Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the District of Columbia Ceremony Honoring President and Mrs. Johnson.

January 17, 1969

Mr. Mayor, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Deputy Mayor:

I brought Mrs. Johnson to Washington as a bride 34 years ago. Most of the time during these 34 years we have lived here in this city--our city. This has been our home. These have been marvelous years. It was wonderful when we were young and fighting our way along in the Congress of the United States in the House. It got better the years that we were in the Senate. After I was stricken and temporarily derailed it seemed that I had time to really appreciate people and things more than I had in my earlier years. Then we bought our home here when I was Vice President.

The last 5 years we have been here in the White House and these have been the most marvelous years that any couple could spend anywhere with anyone. Most of the things that we have sought we have done. Most of the dreams we have had have been realized. Most of the recommendations we have made have been accepted.

One of the great disappointments, though--and we have disappointments and we have failures, I have wondered many, many times just why I did fail on this--was home rule for the District of Columbia. We passed it in the Senate. We even got the petition, the unusual procedure of petitioning out of the committee and bringing it to the floor of the House. But a few men were changed and we did not pass home rule so we spent days and weeks and months trying to find some way to get local self-government in the District of Columbia.

We have come about as close to it as the lawyers knew how to come under very rigid orders and instructions to produce a council and mayor.

Then I went through the days of prevailing on Walter Washington to come back to Washington from New York to become our mayor. You don't know how much pride that has given to me to see the way the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor work as Co-mayors of this city, as two men who let the needs of the city come ahead of any personal selfishness of their own, and the Chairman of the Council has been a strong right arm all the way through it.

This city needs so much and gets so little. We all take from it, pull down, exploit it, but we put so little back into it. Somehow or other I think that the present city government has made us all realize the need our city has for us, and Washington will always be home to me. I will always treasure these marvelous years that I have spent here, particularly the last 5.

I still wish that we had passed home rule, just like I still wish that we had ratified the nonproliferation treaty. But I think we will get around to both of them before too long, and you can't get everything you want when you want it. There is no question but what rapid, unbelievable advances have been made in our Government and in the cause of our people here. I think that your appointment and the selection of the Council and the Deputy Mayor's willingness to leave a fine post and come over and help us have been the most wonderful things that could happen to the District of Columbia.

We look forward to coming to Washington and visiting you often and trying to help you in any way we can. The fact that you gave us a key--I would rather you gave us a hotel credit card, but the fact that you were thoughtful enough to want to give us anything after all the problems we have gone through together--makes me very humble and very grateful and very thankful that I live in such a nice world with so many nice people.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 7 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Mayor Walter E. Washington, District of Columbia Council Chairman John W. Hechinger, and Deputy Mayor Thomas W. Fletcher.

The President and Mrs. Johnson were presented with plaques and gold keys to the city designed by Ivan Chermayeff, one of the Nation's leading graphic artists, in recognition of their "rich and lasting contributions to the District of Columbia and its people."

The President's plaque is inscribed "Friend, benefactor and champion of the City of Washington, 1963-1969 . . . in appreciation and esteem from the people of the District of Columbia whose cause he made his own." His key bears the words "Friend, benefactor, champion."

The First Lady's plaque reads "To Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson whose quiet transforming touch gave to the citizens of Washington not only a more beautiful landscape, but a new vision of their City's possibilities . . . in admiration and affection from the people of the City." Her key bears the words "In admiration and affection to one who gave us new vision."

The text of remarks by Chairman Hechinger and Mayor Washington is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, p. 131).

As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the District of Columbia Ceremony Honoring President and Mrs. Johnson. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives