Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Astrodome in Houston at a Democratic Party Rally

November 03, 1968

Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey, Senator and Mrs. Yarborough, distinguished platform guests, Members of Congress, fellow Texans, and fellow Americans:

I am glad to come back to my dear old Houston today, in the presence of my dear friend, Hubert Humphrey, who is going to be the next President of the United States.

Today, as I return to Houston, may I take you back with me into our Nation's past, to put this year 1968 into proper perspective.

Today I come here not as a debate coach that I was when I left Houston in 1931, but I come to take part in another debate, which is one of the great issues of our time. This debate is: "Resolved, that union is good for Texas, for this region, and for our entire Nation."

My fellow Texans, this is the same issue that confronted Texas 100 years ago when our Nation was torn apart by an awful war.

It is the same issue that a great southerner, Andrew Jackson, addressed when he raised his glass and toasted: "The union: It shall be preserved." The union was preserved-but at what great cost. Separatism was defeated on the battlefield. But the rage in some men's hearts continued long after the last shot had been fired. The South itself was bitterly divided.

Some men, like Henry Grady, of Georgia, saw the means of building a new South--not in nursing the wounds of war or reconstruction--but in taking its place in the American Nation and bending the energies of its great people to modern development.

Many southerners followed Grady and like-minded Southern statesmen. But others followed a succession of men, who baited the race issue, and who stirred new suspicion and fear among our people.

The work of those who tried to divide us was made easier by the attitudes of the people in the North. Some of them were determined to make the South pay forever for the moral wrong of slavery. Others were eager to exploit the South and its natural resources and our people.

So, although the political issue of union had been settled in 1865, the moral and economic issue continued to haunt the Nation's heart. And though the entire Nation suffered from disunion, it was our own dear South that suffered most.

Small wonder that a young Texas Congressman, who entered Congress in the winter of 1913, should have seen "union" as the most urgent need of his people. The late, beloved Sam Rayburn, in his first speech on the floor of the House of Representatives as a Congressman from Texas, had this to say, in 1913:

"I have always dreamed of a country which I believe this should be and will be, and that is one in which the citizenship is an educated and patriotic people, not swayed by passion and prejudice--a country that shall know no East, no West, no North, no South, but inhabited by a people liberty-loving, patriotic, happy, and prosperous, with its lawmakers having no other purpose than to write such just laws as shall in the years to come be of service to humankind yet unborn."

The issue was clear to young Sam Rayburn. Only with union--only with real union--could the South "rise again"--as a vigorous, progressive part of America.

Franklin Roosevelt, at Warm Springs, saw the effect of Southern poverty, not only in the South, but wherever Southern people migrated.

Because of modern communications and transportation, and because industry sought the resources of the South, the South was no longer isolated in fact. The South found its voice in a new political instrument of union under progressive national leadership.

That political instrument was the party that united southerners and northerners; that united laboring men and teachers; that united city dwellers and farmers, small bankers and businessmen, and all the minorities who make up the majority of the people.

It is that party that is brilliantly led today by the Vice President, who is going to be President Humphrey in 1969.

That party provided progressive leadership for America in the thirties and the forties, and the South began to wake up from its troubled sleep.

Then, in the Republican fifties came a slowdown--three recessions in 8 years, deferring America's problems.

In the past few years we have begun once again to face up to those problems. Today I want to show you in your mind's eye just a small roadmap of the progress we have made together--so that it may become a little clearer to all of you where we have been, where we are, and where, if we are wise enough to go, next Tuesday, November 5th, Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie will lead us.

The rate of economic growth in the South is faster than anywhere in the Nation.

It is 2 1/2 times faster than it was in the Republican fifties.

Unemployment here in Houston is less than half what it was 6 years ago--more jobs, more income, more profit, more growth.

My friends, the new prosperity that has come in these years is your achievement, because you worked for it; because you demanded a national leadership to move America forward out of the Republican recession and complacency. But that prosperity can be lost mighty easily. Never imagine that heights once scaled are bound to be maintained.

We can lose much of what you have gained. There is divisiveness in America's house this afternoon--a bitter narrowness of mind that threatens to set one American against another American, and threatens to undo the bonds of union between all good Americans.

Much of this is based on the ancient problem of race. Let no one misguide you about that--with contrived arguments that are meant to hide racism.

Divisive men on both sides are, this very hour, trying to play upon fear and grievances in this country. In a time of rapid change, they are trying to intensify the pressure.

