Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Government Employees Pay Raise Bill

August 14, 1964

Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

For many reasons, this is both a proud and a very gratifying occasion for me. There have been 16 Presidents in the 20th century. Only one of that number has had the opportunity to sign his name to more major legislation from one session of Congress than I will sign this year.

In fact, I think it can be said that "While there were a few exceptions, this Congress has displayed a greater freedom from mere partisanship than any other peacetime Congress since the administration of President Washington himself."

Those words are not my own. As some may recognize, that was the tribute paid to the second session of the 73d Congress on June 28, 1934, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. That session produced 32 major legislative accomplishments. This session of the energetic, even-handed, and effective 88th Congress has produced 25 major measures already. Since none of us are in a hurry to get home, there may be many more.

There is one indelible lesson from this. Our American system functions best when it functions as the Founding Fathers intended, without divisive partisanship, with a united will to put the country and the people first. We don't have to have stalemates. We don't have to have issues carrying over from session to session, generation to generation, or even century to century. We can make this system work and that is what members of both parties in both houses of the Congress are doing.

Of the many measures enacted this year, this legislation ranks near the top of the list in importance to the entire country. This is much more than just a pay bill. It is, as the title says, a reform measure, the Government Employees Salary Reform Act of 1964. For the first time this gives us the tools to identify and inspire, to reward and retain excellence in our Federal service.

This is one of the most profound advances in the last 30 years or longer. We are very sensibly putting behind us in this country the concept that the Federal service can be treated indifferently as a massive, mindless, faceless, anonymous bureaucracy.

America's challenges cannot be met in this modern world by mediocrity at any level, public or private. All through our society we must search for brilliance, welcome genius, strive for excellence. And this measure will help us to do that in our Federal Government.

This legislation provides both the flexibilities and the incentives to recognize differences between marginal, competent, and superior performance. I hope that every responsible manager will use these tools fully, use them equitably, and use them conscientiously.

Our continuing goal is to fulfill the mandate of making Federal salaries reasonably comparable with those of private life. Alongside that goal is the parallel objective of expecting and achieving high productivity. Everyone in the Federal Service, from the lowest grade to the highest, has the responsibility of assuring the American taxpayer full value for every dollar spent and that no dollar will be spent unnecessarily.

The United States Government has great responsibilities as our largest employer. This legislation helps us set a better example. I might note especially that the salary increases, when averaged across the years of no increase, are within the range of the wage guideposts suggested for private enterprise.

I congratulate the Congress, the Federal employees, and the leaders of their groups who are here this morning, and I might say a special thanks to three outstanding journalistic "Congressmen" the gentlemen from the Washington Post, Star, and News, Mr. Kluttz, Mr. Young, and Mr. Cramer.

Note: The President spoke in midmorning in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his concluding remarks he referred to Jerry Kluttz, Joseph Young, and John F. Cramer, columnists for the Washington Post, the Washington Star, and the Washington Daily News, respectively.

The Government Employees Salary Reform Act of 1964 is Public Law 88-426 (78 Stat. 400).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the Government Employees Pay Raise Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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