Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks in Salt Lake City at the Mormon Tabernacle

October 29, 1964

President Brown, thank you for that inspiring invocation, President Tanner, my fellow Americans:

I am honored to be in this famous tabernacle this morning. I am proud to be on this platform with President Brown. It also makes me glad to be here with four patriotic Utah citizens whose hopes and lives are dedicated to their State and to their country.

Senator Frank Moss, who introduced me, known as Ted Moss, is my friend of many years. He has worked closely with me in trying to make our country greater, stronger, and wiser, and the growth of our Nation and how it fulfills its responsibilities of the future depend in large measure on men of this type, men like Ted Moss.

Calvin Rampton, a distinguished Salt Lake City lawyer; David King, who worked so effectively for Utah in the Congress; and Bill Bruhn, an able and energetic citizen of Ogden, these are the kind of men that I think make this country great and help it to endure all the trials and tribulations that we face in these perilous times.

For me, this occasion this morning is deeply moving and very meaningful.

Only a year ago last month, there stood here--where I stand now--the President of the United States. None could know when he spoke here how tragically short was the time that remained for his life and his leadership among us. But all who knew him know that you gave to him a gratifying moment which brightened his life to the very end.

President Kennedy returned from Salt Lake City knowing, as he had not known before, that the people of America supported his efforts to make this world safer for all mankind. For that gratification that you gave to him, by your affirmation of America's devotion to peace, I would like this morning to express to you my deeply felt appreciation.

Over these last 11 months, all of us have had occasion to reflect--reflect as seldom before--upon what it means to bear the burdens of responsibility that are borne by our particular generation of Americans. In that one awful and incredible instant last November, we looked deeply into the chasm of change. If what we saw together made us more humble, I believe it also served to make us more hopeful.

Men and nations learn from revelations. In that moment, it was revealed to us how much America means to mankind, and really, how much we mean to each other. In all of our purposes and pursuits since then, it seems to me there has been a growing will among the people to heal their wounds, to come a little closer together, rather than to risk having our society divided and coming apart.

This is the truth about America. This is the truth that each of us must never forget. In your lifetime and mine, there has never been a moment when America more needed its unity, or the world more needed a united America, than today.

Over these last 11 months, and particularly over these last 2 weeks, the world about us has had sweeping changes.

In the dark corridors of the Kremlin, new leaders have moved to power.

In Communist China, nuclear bombs have been unleashed.

In England, our great ally, the people have chosen a labor government.

In Japan, the Prime Minister has resigned and a new government is now being formed.

In India, the great leader Nehru has passed on and Shastri has taken his place.

In capitals of the free world, in capitals of the Communist world, and in capitals of the emerging world there has come--and continues to come--change of a magnitude and moment that are seldom known to man.

I believe that we are entering a new era in the affairs of man. I am certain that we and the world really have two directions that we can go.

We can, in the words of one of your old hymns, commit our efforts to moving "on to eternal perfection." Or we can, in folly and foolhardiness, allow the world to move recklessly toward eternal damnation.

For whatever may unfold, you and I are cast in very decisive roles. This generation of Americans, more than any other, will decide by our example and our enterprise whether change shall serve creative or destructive purposes for humankind.

So in today's changing world, and in today's turbulent sea, all mankind seeks a rock to cling to. America must stand as that rock. It will be that rock if we follow our fixed star--the ideals of a free society that have guided our Nation through its gravest dangers and shaped our country through its finest hours.

First, we must meet our moral responsibility to the resources with which God endowed our land.

Waste is wrong, wherever we permit it, and the first thing I did as President was to put all the resources of the Government to work immediately stopping waste. We just must not permit the waste of what God gave us all. We must conserve and we must develop the earth, the air, and the water on which all life depends and, really, all success rests.

Second, we must meet our moral responsibility to our own people, to the young, to the aged, to the laborer, the manager, and the producer of our food and fiber and our minerals, to those in urban areas and rural areas alike, encouraging independence and always encouraging self-reliance and individual initiative.

We must provide for our children an opportunity for the best education that he or she can absorb, because in this technological age they are going to be at a great disadvantage if they have not accumulated all the information and knowledge available to them.

We must provide for every person of advancing age the dignity and the care that honorable years deserve.

For every man who labors, there must be respect for his rights and opportunity for his advancement in a growing America.

For every man who ventures in business with his capital, there must be the opportunity to compete fairly and to profit fairly in proportion to his initiative and his abilities.

