

No group has contributed more--few have contributed so much--as the sons and daughters of Italy.

History sometimes turns on small things. I often think back to the anxious years immediately after World War II--the year of the Italian elections. The whole history of the postwar world--and the struggle between communism and freedom--might have been different if we had not learned to love and trust the Italian people as friends and neighbors in America.

On the cornerstone of that friendship, trust and closeness, America's policy of strength against Communist aggression and subversion was built. Today we rejoice in the freedom, the success, and the high promise of modern Italy.

I am very proud today that Americans who bear fine Italian names play such an important role in our national life and this administration. A good many "firsts" have been established these last 4 years. There is Secretary Celebrezze in the Cabinet. Senator Pastore was keynoter of the Democratic National Convention. Here in the White House, always at my side, is Jack Valenti.

I have learned one thing from my association with them and others. My Italian friends are very persuasive.

You have been very persuasive this afternoon. As far as I am concerned, I believe we should have another first--a stamp commemorating this first great project named after an Italian.

If I have any influence with the Post Office Department, and I think that I may, we will issue the stamp.

Note: The President spoke at 12:32 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House to a group of Congressmen and prominent Italian-Americans who had asked him to recommend the issuance of a stamp to commemorate the dedication on November 21 of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge linking Staten Island and Brooklyn, N.Y. In the course of his remarks the President referred to Anthony J. Celebrezze, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, John O. Pastore, Senator from Rhode Island, and Jack Valenti, Special Consultant to the President.

The stamp was first issued in Staten Island, N.Y., in conjunction with the opening of the bridge.

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

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks on Immigration Policy to a Group Interested in the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Commemorative Stamp. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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