Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Riverside, California, County Courthouse

October 28, 1964

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls:

This is a great day in Riverside, and I hope you will make it an even greater day next Tuesday in the entire Nation. I want to see this city and this county stand up and be counted on the side of responsible government for this Nation and for peace in the world.

You already have responsible government in this State under Governor Pat Brown. Another vote for responsibility in government is a vote for Senator Pierre Salinger. Pierre knows this State and he knows the great policy questions that we have to decide in the Nation and the world, and California needs a spokesman like Pierre Salinger in the United States Senate.

John Tunney is one of the finest young congressional candidates that I have ever seen in America. He came out to March Field while he was in the Air Force and he got so enthusiastic about Riverside he just decided to stay. But you need him and we need him, his drive, his intelligence, and his enthusiasm, in Congress. We need him to punch hard for programs for Riverside and California.

These next 4 years will be decisive for this country, and I think they will be decisive for the world. These 4 years may well decide our destiny and may well decide the world's destiny for the next 40 years.

To make the right decisions, we must move ahead on two broad fronts: Here at home we must strengthen our economy and we must bring dignity and opportunity to the lives of all Americans. Abroad we must constantly work for peace. We must work for peace every day and every hour, with every ounce of strength and patience that we can muster.

At home we are going to continue the unprecedented prosperity of the last 45 months of the John F. Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson administration. Since John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office, we have added 5 million new jobs to our economy, and of these 5 million, 500,000 of these jobs came to the State of California. Wages and salaries after taxes are up nearly $60 billion, and the Nation's total production is expanding at the rate of 5 percent a year. This is progress without precedent.

But we are not satisfied. We are going to press forward with broad-gauge social security, opening up new jobs, keeping our economy strong, and we are going to fight an all-out war on poverty.

While we make ourselves strong at home, we must keep our guard up abroad. We must remain strong. Responsible America is the world's best guarantee of a just and continuing peace. But I want to say to you now that all our strength at home and abroad is of no use if we do not use that strength wisely and we do not use it prudently, and we do not use it with restraint and good judgment.

There is no room in America for trigger-happy threats in a world that is made dark by the shadow of nuclear catastrophe.

I understand that the last President to visit Riverside was William Howard Taft 55 years ago. President Taft began his inaugural address that I went back and read the other day when I decided to come here, and he started that address by saying, "Anyone who has taken the oath that I have just taken must feel a heavy weight of responsibility."

That responsibility in the nuclear age is frightening and is awesome indeed. And it is inescapable. It cannot be delegated.

For the last 20 years 5 Presidents of both political parties, working with the responsible leaders in Congress of both political parties, have forged a bipartisan foreign policy. And I do not think that America is going to change that responsible, bipartisan foreign policy next Tuesday.

It used to be said that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. Today the hand that pushes the button is the hand that could destroy the world.

The Communists know that America is strong. They know because we turned them back at Berlin and Cuba and in the waters around Viet-Nam.

But I pledge you that we shall be responsible always, as well as strong. We will use our minds as well as our muscle, and we will let others use their vocal cords and their tongues and America will win the peace.

You have been called upon several times in your life to make important decisions, but in this world, with 119 other nations, with all the feuds and differences that have gone on for centuries between those nations, you will likely never be called upon to make a more important decision than to select the leadership for the free world next Tuesday. You will select that leadership based on information, based on knowledge, based on judgment; not based on fanaticism or emotion.

The kind of leadership you want is the kind of leadership that your heart tells you is right for your country and for your family.

California is the number one State in the Union. California is the leader of the rest of the States. California has a peculiar obligation to be prudent and be careful and be cautious and be responsible. We have had enough of reckless talk. We have had enough of impulsive action.

It is mighty easy to talk like a bravado when you are talking about someone else's sons, but when you get up where your thumb has the responsibility for touching that button, and you get to thinking about the consequences of that act that will kill 300 million people, it is a time for prayer, it is a time for sober reflections, and the hotheads ought. to go back to the bench in the hothouse.

I am not going to tell you that one party has all the mortgage on the patriotism of this country. Men in all parties love this country and are patriotic believers in our system of government.

The Democrats have no mortgage on patriotism because it was Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican Senator, who joined with President Harry Truman to stop the Communists in Greece and Turkey. It was Senator Lyndon Johnson who joined with President Dwight Eisenhower in the Suez crisis and in the Formosa Strait. It was Senator Everett Dirksen, a Republican from Illinois, that joined with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our beloved President, when other men were harassing him, when other men were opposing him, when other men were voting against his test ban treaty.

