Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Post Office, Hye, Texas, at the Swearing In of Lawrence F. O'Brien as Postmaster General.

November 03, 1965

Ambassador Gronouski and members of his family, Larry O'Brien and members of his family, the people of Hye, members of my family, Postmaster Deike, ladies and gentlemen:

It was about 53 years ago that I mailed my first letter from this post office. And Larry O'Brien told me a few moments ago that he is going out to find that letter and deliver it.

But that is not the real reason that I asked Larry to come over here to our post office at Hye, in Blanco County, this morning and join us in this ceremony.

This little community represents to me the earliest recollections of the America that I knew when I was a little boy. It was a land of farms and ranches and people who depended on those farms and ranches for a living.

Since then, I am fearful that this way of life has slowly passed. As wages in our cities have gone up, the labor on the farms has gone down and the people have gone on the move. Slowly at first, then more swiftly, they filled the cities of America to the bunting point. And I am told now by our students of urban America that by the year 2000 more than three out of every four Americans will live in the cities of this land.

I do not advocate and, of course, realize that we cannot return to the America that I knew when I was a boy. Our task, then, is to make our cities good place to live, expensive and demanding as we realize that task is going to be.

I have given no subject more thought in the last week I have been here than that problem. But the price of progress must not be two kinds of America--one rural and one urban, or one northern and one southern or one Protestant and one Catholic. The spirit of this land of ours must always be one, and the Government of this land must always be the servant of all the people--all of those who fill our teeming cities and all of those who live near the land in thousands and thousands of little communities like this one.

Larry O'Brien's new job will extend to every corner of America. Larry O'Brien will be the boss of a department that has 600,000 employees. Of the 33,000 post offices, more than one-fourth of them are no larger than Hye.

And Larry's coming here today reminds all of us in America that the large and the small are equally the concern of their Government-and of us all.

I have no doubt that Larry has been fully schooled and trained and acclimated in the highways and the byways and the corridors of Boston, but what I want to be sure is that he has the feeling and the understanding and the common touch of Hye as well.

I think most people know that Larry O'Brien is slightly Irish. Well, I tell you no secret when I inform you that the Irish are no strangers to the Post Office Department. Our old friend Jim Farley is one of several Irishmen who have served this country with great distinction as Postmaster General.

President Roosevelt actually appointed Levi Deike in 1934 as the postmaster here at Hye, but Levi thought it was Jim Farley, and when we asked him awhile ago, he said, "Jim Farley named me postmaster." And Jim, in fact, I guess, did make the recommendation.

Now, several misapprehensions have stemmed from the fact that the Irish have handled the mail because they have occasionally engaged in a little bit of political activity on the fringes. And there has been some tendency to believe that they carried their political interests all the way over into the Postmaster Generalship.

Well, I want to lay that to rest--just as soon as this cattle truck passes. Mr. O'Brien has dabbled from time to time in politics. He at least believes that there may still be a two-party system--as of this morning--but I wanted to be sure that before he signed on that he knew that we run the Post Office on a bipartisan basis.

He told me firmly that from the time he was a small boy he understood there were two great, historic parties in America--the Democratic Party, and the Boston Tea Party.

Now, I don't need to have any more exhibits that this is a bipartisan operation than to point out that Roosevelt appointed Levi Deike, and Eisenhower kept Levi Deike, and we all honor Levi Deike this morning.

He's come a long way since he and I played baseball out here in his backyard. At that time we had a team known as the "Deike boys," and I think they filled every position--didn't you?--nine positions, all by brothers. And I am glad that we can accept his hospitality and be here on his front porch at his post office this morning.

Now, I don't need to list in detail the accomplishments that will attend Larry O'Brien's name as long as he lives. But I want to point them out in the presence of his family who have come here. They were not achieved for Democrats alone, and they were not special tasks that were performed only for our great, beloved President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and the present President, Lyndon Johnson.

But they are the laws and they are the programs that give new hope to millions of people, and that we will be implementing and strengthening and administering and perfecting all the rest of your lifetime.

They are the breakthroughs in educating your children, in providing medical care for our senior citizens, in providing housing for all people--and with emphasis on poor people, in providing voting Fights for all Americans, and providing for a sound and stable fiscal policy for this country.

They are the instruments of wise and creative governments in the 1960's.

Larry O'Brien helped achieve so much because he understands, I think, the first principle of democratic government. And what is that? Tolerance of the other man's viewpoint. He believes in every man's right to fight for what he actually believes in. And I think this is important to us.

Here in the Hill Country of Texas, as well as in the proud land of New England where Larry was raised, we put a pretty high price on strong opinions that are firmly held. We appreciate a man who insists on his views without insisting that we adopt them.

That is one of the first things that impressed me about Larry O'Brien. He could frequently disagree with you without being disagreeable, and a good many times you joined his viewpoint before he joined yours.

So, this administration took Larry O'Brien to its heart. We came to know him, and as our respect for him has grown with every passing week, our affection for him has grown with every passing bill.

And this is not Q.E.D., or not "30," Larry. You have not seen anything yet.

Now, he is moving on to a great department of this Government, a department whose work is to keep Americans in touch with each other, and to keep them in communication with the world.

So, it must be a very proud moment for that proud State--that Bay State--as I know it is for the hundreds of Larry O'Brien's friends on the Hill and the thousands of his friends in all the 50 States.

So, we welcome him into our Cabinet family.

And for you cynical newspapermen--if there be any in the group--or women, in keeping with this administration's policy of complete candor, Larry's ZIP Code at Hye, Texas is 78635.

Thank you, and goodby.

Note: The President spoke at 11:54 a.m. at the post office in Hye, Tex. In his opening words he referred to John A. Gronouski, the new U.S. Ambassador to Poland and former Postmaster General, Lawrence F. O'Brien, former Special Assistant to the President, and Levi Deike, postmaster at Hye, Tex.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Post Office, Hye, Texas, at the Swearing In of Lawrence F. O'Brien as Postmaster General. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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