For this richest and strongest and most successful society in the history of mankind, there just must be a moral commitment to wipe away the causes of poverty and ignorance and disease.

We are all God's children, and the true morality of private life is the true morality of a free society: the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Third, we must, as a moral people, meet our moral opportunities to other peoples as well as our own. For those who aspire to be free, we here in America must keep aflame the torch of liberty, by being strong ourselves, and being steadfast and sure in all that we do.

Around the world more millions are enslaved by hunger than by tyrants. All the world's religions call on man to give to the poor, and as a nation we have done so.

We have not done this merely to halt communism. Our generosity flows from deeper springs of human compassion, and we just must never allow those springs to dry up in our private life or in our public policies.

If we do in the world what is right and just and good, if we keep our moral responsibilities and if we meet our opportunities, our purpose and our conduct can change the entire world.

Fourth, we must learn to live in the closer family of man here at home and in the world. At home we must ever strive to be a more tolerant people, not because laws require it but because our conscience commands it.

Whatever destiny determines that we must do, we can do it only as a nation united. This morning as we meet here, as never before in all of our lives, we very much need a tolerant condition of our national mind, to assure the unity of our people in all our purposes and all of our pursuits.

Finally, in the world of our times, in a world of great change, it must be America's unchanging purpose to lead in the quest for peace. Our task, our urgent and our ever present task, is to change civilization's careening course and change it away from the ultimate folly--change it toward the ultimate fruitfulness of a world that knows no war.

America has great strength. The world trusts both our will to use it and our will will always be to use it with appropriate restraint. Neither the world's trust, nor our own restraint, must ever be lost or must ever be left in doubt. In what we do, America must be guided by self-confidence, and not by self-doubt.

All political systems change. They are forced to by historic circumstance. And it would be dangerously foolish to believe that Soviet Russia or Communist China will soon become open societies. But it would be equally foolish to think that they will never change. Inside Russia, the Soviet Union, today a powerful force for change is already at work. Education, the bedrock of democracy, the enemy of dictatorship, is plowing its way.

Inside the Communist bloc, powerful currents are surging against the dam. Premier Khrushchev a short time before he was deposed, speaking of some of the satellite countries, said, "Like children, they have grown up and now are too large to spank."

So we cannot sit idly by--we must work to guide the inevitable changes that lie ahead. This has been--and this will continue to be--my course and my leadership.

When the Soviet Government changed governments last week, I sent word to Moscow that America's basic policy remained unchanged. This week I received an answer from Mr. Kosygin. He is the new head of the Soviet Government. In his response he said that the Soviet Union would maintain its present policies and would seek better relations and maintain its own search for peace with the West. He said that the Soviet Union would continue its communication with the United States.

The Ambassador of the Soviet Union came to spend an hour with me. He said that the Soviet Union would continue to explore areas of mutual interest.

Well, this is a heartening response. We must never underestimate the danger of communism, but neither should we underestimate the danger to all of us and to all of the world if nuclear bombs are unleashed and in a moment of anger we should wipe out the lives of millions that we can never restore if we do not constantly, uppermost, as our first priority, seek and search and plead and pray that we may find a way toward peace.

As your President, the only President you have, as the leader of the mightiest nation in all the world, I can assure you that we intend to preserve that might as a deterrent to others and as a requirement to defend ourselves.

But, on the other hand, while we will always keep our guard up and we will always keep alert, we will always have our hand out. We intend to bury no one, but we don't intend to be buried, either.

We will constantly try to be vigilant and prudent. We will constantly try to be strong and cautious. We will try to be careful and restrained, and never careless or bombastic.

There is nothing to be gained from rattling our rockets or bluffing with our bombs, because we know, and our adversaries know, that we have the might. We will expect respect for America's interest, but we will continue with every resource at my command to work for a lasting and a just and an honorable peace among men.

We want our children to survive. We want our children to say, that was the generation that split the atom, and that was the generation that united all mankind.

Note: The President spoke at 9:03 a.m. at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. In his opening words he referred to Hugh B. Brown and N. Eldon Tanner, counselors to David O. McKay, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later he referred to Senator Frank E. Moss, Calvin Rampton, Democratic candidate for Governor, and David S. King and William G. Bruhn, Democratic candidates for Representative, all of Utah. He also referred to Aleksei N. Kosygin, chairman of the Council of Ministers, U.S.S.R., and Anatoly F. Dobrynin, Ambassador to the United States from the Soviet Union. The text of the messages of the President and Mr. Kosygin was not released.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Salt Lake City at the Mormon Tabernacle Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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