Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks in New York City to Members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

June 06, 1964

Mr. Dubinsky, Mrs. Dubinsky, Mayor Wagner, Senator Humphrey, Mr. Rose, Governor Marin, Mr. Schnitzler, ladies and gentlemen:

I want to thank my friends in the chorus for that excellent entertainment. I want to express my appreciation to the songwriter-Mr. Dubinsky himself.

Over the years I have enjoyed a very pleasant association with you in this union, not only as a man with a wife and two daughters who have helped to keep you busy, but as a public official who admires your achievements of the past and heartily applauds your aspirations for the future.

We have met here this afternoon on this occasion to honor 50 years of responsible and progressive leadership by one of this country's most responsible and most progressive labor organizations--the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Fifty years ago this health center stood alone--the first of its kind to be established in our country by a trade union for working men and women.

Your union stood resolute in the thin ranks of those who carried on the struggle for security for the helpless, who fought the battle for a better life for every citizen. And that concern of your union 50 years ago is today imbedded in the conscience of our country, in the laws of our land, and in the highest hopes of our people.

These last 50 years have been decades of decision.

In our conscience and in our laws, we have decided that children belong in classrooms and not in sweatshops and coal mines. We have decided that young women should work in surroundings of decency and not in sweatshops of degradation; that the sick and the suffering, the blind and the deaf, the mentally ill and the mentally retarded should have our care--and not our curses.

Yes, in these 50 years we have set for America a direction toward human decency and human dignity. We have held our country on a course of compassion. The course we have set over those years--the course that you really helped to set--is the course of today's America. We are going to keep America moving. We are going to move forward with the American people.

The earliest goal of American society, the beckoning promise which brought men to these shores, has been a nation where each citizen would find his achievements limited only by his ability, and where the helpless need not abandon hope.

This is the meaning of justice when we pledge ourselves to liberty and to justice for all.

I predict that in the next 10 years we will make greater gains toward this goal--toward justice and social progress--than at any time in the long history of our beloved Republic.

We will do this in two ways: First, by keeping the commitments that we have already made, by completing the programs that we have already begun. Second, by moving to transform the forces of future change into an instrument for our progress rather than a threat to our prosperity.

In 1946 we committed ourselves in this Nation to seek a job for every worker.

In the month of May of this year employment rose to an all-time high in the United States of more than 71 million jobs. The unemployment rate yesterday dropped to 5.1 percent.

For married men the unemployment rate dropped to 2.6 percent--the lowest unemployment rate for married men in the last 6 years. What does this mean? This means that 97.4 percent of all married workers in this country now have jobs.

In the last 12 months alone in this country we have added 2 million jobs to the American economy. We have lowered unemployment, even though 1.4 million people have entered the labor market in the past 5 months, compared with a normal full-year increase of 1.2 million.

Thus has promise become progress. For these achievements are not the easy product of chance or circumstance. They have resulted from the patient and the determined pursuit of policies, including the largest tax cut in the history of America designed to deter recession and generate growth.

And we will continue this pursuit until every American who wants to work can find a job.

Thirty years ago in the administration in which the great lady on the platform--Mrs. Perkins--played such a prominent part, that administration promised that no American who reached retirement would find a lifetime of labor rewarded only by years of neglect and fear and despair.

In the past 4 years we have extended new and increased social security benefits to more than 5 million people. We have reduced the male retirement age. We have given greater scope to what could be earned without losing benefits. And we have taken a long series of steps to strengthen our entire Social Security System which means so much to all of us.

We are also keeping our commitment to provide hospital care under social security for all of our citizens, and we are going to see that come true.

Across a wide range of measures we must carry forward the goals of the past to fulfillment in the future.

We will help the underprivileged and the underpaid by extending minimum wage and unemployment compensation.

And we have mounted an attack upon the final fortresses of poverty. Your children will live to see the day when poverty has been transformed from a real menace to a remote memory.

