Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Keel Laying of the Submarine Pargo, Groton, Connecticut.

June 03, 1964

I DECLARE the keel of the Submarine Pargo well and truly laid.

Men and women of General Dynamics; the distinguished Chief Executive of Connecticut, Governor Dempsey; my longtime able friends Senator Tom Dodd and Senator Abe Ribicoff; Senator Claiborne Pall and Senator Strom Thurmond; Senator Warren Magnuson; your own very able Congressman Bill St. Onge; other members of the Connecticut congressional delegation; and those Congressmen from other States who have worked to improve our defenses and to make America safe, my fellow Americans:

On the 4th of July in Paris nearly 130 years ago, a great Frenchman--who knew America well--undertook to explain to his countrymen the importance of Connecticut. He told them that "little yellow spot on the map . . . makes the clock peddler, the schoolmaster, and the senator."

"The first," he explained, "gives you time; the second, tells you what to do with it; and the third makes your law and your civilization."

Your State of Connecticut has a long tradition, and a worldwide reputation, for fine craftsmanship, for fine workmanship, for outstanding scholarship, and for intellectual leadership. Connecticut also has a reputation in Washington for some of the most outstanding statesmen to serve in the United States--and that reputation is being upheld by my two old and good friends, Tom Dodd and Abe Ribicoff, and your own fine Congressman Bill St. Onge.

They are helping to make the laws of your land sound and make them wise. And in the same tradition your work here in this yard is helping to preserve and to defend American civilization.

I wanted to come here today to see firsthand some of the men and women who have labored to put new muscle into America's military might.

All of you know that we are a nation of peaceful people. We have stated time and time again that all we seek for all the world is peace--peace built on freedom and mutual respect among men and nations. But commonsense dictates that peaceful purposes must be supported by purposeful power.

There are those who oppose freedom and security in the world today, so they seek by fear and by subversion to thwart man's hope for peace. If they do not understand our motives for peace, we must be sure they do not misunderstand our means of power.

The nuclear-powered submarines that you men and women are building here are indispensable to the free world's strength. One of these subs armed with 16 Polaris missiles has an explosive punch greater than all the destructive power unleashed by all the guns and cannons, planes and ships, on both sides during all of World War II. Unthinkable, isn't it ?

They can stay at sea months without refueling. They can stay underwater as long as their crews can stand the strain. And they are ready for instant action.

The George Washington, built in this yard, has been deployed for 3½ years. Since then, 14 of her missiles were ready to fire at any time. And all 16 were ready to fire 95 percent of the time. Four years ago, this country had only two of these submarines deployed with 32 missiles. We now have 15 at sea with 240 missiles. And we have increased the total Polaris program from 24 submarines with 384 missiles to 41 submarines with 565 missiles.

You men and women have made that increase possible--made it possible by your skill, your energy, your labor. You have been the keepers of the peace along with the sentinels on the wall in Berlin and our soldiers that are stationed in the outposts around the world. By your devotion to this cause you have been defenders of a larger cause--the cause of freedom and peace around the world.

Since the first submarine was built here by an Irish immigrant in 1900, Americans of every race, every color, every religion, from every region, have labored together here in this yard to build a stronger and a more secure country.

We cannot relax our efforts now. We must not confine them only to the production of new weapons for our military arsenal. For a nation with an unbearable military power can still be toppled if it does not preserve its moral power.

Only an America which practices equal rights and social justice at home will be heard as it proclaims those ideals abroad.

Only an America which has fully educated its people can remain strong. Only an America that cares for its sick, offers a helping hand to its poor, and compassion to its old--only this kind of America can really win the respect of those whose destiny is bound up with ours.

And only an America which is growing and which is prospering can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom while proving to all onlookers the opportunities of our system.

So, men and women, ladies and gentlemen, my friends, by the work. that you do in this yard you are defenders of America's freedom. But by the work you do as citizens beyond this yard--and I hope there will be much of that kind of work, too--you are the designers of America's future.

As President of your country, I am proud of you, and that pride is shared by men in every land who rely on our power to keep the peace in this troubled but hopeful world.

So let us never--any of us--shrink from our responsibility. Let us sustain our pledge to work for the day when all people everywhere will know the vindication of that ancient vision: "peace on earth, good will toward men."

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke early in the afternoon at General Dynamic's Electric Boat Company in Groton, Conn. In his opening words he referred to Governor John N. Dempsey and Senators Thomas J. Dodd and Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, and Representative William L. St. Onge of Connecticut.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Keel Laying of the Submarine Pargo, Groton, Connecticut. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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