Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at Lindbergh Field, San Diego

October 28, 1964

Thank you very much. I appreciate your welcome and your generosity, and I just wish I could spend all evening with you, but we must fly to Salt Lake City tonight and our time here will be limited.

I am so happy and I am so proud tonight-happy that I could be here with you happy people in San Diego, proud that I could sit there on the front row and observe this virile, patriotic, intelligent, modern young Senator introducing me to the people of San Diego.

I have seen this son of California work under great stress and strain for two Presidents. I have seen him work in the greatest deliberative body in the world, the United States Senate, but I was never prouder of him than when he was saying those nice things about me tonight.

I hope that you people will remember that we just have a few days between now and next Tuesday, and that it is going to take the best effort of all of us to elect Pierre Salinger as Senator, Lionel Van Deerlin back to the House where we need him greatly, and Quintin Whelan there to join all of us to pass a good Democratic program for all the people of this Nation.

Mr. Carpenter and Mayor Kern, I have been traveling all day with Governor Brown and his gracious wife. Governor Brown is one of the outstanding public servants in this Nation. He is the spokesman for the largest State in the Union, the fastest growing State in the Union, the most progressive State in the Union, the State in the Union that has the best educational facilities, the State in the Union that is constantly working with us on international relations. I want to thank you people of California for electing a man like that Governor of your State.

This day is an anniversary. It is an anniversary that all free people should remember. Two years ago, on October 28, 1962, the United States of America achieved the greatest success of the nuclear age. After weeks of fright and danger and tension, after America's firmness and coolness and unity were proved, it was on that date that Chairman Khrushchev announced that he would get his missiles out of Cuba.

In all the history of man, there has perhaps never been a moment of greater peril than the Cuban confrontation. I attended 38 meetings with the President and his Security Council; the generals and their stars; the admirals and their braid; the Secretary of State, a Rhodes scholar, with his great diplomatic experience; the Secretary of Defense, the former president of Ford Motor Co. at $550,000 a year. And the President went around the table and got the suggestions from all those present, including the Vice President.

There were moments when I guess some men were a little more hotheaded than others. There were moments when some were a little more impulsive than others. There were moments of distress and indecision while we were looking at all the facts, because no man's judgment on any question is any better than his information on that question.

And yet, when all is said and done, it gave me a great deal of satisfaction that you people out there, just you lay people of the United States, had selected the Commander in Chief by your votes, and the coolest man in that room during all those 38 meetings was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

During that time, that was the moment when human understanding caught up with nuclear knowledge, and reason regained its rule over force. That moment proved a truth that some had doubted, that the power of American arms is the guarantee of the world's peace and that America's might is the necessary instrument of right.

You no doubt remember, and I shall never forget, the brave and good and careful President who steered us surely and safely through those weeks of trial. I saw him do it. I never left my wife and daughters a single morning that I was sure I could see them again. But I know how calm and how wise John Kennedy was.

We may hope when this campaign is over that one unthinking, unthinkable charge will be removed from this political record: that what happened 2 years ago today, some said, was an election trick--by a martyred President--who is not now here tonight to defend himself.

In a sense, that is what this campaign and this election is all about. The one overriding issue is our handling of the fact of our infinite power. The one overriding issue is our sense of responsibility and its use. The one overriding issue is our respect for the elementary right to live.

I state my position about this squarely, and I believe and I hope, and I think next Tuesday will prove, that it is your position, too, that it is America's position.

First may I deviate just a moment to say that I was in Boston last night and I am across the Nation tonight. But in neither place did I go to speak about personalities or to muckrake or to mudsling, or to deal with individuals. I want to talk about the big things.

I think you would have your President deal with problems and principles instead of petty personalities. I don't think you care what I think about my opponent. And I don't think you really care what he thinks about me.

I think what you do care about is what each one of us thinks about you and your future, and whether we respect your intelligence or whether we try to appeal to your emotions.

