Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at Miami Beach at a Democratic Party Dinner

February 27, 1964

Governor Bryant, Chairman Bailey, members of the State Cabinet, my longtime beloved friends and colleagues, Senator Holland and Senator Smathers, State Chairman Goodrich, Senator Magnuson of Washington State, Congressman Kirwan of Ohio, my old friends who represent this area, Congressmen Claude Pepper and Dante Fascell, Members of the great Florida delegation to Congress, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans:

Florida is fortunate to have a Governor like Farris Bryant. He is both prudent and progressive. He has with energy and wisdom brought Florida forward. He is truly a Governor the Nation respects. I am fearful because of his most generous introduction that he has me somewhat frustrated as I begin this address tonight.

I feel very much like the preacher in my country who went to his church on Sunday and found the congregation had presented him with a new ford automobile. He got up and had to respond to that great act of generosity on the spur of the moment. He started out something like this: "I don't appreciate it, but I do deserve it."

Well, I am not that frustrated tonight, Governor, but I will tell you this: I don't deserve it, but I do appreciate it.

We are a very fortunate people. Tonight we meet here in the warmth of the sunshine State of Florida. Meanwhile, our Republican friends are shivering up there in northern New Hampshire. Someone once said that the Lord made the universe and rested. The Lord made man and rested. The Lord made woman--and since then neither the Lord nor man has rested. That is what the Republican candidates have found out in New Hampshire ever since Margaret Chase Smith came on the scene. I will wager that the male candidates wish I had never started this "more women in Government" theme.

I am so glad to be here in Florida. I feel comfortable down here among my old friends and colleagues. I am glad to be here, too, because the Democratic Party has never been stronger than it is tonight. And for the record, we want to say that tonight the Democratic Party welcomes all challengers.

The contribution of Florida to the unified strength of the Democratic Party is large and rewarding. The Democratic Members of the Florida delegation to the Congress have a record of persistent courage true to their convictions, and always hopeful for the future of their State and their country.

You have every right to be proud of the men who represent you. You have every cause to have confidence in their judgments and to feel secure in their resolve. I served in the Senate with Spessard Holland and George Smathers. They are able, they are wise, and they are honest. Sometimes we disagree, but there is never disrespect. Both these men have one purpose in life--to serve their State, serve their country, with integrity and decency, and honor and diligence.

In the House your delegation bows to no State in its effectiveness or in its intelligence. Congressman Pepper and Congressman Fascell, Congressmen Sikes and Bennett and Herlong and Haley, Congressmen Matthews and Rogers and Pepper and Gibbons and Fuqua are the kind of men who make voters proud, and I have been proud enough to come here to Miami on other occasions for both Dante Fascell and Claude Pepper-and I salute you for sending them to Congress.

Our late beloved Speaker, Sam Rayburn, used to have a formula for citizens of any district in the selection of good Congressmen. And I will say this applies to Senators this year, too, Spessard. Mr. Rayburn used to say, "Pick them young, pick them honest, send them there and keep them there." So I can say to the people of Florida tonight that I can give you no better advice than that. You have already picked them, you have already sent them there, you know they are honest. Now keep them there and you will be serving your best interests as well as your State and as well as your Nation.

As Mr. Rayburn used to say, "Without prefix, without suffix, without apology, all of us here tonight are Democrats." We share a proud tradition. Our principles and our programs and our achievements represent the hopes and the needs of the great majority of the American people--in every walk of life and in every part of the country.

We are citizens of the oldest democracy on earth. We are members of the oldest political party in the world.

When our country and our party began, some of the wisest men of the age predicted that this light of freedom--the great American experiment--would soon be extinguished. Well, they were wrong. The democratic idea of self-government has proved to be the most powerful political idea ever to stir the imagination of human beings.

Our confidence that freedom will continue to spread is based not on any desire to make the world over in America's image, but it is based upon our belief that democracy is a universal hope of all humanity.

Our party has greatly contributed to the success of the American experiment. We have never represented a single interest; we have never represented a single group; and we have never represented a single section of the country.

The Democratic Party has endured and prospered because it rested on the belief that a party exists to advance the freedom and the welfare of all the people.

Twice in 20 years that principle has been severely tested.

When franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York was suddenly succeeded by Harry Truman of Missouri, the Nation did not falter. Both men had deep and abiding local attachments. Both men respected legitimate local interests and they tried to ease the frictions between them. Both men also affirmed that the national interest is greater than the sum of all local interests, that where the national interest is at stake, the people and that national interest must always be served first.

Now John f. Kennedy is dead, deprived by an assassin of the chance to lead his party to victory again this year. But the principles and the purposes for which he labored and lived continue to live tonight, for we Democrats assembled here have resolved to continue the work he began.

This continuity of purpose from man to man, from administration to administration, is the secret of our strength as a party. Nothing better illustrates it than the way in which we are working tonight, with new tools and new programs toward a world of peace and freedom.

A generation ago franklin Roosevelt said that the world must be founded on four freedoms. The first two of these freedoms--freedom of speech and freedom of worship--are the core of our belief in the liberty of the individual. When Roosevelt spoke, only a few nations in the world enjoyed those freedoms. A generation later, due in great measure to American leadership, those same freedoms flourish tonight in many other parts of the world. Here at home, efforts to restrict free expression have been consistently defeated.

A new spirit of religious toleration has broken down the old barriers. We are learning to respect rather than to resent the beliefs of others. We have not yet achieved a world in which men are not persecuted for their opinions or their beliefs, but we are much nearer than we were in 1941. We have also expanded the concept of human rights into new areas. full participation in our society can no longer be reserved to men of one color.

This Democratic administration believes that the Constitution applies to every American of every religion, of every race, of every region in our country. I pledge you tonight, and the people of this Nation, and the people of the world, that this administration is pledged to protect the full constitutional rights of every American. We intend to press forward with legislation and with education--and, yes, with action--until we have eliminated the last barrier of intolerance. for as long as freedom is denied to some, the liberty of each of us is in danger.

In the past 3 years we have taken enormous strides toward achieving freedom from want. We have added $100 billion to our national product, the greatest increase by any country in history. Employment has increased by 2½ million in the last 3 years. Industrial production has risen 23 percent. And our profits are up over 5° percent more than they were 3 years ago. I tell you tonight that the economy is continuing to climb. That is not only good news for all Democrats; that is good news for all people everywhere.

This year we are reducing the federal deficit by 50 percent, and we cut taxes last night by $11½ billion. That tax reduction recommended by President Kennedy more than 13 months ago is the most far-reaching tax cut in the history of the Nation. And no man contributed more to helping pass that bill than your own George Smathers on the finance Committee, from the State of Florida.

So, Governor, we want you to know that we think we can prove that economy in Government and reduced burdens for the taxpayers are not inconsistent with a growing and a prospering America. We intend to prove in the Nation what you have already proved, that you can be progressive without being radical, and you can be prudent without being reactionary.

I will send to Congress next week a message calling for incentives to all sectors in American society, business and labor, State and local communities, to join us in this historic hour in helping to declare a war to eliminate poverty wherever poverty exists. Thirty years ago a great President stood before a rostrum and with his chin up and his chest out spoke for the one-third that were ill clad and ill fed and ill housed. But in 30 years we have just reduced that one-third to one-fifth. And now our job is to move that one-fifth to one-tenth, or one-twelfth, or to drive it completely from our midst.

High on the list of our objectives is to provide jobs and training for our young people. Thousands of young Americans face a future on the outskirts of hope unless we give them a chance to grow as fully as their capacities will permit.

We intend to prove that a compassionate nation can be a strong nation, for we have learned that the fourth freedom, freedom from fear, cannot be guaranteed unless we are strong. We can only be free to pursue our passion for peace behind a shield so powerful that no aggressor dares try its strength against America.

I am here to say to you and to them that America has created such a shield. In the past 3 years, we have doubled the number of strategic weapons on alert. In the last 3 years we have more than doubled our Minuteman missile program. In the last 3 years, 5 additional combat-ready divisions have been added to the United States Army. In the last 3 years, the Air force has added 5 new tactical fighter wings. Our strategic airlift capacity has been increased by more than 75 percent. Our counter-insurgency capacity has increased by more than 600 percent.

A stronger America stands ready to preserve freedom against any who challenge it. But as Winston Churchill said: "We arm to parley."

