Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Dedication of Fishtrap Dam Near Pikeville, Kentucky

October 26, 1968

Congressman Perkins, Secretary Cohen, Governor Ford, Mrs. Peden, distinguished platform guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Out in my part of the country we work hard all week long so we can do what we want to on Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. I have had a long, tough week with a lot of problems--a good many of them still unsolved--but I put in enough time the early part of the week that I thought I was entitled to take off Saturday afternoon and go where I wanted to go, and here I am. I thought I could say what I wanted to say, and I am going to do just that.

I don't know when I have seen a healthier or happier or a more friendly group of people. They are my people. There may be a few of you in this audience today who will recall a sign that they used to have over at one of your local hotels. The sign read: "To live a long life, reside in Pikeville--the only city on the map where an undertaker ever failed in business." I can tell by the smiles on your faces today that this is still a good place to live.

Nobody has done more to make it that way than my good friend, and your good friend, Congressman Carl Perkins. No man has done more to bring good health to good people, good education for all the folks, good medical care for all the people of the United States, than your Kentucky Congressman, Carl Perkins.

During the last 5 years--I counted up coming down on the plane--we have passed about 500 public laws. Sixty of those public laws were educational measures, every one of which bore the imprint of a Congressman from Kentucky, Carl Perkins. Almost 40 of those laws were health measures, from Medicare to "kiddie-care," all of which bear the imprint of Carl Perkins. We have passed more than 300 conservation measures since I took office in 1963. I didn't realize that you had as many of them in eastern Kentucky as Carl listed.

Our country owes a greater debt to this great son of Kentucky than we can ever calculate, let alone repay. And the dam that we have come here this afternoon to dedicate is the finest kind of a monument that any man could have, and the only kind of a monument that Carl would want.

This dam will protect your families, it will bring you industries, it will protect your town. It will be a playground for your children. During the next 10 years, it will save more than $50 million in flood losses alone. It will provide families for miles around with a place to fish, a place to camp, a place to swim, or just a place to go to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

This dam is another example of what is happening in a growing, prospering, progressive Kentucky. It is an example of what can be done by good men and good women who are unafraid to strike out and pioneer in new directions.

When I first came to this part of Kentucky as your President, 4 1/2 years ago, I saw for myself, firsthand, with my own eyes, the plight of a proud and a productive people. I saw what happens to an entire region of this great Nation when we allow our problems to mount, when we turn our backs on the warning signals of unemployment, when we ignore our antiquated school system, and when we allow one generation after another to grow up in poverty and in need.

In 1964, Pike County was a symbol of the entire Appalachian problem. Today it is a symbol of the entire Appalachian progress.

When we took office we thought we had had enough of talking and we ought to start some doing. We decided there was no excuse for any citizen living in poverty in the richest nation the world has ever known.

So, we set out to work. We provided jobs. We trained people. We built and staffed health centers. We gave the old and their families the benefit of Medicare. We raised social security. We started an experiment in education that will make sure that birth in poverty will not mean a life in ignorance. We began a model cities program that will give every American a decent neighborhood to grow up in, and Pikeville is one of the communities that is sharing in that model cities program.

We reached out to the broken farms in the valleys. We looked down to the slums. We went over to the rural towns. Everywhere we went we said, "Let's get moving. Let's go. Take our hand." We said, "Join our country. There is a place for every one of you in America's future."

Now my friends, there are those in this land of ours who would scrap all of these programs. There are those who would reverse the tide of progress. There are those who say, "We must stop this waste. That only stirs up the poor, and they really don't make any difference anyway."

Well, I came out here this Saturday afternoon to tell you good Kentuckians that they do make a difference. They make an awful big difference.

Those cynics never talked to a young man who can now provide for his family because he has a skill in his hand, instead of hate in his heart.

They never saw a little girl whose body is growing strong and straight because she has a doctor looking after her, for the first time in her life.

They never listened while a teacher told of the way a slum child opened to the thrill of learning for the first time.

They never saw the relief in the eyes of an old couple when they received their Medicare card and they used it for the first time without having to get permission from their son-in-law.

They never saw the Negroes and the Mexicans line up on election day so they could get the first vote in the country that they had been willing to fight for.

But I have seen all of this, all over America. I have talked with these people. I have listened to them. I have read their letters. And I am proud to be a member of the generation that has acted, not talked, acted with wisdom and compassion to fulfill their hopes and help make their dreams come true.

And I am going to let you in on a little secret. I am mighty proud to be a member of the party, the Democratic Party, that acted to fulfill all of those hopes.

What we have built together has been built on the enduring and honored principles of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is the party that believes in the greatest good for the greatest number. The Democratic Party is the party that acts on your problems instead of deferring your problems. And I want everyone of you to remember that when you go to the polls on November 5 and vote the straight Democratic ticket from the White House to the courthouse. I want you to remember that great Democratic leader, that loyal Vice President who stood by my shoulder through 4 long years of progress--Hubert Humphrey, and his vice presidential candidate, Senator Edmund Muskie.

I want you to remember this too: Our accomplishments of the past 5 years have been the work not just of a Democratic administration, but of a Democratic Congress as well. And the more Democrats we have in the Congress, the better bills that we are going to pass. That is why we want to be dead sure that you send us back Carl Perkins and you elect a Democratic Senator in Katherine Peden.

You can count on that just as surely as you can count on night following day. It has been true since I came to Washington 38 years ago. It will be true next year, as it was last year.

The surest way in the world that you can turn back the tide of progress in America is to go out and elect yourself a Republican President and give him a Republican Congress.

We did not pass the most comprehensive housing bill in this Nation to let the wooden soldiers of the status quo cut its lifeline by eliminating its funds.

We did not launch a War on Poverty to let the old voices of reaction call "Halt!" to the advance of the needy.

In all the areas of education, conservation, health, in all the efforts to reach out for full employment, in consumer protection--we did not come this far just to let the forces of indifference strangle the promises at its birth.

So, my fellow Americans, my Kentucky friends, it is up to you. The future is in your hands. It will do you no good to go around complaining about what goes on in Washington after you have selected the men to represent you. The time to be concerned about it is now--the next 10 days. Between now and November 5th, go out and work for Hubert Humphrey and every person in that Democratic column.

On November 5, you will select the man who will lead this Nation for the next 4 years. And I came here to tell you on my Saturday afternoon off, that despite what you may have heard to the contrary, and despite what you may see on television or hear on the radio spots, despite all the Madison Avenue advertising and the glitter that goes with it, I am here to tell you that Hubert Humphrey is really the one.

Now, I hope I have a chance to get out there and do what I like to do best: look you in the eye and thank you for the strength and support you have given me through the years; tell you that I came to be your public servant 38 years ago with some very strong convictions, namely, that every boy and girl in this country ought to have the right to an education, every boy and girl ought to have the right to good health, every boy and girl ought to have the right to a job, every boy and girl ought to have a right to have a roof over their head and a decent house, every boy and girl ought to have the right to live in peace.

Now, we haven't got the answers to all those problems. You can't find the answers to that many problems in 4 years. But we have found a lot of them in 60 education bills and in 40 medical care bills and 300 conservation bills. We have found the answer in that communism hasn't taken an extra foot of land anywhere in the world in the last 4 1/2 years. And wherever our men have carried that flag, they have brought it back without a stain on it. They have defended it honorably and they have defended it well.

I want to conclude now with a little story that Carl said would be all right to tell you folks of eastern Kentucky. We might not talk about it if we were in one of these sophisticated urban areas, but I understand that this story is reasonably accurate.

At the end of World War II, a little temperance group made up of dear old ladies called on Prime Minister Winston Churchill. They came in to protest the Prime Minister's drinking habits.

The little lady who was a spokesman for the group said, "Mr. Prime Minister, we are reliably informed that if all the alcohol and brandy that you have drunk during World War II could be poured in this room, it would fill half of this room, up to here, up to our necks."

The Prime Minister sat there with a glum expression on his face. He looked at the floor and he looked at the ceiling. He measured about halfway to the ceiling. He said, "My dear little lady, so little have I done; so much I have yet to do."

So, that is the way I feel in the twilight of my political career, after 38 years. We have fought a good fight. We have stayed the course. But so little have I done, so much we have yet to do.

Sixty education bills, 40 health bills. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare is here on the platform with us. Secretary Cohen, stand up and take a hand. I expect Secretary Cohen has had more to do with good education and good health and good social security in this country, and good medical care, than any other living man.

But a fellow who is breathing right hot on his back, right close to him every step of the way, is that favorite of mine, that son of Kentucky--Carl Perkins.

Thank you for inviting me here.

Note: The President spoke at 4:35 p.m. at the dedication of Fishtrap Dam near Pikeville, Ky. In his opening words he referred to Representative Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky, Wilbur J. Cohen, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Wendell Ford, Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, and Katherine Peden, Democratic senatorial candidate in Kentucky.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Dedication of Fishtrap Dam Near Pikeville, Kentucky Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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