Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to the Members of the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.

September 08, 1965

Attorney General Katzenbach, Director Hoover, members of the Crime Commission:

I want to welcome you to the White House this morning as you undertake a most important assignment.

Crime is a sore on the face of America. It is a menace on our streets. It is a drain on our cities. It is a corrupter of our youth. It is a cause of untold suffering and loss. But just saying this does not solve the problem that we have before us. We must bring it under control, and then we must root out the cause.

So let the Nation know that today we have taken a pledge not only to reduce crime but to banish it.

The first steps have already been taken. This year we passed major legislation on juvenile delinquency and drug control. This week I will sign another bill on prisoner rehabilitation. I soon hope to sign an important new law enforcement assistance act.

Further, we have launched new programs aimed at poverty, disease, illiteracy, discrimination, unemployment, housing, and slums. All these are the breeding grounds of crime. But much, much more remains to be done and that is why I have asked you to come here to serve as members of the President's National Crime Commission.

So let us together spearhead a new war against crime in this country. Among those of you who are members of this Committee are lawyers, judges, law enforcement officials, educators, social workers, and Government officials. The Nation wants you to put this collective valuable experience to work.

We know that the problems of crime do not yield to easy answers. But today I am challenging you to try to find these answers.

I want to know why--why one-third of all parolees revert to crime. I want to know why one man breaks the law and another living in the same circumstances does not. I want to know why drug addiction is increasing among our youth. I want to know why organized crime continues to expand despite our best efforts to prevent it. I want to know why juvenile delinquency knows no economic or educational barriers.

And when you find the "whys" I will try to see that corrective action is taken. So I ask this Committee to be daring and be creative, be revolutionary in your recommendations.

Mark Twain once said that loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul. So I would hope that you would ignore the petrified opinions.

I pledge to you and I pledge to this Nation the full resources of this great Government, and they will all be behind you. I think you understand the importance of your task.

Under the very effective leadership of the able Attorney General, Mr. Katzenbach, the Nation and I know you will give us the blueprints that we need for effective action to banish crime.

I have looked over the 50 States in this Union and we have brought together here in the Cabinet Room this morning the outstanding citizens from those States, who have graciously agreed to serve their country in this connection. We look forward with great hope to the results of their labors.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:25 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, Chairman of the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, and J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On September 7 the White House announced that a 2-day session of the 19-member Commission had been called by the Chairman and that Attorney General Katzenbach and Mr. Hoover would welcome the members at the opening session which would be followed by a meeting with the President.

The release also stated that all Federal investigative agencies were continuing to contribute to the war on crime, and were submitting reports regularly on racketeers, their associates, and their activities, under the general supervision of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, Criminal Division, Department of Justice.
See also Items 382, 422, 437, 526.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the Members of the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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