So for 20 years we have maintained the peace through strength, but through the cooperation of good Republicans and good Democrats who thought more of their country than they did of their party.

I was in Pennsylvania last night. I looked at a poll that they brought me in Pittsburgh. In that poll I found that 37 percent, almost half, of the Republicans that had made up their minds were going to vote for responsibility, were going to vote for the present President of the United States on November 3d. They are not voting for him because he is a Democrat. They are not voting for him because he is a Republican. They are voting for him because they want to see this country united. They want us to be able to come here and meet in the square in freedom, not as Hitler's groups used to meet, not as they meet in the Communist squares under the commissars, but to meet here with freedom of speech, where every man has a right to his say, and you can listen to their voices, and by their acts ye shall know them.

We have a new government in Germany, Chancellor Erhard. We have a labor government in Great Britain that has only a majority of four votes. We have a new government in Italy. Only last week we found that Mr. Khrushchev was dispossessed and deposed and we have two men running the Soviet Union. The big question you have to decide is how can the United States formulate a policy and prepare a program that can get these people to learn to live in a world together without using our rockets and without dropping our bombs, and without killing humanity.

The Golden Rule says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Good Book says, the prophet Isaiah, "Come now, let us reason together." I am happy that most of you people have come out here this evening not to see a show and not to participate in a vaudeville, and not to try to attract any attention for yourselves. But you have come out here to look at your President, to listen to your President, to hear him talk about the issues, not the personalities, because it is petty men that deal in personalities.

The American people really don't give a tinker--don't care about what I think about my opponent, and I doubt that they have much doubt about what he thinks about me. What they do want to know is how do we feel about the bread and butter issues that feed their families; how do we feel about every man and woman having a job; how do they feel about the right of every child to have an education; how do we feel about the United Nations, which has prevented a dozen wars; how do we feel about trade with the world; how do we feel about space; how do we feel about technology and the leadership that California is showing to the rest of the world in all of her missile development and her space technology; and how do we feel about that most important thing: peace in the world.

I came here in 1924 to seek my fortune. I got off a T-model Ford over here at San Bernardino, and I stayed around there almost 2 years. I finally decided I had a better chance to get a fortune where I had come from than where I had gone, so I went back to my mother and my father.

I came back out here to seek your support for Vice President, and for 3 1/2 years I have served you as Vice President. The most memorable experience of that period was the Cuban missile crisis.

Our photographs showed us that the Soviet Union had brought within 90 miles of our shores enough missiles to seriously handicap and destroy large portions of this country. There were some people that said, "Send in the Marines." There were some people that said, "Push the button; drop the bombs." There were some people who said, "Put your planes in the air and load them and tell them to put up or shut up."

And for 38 meetings we met there in the Cabinet Room, morning, afternoon, past midnight many nights. Pierre Salinger sat in those meetings. The men with the stars on their shoulders who represent our Chiefs of Staff sat in those meetings. The admirals with the braid on their arms, they came, they learned, they saw, and they recommended. The Secretary of State with all his diplomatic experience, a Rhodes scholar, sat there with furrows in his forehead and tried to decide what course we could follow.

I never left home a single morning but what I thought I might not see my wife and daughters again that night, because we did not know when those missiles would become operational.

But during that whole period, the man that we have heard heckled and harassed, the man that we have heard in the last few days criticized when he is not here to answer himself, the man that was your President, your Commander in Chief, was the coolest man in that room, and his name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

He didn't shoot from the hip. He didn't talk first and think afterwards. He didn't get confused. He listened and he learned, and finally on the last hour as the clock was ticking and we were within moments of action, Mr. Khrushchev came in with a letter and he wrapped up his missiles in his tarpaulin canvases, he put them on his boats, while our helicopters flew over their decks, and we watched them take them out one by one by one. A war was prevented, a Republic was saved.

But what is more important, 300 million people live today that would not have lived had we not had the cool, calm, wise leadership of that man who watches over us in heaven this afternoon, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He gave his life for his country, and there is not a man out there that wouldn't give his if he thought he could save his country by doing so.

But you are not called on to do that today. You are called on next Tuesday to go down as a free American, without restraint, without influence, without pressure, and act upon the basis of your judgment on what is best for your country. I came to California to ask you to do that.

I leave what is best to do for your country to your own decision in the full knowledge that I know that you will know in your heart what is right.

Note: The President spoke at 4:27 p.m. at the Riverside County Courthouse, Riverside, Calif. During the course of his remarks he referred to Governor Edmund G. Brown, Senator Pierre E.G. Salinger, and John V. Tunney, Democratic candidate for Representative, all of California.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Riverside, California, County Courthouse Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives