Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to the Military Aides to the President.

November 22, 1968

THIS is nice. I hope these pictures are good.

Secretary Rusk said the other day that one of the real strengths that he has had as Secretary of State trying to carry out our foreign policy was the amazing support of the military.

Foreign policy is just an empty shell unless we implement it, carry it out, and execute our agreements and do what we say we are going to do.

But he said the one thing that he hoped I could do before I left was tell all the people that sent him around the world how competent they were in their scheduling and their servicing, and how courteous they were in their treatment, how cordial they were in their exchanges, and so on.

I don't want to tell you all he said to me, except this: "I don't know when I have ever been served by a more dedicated and competent group than the military." That is true of all the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You read a lot about men on horseback. But you never see many who are more reasonable, careful, prudent, and flexible and who are willing to listen and be listened to.

Those of you here have reflected that kind of attitude. What needs to be done, you can do it.

As I said of Roger Stevens yesterday, he specializes in the impossible. Most of us think he does it reasonably well. That is what you people do.

I don't know why someone would have to leave in order to say all of these things to you, particularly when they have been felt all through the years. But I guess it is because we have never had the time to do it, or we thought it would sound kind of effusive in the regular course of affairs.

I will never forget going around the world in 59 hours in air and 53 on the ground-never late, always all motors running, all the hands on deck, and all alert. I just don't know any business organization in the country that could handle a trip like that one.

My pilot carried me to the Vatican for the first time--and hadn't even had a dry run-and landed on a dime. He had to be sure that he could do it, and he was sure.

So, as to all of you folks who are connected with the services, I saw a comment someone made the other day about you ought to get other opinions because men don't have to be in uniform to have views and have good judgments. I certainly agree with that. But that is not to say that I don't want the judgments of men in uniform, and that is not to say that their uniform doesn't mean a great deal to me because my experience in protecting this country in wartime was very limited. But it is wide enough to know that if it weren't for the cold, cool, hard, raw courage of the fellows that wear that uniform, and the way they were brought up, we wouldn't have our freedom. We just would not have it for a day. We would have lost it in war.

I was in World War II when we had the Germans after us on one side of the world and we had the Japanese after us on the other side of the world. We weren't prepared for either of them.

So I really meant what I said the other day at the Medal of Honor ceremony: that a former President said he would rafter have a Medal of Honor than be President of the United States.

I don't know of an honor I would rather have than to wear the uniform and have what you already have; that is the discharging of your duties which are imposed upon you by the right to wear that uniform.

You are so capable. When I came in the White House, I used to see poor President Kennedy--this is a sad day for all of us because this was the day he was taken from us 5 years ago--but I used to see him sit there in the evening sometimes for an hour while three aides reviewed details in each department with him.

He was so patient and so understanding. I would sit there with him. He almost needed comfort to go through it.

The way you dispatch all the business now--I don't remember when the aides have taken more time on matters of that type. He comes in like everybody else with the night reading. He gets his requests that night and he gets the answers before daylight the next morning. That is a great tribute to your efficiency. I will be working with you.

I am on the retired list and subject to recall to duty. I expect I will be, from time to time, recalled. There will be no group, though, that I am more proud of than the men who are my aides.

I am a little partial to the Marines because I have one in my family. I am pretty strong for the Air Force. I have two in my family, two airmen, first class, one 17 months old and one 25 years.

I am very partial to the Army because the Army has been so competently represented by the first Negro to ever be a presidential aide. He has excelled in the performance of his duties.

My service, the Navy, which President Kennedy and I were both in, of course, is very close to our hearts.

So you have made the unification act work here in the White House. I have never seen an act of a Marine, an Air Force man, a Navy man, or an Army man that you could tell their service by the act.

Haywood has made decisions when you wouldn't know whether he was in the Air Force or in the Army. He is not in either. That same thing is true of the rest of you.

We have got to remember this: We were born, we came into existence, as one for all and all for one. For a long time, I am not sure we had that in our services, but we do now.

I don't think that you could get any computer or experts anywhere in the world that would pick more conscientious, capable men of good judgment than the Joint Chiefs.

I am so proud that I have two boys under their command. I am so sure that they are making the right decisions and they are going to do the right thing.

I feel that way about all of you here, too. I wanted to come to tell you.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:55 p.m. in the Armed Forces Aide's office at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, Roger L. Stevens, Chairman of the National Council on the Arts (see Item 601), Maj. Charles S. Robb, USM, and AIC. Patrick J. Nugent, the President's sons-in-law, Patrick L, Lyndon Nugent,
his grandson, and Col. Haywood R . Smith, USMC, Armed Forces Aide to the President.

For remarks of the President upon presenting the Medal of Honor to five members of the United States Army, see Item 594.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the Military Aides to the President. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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