These great weapons we have produced, we hope we will never have to use. for arms alone will never bring us peace. We will continue to explore every opportunity which might lead to a reduction of tensions, to a lessening of hostilities, to a decrease in armaments. This exploration has already borne fruit in an agreed end to atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and the establishment of instant communication between Washington and Moscow.

We have many basic differences with the Soviet Union. But we also believe and work on the assumption that the Russian people desire a better life for their children. Reducing the danger of a nuclear holocaust is as necessary to their national interest as it is to ours.

A few days ago I was told that we ought to send divisions of Marines in 1 to turn on a water hydrant. But I thought it was much wiser to send an admiral in to shut it off. And by patiently, judiciously, wisely following this thread of mutual interest, somehow we may yet find a way out of the tortured maze of hostility and conflict.

We stand ready tonight, as we have always stood in our history, to test our system against any other on the field of thought and belief and the work of peace. for on that field, freedom will never lose. We have always welcomed dissent. We have never muzzled disagreement. Pick up any afternoon paper and you will see proof of that. for the truth of this Republic's durability tells us that men worthy of the Presidency must be measured by the highest rules of responsibility.

The Presidency of this Nation is no place for a timid soul or a torpid spirit. It is the one place where a petty temper and a narrow view can never reside. for the Presidency is both a legacy from the past and a profusion of hope for the future. To those who cry havoc and shout for war, we must give them understanding. To those who advocate retreat or appeasement by whatever new names they use, we modestly suggest that they reread history, for there on history's face the blotch of Munich is still visible.

The basic freedoms, the world that franklin Roosevelt envisioned and that John Kennedy worked and died for--have taken on new meaning in our time. They were not fully realized in Roosevelt's generation, nor will we fully reach them in ours. But they are a part of our heritage.

And from that heritage Americans must draw the goals and the guidance that are best suited to their own time. We are determined to preserve in the future what we have received from the past. But we are also aware that only by accepting the arduous, uncertain, and most of the time very lonely duty of interpreting and pursuing democracy according to our convictions of today--only then can we hope that our posterity will say to us: "They, too, guarded and handed on the Great Experiment."

Now just one final note. This afternoon when we saw the hopes and dreams of a hundred years come true and we mashed a button that touched a dynamite cap, that moved the first dirt on the great Florida Cross-State Canal, below Palatka, at Rodman, Fla., about the same time that dynamite went off a few miles away in our free America a railroad was being bombed. The continued violence against the Florida East Coast Railroad is appalling, and without regard as to who is right and who is wrong in this labor dispute, this criminal action has got to stop.

You know and I know that we don't settle matters this way in this country.

I apologize to the great entertainers, Mr. Sullivan and the others, who were here-Mr. Martin, Miss Charisse, Miss Smith, Miss Warren--for being late. But I was talking to a great public servant, Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, and the Secretary of Labor, from the time I came in the hotel until I came down tonight.

I am here to tell you that Mr. Hoover has directed and already has on the way to this State one of the greatest inspectors he has to coordinate more than 30 FBI men who will throw their full force of the federal Bureau' of Investigation into investigating this bombing and bringing the perpetrators to account.

In the meantime I urge that the parties renew their efforts to find a way of settling this dispute.

I am asking the Secretary of Labor to confer with your able Governor, Farris Bryant, tomorrow morning, to confer immediately, to give me their recommendations promptly. I am not passing judgment on who is right or who is wrong. But as the leader and spokesman for all the people of this Nation, I am saying that you cannot take the law into your own hands, and criminal action must stop now.

Thank you.

1 To Cuba.

Note: The President spoke at 7:30 p.m. at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla. In his opening words he referred to Governor Farris Bryant of Florida, John M. Bailey, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Senators Spessard L. Holland and George A. Smathers of Florida, Warren Goodrich, Florida Democratic State Chairman, Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington State, Representative Michael J. Kirwan of Ohio, and Representatives Claude Pepper and Dante Fascell of Florida. Later he referred to Senator Margaret Chase Smith, candidate for Republican nomination for President, Representatives Robert L. f. Sikes, Charles E. Bennett, A. Sydney Herlong, Jr,, James A. Haley, D. R. (Billy) Matthews, Paul G. Rogers, Sam M. Gibbons, and Don Fuqua, all of Florida, J. Edgar Hoover, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at Miami Beach at a Democratic Party Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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