Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks in Los Angeles at a Democratic Fundraising Dinner

June 20, 1964

Governor Brown, Mr. Six, former Secretary and future Senator Pierre Salinger, General Mosk, Senator Burns, my great friends, the Members of the California delegation in the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

It is good to be here in the largest county of the largest State of the most powerful and prosperous country in the world, speaking to my fellow members of the largest political party in the Nation. I came out here to tell you that we are going to keep it that way.

I understand there has been a lot of debate here recently about the mainstream. I have no opinion about who is in the mainstream of the other party, but I do know that it is the Democratic Party which is in the mainstream of American life. And we are going to prove that once again next November!

I brought my Press Secretary, George Reedy, with me. I was a little afraid to do this, but Pat Brown said it was all right, that you didn't have another Senate race until 1968--although it was nice of Jesse Unruh to offer him a job in the movies.

I want you to know this: despite what I have read recently in the papers about what is going to happen next month, I am not yet ready to declare the San Francisco Cow Palace a disaster area!

You and I share a great tradition, the tradition of the West. Here in California, and in my home State of Texas, brave men carved an empire from the emptiness of the land.

Some say that the West is gone, that the pioneer spirit perished when the frontiers were finished. But they are wrong. For the West is not just a place. The West is a vision of the mind, a vitality of the heart, a vigor of will. The West prefers courage to cowardice, enterprise to ease, adventure to restfulness, the challenges of the future to the comforts of the present.

This is still the spirit of California and Texas. It is still the spirit of the Democratic Party. And this November we are going to see again that it is the entire spirit of the entire United States of America.

We remember and praise the heroes of the West. But the West was not built by heroes alone. It sprang from the work of millions of men and women--unknown and unsung-who came together to build homes and churches, and schools, who cooperated to end lawlessness and develop resources, pursue progress and raise communities on the edge of conflict.

The keystone of our conquest was cooperation. That cooperation, that sense of brotherhood and unity, was possible because they shared a common enterprise and they shared a common enemy in the wilderness. As a nation we had this same sense of unity in time of war. Then, too, we shared a common enterprise and a common enemy.

Tonight, I have again called on that tradition. I have called for national unity, for an end to difference and division, for an end to rancor and reproach.

I base this call on the hard fact that today, for almost the first time in our peacetime history, the great majority of the American people have a common enterprise and a common enemy. They have essentially the same goals. They harbor the same fears. They hold the same high hopes. If we can transform this unity of interest into unity of purpose, there is no limit to the greatness that is within our grasp.

What are the goals on which the great majority of the American people agree?

First, we want peace. We want an end to the threat of nuclear destruction. In the past 4 years we have taken more tangible steps toward this goal than at anytime in our postwar history. We intend to continue to seek a world where men and women are free from the fear of war.

Second, we want America to be strong. We know, as George Washington said, that "to prepare for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." Today, America is first among the nations in strength. California is first among the States in contributing to that strength. And I tell you tonight that America and California are going to always remain first.

Third, we want to continue the upward progress of prosperity. In the past 4 years national income has gone up. Unemployment has gone down. Recessions have become a memory. And the rising tide has lifted nearly all the boats. Business knows its market depends upon fair wages for workers, and labor knows a business must have the incentive of profits if it is to create new jobs. Nearly all Americans know that the prosperity of each individual depends upon the health of every part of the economy.

We will continue, as long as we are in office, to pursue the policies which have created prosperity for all of us in America.

One of those policies has resulted in the largest tax cut in American history. Next year alone in the six major metropolitan areas of California--including Los Angeles-this tax cut will put an extra $840 million in the hands of citizens and businesses in California.

Fourth, we must eliminate poverty. We want this out of compassion for the oppressed and the awareness that the entire economy will rise as more people share in the benefits of our society.

And we are going to wage war on poverty until we finally win! Fifth, we want every American of every race and color to enjoy the full blessings of American liberty. I know that contending passions and prejudices are deeply woven into the fabric of our Nation. But I believe that the basic sense of decency and human dignity, of justice and moral truth is in the hearts of the great majority of our people. This basic sense of decency commands that every American shall have his full constitutional rights.

Sixth, we share a care and a concern for the elderly, and for the sick, and for the handicapped. We will not turn our back on those who, through no fault of their own, can no longer sustain themselves. Our party, the Democratic Party, has always been the special agent of the American aim toward compassion. To us the old, the sick, the hungry, the helpless have represented not failures to be forsaken but human beings to be helped.

This Nation will never again fall into indifference toward the distressed and the despairing.

Since 1960 we have increased or extended social security benefits to 5 million additional people. We have increased housing for the elderly four times. We have allowed older workers to earn more while receiving benefits. We have launched a Council on the Aging. But this, all this, is just the beginning.

We are also writing a new Charter of Opportunity for older Americans. That charter includes:

Medical care through social security. This will help 17 million Americans meet the crushing costs of hospital care.

High quality medical services through renovating and constructing hospitals and nursing homes will benefit all the elderly of our Nation and will give increased benefits under the social security program in addition.

We promised an expanded housing program for older Americans.

An expanded volunteer program for senior citizens to use the wisdom and the energies of older Americans to help the underprivileged here and to help them throughout the world.

So with this Charter of Opportunity for our older citizens we can move toward the day when advancing years will not mean fear and loneliness but will mean a bright renewal of hope and a rebuilding of happiness.

All these shared American goals underlie my hopes for national unity.

We must now work to show the American people that our test of greatness will come not from open conflicts between fellow citizens but from facing the forces of poverty and racial injustice; not from the ambitions of our neighbors but from the abundance that we must use to enrich the life of our Nation.

By understanding this, we can turn unity of interest into unity of purpose, and unity of goals into unity in the Great Society.

That achieved we will eliminate racial injustice from our society.

We will be able to abolish poverty from our land.

We will remove fear from our future.

We will remain strong while finding the path to peace.

In the last few decades California has exploded with the energy of a growth which has brought a better life to millions. This is a great achievement, and the entire country is proud of what you have done here.

But tonight I ask you to join with me, and join with your country, on the path of a united nation pursuing the Great Society. Then it will be that future citizens of California in a day not too distant--will look back at 1964 and say not "That was our golden age"--not "That was the good time"--not "That was the height of our greatness." Then we will all be able to look back and say "That was only the beginning."

Thank you, and goodnight.

Note: The President spoke at the Palladium in Los Angeles. In his opening words he referred to Edmund G. Brown, Governor of California, Robert F. Six, president of Continental Airlines, who served as chairman of the fundraising dinner, Pierre Salinger, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate and former Press Secretary to the President, Stanley Mosk, Attorney General of California, and Hugh M. Burns, President pro tempore of the California State Senate. Later he referred to Jesse M. Unruh, Speaker of the California State Assembly.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Los Angeles at a Democratic Fundraising Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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