Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Receiving Report of the National Advisory Commission on Health Facilities.

December 12, 1968

Secretary Cohen, Mr. Jones, ladies and gentlemen:

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Jones, and the members of your committee, for all the many hours of hard work, deliberation, and devotion which this report and suggestions represent. I think you have tackled energetically some of the very complex problems that we face in this country.

A President, I think, learns very soon in his career that there are some issues which simply cannot be ignored or compromised, because if we are to move ahead and be the leader of the world, much depends upon our success in certain basic fields.

Schools is one, jobs is one, health is one, and if you make progress in health and education, surely, it will not solve all of our problems; but unless we do make progress in both of those fields, we will have little chance to succeed all the way.

I think it was President Harry Truman, who was President when he declared that good health is a right and not a privilege; that every citizen, regardless of his means, should have an opportunity for health care.

Now, we have tried to make that this Nation's policy for a good many years. But for a long time, there has been a wide gap between our policy and reality.

In the past 5 years, we have been working diligently trying to move on down the road and close that gap. We have Medicare; we have heart, cancer, and stroke programs; we have the Neighborhood Health Centers-Mrs. Johnson just returned from one the other day that she was ecstatic about. We have more than 40 health laws that we have enacted during these past 5 years.

All of that has been trying to guarantee the right to health care.

Now this program that Mr. Cohen is talking about, the Hill-Burton program, has been a key effort in the drive to assure good health for every citizen. One measure of its success I think you will want to note is this simple fact: In 22 years it has provided more than 400,000 hospital beds in this country. Those have gone in the smallest towns and largest cities, from Johnson City to New York City. And we think it has literally saved hundreds of thousands of lives by putting hospitals within the reach of all the people. And if we don't do something about the charges they are not going to be in the reach of many of the people.

I was in a hospital Sunday in a room that you couldn't cuss a cat in. I mean it wasn't big enough to. They were charging $54 a day. And that is not going to be in the reach of many of us very long.

There are many problems that we face down the road. We have just moved a step or two in a long, winding, difficult, uphill road.

There are mothers--thousands of them-who have never seen a doctor when their babies were delivered. And as I said in my last State of the Union Message, the infant mortality rate in this country is shockingly high. We rank 15th among the nations of the world. That ought to make the blush of shame come to all of our cheeks.

There are millions of Americans--particularly children--who have no regular medical attention whatever; whose sicknesses and handicaps are often discovered much too late to do anything about. And if you could get to them in the first months of their life, or even the first years, you could rectify much of this.

If we are to help them, then we must try-all of us--to build a health care system which not only cures sick people but try to practice a little preventive medicine and keep all citizens healthy.

So I am delighted, Mr. Jones, to know that your report underscores this need. And I am happy to point out, also, that this report bears no party label. Just as well it doesn't because we have another party coming in to take charge in a few days.

I hope that the studies that you patriotic citizens have made in the fields of health, education, jobs, poverty, and peace--all of those will be helpful to our country's leaders.

Any President or any Governor, or any mayor, or any public health official can read this report, I think, and profit from it. It represents the best thinking by the best people that we have on one of the biggest problems that we deal with.

I have often thought that in this complex day--this 20th century of technology and so many frustrating experiences--that actually our problems are relatively simple ones. They all can be summed up in almost four-letter words--sometimes they are. [Laughter]

But the thing that we all want more than anything else in the world is peace--p-e-a-c-e. That is a five-letter word. And we strive for it. Now, to try to get it, we have to pursue many routes and we have to enlist many people.

There are some very important elements that make up the lives of all these people. The first one is whether he has a job or not. That is a four-letter word--j-o-b-s.

The second one is whether he has any food or not. If he is undernourished and real nourished and starving, he may not be as wise and judicious and stimulating as you would like for him to be.

So food is an important element. Jobs is an important element. Schools is an important element--s-c-h-o-o-l-s. Health is a very important element.

Conservation--conserve--I guess that is the biggest one.

Well, when you think of those jobs and that food, those schools and that health, and over and above all peace in the world, that represents what this thing is all about. That is what we have been trying to do.

Now we have made progress in most of those fields. We don't have the final answer in any of them. Our unemployment rate is lower than it has been in more than two decades-unbelievably good. You have to hit on a little wood. But we are producing so much more food than we can eat. Our schools have improved. The Elementary School Act alone services 17 million students.

Our health services--as high as they are and as inadequate as they are--are still the finest in the world. And almost 20 million people are benefiting from Medicare that they didn't have just a few years ago.

So if we will just keep our eye on the ball, keep our objectives plainly in our gun sights, peace in the world, jobs, food, and a house-that is a small word. speak for, want more than anything else is realize that the thing our people, whom we

We passed a bill with a goal of 26 million houses to build. And that is going to take a lot of work for a long time. It is estimated to cost over a trillion dollars. It will be many years in the making.

But so was Medicare, that President Truman suggested many years ago. So was the elementary education bill--it used to be called Federal aid and scared everybody off. But we have those jobs, and we have that food now, and we have education, and we have health, and we have housing.

We just have a taste of them, just a smattering, just enough to make us want more.

I hope we do want more, and I do hope we get more. And I hope that in all of it, some way, somehow, we can find peace for all of our people.

To you good people who are interested in health, to this committee that has done such good work, and to the Vice President who has led us in all of these causes, in the twilight of this administration, I say thank you, and God bless all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:58 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Wilbur J. Cohen, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Boisfeuillet Jones, Chairman of the National Advisory Commission on Health Facilities.

The report is entitled "National Advisory Commission on Health Facilities: A Report to the President; December 1968" (Government Printing Office, 85 pp.).

The Commission was appointed by the President on October 6, 1967. See 1967 volume, this series, Book II, Item 419.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Receiving Report of the National Advisory Commission on Health Facilities. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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