Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the President's Salute to Congress.

October 07, 1965

[Text of remarks as delivered on October 7] THANK YOU so very much.

I have a midnight deadline. I am back in school again and they are going to call a curfew on me.1

1The President referred to the fact that he was about to leave for Bethesda Naval Hospital where he was to undergo surgery the following morning.

But I do want to tell you how thrilled I was this evening to have this wonderful cast come here and catch the spirit of America and portray it as I see it and as I would like for it to be.

I regret very much that all of the Members of the Congress could not be with us because they saw their duty, and I hope they are doing it. And I believe they are.

I am so happy that some of the wives of the Members of the House could be here. It is a somewhat unusual experience for us to sit while the House talks. That privilege has usually been reserved for the Senate through the years. But we are so happy that the Members of the Senate could be here with us, and the wives of the Members of the House that could come.

Mrs. Johnson and I particularly want to thank the members of this great cast for the sacrifices they have made. This has been a wonderful program. I wish that all America could see it, and perhaps when we have another Congress we will salute it again. And I know of no better way to salute it than just to give a repeat performance.

Thank you, good night, and God bless you.

[Text of remarks as prepared for delivery]

I CONSULTED the leadership last Tuesday at breakfast about suitable entertainment for this evening.

Speaker McCormack, Carl Albert, and Mike Mansfield volunteered to sing, "Show Me the Way To Go Home."

I don't even know that song. I was brought up singing, "Work--For the Night Is Coming."

Finally, I called a Congressman whose advice I respect, but I got no answer. When I asked him about it tonight, he said, "Mr. President, I heard the phone ringing, but I couldn't answer it. Larry O'Brien was in my office and he wouldn't let go of my arm."

Several columnists have written recently that the Congress has been "reversing the President." Well, my answer to that is in that old song we used to sing when I was a young man in the hills of Texas: "Just Keep on Doing What You're Doing, 'Cause I Love What You're Doing to Me."

In the beginning, one evening last January, I was your guest on Capitol Hill. In my State of the Union Message, I spoke of our common challenge to enlarge the meaning of life for every American. I spoke of our goal to elevate the quality of our civilization. I spoke on that hopeful night of the "excitement of great expectations."

There haven't been many times in our history when the President could stand before Congress, at the end of a session, and express the gratitude and the pride that I feel tonight.

There were many Congresses which weren't interested in hearing what the President had to say.

All too often, the relations between the executive and the legislative branches have been marred by bitterness.

George Washington warned that his legislature would "form the worst government on earth" if some means were not found to stem its corruption.

A great Republican, President Theodore Roosevelt, once wished he could turn loose 16 lions on his Congress. When someone pointed out that the lions might make a mistake, he replied, "Not if they stayed there long enough."

We all remember the time Harry Truman named the 80th Congress "the second worst Congress in the history of the United States." I can bring this up without fear of hurting anyone's feelings here tonight, because I was a Member of that Congress, too.

Well, now we are going to balance the ledger. Tonight, the President of the United States is going on record as naming this session of Congress the greatest in American history. And I am well aware of what that statement means.

I know the outstanding record of the 59th Congress under Theodore Roosevelt. That record included the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the railroad rate bill, and the Employer's Liability Act. You have done more.

I know the outstanding record of the 63d Congress under Woodrow Wilson. That record included the Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Anti Trust Act, the Federal Trade Commission bill, and the tariff bill. You have done more.

I know the great record of the 73d Congress under Franklin Roosevelt. That record included the Emergency Relief Act, the Securities Act, the CCC Act, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, the TVA, the Economy Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, NRA, and the FDIC.

You have done more.

From your committees and both your Houses has come the greatest outpouring of creative legislation in the history of this Nation.

You passed legislation to fulfill the century-old promise of emancipation. Today, where once men were afraid, they now walk proudly to the polling place.

You passed legislation to ease the burden of sickness and want for older Americans. Today, though millions must face old age, they are no longer dependent on kinfolks for their medical care.

