Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Democratic Congressional Dinner in the D.C. Armory.

June 24, 1965

Mr. Kirwan, Mr. Speaker, Senator Magnuson, Chairman Bailey, distinguished committee chairmen, my fellow Democrats, ladies and gentlemen:

I am enjoying this night much more than you really know. With not one but two dinners to attend, I have an excuse to eat two desserts tonight and Lady Bird can't say a thing about it--at least until we get back to the White House.

I am very proud to join in this salute to the 89th Congress and to all the Democratic Members in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. I came out here tonight not to bury the Congress but to praise it. I came not to purge its selection but to urge its reelection. I came not to talk about the mistakes of the past but to rejoice in the adventures of the future.

I am a child of the Congress. For more than 30 years the Hill was my home. I am here tonight among those that I know, and those that I respect, and those that I love.

And as if to give towering substance to my words tonight, the Congress in one day--today--moved on many fronts toward even higher achievements.

Today the Education and Labor Committee of the House of Representatives reported the higher education bill to the House, and that is a bill which will be one of the enduring monuments of this Congress.

Today this same Committee, under the chairmanship of Chairman Powell, reported the arts and humanities bill, and the mine safety bill, and the disaster relief bill.

Today the Senate Finance Committee voted out our medical care bill for the aged. We liberals have talked about that bill for many years, but this year we Democrats are going to pass it. Next Wednesday this measure, that is second in importance only to the Social Security Act and of the very highest value to every citizen of our land, will be on the floor of the Senate for debate.

Today the Senate Banking and Currency Committee voted out the housing bill.

And today the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee reported out the heart and cancer and stroke health measure, and the community mental health center bill, and the health research facilities amendments, and all three of these bills will be on the Senate floor tomorrow, and I hope before the sun goes down they will have passed that body.

Today the Government Operations Subcommittee voted out the Department of Urban Affairs bill in the Senate--and the House has already passed that bill, I need not tell you.

Today the Senate passed, by a vote of 74 to 9, the silver coinage bill.

Today the House passed the juvenile delinquency bill; and the House passed an extension to the Area Redevelopment Administration bill.

And today the conferees of the House and the Senate agreed on the Presidential inability and succession bill; and the conferees reported the Post Office, Treasury, and Executive Office appropriation bill--and that is a real important bill.

And Mrs. McCormack, all this happened in just one day--17 bills.

Now I know you are proud of your husband, the beloved Speaker, but we are proud of all the Congress, and no wonder--this 89th Congress will leap into history as the most effective and the most rewarding Congress for all the people in all the history of America.

And no one knows better than I do that the record of any Congress--and the record, for that matter, of any President--depends finally upon the quality of the leadership in both Houses of the legislative branch.

I am very proud to say that this 89th Congress has leadership--good, strong, wise, experienced, progressive Democratic leadership of the very highest quality.

When some day the world lives in peace, and when the peoples of this hemisphere live together in justice and prosperity, men will honor the name of the good and gentle man who leads the Democratic Party in the Senate of the United States, Mike Mansfield, the majority leader.

And, likewise, when Americans see the ideals of their system fulfilled, and when they live in a society that is made great by the people's will, they will give their credit to the man who led the historic legislative breakthrough--the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Carl Albert of Oklahoma.

But history has already reserved a very large and a very important place of respect and affection for the great and good American who puts his country ahead of his party, and always his party ahead of himself--the wise and the diligent, the conscientious warmhearted friend of all the people of the United States, Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts.

I paid my respects to that young progressive from the South, Russell Long, at the other dinner, but all these measures that we have talked about had to have votes to pass them and to report them and send them to the White House. And we couldn't have gotten those votes except for the enduring patience, and perseverance, and hard work, and intelligent grasp of matters as exhibited in the House of Representatives by our beloved friend, Hale Boggs from New Orleans--and George Smathers from Florida.

George and Hale are not only two of the best looking men in the Senate and the House--and the country--but they are two of the most effective.

Now, at this point I think I should announce that I have only 357 more Democrats to go--before I begin the speech of the evening !

Well, I came out here tonight because I wanted to say to you that as Americans-and as Democrats--we are an honored generation. We are living in a very rare and a very special moment in history.

No other Americans--certainly no other Democrats--have had entrusted to their hands the substance of history such as this moment has placed in ours now.

The more than 50 major bills enacted last year--because they were presented to the Congress by that fearless, outstanding, beloved late President of ours, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, we kept his faith and the Congress was true to his trust; and those bills were enacted and became law because of his vision and his foresight--the 19 major measures that we have already passed this year, and the some 70 more that are still to come, do not represent victories of party but they do represent victories of and for and by the people.

So, in these times of our abundance and our comfort and our safety, it is an enduring victory--for all the people--when their Congress is moved and motivated, as the people themselves are, by conscience and by courage and by abiding conviction.

It is a victory for the people when conscience moves their Congress-

--to declare war on human poverty in this land and to do something about it;

--to open the abundance of our harvest to the hungry people all around the world and to do something about it;

--to offer fresh hope to the worn region of Appalachia and to do something about it;

--to promise the dignity of medical care to our aged and then to do something about it, as we are going to do next week.

Yes, this is a very great victory for the people of America when conscience and c o u r a g e and conviction moves their Congress--

--to guarantee, as this Congress very soon will, every American in this land the right to vote,

--to assure, as Congress did last year, that every American shall be treated equally in places of public accommodation without fear of indignity because of his color or his creed,

--to assure, as Congress will this year, that families may be reunited from other lands-I hope I am prophesying correctly, Mr. Speaker--and that valuable new citizens can come to America from places across the seas to see their families without humiliation or inhumanity,

--or to make certain, as Congress has, in the most important measure that I think I shall ever sign, that every boy and girl born in America, regardless of his race or religion or his creed, shall have the opportunity for the best education that he or she can absorb from the first grade onward to the highest grades.