So I am here tonight to talk to you about the principal issues in this campaign.

First, we must treat our nuclear weapons-and they are awesome and they are mighty, and by moving your thumb over on a button like that, you can wipe out 300 million people in a matter of moments--we must treat our nuclear weapons with the greatest care. We know we need them, and we know we have plenty of them. We know they are dangerous, and we know they can bring death to us all, and we know that just testing them in the atmosphere has poisoned the air that we breathe and the milk that our children drink, and it endangered unborn children. So we must be careful about them.

The one who must be most careful for all of you, the most prudent, cautious person in the United States, ought to be your President of the United States.

I know that duty, as other Presidents have known it before me. I know that the responsibility for exercising that duty is the President's, and it is his alone, and he is alone a great deal of the time. He is lonely most of the time. But I am solemnly pledged with whatever ability the good Lord gave me, whatever energy and talents I possess, to do my dead level best to keep our world at peace--and with all that is in me I am determined to keep that vow to you.

Second, we must push the search for peace. It isn't automatic. It just doesn't come accidentally. It won't take care of itself alone. We know that we have to work at it--and we do work at it every day.

We reject the view that there is only one enemy in the world--the Communists; only one weapon--the nuclear bomb; only one policy--the policy of bluff and ultimatum.

We know that peace demands hard, steady work on many fronts: first, arms control, trying to get an agreement--one of the first things I did was submit to the Geneva conference a proposal on what we would do if they would do likewise; second, the banning of nuclear tests in the atmosphere, and all but 12 United States Senators went along with President Kennedy, and 105 nations out of the 112 that belong to the United Nations, 105 of them joined with us, and all the 100 Senators joined with us except 12, and one of their names I am not going to mention; and third, we must search for foreign trade.

We must trade with the rest of the world, because people that you meet and you work with and that you talk with and you trade with you get along better with. We have increased our foreign trade since President Kennedy took office by 25 percent. It is up now to $24 billion and that means extra jobs for your men. That means extra profits for your industry, and that means extra taxes for Uncle Sam.

And then the Peace Corps, these young men and women from good, wonderful, wholesome families, fresh out of college maybe, some of them perhaps almost ready to retire, they wanted to go to all the corners of the world to try to help others help themselves. There has never been another success story like it, and I am so proud of it.

We must try to be responsible for the help for other nations, because our per capita income is more than $200 a month per person. Yet half of the world lives off of a per capita income of less than $200 a month. And the ancient enemies of human beings are not just each other; the ancient enemies are ignorance and poverty and disease and illiteracy, malaria, tapeworm, leprosy, and all those things. Those are the ancient enemies of mankind.

We, with all of our power and all of our resources, and all of our blessings, are doing something to reach down and extend a helping hand to our neighbor, and to love thy neighbor as thyself.

There is another viewpoint. And other candidates have it. They can tell you about how everybody has robbed us, and how terrible we have been. And they can tell you about all the socialism that is taking place, and they can tell you about how much freedom we have lost.

I came out here to California in 1924, and the depression came along a few years later and I wasn't very free. I wasn't free to buy a good meal. I just didn't have the dough to do it; I wasn't free to sleep in a good bed because I just didn't have the money to pay for it. I wasn't free to have a good job because there just weren't any.

One fellow said to Lady Bird the other day when she put on her high heels and just decided she would go through the South because she didn't want them to feel that they were not wanted in the Union, and she got on a train and went through all the Southern States, went through Alabama where they won't even let our name go on the ticket. One of the fellows that had done a lot of thinking came up and said,

"You know, it looks to me like we are getting along better than some folks said we would after we passed the equal rights bill. I have just about figured out that I had rather have a Negro stand beside me on the assembly line than to have him stand behind me in the soup line."

