Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks in Kosciusko Park, Milwaukee

October 30, 1964

Governor, Mayor, Senators, members of the delegation, ladies and gentlemen:

I am proud to be here today in the city of Milwaukee, and in your famous 14th Ward. This is good Democratic territory. You gave Franklin D. Roosevelt some of the greatest pluralities in history. You voted resoundingly for Harry Truman. You gave a tremendous vote of confidence to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. So why don't we get together and set some new records next Tuesday?

They say that you can tell a man by the company he keeps, and this is great company that you and I are in today. The American Mayors Association knew that when they elected as their new president your own outstanding Mayor Henry Maier. The people of Wisconsin knew that when they elected as their Governor a man whose judgment I have come to respect and whose friendship I value greatly, Governor John Reynolds.

Please be sure that we get the chance to keep on working together, and please keep Wisconsin's representation in the Senate just exactly the way it is. Any State is lucky, and the country is lucky, when it has Senators like Bill Proxmire and Gaylord Nelson.

Bill has the independence that Wisconsin is famous for. So when we agree, I always know I am right, and when we disagree, I always take another look. We were colleagues in the Senate, and you and I both need Bill's help greatly in helping us to pass a program for all the people in the years ahead. I hope you will give him one of the greatest majorities in the Nation come next Tuesday.

I just can't begin to tell you how much I depend in the House of Representatives on your own grand Congressman Clem Zablocki. Clem is my strong right arm. He is always there to be helpful. He is always constructive. He always does what he thinks is best for his country, and that goes, too, for Henry Reuss, a member of the Joint Economic Committee. Clem, you know, is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and that is quite some distinction for this city and for this State. I hope, I believe, and I know that the people of Milwaukee will send them back to Washington next Tuesday with a great majority in back of them.

And I hope, too, that you will send Jim Buckley from the Ninth Congressional District. We need his voice, we need his vote, we need his constructive support behind our new Democratic program. We also want you to send Lynn Stalbaum from the First District to sit beside them and to vote beside them in the next Congress. We need new, good, able men like Lynn, and please help us send him there.

The whole country knows about the remarkable resurgence of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin in recent years, so keep it up. Keep it moving. Keep it going, with people like Pat Lucey and Bronson LaFollette.

I know the history of this park and how much it has had to say in this election. It is almost 60 years now since you dedicated it. Many of the people who lived here 60 years ago had come from the old world, escaping from oppression, looking for freedom and for opportunity. They found it here--and gave in return as much as they got.

What they sought the most was opportunity itself--opportunity for every man to do the best he can for himself and his family; freedom for each; justice for all. We are going to keep open those doors of opportunity and freedom and justice. We are going to keep them open for all people.

We have had 44 months of uninterrupted, steady, healthy prosperity in these United States under the Kennedy-Johnson administration. And we are not going to throw this progress away next Tuesday. We are going to keep moving steadily forward.

This year the annual personal income of Wisconsin citizens--

[At this point there were disturbances in the crowd.]

I appreciate your wanting me, but don't mind what happened because we all live and learn, and you are just getting an example of what kind of government you would get. That doesn't just apply to Democrats.

You remember that those people were-well, I want to be generous--they felt so strongly that they wouldn't even let their Republican Governor Rockefeller speak at the convention. They booed him down. They talk about the Constitution and free speech, and freedom to assemble, and then they come to our meetings and don't want us to talk.

Now, we have a speech in Rockford and then we are due in Chicago at 3:30. We are going to run a little late. But there are some things that are more important than what I have to say.

If you don't mind, let's just silently, quietly, calmly, take a look around there and see what condition they are already in. Look. Don't get upset and don't get angry, because if they are bruised up that much today, think what is going to happen to them next Tuesday.

Actually, though, I have been in 44 States, and I have watched these boys. Most of them they don't pay but 50 cents an hour. But I did find one the other day in one of the big metropolitan areas that was an adult--and old enough to vote.

