Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Community Health Services Extension Act.

August 05, 1965

Distinguished Members of the Congress and sponsors of this legislation, friends who have supported it, my guests this morning:

Ordinarily, what is good for the Nation is good for Congress, too. The bills that we are signing here at the White House this week are certainly good for the health of all Americans. But, with these early morning signing ceremonies, I am not so sure this act is good for the health of Congress.

I have always been an early riser, but I remember my father used to pull me out of bed before daylight and say, "Lyndon, get up, every boy in town has already had an hour's start on you."

I hope that is not the case for me anymore. The older you get, the earlier you wake up, it seems like. And I am certain that is not the case for Congress, because there is no Congress in our history that has ever been ahead of the 89th Congress in the responsibility of meeting the health needs of the American people.

I was just telling my friend Senator Yarborough about the great Senator that preceded both of us in the United States Senate. One time he had some difficulties, in the days before we had direct election of senators in the Texas Legislature, and some of them voted for him and some against him. And he won out and they put him up on their shoulders, and they carried him up to the rostrum to make his speech.

His followers were all applauding and his detractors were kind of holding their heads down, and he made a very fiery speech. He said he was going to take two pictures of this legislature, this group of men. And over the picture of his detractors and those who had fought him, he was going to put the sign "The Rogues' Gallery." And over those who had supported him in his hours of difficulties, he was going to put "The Roll of Honor."

And he said he was going to teach his children to love the one and to hate the other.

Well, now, I don't ever teach my children to hate anyone. We just don't hate around here. But we do love, and we are especially partial to "The Roll of Honor" that are here this morning--were here yesterday morning-and are going to be back here several times more this year.

Secretary Celebrezze just told me that they really had about 20 major measures that represent the greatest breakthrough in any century in the field of health and education. And I just can't think of anything that should amount to as much with the masses of this Nation, or the people of all nations, than the training of their children and the caring for their bodies.

We have recognized in this country for many, many years that public health is not divisible. An epidemic does not threaten just one of us alone; it endangers all of our people without regard to any political boundaries.

In more and more and more of our Government programs, this thought is being fully recognized. The Federal Government today is providing leadership, and we are using this pulpit here to say to the people of every State in the Union, and every nation in the world, that leadership is necessary and that financial assistance must follow it.

The States and local governments are being urged to provide administration and initiative and their own financial support as well. So, all together, the people of the United States are experiencing the fruitful and gratifying benefits of genuine cooperation between all their governments.

The law that we sign today is an outstanding example of this spirit.

Over the next 3 years it will provide $33 million to extend and expand the vaccination assistance program. I mentioned that briefly yesterday but I want to repeat it again, because it struck home with me. One of the heads of state that visited me this year said, "We may fall out with your men but our women will never let us fall out with your country." And I said, "Why?" He said, "Because one child out of every three in my country that was born died of measles."

Thirty-three and one-third percent! And the United States brought to us vaccination machines, and the drug people of the United States furnished this vaccine free of charge, and we vaccinated 750,000 little children against measles and we haven't lost a single life since. And he said every mother in that country will remember that as long as they live.

I just don't know of any greater foreign policy you can have than a policy like that.

So what we are saying is that we will continue to protect the people, especially our children, against things like polio-you remember the fear that every mother had just a few years ago; diphtheria--I remember as a child how frantic my mother was when my little sister had diphtheria; whooping cough; tetanus. Most importantly, we are going to begin a new program to protect all the children against measles.

Since 1962, when this program first came into being, locally conducted, but Federally assisted, vaccination programs have brought protection against polio to 58 million people. Now, today, more than two-thirds of all the children under the age of 5 have had their polio vaccination--two-thirds of every child under 5. Seven million children have been protected against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

I think these figures may be a little boring to you sometimes, like they say about our foreign policy, but it is just about the most important thing we can deal with. And if it is necessary to bore you in order to get the job done, well, we are going to bore you.

So, I am very pleased and gratified this morning that this program will permit us to make an attack on the deaths and the defects and the disabilities caused each year by 4 million cases of measles.

Another provision of this very fine law that Congress has brought to me--this bill-allocates $24 million to continue the health services program for migratory workers.

I don't know whether you have ever seen a migratory worker or not. I don't know whether you have seen their families. I don't know whether you understand the conditions under which they live. But if you have seen, and if you have heard, and if you do feel, you have an impression that will last with you the rest of your life.

Migratory farm workers and their families are among our poorest people in our country. Their experiences are harsh ones. The advantages that most of us take for granted are unknown to them and their little children. They live on the far fringes of society. Most often, they have no voice whatever in the affairs of their community, their church, or no access to the facilities that are normally available to the rest of us.

Since 1962, 100 counties in the United States have received grants to provide public health services for these migrant families. And what a difference it makes in that family life. This has been a good and it has been a useful start. But there are not just 100 counties where these services are needed--there are 1,000 counties that we must reach.

So we are doing just 10 percent of what we ought to do, and this law is going to help us to accomplish that goal.

When you were here yesterday morning, I told Lister Hill, Ralph Yarborough, Oren Harris, and John Fogarty it looked like they were boarding down here. Every morning when I get up--they do come after breakfast, though--they are on the steps waiting with another bill, and I am made happier by it than they are, I assure you. But I said to them yesterday morning, the matter of raising health goals for the Nation is one that I want to throw out here and get all of you to thinking abut, because I found out that some of the things we are signing today were thrown out 20 years ago--like medical care the other day. We worked on it 20 long years before it came into action. Of course, you're doing better as time goes on. I want to congratulate you.

I passed the housing bill this year and I estimated, when I sent it up, it would take 10 years to debate that one out, and they fooled me. It is down here this year and I am glad of it because we have a good Congress.

We are making long strides of social progress in America today--the longest that we have ever made in the history of this country. And we tend to measure progress in terms of quantity instead of quality. Over the next several months I am instructing those concerned with our programs-starting out here with Dr. Gardner, Under Secretary Cohen--to study and to develop for this Nation very ambitious, but obtainable, realistic goals and objectives for this Nation in terms of improving the life of our people.

Some people have said to me, "Well, if you pass all these things this year, what are we going to do next year?" I said, "Don't worry about next year."

It's too early to specify all these goals or to say what is realistic and what is feasible, because they're studying them. But I want you to know what I'm thinking, and you may find some of my thinking somewhere in some of these task force reports and some of these recommendations to Congress.

I would like for America to have as goals, as a Nation:

Number one, that the first thing we do is our average life expectancy would jump up from 70 to 75 years. Adding 5 years onto your life expectancy means a lot to a fellow that is approaching 70.

Second, the infant mortality rate should be no greater than 16 per 1,000 births. It is now 25. And I'd just cut that into a third right quick. Take 8 off of that, move it from 25 that die out of a thousand to 16 that die, and 16 is too many. We can't do it all at once, though.

Third, the virtual elimination not only of all polio, diphtheria, and typhoid fever, but also of all tuberculosis, measles, and whooping cough, because as long as we have people dying from these things we are not doing the job that we ought to do.

Aside from the humanitarian thing, it is just awfully important that we keep these people here producing so that I can take half of their paychecks in taxes to do these other things. And we lose them when they get sick or they get crippled or they get disabled. From a purely selfish standpoint, it's good business.

Someone said to me, "Well, why are you talking about profits so much to these businessmen?" I said, "I just like to see profits ."

Do you know that in the first 6 months this year, over the first 6 months last year, 1,100 corporations increased their profits 17 percent ? The Federal Government increased its revenues, too, because every dollar they made, we took half of it. And we are going to take it and cure whooping cough and diphtheria, and educate their children.

Fourth, a reduction of one-fifth in the incidence of heart disease, cancer, and strokes which now account for 70 percent of all the deaths in the United States.

Now, we lose $32 billion a year just from people dying--what they would produce if they had lived--from heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Now, if we just put a stop to that and take $1 billion of that $32 billion, we'd have $31 billion to divide among everything else--if we just spend $1 billion to stop it. Now it is going to be stopped. It is a question of how soon. John Fogarty is going to want to stop it a little bit quicker than maybe even I do.

But that is just good business. Why should we go on losing $32 billion that these people could produce each year when we could take one or two or three and put a stop to it. Now that is what we have got to do.

So, I believe these goals are feasible for at least the next decade in this country. I believe the legislation that is now being enacted, the research that is now underway, the work that we are doing publicly and privately, and all the widespread public interest and support for improving our Nation's health will help us to reach these goals and, I think, really exceed them.

Such goals are not confined to the field of health alone because we can and we should establish targets for our efforts in every social field. And that is the work that we are devoting ourselves to now.

I just can't think that there is any man or woman present this morning that doesn't sometime think how they would like to be remembered, what legislation they would like to be identified with, and what they'd like for their little girls to think at night that their daddy has been doing all day long.

I don't know of anything that gives a man more satisfaction, and more pleasure, and more enjoyment than to be able to come home and say: "I improved the mind of the little children here today and I provided more education for more people. I made health better for more folks. I helped to care for the mind and the body, and I helped to protect them from suffering and things of that kind."

This group of men here that you see on this platform are the ringleaders. Down in our country, in the days before we had all these big trailer trucks and railroads, you would call them the lead horses, the ones that pull the load.

I am so proud of them and I am so grateful to them.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:35 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, Tom T. Cormally, Senator from Texas 1929-1953, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Anthony I. Celebrezze, Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, Representative Oren Harris of Arkansas, Representative John E. Fogarty of Rhode Island, Secretary designate of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner, and Under Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Wilbur I. Cohen.

As enacted, the Community Health Services Extension Act is Public Law 89-109 (79 Stat. 435).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Community Health Services Extension Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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