Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Battle Creek, Michigan

September 05, 1966

Mayor Wilklow, Congressman Todd, Senator Hart, distinguished members of the Michigan delegation, my colleagues from Ohio, distinguished leaders from the house of labor, ladies and gentlemen:

I am pleased to be here today with Paul Todd, Senator Hart, and the other members of this delegation. I am especially pleased to be able to come here and tell you what a terrific job your own Congressman Paul Todd is doing in Washington.

Paul is a freshman Congressman, but he has earned, and I think he deserves, the respect and admiration of every good American who is interested in his country regardless of the party he belongs to.

He has drafted and pushed through the House of Representatives, the first term that he served there, the most important population amendments to the food for freedom bill.

He represents your district with the same dignity and the same effectiveness as did his grandfather Todd back in the year 1896.

Phil Hart has been doing a terrific job for Michigan in the Senate and in the Nation. He has played leading roles in much vital legislation. And he is returning this week to be the floor leader of some of the most important administration measures that we will pass this year.

We came here to Battle Creek today to honor not only an institution, but to honor the man who gave it life.

I never met Dr. Kellogg but, as you must have observed, I brought along one of his greatest admirers. Later on, I am happy to say, she became one of my admirers, too.

From what Mrs. Johnson has told me of Dr. Kellogg, he was my kind of man. He started early, he stayed late. He worked to fulfill his ambition, and I quote him "to spend my entire life in human service."

He was a builder, a constructor, a developer. He knew the meaning of Speaker Sam Rayburn's words: "Any donkey can kick a barn down. It takes a good carpenter to build one."

Dr. Kellogg was a teacher. He knew that the first job of this great sanitarium, which he liked to call a "University of Health," was to teach people how to get well and then teach them how to stay well.

It is very nearly impossible to put a price on the value that such a man as Dr. Kellogg contributed to this country. But we can estimate, I think, the terrible cost inflicted on this country by disease. That cost must be measured in doctor bills and hospital fees and medicine, but also in the cost of earnings and production.

Our great experts estimate that mental illness will cost us $8 billion this year; that cancer will cost us over $3 billion; that heart disease will cost us over $7 billion; that the common cold and other respiratory diseases will cost us $5 1/2 billion; that rheumatism and arthritis will cost us $3 billion.

This year alone the total cost to our country in all illnesses will amount to more than $62 billion--nearly one-tenth of our gross national product.

Now this is a tragic waste. It is borne in sorrow by almost every family in this land. Its price comes highest to those that are least able to pay. To our older Americans who are trying to live out their lives in security and comfort, to our very young, for death still takes its great toll in the cradle, to our minority groups, for the man whose skin is colored lives 7 years less in this country of ours than his fellow American. And twice as many little Negro babies die in their first year as white babies.

Dollars alone serve as very poor measuring instruments for the cost of ill health. A great nation must also measure by other yardsticks of concern. A great people must share the vision of leaders like Dr. Kellogg.

We have come a long way down the road of care and compassion for the afflicted.

In the last 2 years I am proud to say--I think I am prouder of this than anything I have ever done in all my 58 years--upon my recommendation the Congress in the last 2½ years has passed 24 health bills. We will take in $6 billion this year for medical care and for social security. We have passed the Nurses Training Act, the Health Profession Act, the Medical Research Facilities Act, the Heart, Cancer, Stroke, High Blood Pressure Act.

I could list them all afternoon. And along with those 24 measures that in time will give to the people of this country the kind of health they ought to have, we passed six major education bills, beginning with Head Start and ending with Ph.D. degrees, that will give our children the kind of education that we have been talking about for 200 years.

The leaders of the house of labor, the distinguished Cabinet officers, the Members of the Senate, the Members of the House who are on this platform, with your support, with the support of all good Americans throughout this country, have done in 2 years what we have been talking about doing for 200 years.

When I was a boy the person with mental problems was treated very little better than an animal. He was sent to the prison or the jail or to the dark despair of a lunatic asylum. Today, we know that mental illness can be cured and we are curing it. And, we are working to build community health centers where those who suffer can receive care and compassionate guidance. Today, this great Battle Creek Sanitarium is helping to chart the course for the entire Nation and the world in the fight against mental illness.

Not long ago death from tuberculosis was thought to be an act of God immune to the efforts of man. In the last 15 years medical progress has cut the TB rate by 80 percent and it has cut TB health occupancy by 50 percent.

Not long ago, the threat of polio struck terror in the heart of every mother in this land, and the annual list of victims outnumbered 34,000 citizens. And one of our great Presidents suffered through a great deal of his life because he was a victim of polio. Last year, with the help of vaccines, and with the help of leadership like Franklin D. Roosevelt provided, that number was nearly down to zero.

These things did not happen by accident. They required leaders--medical leaders, scientific leaders, political leaders. They required hard work and costly investment, they required money and manpower. They took a combined effort involving our National Institutes of Health, our drug industries, our hospitals, our clinics, our nurses, our skilled doctors. They represent the great genius of creative federalism bringing together the energies of both public and private enterprise.

There are some, some of them may even be here in Michigan, who say we are moving too fast along the road of caring about people's health. Some raise the loud cries of protest that we were carrying compassion too far when we sought to extend social security so that our senior citizens could enjoy the benefits of medical care.

Some even went so far as to predict that the old people would all abuse their privilege and would overcrowd our hospitals and would socialize our country.

Now I have been in public service 35 years and I have heard these same old arguments, usually made by the same old voices making up the same old opposition against every move forward for the benefit of all the people of this country.

When I voted for minimum wage at 25 cents an hour almost 30 years ago they told me I would be retired to private life. I almost have been a time or two in the columns and in the polls, but not really.

And minimum wage in the meantime, while they retired me, has gone from the 25 cents that we first voted in 1938 to the $1.60 that we are going to sign next week. And Medicare went from a dream of Harry Truman back 20-odd years ago to an actuality on July 1st. Our hospitals and our doctors and our other people showed that they knew how to meet this opportunity.

Before this decade ends, I predict that you and your children and your grandchildren and all who are with us will look back with a great deal of shame. The blush of shame will come to the cheeks of all of us when we think about how our senior citizens were allowed to sicken and to die with no provision for their care.

Before this decade ends, I predict that we will make further breakthroughs in our concern for the afflicted and for the injured.

I predict that we will no longer condone the waste that claims 50,000 traffic deaths each year and results in over 3 million accident victims.

We have lost a little over 3,000 of our brave, gallant young men in Vietnam protecting our freedom and our liberty. But while we were losing those 3,000, we lost 50,000 right here in front of our eyes on our own streets and highways.

The traffic safety bill that I urged the Congress to pass--and that is now on my desk, that I will sign this next week--reveals the determination of this Congress to deal with the disaster on our highways and to curb the terror that has been taking place there.

And before this decade ends, we will wonder why it took us so long to develop wise ways of family planning. We, I think, will bless men like your Congressman Todd who has led the way to help countries that have a desperate need to control their population growth. The Todd amendment to our Food for Freedom Act has just been overwhelmingly voted in both Houses of the Congress by Members of both parties of the Congress.

It was less than 3 years ago, when I addressed the Congress, that I had at least half of my speechwriters trying to take any reference to population out of my speech-because a President hadn't been speaking along that line in this country very often.

But Congressman Todd made a courageous and pioneering effort to come to grips with the world's single most pressing problem. Even under conditions as inhumane as war, we are mounting a ceaseless effort to care for the health of human beings.

At this moment in Vietnam, no single combat soldier ranges more than 30 minutes away from a medical expert who can provide the lifesaving skills he may require. And thank the Lord and the medicos we are saving 99 percent of our men who are wounded.

No single wounded soldier is more than a few hours away by jet transport from the finest military hospitals in our Nation. And our greatest doctors and our wonderful nurses are saving the lives of those who fought to save ours.

During World War II, 3 out of every 10 men struck by weapons died. In Vietnam, this rate has been cut to nearly 1 in 10, instead of 3 in 10. Of those who reach medical care more than 98 out of every 100 recover and survive. What a record that is!