We will continue the 100-year struggle to give every American of every race and color--equal opportunity in American society.

We have proposed--and under the great leadership of Senator Humphrey, on the platform--we will pass the strongest civil rights bill in American history.

But now is the time to look beyond that bill, to struggle to eliminate the heavy weight of discrimination in the hearts and in the homes of people--to give to members of minorities the training, the education, and the housing which will enable them to pass through the doors of opportunity. Laws can give men rights. But only when justice resides in the spirit of man will it become a living reality in the society of men.

The guidance of the past is not adequate to the goals of our future. Our second task is to resolve problems which will not yield to old slogans, or historic programs, or tested resolves.

What Thomas Jefferson said almost two centuries ago is true for us today: "The new circumstances under which we are placed call for new works, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects."

In only 16 more years there will be more young Americans under 25 than the total of all Americans that were living in 1930-more Americans under 25 in the next 16 years than all Americans that were living in 1930. In less time than that, there will be nearly as many Americans beyond the age of 65 as all Americans in the North and the South at the time of the Civil War.

In the past we fought to eliminate scarcity. In the future we will have to learn the wise use of abundance. Yesterday we worked to equalize competition between business and labor, Government and special interest. Tomorrow we will have to find new ways of cooperation. Yesterday we fought to create growth. Tomorrow we will have to use that growth for our great benefit.

A few weeks ago I talked about some of these problems: the need to make our cities a decent place to live in, the need to preserve the fleeting beauty of our countryside, the need to give all of our children education of the highest quality.

But these problems are only a beginning. From the encouragement of creativity in science and art to the fruitful use of resources liberated by automation and the possibility of enforceable arms control, we face towering tests of our imagination and our ingenuity, towering tests of our leadership and our labor.

In those battles that we all see ahead this union will be in the lead.

The problems are new. But the weapons are the same--compassion and concern, faith in the future and dedication to the dignity of man. That is why I know, as this country marches forward, this is beyond the farthest visions of those who even built this great union. The ILGWU will always be in the front ranks of this advancing Nation.

"One day," a great leader, a great man, a great President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had this to say, "a generation may possess this land, blessed beyond anything we now know, blessed with those things--material and spiritual--that make man's life abundant. If that is the fashion of your dreaming then I say, 'Hold fast to your dream. America needs it.'"

Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy are gone. But our people still dream their dreams and we will carry on.

Old hopes have been reached and new horizons beckon us.

Old targets have been met but new triumphs await us. Yes, we will dream on together under the leadership of some of the great men and women on this front row. We will dream on together and in those dreams we will point the way toward the destiny of a great nation.

[After the presentation of a memento, President Johnson made the following remarks.]

When I was a very young man in the Congress back in 1938, I first met our beloved friend David Dubinsky. At that time, I was one of his supporters of a very advanced piece of legislation known as the Wage and Hour Act; it provided for a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour.

In 1960 I came to the great city of New York and I was presented to a multitude of Mr. Dubinsky's friends. In his closing sentence, Mr. Dubinsky said, "I have known this man for almost a quarter of a century. I have gone to him many times and asked for his support on many pieces of legislation. I have not always got all I asked, but I have always got more than I was promised."

Having great respect for Mr. Dubinsky's ingenuity and great admiration for his imagination, I will not say to you today that he will always get all he asks, but he will always get more than I promise.

Note: The President spoke at 3:25 p.m. in the auditorium of the High School of Fashion Industries, 225 West 24th Street, New York City, at a meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the Union Health Center. His opening words referred to David Dubinsky, president, International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and Mrs. Dubinsky, Robert F. Wagner, Mayor of New York City, Hubert H. Humphrey, Senator from Minnesota, Alex Rose, president, United Hatters, Cap, and Millinery Workers International Union, Luis Munoz Marin, Governor of Puerto Rico, and William F. Schnitzler, secretary-treasurer, AFL-CIO.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in New York City to Members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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