Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to Members of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Lions Clubs.

September 23, 1965

Dr. Campbell and directors of Lions International, and your charming wives:

This is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the Rose Garden at the White House this afternoon.

For some time, I have been telling my assistants that if we are going to get our work done what we needed was "a tiger in our tank."

They told me this afternoon that they had something better--they had a hundred Lions out here in the Rose Garden.

There is more truth than humor in that remark. You, and your fellow Lions, and members of all of the great service organizations are helping to do the work that must be done to strengthen our land--to strengthen all lands--and help us secure peace in the entire world.

The volunteer spirit is vital to America's spirit.

Where poverty dwells, where despair thrives, where ignorance is king, and illness is dictator, there the decision lies about the America of tomorrow.

I remember a great general once testified before a committee that I was chairing when I was a Member of the United States Senate. And he expressed as his personal motto in peace as well as in war this thought: "Go to the heart of the battle for it is there that the decision lies.

"So, we must go to the heart of the battle if we are to have a better life--for it is there that the decision lies. It is in the slums. It is in the less privileged neighborhoods of our cities. It is in the pockets of want across rural America. It is there--yes, and there is more. I believe that we must strive to preserve and to perpetuate the beauty of America, to reach out for excellence, to labor long for dignity and decency in the lives of all of our people.

So you and the members of your organizations have great opportunities in every community, and you also have great responsibilities. I want you to know that your efforts are not only welcomed by your President, but they are respected and they are applauded. And I hope, through you, to recognize in the talents and the efforts of every individual Lion in the world that we commend them for their contribution and for their service. You are trying to give more than you get. And I think that is the spirit that will assure American success in the years to come.

There are many things that we want. We would like to see the enemies of mankind-wherever they exist--driven underground and exterminated.

Disease--oh, what a great world it would be if everyone was healthy!

Ignorance--what a different atmosphere and environment we would have everywhere if people had the benefits of education that they should have, and every child had all the education that he could take.

Poverty--if every naked body could be clothed and every growling stomach could be fed this would be a much more reasonable and much more sane world.

And finally, and uppermost, and something that takes priority over everything else, is peace--a five-letter word--the most important word to all of you in any language. Because it doesn't make any difference how many hours you work, or when you get off, or when you finish your payments on your car, or you get a new refrigerator or a laundry machine, or what kind of recreation you have, or how many honor rolls your children make, or what kind of steel contracts you get, or what your fringe benefits are-those things don't amount to anything if your boy is going to get killed in Viet-Nam tomorrow, or we're going to have a war spread over Asia, or a world war III with all of its horrors is knocking at the door.

So, we have a lot to be thankful for. We have a lot, though, yet to do.

As we meet here in this peaceful, serene atmosphere of the White House this afternoon, we are all grateful for the statesmanship that President Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Shastri exhibited yesterday when they were willing, for the moment, to agree to the cease-fire. And we are all deeply in the debt of that great Secretary General of the United Nations for his courage and for his leadership in helping to bring this about.

It was only a few days ago when some unthinking and, I thought, rather selfish people remarked to me, "Why would a man like Arthur Goldberg, who had spent his life in the law and ultimately had risen to the greatest position of power and influence and leadership and honor that any lawyer can have in this country--the Supreme Court of the United States--why would he walk off of that bench and take the job up here in a debating forum called the United Nations where they resolute from day to day?"

And I thought of an expression that my mother--with the Bible in her lap--used to say to me: "God forgive them, for they know not what they do."

What was more important than anything else in the world was what Arthur Goldberg was then doing. There is not a court anywhere, any time, that has more far-reaching influence than that voice, speaking for the most powerful Nation in the world, had last week when he helped bring about this cease-fire.

So we must all engage in a little introspection and ask ourselves: Are we being tolerant? Are we being understanding? Are we being judicious? Are we being fair? Are we doing everything that we know how to do to try to save this mother's boy from death that came to a good many of them yesterday, and could come to thousands and millions of them if we are just not successful?

We know how to circle the globe. Our electronics and our modern inventions, and everything, have taught us how to do everything better than almost anybody can do it-except we have not learned a simple little thing: How to get along with each other.

And until we do that, there is going to be hovering over us constantly that thought that we might not wake up the next morning in this nuclear world in which we are living.

So, I implore you and I beseech you to look back upon the past, where you have concerned yourself so much with yourself, and look ahead to the time when you can contribute and devote some of these talents and some of this good fortune that has come to you, trying to be your brother's keeper and look out for all the world.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:43 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House before about too members of the board of directors of the International Association of Lions Clubs and their wives. In his opening words he referred to Dr. Walter Campbell of Miami, president of the association.

During his remarks the President referred to President Mohammed Ayub Khan of Pakistan and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India, whose countries agreed to a cease-fire on September 22 (see Item 524).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to Members of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Lions Clubs. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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