Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Fairfield County Fairgrounds, Lancaster, Ohio

September 05, 1966

My dear friends of Ohio; Congressman Moeller; Senator Lausche; Frazier Reams; John Bush; Virgil Musser; the voices of labor who have toured this State with me today, Jim Suffridge, Walter Reuther, Joe Keenan, and Al Barkan; Mayor Burt:

I don't know how to thank you good people for this wonderful reception. All Labor Day weekend I have traveled over America, and I have been talking about America. Everywhere I have repeated a common theme:

--that our country's strength lies in the responsibility of its citizens;

--and that our real wealth comes from our sense of public service. But here in Lancaster tonight, at the end of a long day for me, in the rain, it is time to turn to our responsibilities abroad and to think for a moment what those 300,000 men that are defending our liberties out there tonight are thinking.


Our newspapers are filled with reports from Vietnam. Bulletins from the battlefield fill the air waves. As never before, television brings both the bravery and the brutality of war right into our homes.

We are all concerned with this struggle that is going on half way around the world. For our men are fighting and they are dying tonight for us here in Lancaster. And it is right that we keep asking ourselves the basic questions about the prospects for peace and about the world that our children will inherit.

I came here to talk to you very briefly tonight about four fundamental facts which shape our country's foreign policy.

First, why are we in Vietnam?

No parent, no mother, no wife, wishes to see her son or husband go off to die. No American soldier wants to kill or to be killed. No President of the United States wishes to send any young man ever into battle. Deep in our souls--and deep in our history--is the passion for peace in all Americans.

But we must deal with the world as it is and we cannot walk away from the simple fact that the peace and security of many nations are threatened if aggressors are permitted to succeed in a strategic area of the world, if vital treaties are broken, and if men and arms are moved illegally across international boundaries to conquer and gobble up helpless small countries that can't defend themselves.

Our history offers us many examples. Europe knows peace today, Europe is peaceful tonight because free men stood firm in Greece and in Berlin. Perhaps it reflects poorly on our world that men must fight limited wars to keep from fighting larger wars. But that is the condition of the world today. Our objective in Vietnam is very simple: We want the killing to stop and the people of Vietnam to make their own future in peace.

The United States of America says tonight, through their President: we are ready, willing, and anxious to withdraw our troops. And we will do so when we have any evidence that aggression and infiltration and the war there will end.

I repeat again, as I have said so many, many, many times before: The United States welcomes any effort that will persuade the men in Hanoi that this is the right path for them and for all humanity.
But to stop aggression is only the beginning, not the end of our policy.

We face a second fundamental fact that people have other enemies in the world: hunger, disease, ignorance, poverty.

Here in this hemisphere we are working for a plan to defeat all of those enemies.

In Asia free nations have made remarkable gains. South Korea has moved ahead, as has Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore.

This summer in Washington we met with friends from Japan. We have started working together on solving problems of all that area of the world.

But the peoples of the world tonight want more than security. They want more even than economic progress.

This leads to the third fact of our foreign policy: The peoples of other nations want to play a bigger part in running their own affairs and in shaping their own destiny.

Our purpose in promoting a world of regional partnerships is not without self-interest. For as they grow in strength inside a strong United Nations, we can look forward to a decline in the burden that America has had to bear this generation. And we can look forward to increased growth and stability in each corner of the world.

But even this will not be enough. For there is a fourth fundamental fact if we are to be faithful to a larger vision of the world. Beyond the present conflict, we must prepare for the task of reconciliation which leads to lasting peace.

In Europe, our partnership has been the foundation for building bridges to the East. We and our friends in Western Europe are ready to move just as fast, just as far, as the East is prepared to go in building those bridges of friendship.

In Asia, we have a similar hope, though tonight it is clouded by war and it is clouded by bitterness. But still we look to the day when those on the mainland of China are ready to meet us half way, are ready to devote their enormous talents and their energy to improving the life of their people, when they are ready to take their place peacefully as one of the major powers of Asia and the world.

Yes, we in America dream of a world at peace. But we also know that the forces that provoke hostility are deeply embedded and they are not going to yield quickly or easily.

Yet, day by day, quiet victories are being won on every continent. Deep forces for real peace are at work tonight. They are working slowly, almost unnoticed, creating the conditions and institutions of enduring hope.

Now if we here in America, living in luxury, in all of our prosperity and with all of the many things that we have to be thankful for, if we grow tired, if we despair, then much will be lost. But if we heed the lessons of the past, if we increase the role in international life of compassion and cooperation, foresight and reason, self-discipline and commonsense, of friendship and of firmness, then our hope can be practical and our triumphs can be lasting.

And those men who fight for us tonight will not have died in vain.

This is my faith: that we, the American people, have the courage, have the fortitude, have the patience and the persistence to see Vietnam through to the end; that we shall look forward and not backward. But when victory does come we will review this period of our life as one of history's greatest turning points in the world in which we live.