During World War II, 50 out of every 100 soldiers with serious injuries to the blood vessels of their limbs underwent amputation. Today in Vietnam, with the delicate techniques of blood vessel surgery, less than 9--not 50 out of a 100--less than 9 out of every 100 require amputation, 41 saved from amputation out of every 100. What a record that is, not only for the proud leaders of Battle Creek but for the medical profession and the nurses and the drug people all over this country of ours.

The last thing I did before I left Washington this morning was to talk to a rescue group that goes in with stretchers, helicopters, doctors, medicines, and their surgeons and pick the men up right after they fall. They load them under fire and bring them back to life again.

I said to Secretary McNamara, "Did you see that story day before yesterday? Let us get some of those men in and let them know how much we appreciate what they have done. Let us place a decoration on them for the service they are rendering their fellow man in this hour of need."

In the near future I plan to meet some who are working the miracles of medicine on far-off battlefronts.

Dr. Howard Rusk spent some time with me the other day. He told me about what he had done in Vietnam and how he is training the Vietnamese to care for their own people and to build arms and legs, and to help restore people who have lost their arm or their leg by amputation. I want to voice my gratitude to all of those who have helped in making that program a success.

At a time when our good American men are dying in battle, the job of being President of the United States is not a very happy one and can provide very little satisfaction. But one satisfaction that it offers in full measure is to help define the goals by which the Nation sets its course.

Not long ago, I called together the Directors of the National Institutes of Health. I asked them to serve as my strategy council and to advise me on our objectives and what our goals in free America for health ought to be in the decade ahead.

Some critics promptly voiced the fear that I was undermining the integrity of the medical experts. And they caused me to remember an ancient admonition that the "evil fleeth when no one pursueth."

I would today simply remind all of those who benefit from public programs that every American's constant commitment should be, ought to be, and must be like Dr. Kellogg's, "To spend our lives in human service."

All day long today, wherever I have gone in private and public, I seem to have been talking about responsibility. In Detroit this morning I spoke of the self-responsibility of labor, labor leaders, labor union members, of businessmen, of management, of owners. And I spoke of the responsibility that all of them should show, if we are to avoid the threat of inflation in this country, because inflation is a pickpocket and it is working in our marketplaces every day.

Unless we can show good judgment and self-restraint and forego some of our desires of the moment, we cannot expect to protect our needs of the long run.

Later on this afternoon, I shall be talking in Dayton, Ohio, about the responsibility not just of labor and management but of our young people as well. In Lancaster, Ohio, tonight I shall talk of our responsibility in the quest for peace.

But here in Battle Creek, I cannot close without a word about the responsibility of those who guard the health of 200 million people. A nation cannot think if it is sick. A nation cannot fight to protect itself if it is sick. And the responsibility of those who guard our Nation's health cannot ever be imposed by Government. But Government does have a concern for medical care.

If Government is to represent all the people all the time, it must have a concern for the cost of medical care and the quality of medical care, and the availability of medical care.

So long as I am in your office of Presidency, I am going to make every effort I know how to insure and guarantee the greatest possible progress in the field of health at the lowest possible cost to the individual.

For we shall be judged by those who come after us. We are writing our record for our children to look at, and they can either point to it with pride or blush with shame. As your President I am anxious about the verdict they are going to write about us. I hope that we can give them reason to be charitable. I hope that they will conclude that by our deeds we extended the boundary of compassion, that we gave really new meaning to humanity, and that we did succeed in bringing health, prosperity, freedom, liberty, and happiness to our fellow man.

Thank you and goodby.

Note: The President spoke at 2:35 p.m. at the Battle Creek Sanitarium at Battle Creek, Mich. In his opening words he referred to Mayor Harry Wilklow of Battle Creek, Representative Paul Todd, and Senator Philip A. Hart, all of Michigan. Later he referred to Dr. John Kellogg, founder of Battle Creek Sanitarium, Sam Rayburn, Representative from Texas 1913-1961, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives 1940-1947, 1949-1953, 1955-1961, and Dr. Howard Rusk, chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine in the College of Medicine at New York University.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Battle Creek, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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