Mr. Rayburn was my teacher. He was the Speaker of the House. He served for over 50 years. He came from a poor little sandy land farm. But he told me one time that we had corporals and sergeants, and second looies and first looies, and captains and majors, and colonels and generals, and if they didn't know more about how to fight a war than he did, we had wasted a lot of money on West Point all these years.

But I am not talking to you tonight about how to fight a war, so I am not going to pay much attention to these generals, whether it is General Thurmond, General Wedemeyer, General Doolittle, or a good many other generals. I have great respect for them, but what we are trying to do now is to figure out not how to fight or when to fight, but how we can learn to live without fighting, particularly when we have a nuclear weapon that will destroy civilization. That is our big problem.

A great son of the South that was raised in South Carolina where I spoke the night before last, at Columbia, Woodrow Wilson, had a dream of peace for all the people of the world. It was wrapped up in the League of Nations. He saw five willful men in the Senate destroy that dream. Then another man came along after another great war--Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along after World War II--and in San Francisco, in the great State of California, the United Nations was born, and all the leaders of the world came to this State to help give it birth.

What I am thinking about and what I hope you are thinking about, and what we all ought to be thinking about, is this assembly that has the spokesmen for each of the 112 nations. We ought to be trying to figure out--we know they have avoided a dozen or so wars already, minor ones, moderate ones, and some major ones. They have talked instead of fought. And what we ought to be trying to figure out is how can we strengthen the United Nations.

Harry Truman had a problem with the Communists taking over Greece and Turkey and he drew the line, the Truman doctrine, because he felt if they took Greece and Turkey they would sweep all Western Europe right after World War II. And the man that stood up by his side and did the most to help him was a Republican, Senator Arthur Vandenberg, of Michigan. He put his country ahead of his party. He put our foreign policy ahead of his politics. And we drew that line and they never crossed it.

When General Eisenhower was elected President, I was elected Democratic leader of the Senate, and the first thing I told my colleagues was, "When he is right I am going to vote with him, I am going to support him. When he is wrong I am going to oppose him, but I am going to do it with decency, and with dignity, and without any character assassination. I am not even going to say a word about his boy or his dogs or even his golf."

And when he had the crisis in Suez, and when he had the crisis in the Formosa Strait, the Democratic leader Lyndon Johnson stood up on the Senate floor and held his arm high because he wanted to present to our enemies and our adversaries in the world "United we stand, divided we fall" and "you can't divide and conquer us."

And when President John Kennedy decided that your children were drinking milk that they shouldn't be drinking, and you faced problems that we shouldn't face, and we were breathing air that was polluted, it was Everett Dirksen, the Republican Senator from the State of Illinois, the leader of the

That is the bipartisan foreign policy that is an issue in this campaign. Are we going to junk it? We have had it for 20 years. Are we going to flush it down the drain and let us go to evils we know not of? Well, we are not, if you elect me. Republicans, that came to the White House and sat there with us and agreed that he would pick up that Kennedy treaty proposal and he would carry it on his broad shoulders right through that Senate.

They asked me at the University of Texas in 1957 what my political philosophy was, and I said I am a free man first, I am an American second, I am a United States Senator third, and I am a Democrat fourth--in that order.

So the point I want to leave with you good people, Republicans and Democrats, and Independents, and folks who do your own thinking, the thing I want to leave with you before I go to that tabernacle in Salt Lake City and meet that wonderful man, President McKay, who has given me great spiritual strength and given great leadership, I want to leave this with you: We work for peace not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans.

I have told you how I feel, and it is about time for me to get on my way. But just in case the other side doesn't have equal time and they can't come back here to San Diego, I think the record ought to show--because you know a great man once said, his name was Al Smith, "Let's look at the record"--

There is one candidate in this race for the Presidency who voted against the test ban treaty.

There is one candidate who voted against our new disarmament agency.

There is one candidate that voted against the Trade Expansion Act.

There is one candidate that voted against the United Nations bond issue.

And on all of these votes, every single one of them, he voted against the overwhelming majority of the Senators of both parties. Everybody seems to be out of step but him.

I am proud to be a Democrat, and I want to make that clear. But I am humble, I am humble in the belief that on the issue of war, when you take your boy down to the depot to say goodby, maybe never to see him again, on the issue of war and peace I share the view of the Presidents of both parties who have preceded me, and I share the view of what I think is the overwhelming majority of Americans today.

We believe that the courage of the age is demonstrated only by handling carefully-and never carelessly--any test which may arise. There are many of them, and there is no way to prevent them. We must be ready to handle them when they come. We must do it with care and with coolness and with courage. This we have done.

We were tested in Berlin. President Kennedy sent me there and he sent troops in marching down the streets to let them know that we were there and we planned to stay.

We were tested in Cuba and a thumb on a button could have caused a nuclear holocaust. And hotheads all over the country were hollering and rattling the rockets and shouting and saying we ought to do it. But it took patience, judgment, and restraint. And we stood firm.

We were tested at Guantanamo, right after I went into office, and in Panama. They took a thermometer and put it in my mouth and took my temperature. They knew we had lost our President. They wanted to see what kind of a transition we could have.

Castro went out and turned off the water at our Guantanamo base. Immediately one of the candidates for President shouted, "Send in the Marines." I considered sending in the Marines. I think the Marines would have been willing to go if I just mashed that button and said, "Gentlemen, that is your duty." But I never saw a Marine that just went out and invited holocaust and disaster and suicide.

So we thought about it a few minutes Before we sent in the Marines. And we finally decided after we talked to the best advisers we could get that it was a lot wiser to send one little admiral down there to cut that water off than to send in all those Marines to turn it on. And then we borrowed one of your desalinization plants here in San Diego, and we took it out there. Now we make our own water and we fired 2,000 Cubans and told them, "We are not going to give you any money any more and you go back and tell Castro he cost you your job."

The Marines were ready and the Marines were willing. But some nights I have to give an order to send planes out at 11 o'clock on very important missions, in various parts of the world. And generally those boys-one of them is right here, from San Diego-generally they come back about 3:30 our time.

I have learned somehow or other to read my reports for an hour or two and then doze off to sleep. But at 3:25--I don't need an alarm clock--I immediately wake up to see if my boys got back home.

And I call the Situation Room and I say, "Have they gotten back yet?" And two or three nights I called and they said, "No, Lieutenant Klusmann didn't get back. Another one is on a hill and the helicopter was hovering over him but they started shooting at the helicopter and they couldn't pick him up and he was captured. But he finally escaped on his own."

That makes the goose pimples come up on you when you mash that button and tell them to go out and they don't come back at 3:30, because you know they are some mother's son, and except for the grace of God it might be my mother's son. I try to keep that in my mind.

So when we were tested in the Gulf of Tonkin, when they shot at our destroyers, we answered appropriately and promptly. We located their nests where they had these little PT boats, and we saw a city there that had a lot of women and children in it that was on the Chinese border where there are 700 million people, but we didn't see any reason that we should take that target and kill a lot of innocent people, women and children. What we wanted was where those PT boats were nesting. We wanted to get the old hen's nest.

So we looked at the targets and we picked this one and we picked this one and we picked this one and this one, and then your heart kind of comes up in your throat a minute, but you say, "Go on in, men," give them the order, and the answer is to go ahead. The order goes out, and those boys get their planes off the deck and they went in and they destroyed their nests, and nearly all of them came back.

So the world knows, all the world knows, what you know tonight, that America says what it means and means what it says about keeping the peace against aggressors.

And fourth and finally, all Americans know in this world of danger that we must be calm and we must be clear.

Just in these last 2 weeks the world has been stirred by two great events among the Communists, the change of leadership in the Kremlin and the explosion of a nuclear device on a Chinese desert.