If they succeed, then the great struggle of 100 years toward one country, toward one union, will all have been in vain.

All the human problems of disunion-economic, social, and moral--will return with greater force. As a southerner--as one who knows the bitter fruits of disunion--I shall do all I can, for as long as I can, to achieve harmony between the races based on the only foundation that can endure: justice and tolerance among men, for all people.

There is divisiveness, too, over this long and frustrating war in Vietnam. I have done all that I know to do, and all that I could, including refusal to enter the presidential race, to try to reduce this divisiveness.

Unanimity is too much to expect at a time like this. But I would hope that those who have most violently denounced the conflict, and those who have most stridently demanded that we escalate it, whatever the dangers of that course, would now support our peace efforts to try to secure a just and an honorable peace that will stop the killing everywhere in the world.

In the last few days--after the most painstaking analysis of our position, after working month after month, day after day and night after night--I have taken another step toward trying to resolve this conflict by peaceful means.

So I ask of all Americans--I ask of all the people of the world--give us your prayers and give us your support in the effort.

My friends, I shall before very long be leaving the highest office in man's power to bestow. As the first President from this region, I have done all that I could do to rally this Nation behind progressive efforts for change; changes that I thought were long overdue, changes that the greatness of our country required.

There have been glorious successes, and there have been heartbreaking failures. And after all the bills have been passed, and all the arguments have ended, I know that the real issue will rest in the hearts of our people. It is whether we shall have the tolerance, whether we shall have the forbearance and the vision, to live together as one people.

In my judgment, the election next Tuesday offers all of us a clear chance to express ourselves on the issue of union. And my dear, beloved friends, I pray that Texas will lead the way.

In this election, a man who represents the faith of one America--a man who is progressive and compassionate--is seeking the office of President. That man--my friend and coworker for more than 20 years--I can tell you is a healer and a builder, and will represent all the people all the time.

Hubert Humphrey has worked all his life, not to generate suspicion, not to generate fear among our people, but he has worked to inspire them with confidence in their ability to live together.

Hubert Humphrey has written, in Sam Rayburn's words, "Just laws as shall in the years to come be of service to humankind yet unborn."

Hubert Humphrey has, as Mr. Rayburn said, known no East, no West, no North and no South--but one union, one union indivisible, our own, beautiful, beloved America.

So I say to you, my fellow Texans, for the sake of our American union, this man-Hubert Humphrey--should, and must, become the 37th President of the United States. And I believe and pray that he will.

Now I shall close. Soon I shall be coming back to Texas, to live here after 37 years in public life. I will come home as a private citizen.

In all my years in Washington, I have never ceased to be a Texan. And in all the Texas years ahead, I promise you that I shall never cease to be an American.

I remember the words of Sam Houston, to whom that able Senator Ralph Yarborough referred a few moments ago. Sam Houston, who was occupying the Senate seat in the Senate Chamber where Senator Yarborough now sits, was arguing in the Senate against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise--a repeal that set terrible forces in motion that ended in war.

Senator Houston said: "In the discharge of my duty to my country, I have acted fearlessly. The events of the future lie in the hands of a wise Providence: and in my opinion, upon the decision we make upon this question must depend union or disunion."

So, my friends, it is with the issues that face us today. I pray that America will not be misled. I pray that America will follow the right course. And if it does, I know that we shall choose union.

In all of the almost four decades that I have tried to serve you people since I took that train in November 1931 from Houston, Texas, I have never known a man who worked harder or longer, who was more loyal to the principles he believed in, and rendered greater service to a progressive America, than the man who honors us on this platform.

He has a beautiful, able, wonderful teammate--Muriel Humphrey. I want her to stand up and take a bow.

For many years, Hubert and Muriel have stood by our side when we fought the battles of the people in the Senate, in the executive department, and in the White House.

I say to you that you will never find a better First Lady than this one. I hope you will put her there next Tuesday.

And now, on behalf of Senator Yarborough, Congressman Eckhardt, Congressman Casey and the other Members of Congress who are here today, it is my high honor and my great privilege to present to you the next President of the United States, our friend and your friend, and the friend of people all over the world, Hubert Humphrey.

Note: The President spoke at 4:42 p.m. at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. in his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Democratic presidential candidate, Mrs. Humphrey, Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, and Mrs. Yarborough. During his remarks he referred to, among others, Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, Democratic vice presidential candidate, and Representatives Bob Eckhardt and Bob Casey, both of Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Astrodome in Houston at a Democratic Party Rally Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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