Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Parcel Post Bill and the ZIP Code Week Proclamation.

September 20, 1966

Mr. Postmaster General, Chairman Murray, Congressman Daniels, distinguished Members of the Senate, Members of the House, ladies and gentlemen:

Our meeting this morning might be called a celebration of cooperation--American cooperation.

President Woodrow Wilson had something to say on this subject that I can heartily subscribe to. President Wilson said that "the highest and best form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people."

Two documents are before me today that await my signature. Both are the result of men of good faith working together, trying to serve the public interest.

The first is a bill that very few people ever thought would really pass. It revises our archaic weight and size limitations on packages that we send through our mails. It provides a very modest rate increase to put the entire parcel post system on a sound financial footing.

Now despite the obvious requirement for these reforms, we were able to recruit a great many skeptics. Few people--either in or out of the Congress--thought it was possible, or ever would be possible, to make our parcel post system more efficient without harming our private carriers and their employees.

But our distinguished, brilliant Postmaster General disagreed. I am told that a few months ago Larry's wife went to her local post office to mail a package to her sister in West field, Massachusetts. And that is where it all really began.

The clerk measured the package and then promptly, soberly told her that he could not accept it, that it was too big. Mrs. O'Brien then courteously asked why she had previously been able to mail a larger package to Hampton, Massachusetts--which was just less than 10 miles from Westfield.

"Well, that is easy to explain," the clerk replied. "Westfield is a first-class office and Hampton is a second-class office."

The Postmaster General--or at least his wife--believed that the American public should no longer be saddled with such confusion. After exploring the matter with Mrs. O'Brien, I agreed.

And so, with the very valuable assistance of Senator Monroney and the members of his committee, Congressman Murray and Congressman Jimmy Morrison and members of that committee, and the House and the Senate concurring, we have gotten the Government, business, and labor to all sit down together and try to reason out a solution.

I think the result is a good bill. It protects the legitimate interests of the private carriers. It protects the well-being of the employees of the private carriers. It promises better parcel post service to all Americans.

It is a measure that I take a great deal of pride in signing.

The second document before me concerns the "spontaneous cooperation of a free people." It is a proclamation designating the period of October 10 through October 15 as "National ZIP Code Week."

I am convinced that the ZIP Code has done more than any other recent innovation to move our postal service out of the age of the horse and buggy.

America is now generating mail at the rate of 76 billion pieces a year. That is more than all of the rest of the mail generated in the entire world combined. If it were loaded into boxcars, this mail would fill a train that stretched all the way from Boston to San Francisco. Obviously, the antiquated method of sorting this mail individually by hand will no longer serve our purpose.

So the ZIP Code has provided us with a 20th century solution. It gives large-volume mailers the means to presort their mail before they ever turn it over to the Post Office Department. It makes possible the development of a fantastic new optical scanner which will sort individual letters by destination at the rate of some 36,000 letters an hour.

But the success of the ZIP Code depends-ultimately--on the general public.

I asked a Senator this morning what he would recommend that I do in a certain field of fiscal policy. He said, "First, I would take some dramatic actions to bring this to the attention of the country so that, first of all, they could see what our problems are."

And I said, "How do you do that?" He started explaining to me that I should make speeches, appear on television, talk to groups, and so on and so forth.

So that is really what we are trying to do with the ZIP Code this morning. We are trying to bring it to the attention of the general public. We are trying to appeal to the 200 million people of this country to help themselves by helping us in this field.

If they use it and they use it well, we will be able to speed their mail. If they do not, we will be no better off than we were before. We will have wasted our time and taken some other people's time--and just be a failure.

Now that is the reason, though, that I am designating "National ZIP Code Week." Because we want all Americans to understand the importance of their cooperation.

Last March 30th, I believe, I asked the large captains of industry of this country to come to the White House. I pointed out to them that our plant investment, when we came into office, had been about $30 billion a year and that had suddenly jumped to $61 billion, according to the estimates of the SEC this year.