You passed legislation that should brighten every classroom in America. Once, the children of poverty began life on the hopeless road toward despair. Today they have a new chance to hope and to achieve.

You have promised to millions of American families better housing and better homes, and a rebirth for our cities.

You passed a poverty program so that poor families can train and work.

You passed a bill that will meet head-on the Nation's top murderers--cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

You told our cities and our industries that they must stop polluting our water and poisoning our air.

You passed legislation to dam our rivers, to prevent floods, to produce power, and to provide beaches and playgrounds for our children.

You gave us the blueprints for a rapid rail system to carry our commuters of tomorrow.

You passed a farm bill that puts more income in the farmer's pocket and at the same time allows him to compete at home and abroad.

You passed an immigration bill that no longer asks a man, "Where do you come from?" but, "What can you do?"

You have given local officials the tools to restore law and order on our streets.

You passed the excise tax reduction. In a little over 20 months, at current income levels, taxes have been cut a little over $20 billion.

And tonight you serve notice on the spoilers of our landscape that we will battle with all we have to preserve the bounty of our land and the beauty of our countryside.

I read criticism in one newspaper not long ago that there was nothing new about what you have done. I read that you have simply enacted programs that have been "kicking around since New Deal days."

But let us look at the record:

This year you passed a voting rights bill that for the first time tears down the barrier of bias that barred the way to the polling booth.

This year you passed a program of rent supplements for low-income families, a program which provides a brand-new approach to meet an ancient and long-neglected need.

This year you passed, and yesterday I signed, an act to establish heart, cancer, and stroke centers throughout the Nation. It is a new way to bring the miracles of medical research to the people.

This year you passed a law to establish the Arts and Humanities Foundation--a vital new beginning to stimulate the creative talent of our Nation.

Legislation to provide hospital services for the elderly has been before Congress for a long time. But you added a voluntary plan to furnish doctors' services. You made the Medicare Act the biggest and boldest piece of health legislation ever to become law.

Federal aid to education is also a battle scarred veteran in Congress. But the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 contains a wealth of new and imaginative ideas to enrich our Nation's schools.

It provides more money than any aid-to-education legislation ever considered by any Congress.

It offers every community a chance to bring the new techniques of teaching to the old art of learning.

The higher education bill, now in conference, also embodies daring new programs for dealing with old, old problems.

These bills and many more had their beginnings and their end in the 89th Congress.

The long list of major measures you have passed contains one example after another of new thinking, bold thinking, imaginative thinking. This has been the fabulous 89th Congress.

All of us know that much remains to be done. But you have begun a march which will not be stopped. You are on the way to a society which produces not only goods, but greatness.

It has been said that "great achievements raise a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold." Those words, though they were written many years ago, belong to you.

You have honored the highest hopes of a Nation--and so tonight, we honor you.

Many years ago Woodrow Wilson said of a Congress: "A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the Government of the United States helpless and contemptible."

Tonight, as we balance history's ledger, I want to say of the 89th Congress: "An inspired group of dedicated Americans, representing a sense of national purpose, have written for the United States a new chapter in greatness."

I want to say to every Member of the 89th Congress--Democrat or Republican--who wrote and supported this record: Your people will revere you and reward you, and the Nation will honor you long after you are gone.

Note: The President spoke at 11:14 p.m. in the Department of State Auditorium as part of an evening of entertainment honoring the Members of the 89th Congress. Since the House of Representatives remained in session throughout the evening and the Members were unable to be present for the occasion, the President did not deliver his prepared remarks but spoke only briefly before leaving for the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. In the remarks as prepared for delivery the President referred to, among others, Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, majority leader of the House of Representatives, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate, and Lawrence F. O'Brien, Special Assistant to the President.

The text of the remarks as prepared for delivery was released at the Naval Hospital on October 11, 1965.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the President's Salute to Congress. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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