Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Old State House, Dover, Delaware

October 31, 1964

Governor Carvel, Chief Justice Terry, Congressman McDowell, distinguished guests on the platform, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:

I feel so good this morning and you have a lot to do with it. This little State of Delaware all through the years has had a very special spot in my heart, because the people that I have known that have lived here are very much like my people. They stand for the same things that we stand for. They try to raise their children the same way we raise ours. They come to the Congress and they try to work for their country and do what is best for their Nation.

I was going to the largest State in the Union today. I am going to tour Nassau County this afternoon, and we are going to close out the campaign in New York at Madison Square Garden tonight. I was asked to stop by here, so I got up a little earlier and finished some of my work at the White House a little quicker, and decided that I would drop by at Dover and Wilmington, and primarily say "hello" and thank each and every one of you for how good you have been. You have been good, you have been friendly, you have been kind, and you have been very helpful to me in the 11 months that I have been President.

First of all, Harris McDowell over here, your Congressman, is one of the few Congressmen in the Nation that has stood there and helped me pass a program for all the people, a program that in my judgment will help us to avert war, and a program that in my judgment will help us to maintain prosperity. So first of all, I want to thank you for sending Harris McDowell to the House of Representatives, and I hope you will send him back with a wonderful majority.

I have known Bert Carvel for a good many years. He is as solid as the granite that comes in our country. He is as friendly as any man can be. He believes in your State and he works hard for it. He has come to Washington several times on behalf of the people of Delaware. We need him in the Senate. We need him to help with our Democratic program of peace in the world and prosperity for all the people here at home. We hope that you will send Bert Carvel to Washington to help us as a Democratic Senator.

Judge Terry is your candidate for Governor. You have a Democratic Governor. A majority of the States have Democratic Governors. We are going to have, I think, more than 70 Democratic Senators in the next Senate. We are going to have a large majority in the House of Representatives. We are going to have a large majority of Governors in the States. So with the Governors working with the Congress, working with the President, we can make a real team to move this country forward. And I think Delaware wants to move with the country.

We all have our private catalog of grudges. Right at the top of my list is waste, w-a-s-t-e. More and more I think we will get the right answers to most of the questions that we face in this country if we in Government will declare a war on waste. I mean waste in all of its forms, and I am going to discuss them briefly for you because mine is not a campaign of personalities, mine is not a campaign of mudslinging, mine is not a campaign of charging my opponent with anything. I am not going to do any muckraking and name-calling.

We should deal with waste in all of its forms. A depression--and there are some of you out there that are old enough to remember the last one--brings tragic waste, economic and human waste.

The great depression 30 years ago cost this country, it is estimated, $600 billion. The three recessions that we had in the 1950's cost this country $70 billion, and 10 billion man-hours of productive labor. I think that is why we should keep our economy from going into periodic booms and busts and that is a major campaign front, the war on waste.

For Presidents and governments, as for all others, economy should begin at home. As a child, when I was growing up in a land where almost everything seemed to be in short supply, I learned some habits of thrift that are deeply imbedded in me. One of my first actions as President was to personally review the 1965 budget that was going to Congress. The result was that this budget became the second in 9 years that called for a reduction instead of an increase in Federal expenditures.

I need some help on that work. I need a good Congressman like Harris McDowell. I need a good, solid, economy-minded Senator like Bert Carvel. I hope that you will help me send them there.

In these past 11 months, since President Kennedy was assassinated, and since I assumed the office of President, we have made economy the first order of business in every department of the Government. We can't earn a penny in the Government, but we can save billions of dollars. And we have.

Last year, Secretary McNamara's cost reduction program in the Defense Department alone saved the taxpayer $2,800 million, and some of it was saved right out here at your Dover Air Force Base. I know you are interested in that base, but I know you are also interested in saving all the money that you can.

The Government owes the people the very best management of the people's business. I am proud to be able to tell you that the money that you are giving us to pay for our national defense is being spent wisely and is being spent prudently. I have insisted that all Government agencies step up their efforts to increase efficiency and reduce both employment and cost.

For instance, this last July we had 25,000 less Federal employees on the Federal payroll than we did July a year ago. We had reduced the amount by 25,000. Don't you think that is a good start? In another instance, I urged all agencies to cut out all unnecessary publications. First we eliminated 521 publications right off the bat. Then we canceled 133 that were proposed to be published. We effected, in addition, over 50 consolidations. We saved $2,796,640 by that act alone.

