Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks on the Youth Opportunity Campaign

June 03, 1965

VICE PRESIDENT HUMPHREY. Mr. President, Secretary Connor, Secretary Wirtz, members of the Youth Opportunity Campaign Task Force and, Mr. President, we have some trainees with us and distinguished guests:

Ten days ago the President announced a nationwide youth opportunity campaign to provide job opportunities for the out-of-work young people between the ages of 16 and 21. The President asked me to head a task force to implement this campaign. I am pleased to report that the response to the President's appeal among Federal, State, and local government agencies, private businesses, our unions, and nonprofit organizations has been most encouraging. And we meet here this afternoon to honor those firms and organizations who responded most promptly to the youth opportunity campaign.

We should, however, recognize the excellent cooperation that we have received from Federal officials, State governments, and countless mayors throughout our country.

I am very pleased now to present to you the President of the United States.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Vice President, members of the Cabinet, distinguished businessmen, young Americans, ladies and gentlemen :

This has been a very exciting morning for all of us. Our prayers have been answered, our young men in the space program have been safely launched. Our prayers will be with them until they return. We are very grateful and very pleased that things have gone well thus far.

I picked up the morning paper and reviewed it carefully, always knowing in the back of my mind that the clock was ticking and that very shortly this great event in our national history would take place. I saw in one column of the paper about the Johnson administration's foreign policy, and I did not recognize it. I thought they were talking about this administration but from the description it could have been another administration somewhere. I looked over to another column and I saw the Johnson administration economic problems and the fears that were being expressed. I did not recognize that, either.

I guess when you have 4 or 5 million people working in the administration, you are not always sure what one of them is going to say under the name of the Johnson administration. But this program that we are meeting about this morning is a Johnson program. And if any of my people get tired of worrying about foreign policy and have time to stop giving interviews, I'd like for them to start worrying about getting young people jobs. And if any of our people get concerned about the economy going too fast or going too slow, I wish they would just quit worrying and go to worrying about getting kids jobs. That is the real important assignment that faces us on the domestic front.

I was looking at some of Bill Wirtz's figures last night and unemployment is down in this country now to 4.6--which is an encouraging thing for me--from 4.9. I observed that the unemployment among our young people is still 15 percent, and among our married adults is just a little over 2 percent.

So, we ought to really face up to this problem where it is. And I would hope that every businessman in this country that just insists on worrying would start worrying about how to get young people jobs; that every Government man that wants to give out an interview about something that he doesn't know much about would start worrying about how to get young people jobs, because we are going to add 25,000 in the Federal Government; that every labor official that has concern for his country will try to figure out how we can give these people training and how we can employ these young people, because unless we meet that challenge we'll have been a failure.

Some of you may remember the story of President Coolidge when a reporter asked him, "Do you wish to say anything about the strike?" And the President said, "No." And the reporter--as some of them are occasionally-was rather aggressive. He said, "Do you have any comment on the farm bloc?" And again the President said, "No." And the reporter kept insisting a little bit, and he said, "Do you have any comment about the World Court?" The President said, "No." Well, the reporter turned to go away and kind of showed his independence, and President Coolidge said, "Wait just a minute, don't quote me."

So, I asked the reporters here today because I want you to quote me. I want every businessman, not just those of you who have come here this morning because you are trailblazers and you are among the first, because you are aggressive leaders in your group, I want all of them to know that America faces the crisis of the first order this summer, and we ought to get ready for it.

That crisis is the unemployment among its young people. One out of eight of the total labor force is a youngster between 16 and 21 But one out of every three unemployed Americans is in that group. And the irony is that as teenage unemployment worsens the overall employment situation continues to improve.

We can all take great pride in the figures for May which are being released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They show major improvement on almost every front. Unemployment fell by 220,000 between April and May, down to a total of 3,300,000. This was triple the decline which usually takes place at this time of the year. As a result, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell, as I stated a moment ago, from 4.9 percent in April to 4.6 percent in May--the lowest figure in 91 months.

Now, when we lose 10 or 12 or 15 lives in Viet-Nam we have headlines that say this is the highest number that we have lost any day, and when we send 200 planes out we say this is the largest number of planes. But these are facts and figures that I think are encouraging to every American of whatever party he belongs to--that unemployment fell from 4.9 to 4.6, and that is the lowest figure in 91 months. That's almost 8 years.

