Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation's Christmas Tree
Secretary Udall, Governor Hoff, Mayor Washington, Mr. Dalton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Yesterday, in the great State of California, a team of scientists announced that they had come closer than men had ever come before to creating life in a laboratory.
Yesterday, and today, men sat at missile sites and airfields throughout the world. They wore different uniforms and they spoke different languages. But they all controlled the power to destroy a human being, a human life, on an unprecedented scale.
Today a child was born in an American hospital. His chances of living a long life, of being well educated, of being gainfully employed, of enjoying the amenities of a good life, and of passing even wider opportunities on to his children, are greater than they have been for any child, born at any time, in any nation, in recorded history.
Today a young soldier, in the prime of his life, was killed in the central highlands of Vietnam. A life that might have been spent productively, in the works of peace, has now been swiftly cut off in the waste of war.
These expressions of man in our time--of the power to create life, and the power to destroy life, of the flowering of hope, and the renewal of tragedy--are in some ways very unique. But in other ways they are typical of the human condition in every age.
In a few days we shall all celebrate the birth of His Holiness on earth. We shall recreate in our minds, once more, the ancient coming of that Spirit who remains alive for millions in our time. We shall acknowledge the Kingdom of a Child in a world of men.
That Child--we should remember--grew into manhood Himself, preached and moved men in many walks of life, and died in agony.
But His death--so the Christian faith tells us--was not the end. For Him, and for millions of men and women ever since, it marked a time of triumph--when the spirit of life triumphed over death.
So--if this Christmas season in a time of war is to have real meaning to us, it must celebrate more than the birth of a Baby. It must celebrate the birth of a Spirit who endured scorn and hardship and the tragedy of an unjust death--and who yet speaks to us, across 20 centuries, of the promise of life.
Half a million American families will celebrate His birth this year without a beloved son or husband near them.
Half a million brave American men--who love their country and are willing to die for their land--will be celebrating Christmas in a strange land, surrounded by the weapons Of War.
A part of every American heart will be with them.
What sustains us--as we turn on the lights of this tree, and of millions of trees in millions of American homes--is the belief that the spirit of life will triumph over death. It is the conviction that peace will come, and will permit us to give our lives completely to building, instead of giving our lives to destroying.
It is the faith that says the creation of new hope for man, through scientific discovery, is finally much more important than great destructive power--that also came from science.
It is the hope that says a life of peace and promise is more likely for man than a life of war and misery.
This is the message of the holy season. May it--in an hour of trial--fill us with its deep, abiding joy.
Thank you and good evening.
Note: The President spoke at 5:50 p.m. at the 14th annual Pageant of Peace ceremonies on the Ellipse near the White House, just before lighting the National Community Christmas Tree--a 70-foot balsam fir from the Green Mountain National Forest given by the people of Vermont. In his opening words he referred to Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior, Philip H. Hoff, Governor of Vermont, Walter E. Washington, Commissioner of the District of Columbia, and John M. Dalton, chairman of the Pageant of Peace. Early in his remarks the President referred to the creation of the first synthetic DNA molecule by Dr, Arthur Kornberg and his associates at Stanford University, California. The President's remarks were broadcast nationally.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation's Christmas Tree Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237898