Remarks in Vincennes, Indiana, Upon Signing Bill Establishing the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
Governor and Mrs. Branigin, Mayor Lawson, Senator Hartke, Senator and Mrs. Bayh, my good friends, Congressmen Winfield Denton and Bill Bray:
They tell me this is one district in the United States where you get two Congressmen for the price of one, one Democrat and one Republican.
I want to thank the other Members of Congress who have traveled with me today. I especially want to thank all the members of the Indiana delegation for the friendly welcome their State has given us and the strength that we have received from exchanging views with you.
I also want to express my gratitude to the people of Indiana for giving to my administration one of the ablest and one of the most loyal and one of the most dedicated intelligent public servants I know, the Under Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Joseph Barr from the great State of Indiana.
I have been wanting to come out to southwest Indiana, and my old friend Win Denton provided me with a perfect occasion.
I finally concluded that I could come here and make this speech and get back to Washington and save time because I was going to have to spend more than that time explaining to Win why I couldn't come.
He had introduced a bill to establish the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. As a rule Win Denton gets action on what he recommends in the House of Representatives and in the Congress and in Washington. This was no exception. So when he invited me to come out and sign the bill among the thousands of his Indiana friends, I did not have to be asked twice. He did ask me a half-dozen times, though, I will say. He kept checking me just to be sure I hadn't forgotten.
This is going to be a very beautiful park. It will include the memorial to George Rogers Clark that the people of Indiana built, with Federal help back in the 1930's. This will be the first park in our entire national system to commemorate the Northwest Territory. Yet if that were all it did it would not inspire us with thoughts of the enduring strength of the American people.
For George Rogers Clark was more than just a great soldier of the Revolution. In him there blazed a courage, a tenacity, and a devotion to liberty that brought a band of frontier fighters through hardship to ultimate victory--that, really, later brought a rich new land into a new Union.
Almost two centuries ago George Rogers Clark, 26 years old, big, red-headed, and resourceful, led 175 frontiersmen on a march of more than 200 miles through icy waters toward Vincennes.
At last they arrived on an island not far from here--within full view of the garrison at Fort Sackville. Wet, hungry, and bedraggled, Clark and his soldiers did not wait to be dry and did not wait to get well fed. They attacked. The defenders thought there must have been a thousand sharpshooters outside the walls. The next day the British commander asked for peace.
Clark's victory brought an end to the British power in this great region. Four years later the Northwest Territory became part of the United States--the way to the West was then open.
In 1830, 50 years after the Battle of Vincennes, young Abraham Lincoln crossed the Wabash with his family to settle in Illinois. He had learned much of what he knew of the world from the pages of the Western Sun, which was published right here in Vincennes. In another 30 years he would embark on a life-and-death struggle to try to preserve for us the Union, the Union which men like Clark had helped to create.
I think of how these men embodied the spirit of America: Clark, the spirit of high confidence and fortitude; Lincoln, the spirit of deep compassion and unyielding conviction. Such spirit is always America's strength in times of trial. And in your lifetime and my lifetime we have gone through many times of trial.
As we meet here in this peaceful, beautiful scene this afternoon, in this heartland of America, thousands of miles out yonder, across the Pacific, American fortitude is again being tested. Our men are being tested in a harsh and deadly struggle. And here at home American conviction is being tested, too. This is the conviction that the integrity of men and the independence of nations must be defended. It is the conviction that peace just cannot endure if aggressors are allowed to succeed.
I honestly believe that the American soldier in Vietnam tonight is as brave and as resourceful as any man who forded the rivers of Illinois behind George Rogers Clark. And I have evidence of that fact. I saw it on the faces and on the bodies of the boys of the 101st just a few miles back just a few minutes ago.
I could read to you from a number of the citations of the men that we decorated-some who had given their eye, some who had given their arms, some a leg, some both legs--but I am not going to take the time to review all of those citations that we went over this afternoon.
I saw one young man from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who had 1,800 flying hours in a helicopter--most of it under fire. He had two Silver Stars and six Air Medals. He was rather bored while we were over there because he wanted to get back to Vietnam to fight for that flag.
Every commanding officer of his had recommended that Indiana boy for a decoration. There is now en route to Washington a recommendation for the Distinguished Flying Cross. But that is the least of his concerns.