So, these returns represent the first available figures on employment for the 51st and record-breaking month of peacetime expansion. Between February of 1961 and May of 1965:

--The number of workers went up by 3,900,000, but the number of jobs went up even more, by 5,300,000. As a result, the number of jobless declined by 1,400,000 during the 51-month period of expanding economic activity.

--The unemployment rate fell from 6.9 percent to 4.6 percent, and that is a drop of one-third.

--Every worker group showed a marked improvement during this time--except for the teenagers.

And that brings us to this occasion.

I have asked you here to thank you for the response to the youth opportunity campaign that we launched last month. Your actions-and those of businessmen throughout the country--mean new hope and a new chance for thousands of our young people. Two million young Americans will be without jobs this summer unless this administration's program is successful.

I expect the Vice President, and the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Labor, and the head of the Space Agency that has such a wonderful thing to be thankful for this morning, and other members who are leaders in the Government to stay after this young employment program until we get successful results.

In my initial announcement, this administration-the Johnson administration-asked every employer, public and private, to find work for at least one young man or woman for each 100 employees already at work. You employers that are here this morning, and you young people that are here, are an indication of the response to that request.

Already, I am told by the Vice President, more than 5,000 employers have come through with job openings for 75,000 young people. The response has come from some of the Nation's largest private employers, and some of the Nation's smallest local firms; it has come from labor unions, church and fraternal organizations. We have pledges from the State and the county and the municipal governments.

American Telephone and Telegraph has pledged to hire at least 1 summer trainee for each 100 employees.

Bill Roland, a general contractor in Lorain, Ohio, intends to hire 2 young people--1 who will go on to college, and 1 who will return to high school.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has promised to hire 6 young people between 16 and 21.

The pastor of the Holy Angels Church in Aurora, Ill., is going to put 10 high school boys to work on the task of the church.

At my request, as I stated a moment ago, the departments and agencies of the Federal Government will hire 1 trainee for each 100 workers now on the payroll. This will mean an additional 25,000 jobs, one of which will be an assignment with our astronauts. I have instructed the Neighborhood Youth Corps summer project to add another 50,000 openings for young people.

I read last night--in my night reading-a letter from Mr. John Knight, publisher of the Knight Newspapers. He had complete pages of young people want ads that he had furnished free in an attempt to really put a push behind finding jobs for young people.

I say to you that there is no more important project of this administration at this time than this project. Now this is only the beginning. We have a long way to go yet. But the fact that you employers have already made this start and you are present here today is all the proof that I need to realize that we are going to do the job.

I want to publicly commend and compliment the Vice President for the vision that he and his committee have demonstrated, at the industry they have shown, and the results they have obtained. But, I want to warn them and the employers of this Nation that the clock is ticking, that the time to find these jobs is now, that it is better to be making an investment to provide a job for a man than to be paying taxes to take care of a young person that has had to be incarcerated and found necessary for the Government to support him otherwise.

Here we are with profits of corporations of 36.5 billion--the largest in our history, after taxes; with personal payrolls running 76 billion more than they have before taxes. If there ever was a time when we could share some of our prosperity and some of our accumulation with those who are to carry on afterwards, it is now.

It is not going to be long before some of you men in Government and before some of you employers are going to be up at St. Peter's door rapping on it, and asking for admission. And he is not just going to ask you if you tithed 10 percent, he is not just going to ask you if you went to church every Sunday, he is not just going to be content that you followed the Ten Commandments. He is going to ask you what you did with your affluence and what you did as a beneficiary of this great system of government to help others who wanted to help themselves.

I'll tell you one thing, I hope you can jot down, in the year of our Lord 1965, the month of June, I met at the White House with the President and I told him I was going to provide the leadership to get these young people off the streets and behind the bench, training them to do something and to let them work to help themselves.

I don't have any special dispensation to speak for St. Peter but my own judgment is that that will make a very favorable impression.

Thank you.

Note: The ceremony was held at 12:15 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. During his remarks the President referred to, among others, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who introduced him, John T. Connor, Secretary of Commerce, W. Willard Wirtz, Secretary of Labor, and James E. Webb, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Certificates were presented to the first 10 corporations which had responded to the President's youth opportunity campaign to provide summer jobs for young people.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks on the Youth Opportunity Campaign Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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