The eyes of the free world turned to Washington and it became the duty of your President, the only President you have, to speak up for your country. This is what I did 10 days ago, and the response that we received from all around the world shows that our strength and our fairness and our firmness are understood. The world knows that our course is steady and our purpose of peace is unchanged.

For a long time now, for many years, the world has had its spotlight on America. They have looked to America for power and for leadership. For many years now, under many Presidents, from both parties, America has proved worthy of that confidence. America's strength is respected. We are just 190 million out of 3 billion. We are outnumbered 15 to 1 in population. But our strength is respected and our purpose is honored, and our word is trusted.

There have been dark days and there have been great dangers in the past. Who knows, tomorrow morning may bring new challenges.

There is danger and there is difficulty tonight in parts of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, and there is work undone, work undone for freedom in every continent of the world. I can tell you that freedom is stronger tonight than it has been in any time in 20 years. I can tell you this: that the foes of freedom, the enemies of freedom, are more divided than they have been in 20 years.

You heard the Hitler objective of divide and conquer. There are some who do it deliberately and there are some who do it maliciously, and there are some who do it because they don't know any better, but it is not to your interest to hate your neighbor. It is not to your child's good to fear your friend.

This preaching of hate and fear, and doubt and division, and distrust and doubt about your Government--that is what destroys governments, but we have so many things to be thankful for. We have so much to protect, so much to preserve, and besides you are just so much happier when you love than when you hate.

So let's look back and see what our grandpa and our grandma and those that came here in '49 and those who came and started to establish a government in '76, let's look back and see how far they have come from their covered wagons to our Air Force One, our 707's, to our supersonic planes that are now on the drawing boards, that will go over 2,000 miles an hour.

Let's just see if we can't find something good about America, and let's see if we can't take a little pride in that flag, and let's see if we can't have a little feeling well up in us and see if we can't get down on our knees sometime during the night and thank God that I am an American.

I have traveled around the world and I have been in many countries, and I have seen the glories of art and architecture. I have seen the sun rise on Mont Blanc. But the most beautiful vision that these eyes ever beheld was that American flag in a foreign land.

And I think I tell you the truth when I say that my 707 has never touched down in any country on any continent where we were met by any person that wouldn't like to trade places with us.

So let's get rid of our martyr complexes and our psychotic tendencies, and let's try to get back to work to unite America, just like we were in other dangerous periods that we all went and bought our liberty bonds, and let's try to put in our nickel's worth and make our suggestions. But let's don't be mean and vicious and dirty about it. Let's try to heal the wounds.

As I said last night, Lincoln abolished slavery 100 years ago. Now let us have a worthy objective. Even though some of us have money in our pockets, clothes on our backs, and food in our stomachs, let's dedicate ourselves in the next few years not to abolish slavery but to go out and abolish poverty among all people.

You are inspiring just to look at and I would like to talk all night, but they keep walking up in front of me and telling me that the plane is ready to go.

On next Tuesday I am going to be at my little library room down at the Pedernales where my grandfather and grandmother and mother and father and uncles and cousins and aunts are all buried on the banks of that little river, and I am going to pick up the telephone now and then and talk to some neighbors across the country.

I just hope that by your decision, by your following your conscience and doing in your heart what you know is right, I just hope that Pat Brown or Pierre Salinger or whoever can call without calling me collect--maybe Lionel Van Deerlin, Quintin Whelan or Mayor Kern--I hope some of you will call me and say, "California, here I come."

Note: The President spoke at 7:30 p.m. at Lindbergh Field, San Diego, Calif. During the course of his remarks he referred to Senator Pierre E.G. Salinger, Representative Lionel Van Deerlin, and Quintin Whelan, and Paul B. Carpenter, Democratic candidates for Representative, all of California, Mayor Frank Kern of San Diego, Governor Edmund G. Brown of California and Mrs. Brown, and David O. McKay, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The text of the remarks of Mrs. Johnson, who spoke briefly, was also released.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at Lindbergh Field, San Diego Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives