Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Health Research Facilities Amendments of 1965

August 09, 1965

Secretary Celebrezze, Secretary Cohen, Dr. Shannon, Dr. Terry, Senator Hill, Senator Javits, Congressman Harris, Congressman Fogarty, Congressman Springer, the other distinguished Members of the Senate and the House, the staff, the employees of NIH, my fellow Americans, boys and girls:

Here on this quiet battleground our Nation today leads a worldwide war on disease. The experience of the past 10 years assures us that war can be won.

New vaccines have almost eliminated from our entire land the crippling curse of polio that sent shivers to the backs of every mother in this land just a few years ago. Measles vaccine today promises victory over disease which kills from 20 to 30 percent of all the people of other countries. A new vaccine may soon rid mothers of the fear that their unborn children could become the victim of German measles. Chemical treatment has already extended the life span of cancer victims and shows a very high promise of far greater successes. The artificial kidney gives invalids new hope for normal and productive life. Research is making it possible to renew and to rebuild the human heart.

Yes, a staggering era for medicine has begun. And you here at NIH are shaping it and you can be as proud of what you are doing as we are proud of you.

I want to say that you of the Congress, members of both of the great parties in the Congress, you are shaping it too. And you too can be proud of yourselves as we are so proud of you. Men like that veteran in this field who has devoted a long and honorable life to public service--Lister Hill, from the great State of Alabama; and Congressman Oren Harris, who will soon leave the legislative to go to the judiciary--but not leave it until he gets those last five health bills passed out of his committee; and Congressman Fogarty from that progressive State of Rhode island who, through the years, has furnished us statesmen who provided leadership; men like Aime Forand, who just the other day was out at Kansas City with us to sign the Medicare bill; and Theodore Francis Green in Foreign Relations; and John E. Fogarty is going to be around here for a long time making appropriations and making history for health; and Senator Javits, who is always to be found in the leadership of any progressive cause, is an eloquent voice for his party, and for his State, and his country, as is Congressman Springer who supports Oren Harris and the Members of the House in this very effective work; and as members of another party we salute them and recognize them this morning for their efforts here.

As we meet here this morning, our country is spending $1 1/2 billion each year for health research. And this legislation that we will sign will enlarge greatly the program that NIH is running.

This bill that I will sign shortly, will provide the bricks and the mortar for the biomedical research laboratories throughout this entire Nation. This will will help foster new breakthroughs in our war on disease. This bill will accomplish the miracles of which today we only dream.

What are our goals? What do we hope to do? What are our objectives? What should be our targets? Well, the work you have done and the work that you are doing permits me this morning to give you some specific answers.

The American goal is to eliminate completely the disability and the death among children that is caused by rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

The American goal is to reduce substantially the tragic toll of heart disease.

Malaria and cholera were conquered in America a long time ago, but they still hold mortal fear for most of world humanity. The American goal is the complete eradication of malaria and cholera from the entire world.

And we are determined that the vital link between pure research and practical achievement will never be broken. We are determined that research and discovery yield results which not only increase man's knowledge but the strength of his body and the length of his life.

[Quoting from the Bible] "And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ. And the multitude gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs which he did. For some of those that had unclean spirits that came out crying with a loud voice, and many that were palsied and were lame were healed. And there was much joy in that city." [Acts 8: 5-8]

"And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and they abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." [2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10]

And as my minister said yesterday at Camp David: I am not here to ask any person to change their religion. I am not here to convert anyone from one faith to the other. I am here only to say to you, how does your religion serve you, and what does it do for you, and what do you do for other people?

And I hope that as we here on the grounds of NIH today, speaking with a voice that will heal the lame and will treat the palsied, and will add virtue and knowledge and temperance and patience and brotherly kindness and love, I am hoping that America can be worthy of all that flag stands for, and can provide that kind of leadership in all the world.

I said to Senator Hill coming out here this morning, with Congressman Harris and Senator Javits and some of the others, every night when I go to bed I look at the men that died that day and then I wake up in the morning and see the casualty reports. And the one thing that sustains me most is to see what we are doing for the lame and the palsied, what we are doing in adding knowledge in the field of education, what we are doing in conservation and beautification to make this a more beautiful land, and to make this not just "America the Beautiful," but the "World the Beautiful."

A distinguished British leader once observed that want is one of five giants on the road of reconstruction, and in some ways want is the easiest to attack. What are the others? Disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness. And by measures like this one that we are signing today--and we are going to sign dozens more of them before we go home this year--we Americans--I didn't say we Democrats--we Americans are attacking these five giants. And I am here this morning to tell you we are attacking them successfully--and we are winning.

Now is not the time to tarry along by the roadside. Now is the time to say clearly where we mean to go. Now is the time to measure the distance that we can cover in the next year that is ahead of us, in the next decade that we face, and in what is left of this century.

And as the leader of this country, I plan to set some goals--some realistic, ambitious, farsighted goals--goals of vision. And so in the next few days I am going to announce a very special White House task force to report to the President, which will tell me and tell America where we are and where we are going and how we are going to get there.

The great experts of this Nation will be called together under the leadership of the President. And these experts, inside and outside Government--I want to pay due tribute to Secretary Marion Folsom who is here on the platform with us; Secretary, would you please stand up?--who, without regard to party or without regard to fear or favor, men of his type will advise us how best to reach these goals--the goals that we will set for education, the goals that we will set for health, the goals that we will set for happiness for all of the children of not only our land but what we can do to help others.

We do this because we have no choice, because we must advance daily or we will fail eternally. And we do it because we believe in Thomas Jefferson's words: that the care of human life and happiness is the first and the only legitimate object of good government.

Last night I was reading from a little book that I have read many, many times, but I get strength from it every time I read it. It is, "The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations," by Barbara Ward--Lady Jackson. And one brief passage appealed to me. I tried to get my speech writers to put it in my speech today but they wouldn't do it, so I am going to put it in myself:

"... we have more resources at our disposal than any group of nations in the history of man. And it is hard to believe that we have run out of the moral energy needed to make the change. Looking at our society I certainly do not feel that it already presents such an image of the good life that we can afford to say that we have contributed all that we can to the vision of a transfigured humanity. Our uncontrollably sprawling cities, our shapely suburbia, our trivial pursuits--our quiz shows, TV, the golf games"--I might add my bowling--"hardly add up to the final end of man. We can do better than this. We also have the means to do better. If we do not feel the need there is only one explanation: We no longer have the vital imagination for the task."1

Well, in the days ahead, under the leadership of NIH, we are not going to lack for imagination in this country. And we are not going to lack for vision, and we are not going to lack for leadership. One of our great leaders in the medical field, the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, is leaving us to serve the great University of Pennsylvania as vice president. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. Luther Terry and to his family, and we deeply regret that he has seen fit to go on to other pursuits in the educational field but we are glad that we are not losing him in our attack on the five giants. Would you stand up, Dr. Terry?

And I said to the men coming out here with me this morning in the helicopter, Secretary Celebrezze and Secretary Gardner-who is one of the great successors to Secretary Celebrezze; it is going to take a great man to fill his shoes--Tony Celebrezze will bring to me this year 20 bills as important as this, or more, that represent adventurous advances in the field of health and education before he goes on the court out there in Ohio. And John Gardner today is planning on what we are going to do in these days ahead.

And I said to Secretary Celebrezze and Senator Hill and Senator Javits, and Congressman Harris, and Congressman Springer and others, who will succeed Luther Terry?

I'll tell you who I want to succeed him-and this is not a surprise to the press. I don't want you folks to get surprised. I want the best, most adventurous, imaginative, best equipped doctor with vision in this country to succeed him. I don't know where he is, but we are going to start looking for him this morning, because in the days ahead in the field of health and education, illiteracy, ignorance, and poverty and all these things, your Government and you Americans are going to successfully conclude that war that you have declared on these ancient enemies.

And in the allotted time to us, each of us in our own way is going to make our maximum contribution to healing the lame and caring for the palsied, and adding virtue and knowledge and brotherly love to this land.

Thank you very much.

1 Barbara Ward, "The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations" (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1962), page 141.

Note: The President spoke at 12.13 p.m. at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Anthony J. Celebrezze, Under Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Wilbur J. Cohen, Dr. James A. Shannon, Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Luther L. Terry, Surgeon General, Public Health Service, Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, Senator Jacob K. Javits of New York, Representative Oren Harris of Arkansas, Representative John E. Fogarty of Rhode Island, and Representative William L. Springer of Illinois.

During his remarks the President referred to Aime Forand, Representative from Rhode Island 1937-1939 and 1941-1961, Theodore F. Green, Senator from Rhode Island 1937-1961, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Marion B. Folsom, and Secretary-designate of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner.

As enacted, the Health Research Facilities Amendments of 1965 is Public Law 89-115 (79 Stat. 448).

Dr. Terry's letter of resignation and the President's reply were made public by the White House on August 10. They are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 1, p. 75).

For the statement by the President on announcing plans for the White House Conference on Health, see Item 424.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Health Research Facilities Amendments of 1965 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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