This year the annual personal income of Wisconsin citizens reached $10 billion-$10 billion. That is a new record high in the United States. The unemployment rate for this city of Milwaukee, and the unemployment rate for the entire State is down to a record of 2.5 percent--only 2.5 percent--97 1/2 men out of every 100 are working. That is less than half what it was when you elected John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Business has prospered this year. Corporation profits in Wisconsin went over $1 billion for the first time in history. Prosperity and progress were not just accidental. They are both the rewards of hard work.

They are the rewards of responsible leadership. This year alone, trader your great Governor Reynolds' leadership, Wisconsin brought 147 new industries into this great State of Wisconsin. And here in Milwaukee, you and Mayor Major are changing the skyline of a great city with a great new rebuilding program.

Prosperity and progress are the rewards of a partnership, a partnership between responsible government and responsible business and responsible labor.

We are still going forward, shoulder to shoulder, as friends, as partners; not as haters, not as dividers, but, rather, as uniters.

This year's tax cut alone will, when fully effective, create 42,000 new jobs in Wisconsin. But we aren't satisfied. We still believe in new opportunity. We believe in men's opportunity to enlarge and enrich their lives as well as their pocketbooks.

We believe in

--The right of every American child that is born under that flag, boy or girl, to have all the education that they can take, and we are going to try to put that program into effect.

--The right of our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, to social security, to decent medical care.

--The right of every American family to live in a decent house, in a clean, beautiful city.

--The right of every American to enjoy the great outdoors and the countryside that God gave to all of us.

--The right of every American to expect of his Government a strong national defense and a responsible foreign policy, free from waste.

These are some of the things that we mean when we speak of the Great Society that we are going to put on the statute books.

[ At this point there was a further demonstration by members of the audience.]

You have some nice, courteous, hospitable people out there, I see.

Governor Reynolds, working with local leaders like Mayor Maier, with your Senators and Congressmen in Washington, has already laid the cornerstones of that Great Society right here in beautiful Wisconsin.

He started the greatest college and university building program in Wisconsin's history. He moved this State forward in aid to local schools, in help for the elderly, in care for the sick, in conservation programs.

I have come here to Milwaukee today to tell you that under a Democratic administration in Washington, we will keep it moving.

The Great Society must be built on individual communities. No massive programs directed from Washington can do this job, nor should any Federal aid program ever be forced upon any State or local community. Local government can act more effectively in partnership with the private community through its responsibilities to overall need.

The Great Society is much more than mortar and bricks. It must be built in the architecture of our ideals.

It is a part, therefore, of the plan of the Great Society that the immigration laws be changed. Two-thirds of the total immigration quota now, under the present law, goes to people who never use all the quota they already have.

We want to abolish those discriminatory quotas gradually over a 5-year period, and we want to raise the overall limit by 2,000, or one-eightieth of 1 percent of our work force. This would permit the reuniting of families that have too long been broken up, we are all Americans. We are one nation, one people.

We live in an age of great opportunity and great danger, and rapid change. The other day a crack appeared in the Kremlin wall. It spread to the Iron Curtain. We cannot know what the future will bring, but we do know now that there are vast changes going on in the Communist camp.

Red China has challenged the Soviet Union for leadership of the Communist camp, and the restless stirrings in Europe suggest that Moscow can no longer impose its will on the tragic captive countries of Eastern Europe. Mr. Khrushchev is reputed to have said not long ago that the satellite countries had already grown up-like children, they were too big to spank any more.

So the task for the United States is to keep our policies flexible, to keep them responsible, and to search for new opportunities to favor freedom in a rapidly changing world.

Above all, we must stay strong, but we must stay responsible. We must stand resolute; we must never be discourteous or reckless. In the nuclear age the stakes are too high to gamble with the push-button of destruction.

And so long as I am your President, I will keep that trust.

Twenty years ago Franklin D. Roosevelt told us, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." You know what the promise of tomorrow means. You are working for that promise right now for yourselves and for your children and for your country. And I want you to vote for that promise at the polls next Tuesday.

