Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Military Reception on the White House Lawn.

May 26, 1965

Ladies and gentlemen:

With Secretary McNamara present here today, I don't want to set a bad precedent on cost reduction, so Lady Bird and I are trying to finish this party before we have to turn on the lights. But we did want all of you to know how very proud we are to have you here with your wives and your husbands.

Our pride is shared by all your countrymen. Almost 4 million men and women guard the ramparts for peace, and peace is their mission.

This country is blessed to have, in the military, men and women that are so devoted, so selfless, and yet, at the same time, so firmly committed to peace, and to upholding at all times our democratic institutions. So I want to say to each of you, and through you to the men of the Defense Department wherever they are, that I don't think that your Department has ever had abler leadership, finer management, better trained or better equipped men than it has today. All of you should know that you're a great strength for freedom, and free men wherever they breathe are deeply in your debt.

A friend of mine, observing some of my problems, recently sent me for my desk a quotation from a Roman consul back in 168 B.C. I can't read all of it to you but I would like to give you a line or two from it. It reads:

"I am not one of those who think that commanders ought at no time to receive advice. On the contrary, I should deem that man more proud than wise who regulated every proceeding by the standard of his own single judgment."

Then this Roman consul went on to say that if any did want to advise him:

"Let him come with me into Macedonia and he shall be furnished with a ship, and a horse, and a tent, and even his traveling charges shall be defrayed. But," he said, "if he thinks this is too much trouble and prefers the repose of city life to the toils of war, let him not on land assume the office of pilot."

I know that all of you in the services have made and are willing to make sacrifices wherever and whenever you are asked to make them. So I would like to present this quotation, as an expression of appreciation to every man in the service of his country, civilian and military, to a man who exemplifies the best in all of you, a man who is courageous but compassionate, a man who respects our civil institutions and yet always honors to the fullest his military duty, a man that I welcome to the role of assuming the office of pilot--General Johnson.

Note: The President spoke at 8 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Gen. Harold K. Johnson, Chief of Staff, United States Army.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Military Reception on the White House Lawn. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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