Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Dedication of the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, Pennsylvania

October 16, 1966

Bishop Rubin of Rome, who is representing Cardinal Wyszynski, Reverend Yuen of Scranton, Father Michael Zembrzuski, Members of Congress, my beloved friend Governor David Lawrence, ladies and gentlemen:

Mrs. Johnson and my daughter Lynda and I are delighted that we could have this opportunity on the last day that we are in this country to come here and visit with you good people in the State of Pennsylvania.

This is a very proud day for all Americans of Polish descent.

For what we are dedicating this afternoon is much more than a beautiful structure of stone and glass.

It is a symbol of 1,000 years of Polish civilization and Polish Christianity. And to me, it is also a symbol of millions of men and women who have come to our shores as immigrants--come here in search of a better way of life in America.

They were poor, most of them, and had to take what they could get. And life was hard at its best.

Many of them were illiterate, and the language barriers seemed almost impossible for most of them to surmount.

They were no strangers, of course, to discrimination. Their names were hard to pronounce, they spoke with a strange accent. They did not come from the "right" part of Europe.

But they did have faith, and having that, they overcame every barrier that confronted them. And looking back now, we, all of us, realize how much--how very much they contributed to the richness and to the diversity of the United States of America.

They brought their culture--and that has enriched us. But they brought much more. They brought brawn to our industrial might. They brought scholarship to our universities. They brought music to our concert halls. And they brought art to decorate our walls.

And most of all, they brought a love of freedom and a respect for human dignity that is unsurpassed by any group in America.

I expect that it is a little known fact of history, but it was a group of Polish-Americans who conducted America's first recorded labor strike. And they did it for the right to vote.

The first Polish immigrants landed at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608. They followed their usual practice of paying for their passage by working for the company after their arrival. But in the process, they discovered that the company authorities had disenfranchised them because they were "foreigners." And so, in 1619, they simply stopped working. And in a very short time thereafter, they won their rights as free citizens.

This is the spirit of Polish-Americans.

You just really don't know how glad I am that you won that first strike.

This is not an isolated example. The freedom that we have enjoyed for nearly 200 years was bought not only with American blood, but it was bought--our freedom-with Polish blood as well. Casimir Pulaski once pledged himself before the high altar of a church to defend faith and freedom to the last drop of his blood. And he redeemed that pledge at Savannah, so that a young nation could choose its own destiny.

This is the spirit of Polish-Americans.

Another great man, Thaddeus Kosciusko, like Pulaski, came here to help us win our freedom. And when the war ended, a grateful Congress gave him American citizenship, a pension with landed estates in Ohio, and the rank of brigadier general.

But he was much more than a professional soldier. He was a great and outstanding humanitarian. And before he returned to Europe in 1798, he drew up his will that placed him at the forefront of the movement to abolish slavery and discrimination--almost 60-odd years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Here is what Thaddeus Kosciusko wrote in his will:

"I, Thaddeus Kosciusko, hereby authorize my friend Thomas Jefferson to employ the whole of my property in the United States in purchasing Negroes from among his own or any other and giving them liberty in my name .... "

And this, too, is the spirit of Polish-Americans.

We need that spirit in America today-perhaps more than we have ever needed it before. We need the spirit that says that another man's dignity is more precious than life itself.

We need the spirit that says a man's skin shall not be a bar to his opportunities--any more than a man's name or a man's religion or a man's nationality.

And finally, we need the spirit that says, as Pulaski said it nearly two centuries ago, "Wherever on the globe men are fighting for freedom, it is as if it were our own affair."

Well, today, when we pray here on this peaceful Sabbath day, this Sunday afternoon, in this beautiful green valley, there are millions of our fellow citizens who are fighting for freedom--millions in this country and hundreds of thousands across the water.

Millions of our fellow citizens here are fighting for freedom:

--Freedom from want.

--Freedom from ignorance.

--Freedom from fear.

--And most of all, freedom from discrimination.

And I hope that each of you will understand that their struggle is your affair, too. So let us make it our cause as well.

As we dedicate this magnificent shrine here this afternoon, let us not be ashamed to say that we are generous or that we care about human beings. When we reach out to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves, let us remember the words of Christ: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

And now as we are striving to expand the horizons of 20 million Americans, we have not forgotten the urgent pleas of the millions of others throughout the world. They, too, are our brothers--all of them, in all directions. "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

In the morning, we will leave to visit six countries in Asia. We will go to an area of the world where more than half of the people live. We will go to an area of the world where in some parts of it the life expectancy is only 35 years of age, where the per capita income per year is $65.

They are fighting their battle for freedom:

--Freedom to determine who shall govern them.