Management improvements and cost reductions in the nondefense agencies have yielded savings on an annual basis that amount to over $400 million per year. My special task force made up of able men that I called in and set up for this particular purpose has now recommended that we now put into effect an organized, formal cost-reduction program on a long-range basis in every single department and agency in the Government. And I am going to take their recommendations and we are going to do it. If you will help me, we will get results.

This means that each department and agency will adopt the same kind of program that the Department of Defense has adopted. I have called upon every Federal employee at every level, and particularly on their supervisors, to make cost reduction a personal goal, and to redouble their efforts to identify and to achieve savings through more efficient conduct of Government activities.

Spending by the Federal Government in and of itself is neither bad nor good. It can be bad when it involves overstaffing or duplication, or poor management, or the Government getting into areas where it doesn't belong. It can be good when it is put to work efficiently in the interest of our national strength and our economic progress, and our human compassion.

When budgetary restraint leads the Government to turn its back on new needs and new problems, economy becomes but another word for stagnation. But when vigorous pruning of old programs and procedures releases the funds so that we can have new opportunities, economy becomes the companion of progress.

I want to say this finally: The most awful waste of all waste is war. We believe in economy, but the falsest economy would be military weakness. I would not approve or I would not permit a cut in our defense budget of a single dollar or a billion dollars if it meant increasing the risk to one single boy's life. We will not be penny-wise and peace foolish.

I pledge a war on waste--waste. And I ask you to help me to fight that war.

My higher pledge is to exercise the highest responsibility a President bears to do all within my power to prevent the inconceivable, the unmeasurable, the inhuman waste of war.

It was just a little over 11 months ago, 11 months and 1 week ago, when we had that terrible tragedy that took our President from us and I was called upon to assume the awesome responsibilities that I now bear. When I walked into that airplane with the jet motors roaring in the background, and took my oath of office, I said to you people that with God's help and your help, and your prayers, I would do my best.

Since that time, values on the stock market are up over $100 billion.

Since that time, more than a million extra people are at work.

Since that time, the corporations are making $12 billion more after taxes.

Since that time, the workers are making $60 billion a year more after taxes.

Since that time, we have had problems in Panama and problems in Guantanamo, problems in Brazil and Chile, problems in Turkey and Viet-Nam.

And we have tried to stand up with firmness and with prudence, with strength and with restraint. And with your help, I think the United States has made good progress.

It was just 2 years ago this month that we were confronted with another serious crisis. It is just going to be a few days until you are confronted with the most critical decision that you may ever be called on to make. Two years ago Mr. Khrushchev moved his missiles into Cuba.

President Kennedy called the Security Council, of which I was a member, as Vice President, together. He called in all the generals with the stars on their shoulders, the experts that had graduated at West Point with honors, and the ablest men we had. He called in the Navy men with the gold on their sleeves, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Secretary, the ablest men we had. To his right sat the Rhodes scholar, the great Secretary of State. To his left sat the Secretary of Defense, who had left the Ford Motor Co. at a half million a year to take a $25,000 job to try to help his country.

We had 38 meetings. During all that time there were clamor, editorials, arguments, cool heads, hot heads, and some were saying, "Send in the Marines," and some were saying, "Drop the bomb," and all kinds of advice that was free was being received.

President Kennedy began his preparation. He put his planes in the air loaded with their bombs. He had strategic movements of the entire Naval fleet. He put everybody in the Nation on an alert. But he was cautious and he was careful and he was never reckless.

The coolest man that I saw in that room during those 38 meetings was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, your President of the United States.

Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Kennedy came eyeball to eyeball. Each had a knife in each other's ribs. Neither quivered. But neither rattled their rockets or bluffed with their bombs, or shot from the hip, because if they had, we could have wiped out 300 million in a matter of moments.

I never left Lady Bird a single morning when I knew whether I would be back home that night or not, or whether she would be there to greet me.

That is the kind of a world that we are living in. You don't create those conditions, but under our democratic system, Thomas Jefferson said that the judgment of the many is to be preferred to the decision of the few. You must be the judge and you must select the man whose thumb you want to press that atomic button. You must select the man next Tuesday that you want when that "hot line" rings and that telephone jingles, and they say, "Moscow is calling," you want to select the man that you want to answer that phone.

