Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Democratic Congressional Dinner in the Washington Hilton Hotel

June 24, 1965

Senator Long, Senator Mansfield, Senator Hayden, Senator Magnuson, Congressman Albert, Congressman Kirwan, Chairman Bailey, Neil Curry, and distinguished and beloved committee chairmen of the Congress:

I came here tonight not to bury the Congress, but to praise it. I came not to purge its selection, but to urge its reelection. I come 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, and I am here tonight among those that I know, and that I respect and that I love.

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

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

Today this 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, under the leadership of Senator Long and Senator Anderson and other Senators here present this evening, voted out the medical care for the aged bill that Chairman Mills passed a few days ago. Next Wednesday, this bill, second in importance only to the social security bill and of the highest value to every citizen of our land, will be on the floor of the Senate for debate according to Senator Mansfield's plans.

Today the Senate Banking and Currency Committee voted out the housing bill of 1965.

Today the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee reported out the heart and the cancer and the stroke measure, the community mental health center bill, the health research facilities amendment, and all three of these bills the majority leader, Senator Mansfield, tells me will be on the floor of the Senate tomorrow for action.

Today the Government Operations Subcommittee voted out the Department of Urban Affairs bill in the Senate. It has already passed the House.

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 extension of the area redevelopment bill.

Today the conferees agreed on the Presidential disability and succession bill; and the conferees reported the Post Office, Treasury, and Executive Office appropriation bill.

All of this happened in one day, in time for us to come to dinner tonight.

I used to think when I had some little position up in the Congress that I had had a good week, but when I look over these 17 measures that have been handled in the House committee and the House floor, and the Senate committee and the Senate floor, I just wonder if I wasn't in the kindergarten class.

So no wonder this 89th Congress will leap into history as the most effective and the most rewarding Congress in the history of our Nation.

And I want to say to each person at this head table and to every person in this audience, that you can be proud that you are doing your part to help reelect a Democratic Congress come next year.

We know of the sacrifices you have made, we know of the tickets you have bought, we have got the greatest and the biggest and the finest dinner in the history of the party, and we thank each one of you and love you for it.

Over the years, the opponents of our party and our purposes have followed one consistent strategy over and over again. On every issue they have tried to divide Democrats-but without success, until tonight.

I have always had the fear that if anything ever split the Democratic Party in two, it would be one of our two dinners.

So I suppose it might be said that a good Democrat needs a good head and a good heart all the time, and good legs and feet at election time, and certainly a good stomach in between times.

You don't know how proud I am to be here with you tonight.

Our system in this land is the most successful that any nation has ever known. And, at this moment in our national life, that system is functioning more successfully than we have ever known.

We are strong.

We are sure of our purposes.

We enjoy peace.

We have plenty--and we mean to see that all of our .people share more fully in our abundance.

All that we have in these good times has not come to us in the last 20 months--or the last 40 months--or even the last 40 years. It is the harvest of the hard labors and the patient toils of all the generations of Americans who have helped to guide and who have helped shape our destiny through the full course of this Republic's 189 years.

But when men seek the secret of America's success it seems to me that the answer lies along two long and bright and unbroken threads woven in the fabric of our national life.

The first of these is that great body of the representatives of the people--which stands at the very center of our system--the Congress of the United States of America.

In peace and in war, and in prosperity and in depression, the men and women chosen by the people themselves have never failed the purposes or the principles or the responsibilities of just and decent, and unselfish and unfearing people. There have been strong Congresses and there have been weak ones. There have been good Congresses and there have been poor ones. But I am prepared to argue--with more than usual persuasion, and twist an arm if it is absolutely necessary--that the Congress that is meeting now will be remembered in our history as the greatest of them all.

What this Congress has done to meet the responsibility of educating America's youth would of itself assure its rank high in history--and when it is concluded, this Congress will be remembered for having-

-guaranteed to every American the right to vote whatever his color and wherever he lives.

--guaranteed to every American past the age of 65 protection against the cost of hospital care and other incidental benefits.

This Congress will be remembered by these measures--and by many more--which add to the health and the happiness and the vitality of our people as well as the prosperity of our system. But this Congress will also be remembered in history for the strong and the resolute and the uncompromising support that it has given--and is giving now--to support and to defend freedom against aggression and subversion in the world.