It was a little more than 11 months ago when a great tragedy made me your President. When I assumed the oath of office, I said to the American people and to the world that with God's help and with your prayers, I would do the best I could.

It was a little over 2 years ago when we had the Cuban missile crisis. I was a member of the National Security Council as Vice President of the United States. For 38 meetings we sat with all the generals and their stars and the admirals with their braid, and the great Secretary of State, the Rhodes scholar, the Secretary of Defense, the former president of the Ford Motor Co., that made a half-million a year, but came into the Government to help us build a strong defense. And at the head of that table sat the man that you had selected as Commander in Chief.

I never left home a single morning that I was sure that I would see my wife and daughters again that night.

Mr. Khrushchev had his missiles 90 miles from our shore and they were pointed in our direction. Our Commander in Chief had put our bombers in the air, loaded with their bombs. Our carriers were on the sea in the strategic places. There these two great leaders of these two great world powers stood eyeball to eyeball, taking each other's temperature.

And as I sat in that room and the President went around the table, it was so serious, so critical, so dangerous, and so important that I hoped that he would ask somebody else before he got to me so I would just have a little more time to think. But one thing impressed me. I remembered what Thomas Jefferson had said.

Thomas Jefferson said that the judgment of the many is much to be preferred to the decision of the few, and the great mass of the American people, beginning here in the wonderful, beautiful State of Wisconsin, and throughout the other 49 States later, had selected a leader, had selected our Commander in Chief.

The coolest man that sat in that room during those 38 meetings was our President, your Commander in Chief, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

On next Tuesday you will have to go and in your own best judgment and in your own conscience select a new President. For 11 months I have picked up where he left off and I have done the best I could. And if I am selected for another 4 years I will give the job all the limited ability and all the talent I have, and I will try to search for peace in the world. I will try to maintain our strength and keep our guard up, but our hand out. I will be willing to go anywhere, to talk to anyone, to try to seek an honorable peace.

We want to bury no one, but we don't intend to be buried, either. We believe in unemployment compensation, and we believe in social security, and we don't think it ought to be voluntary, either. We believe in medical care. We believe in adequate income for the farmers. We believe in collective bargaining. We believe in the right of every man and woman who wants to work to have a job. We believe in the right of every boy and girl born in this country to have an education.

We remember that it was 100 years ago that Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery. And it is now our lot and our time, and our opportunity, to abolish poverty from the United States of America.

So if you want us to continue, you will have to search your hearts and your conscience, and make that decision.

You are the masters. This will be as important a decision as you have ever been called upon to make, because we have a new leader in the Soviet Union, you have 700 million people in China that have the nuclear bomb, you have a new British labor government, you have a new government in Germany, a new government in Italy. You have all these problems of the world, and we have Viet-Nam, we have Cyprus, we have Laos. We have 120 nations and we are trying our best to lead them in the direction of peace.

So if you want peace and if you want prosperity, then I ask you to lend me your help, lend me your hand, give me your heart, give me your support. And if you do that on Tuesday next, we will have one of the greatest majorities that any President ever had.

And when we do that, there will be such a minority in the other party that the good, moderate men who have built that party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, will go back and stand for the fine principles that it advocated through the years. We will have a bipartisan foreign policy again. We will have Republicans and Democrats sitting in our Cabinet. We will have men working together. We will have politics stopping at the water's edge.

So I hope that you will seriously consider that this is one of the great decisions you will be called upon to make, and that you will go and vote Democratic next Tuesday.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. in Kosciusko Park in Milwaukee, Wis. In his opening words he referred to Governor John W. Reynolds, Mayor Henry W. Maier of Milwaukee, Senators William Proxmire and Gaylord Nelson, and Representatives Clement J. Zablocki and Henry S. Reuss. During the course of his remarks he referred to James P. Buckley and Lynn E. Stalbaum, Democratic candidates for Representative, Patrick J. Lucey, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and Bronson LaFollette, Democratic candidate for State Attorney General, all of Wisconsin.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Kosciusko Park, Milwaukee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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