Remarks at the Birthday Dinner in Austin for Governor John Connally of Texas.
Governor and Mrs. Connally, Chairman Erwin, Congressman Pickle, Mr. Strauss, distinguished guests:
I want to thank all of you for the very special welcoming committee outside. As I came in rather hurriedly I was looking at all those well-dressed demonstrators and I knew I was at the right place. I knew it was a gathering either for John Connally or Lyndon Johnson.
But since this is your birthday, John, I will just assume that these signs said, "Happy Birthday, Governor."
My father always said there were three places where a man didn't make a speech-at least a very long speech: at rodeos, country dances, and cocktail parties. He could have added a fourth occasion: at a dinner given by friends of John Connally.
No one here tonight needs me to make a speech about John. That would only add, I guess, to your surplus problems--being about as useful as another entry in the Governor's race.
So I came by just to offer a few personal thoughts to match all of your warm memories of friendship with a very good man whom I consider a very great American.
On my way down to the ranch today I jotted down five of them---one for each decade in the Governor's very remarkable life and very brilliant career.
I thought first, John, of how happy I am to share in your birthday--and of how many Americans have great cause to celebrate with us. You pass the half-century mark today. I think it is safe to predict that the influence of your wise leadership on this State and this Nation will be felt for the next half century, and many generations after.
Secondly, I thought of how this particular birthday also marks a very happy coincidence. Today you are 51, John. That is the magic number that every man of politics prays for--a simple majority. Throughout the years we have worked long and hard-and I might say late--trying to maintain it, too. I take this as a very good omen for your future and for America's future. We who know you best know that there are very few men who are more experienced in political life--few men who are more devoted to making politics the shining instrument of the people's welfare--few men who are more capable of attracting the finest of our young men and women into the noble work of government--and more valued for all these reasons as a man whose greatest gifts to democratic government are, I think, yet to come.
You have given much already, John. It is fitting now that your friends and your people return the favors of your mind and your heart. That is my third thought--how perfect it is to come here tonight to honor the man and to perpetuate his purpose with the John B. Connally Professorship in Law.
I personally thank each of you. This is much more than an academic endowment. It is a national investment. As a fount of learning in this great university, it will help assure the continued greatness of our country and of our country's cause. From it will come the knowledge so necessary to nourish freedom; the truths so necessary to uplift our lives; and, I pray, the understanding of each other that men always need so desperately if they are ever to know the final wisdom of living as brothers, in a hectic world, in search for peace.
I would like to make my fourth point, John, by saying that you have almost been a brother to me for more than 30 years. In all of that time I have tried very hard never to embarrass you and I am not going to begin now by getting sentimental. Only, let me recall, please, sir, that I gave you your first job. That may be where that phrase "LBJ's Boy John" came from. That was in the old NYA days here in Texas. Just looking at Nellie's gown tonight is proof of how far, John, you have come from $12 a month.
We have come together all along that road, from the NYA days until tonight, you and I. There is no price tag that is equal to the value of the closeness, the experiences, the hardships, the heartaches, the happiness, and the loyalty that we have shared. There is no need of that between us or between our families. We actually need nothing but the comfort of knowing that we are going to go on together, giving and getting strength from each other, in good times and in hard times--and there will be both. They will always be the best of times when I can say, as I have so often said, and always thankfully: "There is no man on this earth that I would rather have by my side all the time than John Connally."
That leaves the with one final thought, John, thought number five. It is a little thought that often is trampled in the big rush of busy men. But it has brought us here together and we will all be better men for taking it away from here tonight.
That thought is simply this: The best of one's life is always one's friends.
So, thank you, John and darling Nellie, for reminding all of us of that. And God bless both of you always for the lesson of your lives. It is wonderful to be here with you.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 9:54 p.m. in Gregory Gymnasium at the University of Texas in Austin. In his opening words he also referred to Frank Erwin, Chairman of the University Board of Regents, Representative J.J. Pickle of Texas, and T. H. Strauss, Chairman of the Texas Fine Arts Commission.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Birthday Dinner in Austin for Governor John Connally of Texas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239080