Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to Leaders of Veterans Organizations Upon presenting Awards to Members of the U.S. Veterans Advisory Commission

November 20, 1968

Governor Agnew, Mr. Driver, Senator Long, Chairman Teague, most distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

The distinguished Vice President-elect had an appointment with me at 5:30. We have been on a trip around the world reviewing the situation in Vietnam, the Middle East, Europe, Eastern Europe, and this hemisphere.

I asked him if he would be kind enough to delay some of his engagements a little later in the evening and join us at this very special meeting of veterans organizations.

As you know, the Vice President-elect was a company commander in World War II in the Army. He has had a son in Vietnam in the Navy. And he has an intense interest in veterans affairs and will have an opportunity for 4 years to work with all these groups and I am so glad that he could come here and meet all of you.

This evening we near the end of a long journey.

When we first met in this historic East Room 4 years ago, I, as President, asked for your help. The splendid way that you have met that muster has helped make our Nation stronger, and I think it has brought a new day for the veterans of our country.

If I may, I would like to reflect for a moment on what our working together has meant for the Nation. Because of men like Senator Long, Chairman Teague, Senator Yarborough, Senator Kennedy, and our own beloved Bill Driver, the Veterans Administrator, and with your help, particularly the leaders of your organizations, since that meeting 4 years ago, we have passed 22 laws to help the veterans of our country. Now, that is twice the pace of a decade before.

The signatures on those 22 laws are dry tonight. All of the ceremonies that we had in signing them are over, but across the length and breadth of this great country of ours, those laws have enriched the lives of millions of people who sacrificed for us. Now, what do they mean? What do those laws mean?

They mean education. Almost a million veterans have found a fresh start in life through the GI education bill that you congressional leaders passed, and that your veterans organizations supported.

Those law mean homes, homes for people, for families. They mean homes for a returning veteran who finally now can fulfill his dream of home ownership because you increased the GI loan guarantees.

Those laws mean good medical care. Our veterans in this country get the finest medical care in the world and I am proud, Congressman Teague and Mr. Long and Mr. Driver, that we can say that and you three men have a great responsibility for it and I thank you.

Those laws mean better security. The pensions have been increased. The protection against loss has been increased.

The disabled veteran gets a bigger monthly check now than he did when we first met here.

So in these years, we have done something even more. No longer must the veteran come to his Government to search for his benefits. Mr. Driver, with your encouragement, has seen to it that his Government seeks him out--it goes out to his separation center. It goes out to his hospital bed if he is wounded. It goes out even on the battlefield in Vietnam. And Mr. Driver and Chairman Teague and a number of the Members of Congress have been there many times on these problems and have brought me firsthand reports. And then we follow through on him when he gets back here to his own community.

If the veteran needs America, America needs the veteran more. It needs him in the schools. It needs him tonight in our police departments. It needs him in the community services in every part of the country.

Our journey together is almost ended, but the work is not yet done. One good day--and we pray it will be soon--those men who stand in our defense in Vietnam tonight will stack their arms. For them, the homes and. the classrooms and the jobs must be waiting.

So this is the shape of the work ahead. And I am so glad that we are working out plans where the discharged veteran can come back and go into our schoolroom and by precept and example lead our young children. He can go in and put on a police uniform and can give the same protection to our people here at home that he has given them abroad.

The blueprint for much of that work has already been laid down by the Veterans Advisory Commission which we want to especially honor here tonight. This Commission has served the veteran--but they have also served his Nation. And on behalf of all of that grateful Nation, I want to present awards to this Commission, to Chairman McCurdy, and the other members of the Commission.

But before I leave, I want to tell you, there are so many nice things happening to us these days. I am sure this is just by chance, but the two nicest things that happened to me today other than the visit we have had, was a long letter that I got from "Tiger" Teague reviewing the work that we have done together for the veterans for the 5 years that I have been in office. It was so good that I read it a second time. And I think I will come in tonight and say to Mrs. Johnson, "Lady Bird, listen, I want you to hear what "Tiger" has to say about me."

I don't have to remind her to read what people have to say about me, she can do that without being coached.

Then Senator Long called me today. He handles the veterans matters in the Senate. He told me of some of the things we have done together. So, this is a very specially heartwarming day for us and we want to share it with all of you.

And just as your men and you have volunteered your life to serve this flag, we appreciate what you are doing here tonight to serve the men who served us.

Thank you very much.

[At this point, the President presented the awards and then resumed speaking.]

I think you might be interested in what this says. This is a commendation that was presented to Mr. Claude Callegary in recognition of the leadership that he has rendered as a member of the United States Veterans Advisory Commission:

By your efforts you have earned the appreciation of the veterans of this Nation. The favorable response which has greeted the report is reflected in the action of the Congress which swiftly enacted into law many commission recommendations. You have completed a difficult task in a manner which has brought credit to you and to our country.

Mrs. Johnson and I thank all of you for coming. We will go into the Blue Room for the receiving line, and we hope that you can spend some time visiting with us and among each other. Although this will probably be our last time together, officially, in January there will be a President who is a veteran and a Vice President who is a veteran, and both the outgoing President and the outgoing Vice President will be working with them to try to pay due honor and see that due justice is done to all the veterans of this country.

Thank all of you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 6:42 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President-elect Spiro T. Agnew, Administrator of Veterans Affairs William J. Driver, Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana, and Representative Olin E. Teague of Texas, Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. During his remarks the President referred to Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas and Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The President presented awards to the following members of the U.S.. Veterans Advisory Commission: Andy Borg, Superior, Wis., Claude Callegary, Baltimore, Md., Ted C. Connell, Killeen, Texas, Melvin T. Dixon, Dunedin, Fla., Ralph Hall, Wheaton, Md., Col. Herbert Houston, Chattanooga, Tenn., Melvin Jacobsen, Reno, Nev., Eldon James, Hampton, Va., Robert McCurdy, Pasadena, Calif., William M. Rice, Arvada, Colo., Col. Warren A. Robinson, San Pedro, Calif., and Pete Wheeler, Atlanta, Ca.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to Leaders of Veterans Organizations Upon presenting Awards to Members of the U.S. Veterans Advisory Commission Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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