Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the President's Salute to the Congress

August 19, 1964

Mr. Speaker, Senator Mansfield, Members of the House and Senate, ladies and gentlemen:

On behalf of the Congress and the Cabinet, I want to say well done to Mr. Cronkite, Mrs. Dickerson, and Mr. Smith. I know that upon this occasion at least I can speak for all of you when I thank this cast this evening for a most delightful and entertaining evening.

Originally we scheduled this evening as an end-of-Congress get-together. In view of the developments at your end of Pennsylvania Avenue, we have redesignated tonight as a night of mid-session hospitality.

Perhaps we will be able this year to combine our farewell to Congress party with the annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.

We are very glad that you could come here tonight. The privilege is mine to welcome you to this house--the house of all the people.

If this occasion is unprecedented, it is no more than the year deserves.

This has been a year without precedent in the history of relations between the executive and the legislative branches of our Government.

This session of Congress has enacted more major legislation, met more national needs, disposed of more national issues than any other session of this century or the last. This record of cooperation and accomplishment should give heart to all who stand with this great Nation and should give pause to all who oppose the cause that we champion.

This is why you have been invited here this evening.

I want to, first of all, thank all of you for myself. More than that--much more than that I want the American people to be aware of the record that you have written and the relationship that exists between us.

That record and that relationship testify to the reassuring fact that there has been this year no stalemate in our system, no deadlock in our democracy.

For myself, I believe that this is the way our system was intended to function--not with Presidents and Congresses locked in battle with each other--but locked arm in arm instead, battling for the people that we serve together.

I believe in and I try to practice the philosophy of a great Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt. He once put it this way: "I have a very strong feeling that it is a President's duty to get on with Congress if he possibly can, and that it is a reflection upon him if he and Congress come to a complete break."

This second session of the 88th Congress is distinguished most by the simple fact that at no time has there been--or is there now-a question of the President and the Congress "getting on" together.

This has been a constructive Congress. It has passed a test ban treaty, a tax-cut bill, a series of education measures, hospital legislation, the mass transit bill.

This has been a compassionate Congress. It has passed the Civil Rights Act, a food stamp plan, and approved a program to attack poverty.

I am very happy tonight to say that this has been a cooperative Congress. For these measures and many others have been brought into being by the votes from both parties.

So, let none suggest--let none suppose-that debate has been suspended, that principles have been laid aside, or that convictions have been diluted.

The opposite is much more nearly the case.

But from full debate, from advocacy of principles, from devotion to convictions, strength has been forged into the laws that have been enacted. This Congress has expressed on the record the commitment of the American people to the pillars on which our system and our society stand.

Our economic system of private enterprise has received the most significant vote of confidence in our times with the enactment of the legislation reducing taxes for both individuals and corporations. Eleven and one-half billion dollars have been returned to the pockets of American families and American enterprise--in the confidence that private initiative would put these dollars to work creating jobs, creating opportunity, and creating greater effectiveness in competition with the world.

For 100 years, emancipation was a proclamation but it was not a fact.

This Congress with the help and the support and the votes from both sides of the aisle brought into being the most comprehensive Civil Rights Act in the last century. This act wrote into the book of law the equality of opportunity for all of our people.

Our Nation's great commitment to universal education has received more support from this Congress than from any other. The 88th Congress will be always remembered as the Education Congress.

And I know how much pride and satisfaction that our late, beloved President John F. Kennedy would get tonight if he could only be here and see you and thank you for helping him to see that his dreams came true.

You have responded to the needs of our cities with the mass transit legislation. The beauty and the values of our countryside will be conserved by the wilderness bill, and many more measures.

For classroom, city, and countryside, you have made long strides toward meeting the needs of our times and toward building a great society.

As your former colleague, as your President now, as an American first and a partisan second, I am proud and privileged tonight to salute the Congress one and all.

Mrs. Johnson and I are indeed privileged to have a chance to say thanks to all of you this evening.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke in the evening on the South Lawn at the White House at a reception for Members of the 88th Congress. In his opening words he referred to Representative John J. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House, and Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, Majority Leader of the Senate. Early in his remarks he also referred to Walter Cronkite of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Mrs. Nancy H. Dickerson of the National Broadcasting Company, and Howard K. Smith of the American Broadcasting Company, who had served as narrators for a musical program featuring songs used in earlier political campaigns.

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

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