And so I want to say to you, my friends, here tonight, that your country has only one purpose--the purpose that I believe is in each of your hearts: that purpose is peace for all peoples. We covet no territory. We seek no dominion. We want nothing for ourselves except that our neighbors and our friends and our fellow free men shall be able to live their lives and work their destinies unmolested by their neighbors in any part of the world.

And this Congress--like the great Congresses before it--is taking the hard choices and making the brave decisions that have and will continue to keep this world free and safe for all of the works of lasting peace.

The responsibility of the Congress is one of the golden threads that brighten the fabric of our national life.

Along with the vital role that Congress has played in all of our history, there is the responsible role of which we are all heirs and of which we are all trustees: that is the role of the great Democratic Party of which we are all members.

For 165 years--since it was founded in 1800 by that great Democrat, Thomas Jefferson--our party has received the people's trust because it has been and it is tonight the party that is striving to fill the people's needs and the people's aspirations--and we will not fail.

You and I are present in Washington at a time I believe to be one of the most exciting and one of the most creative and one of the most significant in the history of our national life. Seldom before have any people anywhere ever undertaken--as the American people are undertaking now--to shape consciously the quality and the worth and the value of our society for many generations yet to come.

Along their streets and in their gardens, and through the rural countryside, Americans are now volunteering to add beauty to their lands and to their lives. But, far more importantly, they are going into the dark corners and the shadows of our society to extend their helping hand to the children of the poor who have never seen a picture book, or heard a story read, or looked at a television, or had a tablet in their homes on which they could draw and make their marks and their letters.

Yes, Americans are volunteering their time and their talent and their spirit--in unparalleled numbers--to help their fellow man, the young and the old, the forgotten and the neglected.

This spirit that runs in our land knows no partisanship--it knows no party. But we as Democrats are trustees of that spirit--and we must ever be faithful to that trust.

We must give, ourselves, all the energy and talent of our party to those specific things that unite America--not to those things that divide America.

I hope I haven't said a thing disrespectful of anyone or a thing that would divide any American because we must have the courage to fulfill not only the ideals of our party but the aspirations of our society and the promises of our Constitution.

Our house is large--and it is open. It is open to all, those who agree and those who dissent. And we mean to keep it open-for if our society is to be great, it must first of all be free.

I shall never forget when I came here in 1931. I went over with a young Congressman who had just been elected, and I was his secretary, and carrying along the briefcase, and he met the great leader from the great State of Arizona--Carl Hayden.

He asked that beloved character for advice. He had come to the Congress when his State came in the Union, and he had enough experience to give it. He said then what I have thought of so often these 20 months that I have been President. He said, "Congressman, I learned after I had been here only a few days that there are two kinds of horses in the Congress--the showhorses and the workhorses." He said, "There will be a time when it comes for you to speak, and speak your heart and your head. But wait for that time and always remember that you don't ever have to explain something you didn't say."

Well, I recounted for you just a moment ago what, under the leadership of Mike Mansfield, my beloved friend, my cherished neighbor, Carl Albert, what the House and Senate did today--17 bills moved on up the Hill toward serving the needs of a growing, a developing, a vital America.

It gives me so much pleasure and so much pride to be able to say to my great Chairman, John Bailey, that the work that you did for us in 1964--that you said so little about--is now showing up on the statute books of our country. And when I go from here to the other dinner this evening--the dinner that divided us--and I have checked out my desk before I left and I am sure that it is locked and nobody is going to break into it, but while these people talk about ethics, we are going to talk about the future. And after I shall have concluded over there I am going on out to see one of the great men of our times and one of the greatest fighting leaders our party ever had--Harry Truman.

And I think I will be able to tell him tomorrow morning at 7 o'clock at breakfast, not about that awful, terrible, do-nothing 80th Congress of showhorses, but I will be telling him about that wonderful Congress of workhorses.

Note: The President spoke at 9:20 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

In his opening words he referred to Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana, majority whip of the Senate, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate, Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona, President of the Senate Pro Tempore, Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, majority leader of the House of Representatives, Representative Michael I. Kirwan of Ohio, John M. Bailey, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Neil I. Curry of Los Angeles, honorary chairman of the Democratic congressional dinners.

Later he referred to Representative Adam C. Powell of New York, Senator Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico, and Representative Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas.

Following his remarks the President left for the District of Columbia Armory where another congressional dinner was in progress (see Item 330).

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

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