--Freedom from want.

--Freedom from hunger.

--Freedom from disease.

--Freedom from ignorance.

They are now carrying on their battle against all the ancient enemies of mankind. They need your blessings, they need your prayers, and they need your help.

And I am going to carry all of them with me on your behalf.

We must not forget your friends and your relatives in Poland. We have not forgotten the traditional bonds that have united our peoples since our earliest days as a nation.

We intend to strengthen those bonds. As I said at the Virginia Military Institute in an address in 1964, we intend to build bridges to Poland--bridges of friendship, bridges of trade, and bridges of aid. And following through, last year, it was my privilege to appoint one of the outstanding living Polish-Americans as our Ambassador to Poland to help start building those bridges--John A. Gronouski. He is writing a great record for himself and for his Nation.

We have not been idle here at home.

Our postwar contribution to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in Poland has now exceeded $360 million.

Many Poles have had a better diet, thanks to what you in America have done for them through America's food for peace program.

We have donated $37 million in food through CARE and other private organizations. And through these organizations, we have been able to provide hot meals to hundreds of thousands of children in our schools and our summer camps and to the sick and to the aged in our hospitals and our institutions.

Last December, a great children's hospital, a gift from the American people, was dedicated at Krakow.

Last week, in New York, I announced further steps that the American Government plans to take.

We will press for legislative authority to negotiate trade agreements which could extend most-favored-nation tariff treatment to Eastern European states, including Poland.

We are instituting a program to strive for closer cultural relations with Poland.

We have reduced export controls on East-West trade in the last few days with respect to hundreds of nonstrategic items that they would like to have from America.

On behalf of your Government, we have extended to Poland an invitation to cooperate with America in our satellite program.

We have taken steps to allow the Export-Import Bank to guarantee commercial credits to four additional Eastern European countries-including Poland.

We are now carefully looking at ways in which we may use some portion of our Polish currency balance for the benefit of both countries--ways which will symbolize America's continuing friendship for Poland.

We are trying to determine ways and means to liberalize our rules on travel in our two countries in order to promote much better understanding and increased exchanges between our people.

And, finally, I am quite hopeful that I will be able to arrange to send to Poland a mission of leading American businessmen and others to explore ways to widen and to enrich the ties between Poland and the United States of America.

My fellow Americans, we are living in times of ferment and unrest--both at home and abroad. But I genuinely believe--I truly know--that there is more in America that unites us than there is to divide us. And I believe that our generation now has the opportunity to establish a new era of friendship and cooperation with the peoples of the world. I believe we have the power to eradicate ancient injustices and to ease traditional tensions.

When I leave tomorrow, I shall say that my purpose will be not to accomplish any miracles, but to tell the people of the countries that I 'visit that the best way to judge America's foreign policy is to look at our domestic policy.

Our domestic policy here at home is to find jobs for our men at good wages, education for our children, a roof over their heads, and a church that they can worship in according to the dictates of their own conscience, adequate food for their bodies, and health for their families. Because with food, and with income, and with education, and with health, and with a strong defense that will protect our liberty, if we can do that here at home, we can set an example that all the people of the world will want to emulate.

We would like to see all of the 3 billion people have the blessings, advantages, freedom, and prosperity that we have here in America in Pennsylvania this afternoon.

And while we cannot wave any wand and we do not expect to achieve any miracles, we do expect to tell them what interests our people, what we want, and what we would also want for them. And we want to assure them that we do not look at self alone. We "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Yes, our ultimate task is reconciliation-to bring us all to perceive, at home and abroad, regardless of our faith or where we worship, regardless of our sex or our religion, regardless of our color, whether it is white or brown or black or green, to bring to all of us at home and abroad, that men are children of God and brothers.

Yes, we are living in an exciting age. Much is at stake. The. fabric of our whole society is at stake. The future of all civilization is at stake. But remembering the words, "Thou shalt love. thy neighbor as thyself," I have great hopes for the future. And I believe you do, too.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:40 p.m. at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, Pa. following an introduction by the Most Reverend John J. Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia. In his opening words he referred to the Most Reverend Ladislaus Rubin, Auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw who is stationed in Rome, His Eminence Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Archbishop of Warsaw, Reverend Thomas Yuen, Assistant Chancellor, Diocese of Scranton, Pa., Reverend Michael M. Zembrzuski, who originated the idea for the shrine, and David L. Lawrence, former Governor of Pennsylvania.
See also Item 200.

For the President's address at the Virginia Military Institute on May 23, 1964, see 1963-64 volume, this series, Book I, Item 359.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Dedication of the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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