And I believe just as firmly as I believe anything in the world that historians will say of us in the years to come: The Americans by their courage and faith, by their love of liberty and freedom, preserved liberty and freedom and opened the door of peace to all humankind in all countries in all lands for all peoples with all religions.


For so long so many of us have worked to see some of the dreams that have come true in recent months, Tonight as we meet here those who till our soil are prosperous. The average income per farm when I went to Washington was $300 per farm. Tonight it is $5,400 per farm.

When I went to Washington in 1932--a year that a good many of you may remember but not like to recall--the average weekly wage was $18 per week. In terms of today's dollars that is $30 per week. Tonight the average weekly wage is $112 per week.

In the last 6 years our prices have risen 10 percent. The folks who do the work at the bottom of the heap in all the services, from the charwomen to the janitors to the elevator operators, have all improved their lot by minimum wages and increased wages. All of that has gone into our costs.

The farmer is receiving a little more although tonight he receives only 69 percent of what the average factory worker receives. He receives a little more than he did get. And all of that goes into your milk and your meat and your bread and your bacon. That goes up some.

Your transportation has gone up some. Your services, your medical services have gone up some. All of that adds up to 10 percent.

The nearest that any nation has come to us is Germany. It has gone up just twice as much there, 18 percent.

In France and England it has gone up 23 percent.

In Italy it has gone up 29 percent.

In Japan it has gone up 40 percent.

Now we haven't done as good a job as we would have liked to have done because we wish it hadn't gone up at all. But while your costs were going up 10 percent, your wages were going up 18 percent. And you had 18 percent more to pay the 10 percent bill with.

The same thing is true not only of the wage earner but of the farmer. Profits have gone up 83 percent. So I say to you tonight: Look at your own family. Engage in a little introspection and ask yourselves some questions.

See if you hadn't rather have high employment, 76 million people with jobs, unemployment dropping from 8 percent down to under 4 percent.

If you hadn't rather have high wages-not $30 a week wages but $112 a week wages; not 3-cent calves but 28-cent calves; not burning your wheat but getting a pretty good price for it--if you hadn't rather have all those things and have some money in your pocket to pay those prices with than to have high prices as we had in the fifties without the money to meet the bills.

Now there are some people who are going to find something wrong with everything we do. We had problems of poverty. We had souplines. We had WPA. We look back upon that day without any great pride--and hope that it will never happen again. Now, tonight we have problems of prosperity. This is no time for us to gnash our teeth and divide ourselves and quarrel with our fellow man and abuse our neighbor.

The problems that come with high wages, high prices, high employment and a high standard of living are here and we are going to try to deal with them. But we ought to deal with them as intelligent, united Americans. We ought not to divide our country.

In 2 1/2 years we have passed 30 bills improving the health, education, and the conservation of the people of this country. We have had the finest Congress that was ever elected in the 89th Congress.

Now I didn't say what Mr. Truman said about the 80th Congress. He said it was a do-nothing, no-good Congress. I didn't say that. I said this was the finest Congress that had ever been elected. And I didn't say just the Democrats were fine. I said the finest Congress. But I would have to admit that we have all of the other kind we need right now.

So when they ask about my political philosophy I say: I am a free man, first. I am an American, second. I am a public servant, third. And I am a Democrat, fourth--in that order.

I haven't come all the way out here to complain. I have come to thank you.

I haven't come all the way out here to vilify. I have come to tell you how blessed I think we are.

To the people who put these signs up, to the folks who had the posters, to all the folks who showed us a happy smile and gave us a warm hand today, I want to say to you that I shall return to your Capital tonight stronger and I hope wiser for having come your way.

I am going to do everything that I can in the days ahead to keep prosperity at home and to bring peace to the world. I am going to try to be fair to my fellow man. I am going to try not to be bitterly partisan.

I think the other man has about as good a motive and about the same hopes that I have. All I am going to say to you is: You go home tonight and talk to your wife and to your children and to your family and don't feel sorry for yourself. Don't become a martyr. Don't complain about everyone around you. Think about how much better a world we are living in than our fathers lived in. Think about the sacrifices that our pioneer grandfathers and grandmothers made. Count your blessings and then say to yourselves: "I am going to do what is best for my country."

I leave that judgment up to you. And when you do what is best for your country, you will do what is best for me.

Thank you and goodnight.

Note: The President spoke at 8:40 p.m. at the Fairfield County Fairgrounds, Lancaster, Ohio. In his opening words he referred to Representative Walter H. Moeller, Senator Frank Lausche, Frazier Reams, Democratic candidate for Governor, and Mayor William E. Burt of Lancaster, all of Ohio, John Bush, Chairman, Interstate Commerce Commission, Virgil Musser, president of the Young Democrats of America, James Suffridge, national president of Retail Clerks International Association, Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers of America, Joseph Keenan, international secretary, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Alexander E. Barkan, national director of the Committee on Political Education (COPE), AFL-CIO.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Fairfield County Fairgrounds, Lancaster, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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