Now that is a difference of $31 billion-extra money--that is going to be needed. I said, "If we can voluntarily cut down on our plant investment, we may be able to avoid taking other more stringent steps. We would like to voluntarily do it.

"How many of you would like to have a tax bill now?" There wasn't a single hand.

"How many of you would support one now?" Not a single hand.

"How many of you will cooperate voluntarily?" All the hands went up. So we tried it voluntarily and some of our big corporations reduced $200 million, $300 million, and $400 million.

But while they were reducing, others came in and did the same thing.

So the point now is reached, instead of it being $60 billion 800 million--as it was in March when I talked to them--it is $60 billion 900 million. So we lost $100 million in the transaction.

Now we don't want to do that with our ZIP Code. We want to appeal to every American while we have plenty of time, without further regulation, without further statutes, to try to get this thing done voluntarily, if we can.

If we can't, we will take other measures. It may be more costly. It may actually take more time.

So with the help of you good people here this morning, and the members of beth parties, I have asked you to come here so we could sign these two documents in your presence.

The first one says that you can mall a larger package from your post office, and the second one says that if you put a ZIP Code on it Larry O'Brien--or at least Mrs. O'Brien--will see that it is delivered faster for you.

I think that is the kind of service that you are for and that is the kind of service I am for, not only with our packages, but with our legislation in Congress as well.

While you are here, I want to comment on that. We don't want to go too fast. We don't believe in excessive speed. As you can see, this is September and we are still here.

But last night we reviewed our 85 legislative proposals that are rather important to us. Two or three of them have already met with a fate that we did not hope for, that we wish could have been avoided, like 14(b), the civil rights bill, and a few others.

But we have passed 65 good, solid pieces of legislation. We have 5 more in conference that have passed both Houses. That is 70. We have 9 more that appear to us that are to be passed.

So that just leaves us 6 or 8 more. Now if we can, in the next few days, apply ourselves to that relatively small number, we can have the most successful session of the Congress, the most successful 89th Congress, that any Congress ever produced. And that will be the result of the efforts of members of both parties.

How much will it cost us to run our Government next year? We don't know. As soon as you pass the eight appropriations bills that are pending--I don't know whether you will add a billion dollars for education or take $400 million out.

I don't know whether you will add money to poverty or take it out. I can't speculate. I used to be able to guess on the Senate. I was frequently wrong. I think the older I get the poorer my guesses get.

But as soon as you tell me what is in those appropriations bills, I will ask the departments to look at them carefully, see how much we can keep from spending, reduce it to its very barest minimum, look at our revenue, and then tell you what looks ahead in our fiscal policy--what we will need in the next few months.

I hope to do that at the earliest date possible. So the quicker you get me those appropriations bills--as I said to Senator Mansfield last night, to Senator Russell earlier in the day, to Chairman Mahon the day before, the appropriations committees in the two Houses--the quicker we can conclude our business, the quicker we can tell the American people how much the Government is going to cost us next year.

No one man can put his finger within $2 billion of it today. The Budget Director said it is likely that the authorizations, the appropriations, will run somewhere from $2 billion to $8 billion over our budget.

Congressman Mahon thinks it will run a few hundred million. I don't know which one is right. I hope Congressman Mahon is. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:10 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Postmaster General Lawrence F. O'Brien, Representative Tom Murray of Tennessee, Chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, and Representative Dominick V. Daniels of New Jersey, a Committee member.

Later the President referred to Mrs. Lawrence F. O'Brien, Senator A. S. Mike Monroney of Oklahoma, Chairman of the Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee, Representative James H. Morrison of Louisiana, a member of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana and Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia, both members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Representative George H. Mahon of Texas, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Charles L. Schultze, Director, Bureau of the Budget.

As enacted, the parcel post bill (H.R. 14904) is Public Law 89-593 (80 Stat. 815).

Proclamation 3746, "National ZIP Code Week," is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 2, p. 1323); the Federal Register (31 F.R. 12511); and Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (3 CFR, 1966 Comp., p. 80).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Parcel Post Bill and the ZIP Code Week Proclamation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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