Yes, I think it is a victory--a victory for the people--when Congress is moved by the courage--

--to lift off the burden of wartime tax rates on incomes and place its confidence in our economy to produce the growth that produces jobs to keep America's promise to our growing population,

--to reduce taxes by more than $18 billion in less than 18 months to sustain the longest peacetime economic expansion that this Nation, or any other nation, has ever


--to face up squarely to the challenges of America's cities, where 80 percent of our people will live in 35 years, and

--to meet boldly the opportunities of conservation and beauty in America's countryside.

Yes, it is, finally, a victory for the people when Congress is moved by abiding convictions, deep within the heart and soul of this Nation, to stand up before the world to declare the will of the United States of America to resist aggression, to defend freedom, to honor our treaties, and, above all, to work without ceasing anywhere, anytime for the peace of mankind everywhere in the world.

In a very short while I shall be leaving this hall to fly across the continent--first to meet with a man whose name is written forever among the heroes of freedom, Harry S. Truman--and then to fly on to San Francisco to renew there the .pledge of support that President Truman gave 20 years ago this week to the United Nations.

For 20 years now--20 years of trial and testing--the purpose of this Nation has never wavered for a moment, and I want to tell you that it is strong, and it is steady, and it is sure tonight. And in this week we seek nothing of others. All we want is peace and justice for all--and that is America's purpose.

For 20 years we have journeyed a road of danger--and neither the journey nor the danger is near an end. In our land--and around the world--we would far rather use our hands than our arms. For we want to walk and to work at the side of mankind to help him overcome poverty and disease and ignorance and bias and fear. But we cannot do the works that we want to do-mankind cannot make the gains that all peoples yearn to make--so long as there are those who are unwilling to leave their neighbors alone and in peace.

And I take with me the assurance of the Congress--and my own determination that:

--So long as peril remains we shall remain 'prepared.

--So long as peace is weak we shall remain strong.

--So long as Communist aggression challenges freedom we shall meet it.

I remember that a great Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, once told us that there is "something better... that a man can give than his life." That is, Woodrow Wilson said, "his living spirit--given to a service that is not easy, to resist counsels that are hard to resist, to stand against purposes that are difficult to stand against."

Well, you are giving such a living spirit-and in so doing you honor your party by honoring first your country. For it is not as Democrats, and it is not as partisans, and it is not as members of factions that we shall prove ourselves worthy of the public's trust, but it is only as free men and only as Americans first.

My heart bursts with pride tonight when I look at this head table and come back to the scenes of my childhood, so to speak. I see the distinguished chairman--I can't see all the way down there--Mike Monroney, and Alan Bible, and Everett Jordan, and Bill Dawson, and that wonderful Tom Morgan, Joe Evins, and the rest of them at the other end of the table. And I am proud to say to you that although the Republicans have been trying to divide our party, ever since we got a 15 million mandate and carried every State in the Union except 5, it is only tonight that they finally succeeded-and I am glad they did, because they divided us into two groups of about 4,000 each. We could not get them all in one hall.

And so as we return to our homes this evening I hope that each of you that have made this sacrifice to buy a ticket and come out here to help elect or reelect Democratic Congressmen and Democratic Senators-that will come here and follow the leadership of John McCormack, and Carl Albert, and Hale Boggs, and Mike Mansfield, and Russell Long, and George Smathers, and all of these great committee chairmen--I hope that you know that we are grateful to each of you for taking away from your families some of the things that you could give them and giving it to your party and, I hope, to the benefit of your country.

We notice it. We like it. We appreciate it. And it is absolutely necessary.

And I have been assured by those great Democrats--Warren Magnuson, Mike Kirwan, Neil Curry, who put on this dinner, and my friend that came a long way, like my beloved friend Jim Sewell that sits out there in the front row who came here from Texas, and he's one of the greatest Democrats of them all--that we can assure him and every other Democrat in this room that there are going to be no locks on the desks, there are going to be no drawers pulled open, there are going to be no tape recorders around. And we are going to take what you have put here, and put on this table, and we are going out to the hustings and we are going to break the record. Instead of suffering losses in the off year we are going to bring you back gains for your sacrifices here tonight--gains that you and your children will be proud of.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:12 p.m. at the District of Columbia Armory.

In his opening words he referred to Representative Michael J. Kirwan of Ohio, Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, and John M. Bailey, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Later he referred to Representative Adam C. Powell of New York, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate, Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, majority leader of the House of Representatives, Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana, majority whip of the Senate, Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana, Senator George A. Smathers of Florida, Senator A. S. Mike Monroney of Oklahoma, Senator Alan Bible of Nevada, Senator B. Everett Jordan of North Carolina, Representative William L. Dawson of Illinois, Representative Thomas E. Morgan of Pennsylvania, Representative Joe L. Evins of Tennessee, Neil J. Curry of Los Angeles, honorary chairman of the Democratic congressional dinners, and James L, Sewell of Dallas, Tex., President of the Delhi-Taylor Oil Corp.

Earlier in the evening the President spoke at the Washington Hilton Hotel where another congressional dinner was in progress (see Item 329).

Following his remarks at the Armory the President left for San Francisco to address a meeting of the United Nations. On the way he stopped at Kansas City, Mo., for breakfast with President Truman.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Democratic Congressional Dinner in the D.C. Armory. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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