So you are going to have to do some pretty heavy thinking between now and next Tuesday. I am not up here to say anything about my opponent or to say anything about his party, or to say anything about any of the people in his party. I primarily stopped off here on my way to New York to say "howdy," to say thank you to you good people that have been my friends ever since I went to the Senate.

I have been here in Dover before. I have heard from a good many of you by letter. I know you have one of our great defense installations out here that I am interested in. But I do ask you, as I would ask you if we were at war and you had to carry your boy down to the railroad station to see him put a khaki uniform on to go to boot camp, I ask you to spend a lot of time thinking between now and next Tuesday.

The first thing you do Tuesday morning is get up and go and exercise the privilege that so many people in the world don't have--a private, a secret ballot. The citizens all over America will be doing the same thing. There will be 75 million of them.

I believe that it will be true, what Jefferson said, that the judgment of the many is better than the decision of the few. We saw the mistake that Hitler made when he was the only one to make the decisions. We saw the mistakes that Khrushchev made when he was the only one to make the decision. You must make the decision on who you want to lead you.

If you want me to lead you, I will do what I told you when I took this oath 11 months ago. I don't want to lead you because you owe me something. You have done everything for me that people can do. I served 12 years in the House, 12 years in the Senate, 8 years as leader, Democratic minority leader, Democratic majority leader with President Eisenhower, and Vice President for 3 ½ years, and now President for 11 months.

So that is not the question. You are not going to vote for that next Tuesday. You are going to vote for your family, for your wife, for your children, for your sons.

You are going to have to vote for what kind of an economy you have, whether you have a booming economy, prosperity, with people at work; whether you continue your social security and don't make it voluntary; whether you try to have some of the good things of life that you are having now; or whether you want to turn around and go backwards; whether you continue to have a bipartisan foreign policy, like Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican, worked out with President Truman, to stop the Communists in Greece and Turkey; like I worked out with President Eisenhower and followed him in the Formosa Strait and the Suez crisis; like Senator Dirksen worked out with President Kennedy in the test ban treaty.

That is what you have to decide. I am not going to try to tell you what your decision must be. But I am going to say this: if you want me to have that responsibility, you can say so. If you want to turn me out and not give me a first term, and just let me serve out the 11 months, that is your privilege.

But if you do want me to continue, then send me people who will work with me and who will help me, and who will join me and put our shoulders to the wheel.

Let's don't divide this country. Let's unite this country. Let's you all get behind us and let's try to find some way besides threatening people. Let's try to love instead of hate. Let's try to have faith instead of fear.

Let's don't try to threaten people by ultimatum and tell them what we will do with our bombs. Let's try to reason out with them some way to avoid war, like the "hot line," like the agreement in space, like the nuclear test ban treaty that President Kennedy worked out. All of these are small steps, but they are steps that can save you and make it possible for us to survive.

So when you go into that ballot box, take that lever and pull it all the way down and vote the Democratic ticket straight. Don't go in there and start messing here and here and here, and get your ballot all mixed up, where you don't know yourself how you voted and they can't count and they throw it out. Just go in there and say, "We are going to do what we think is best for our country."

If you think it is best for your country to vote for the other nominee, Mr. Goldwater, then pick that ballot and the people running with him and vote that ticket so he will have support and men that will try to help him in running the Government.

But if you want your President to continue as he told you 11 months ago, with your prayers, with your help, to do the very best he can do, then take that lever and pull her straight.

And I want to tell you this: I am going to be down home at my little farm waiting to hear from this little State, and I hope that somebody calls me and tells me that all these thousands of people that I saw out here in this beautiful sunshine on Saturday morning, that I dropped by to see on my way to New York, that they kept the faith, that they cast their vote, and Delaware went Democratic.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at noon on the steps of the Old State House in Dover, Del. In his opening words he referred to Governor Elbert N. Carvel, Democratic candidate for Senator, Charles L. Terry, Jr., Democratic candidate for Governor and former State Chief Justice, and Representative Harris B. McDowell, Jr., all of Delaware.

The text of remarks of Mrs. Johnson, who spoke briefly, was also released.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Old State House, Dover, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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