This afternoon I am going to read you a part of a citation that crossed my desk last week. This citation describes the gallantry of a young marine. He was a private first class--Charles William Bosley--and he came from Richmond, Indiana.
"Under heavy fire from a battalion of the Viet Cong," this is the way his citation reads, "Private First Class Bosley noticed that his team's grenadier had been wounded and was lying in a position of imminent danger. Without regard for his own safety, Private First Class Bosley unhesitatingly exposed himself to the murderous incoming fire to provide covering fire for the wounded man and the corpsman who was treating him. Later in the battle, he exhibited great presence of mind and unselfishness when he saw an enemy grenade land dangerously close to one of the casualties. Reacting instantly, he raced to the man and pulled him to safety before the grenade exploded. Although he sustained painful wounds in the course of the night's engagement, he valiantly continued to assist in the defense of the hill against the relentless enemy attack. The courage and professionalism he exhibited on this, his first encounter with the enemy, contributed in large measure to preventing the entire unit from being killed or captured."
In the name of the President, the Commanding General has awarded Private First Class Bosley the Silver Star for gallantry in action under fire.
How else can this Nation honor Private First Class Bosley and the millions like him who daily risk their lives for freedom throughout the world?
The answer is obvious to me: We can honor him by giving him our conviction, our dedication, our determination to persevere until brave men shall have shown the enemy that the enemy cannot conquer his neighbors by force.
It can give more still. It can give patience-born of the knowledge that our national unity and our human progress do not just happen and they did not just come overnight. It is a lesson to remember.
We Americans are optimistic. We are hopeful of quick solutions to the problems that confront us and I hope we never cease to be so. Optimism is the fuel that has fired us. It is the belief that man is not condemned forever to live under the tyrant's heel.
But freedom is not easily won, nor is it held without sacrifice. We have won it and we have held it because there are a good many among us who were willing to risk our lives and our fortunes in order to preserve our freedom and our liberty. We were willing to endure the times of confusion and uncertainty to fight in battle and to build in peace.
So we look today to the conflict that rages in far away Vietnam, where our men and our flag are committed. We are confident enough to believe that from the long travail of that land will emerge a free and a hopeful nation. We are wise enough, I hope, to know that more fighting, more trouble, and more uncertainty lie ahead before its aspirations are fulfilled.
I cannot give you this evening an assurance of the hour or the day when this conflict will end. I can assure you that we have sent word to North Vietnam, through every means available to us, of our earnest willingness to negotiate the terms of peace. Twice, with great doubt, with reluctance, but with hope and with prayer, we stopped our bombing to the North to signal to the entire world our plea and our prayer and our hope for peace. We waited 37 long days while our President sent representatives to 40 nations but the answer we received from Hanoi was always the same story: a stony and contemptuous reply while more battalions were sent into their neighbor's land to join the fighting to kill their neighbors and to kill our soldiers.
We shall continue to try to persuade Hanoi that we would rather talk than fight; that negotiation is desirable. My closest associates will, in a matter of hours, join any representatives they select to sit down at any table in any room in any place to attempt to find a solution by negotiation. But I pledge you, too, that we shall continue if they refuse to negotiate, to make them pay a high price for their warfare in the South on South Vietnam and on our men.
You hear every day, "Why don't we stop our bombing?" We haven't bombed any embassy in Hanoi. They bombed our embassy in Saigon. We haven't bombed any hospitals in Hanoi. They bombed and injured some of your American boys in a hospital in South Vietnam today.
I doubt that you will hear many speeches in this country, I doubt that you will see many columns written, I doubt that many commentators will spend very much time lecturing them for the bombs that they dropped on our hospitals.
I know in the dead of night when they killed our men in their barracks while they slept at 2 o'clock in the morning, the only speeches I heard from all corners coming into the White House the next day was against our Government.
Why didn't we stop bombing? Well, I thought the most effective answer I have ever seen was given by John Steinbeck when he answered that Russian friend of his who wrote him and asked him to get us to stop bombing. He said, "I want to stop bombing. I want to stop the war on both sides. But I don't want to talk about half a war. I want to talk about all the war."
So when you hear these voices in the days to come, the men who exercise the right to dissent, f hope you will ask yourselves the question: "I just wonder why we don't talk about all the war? I just wonder why they are so anxious to get us to stop bombing to protect our men and they never say a word about stopping them from infiltrating and killing our men? Why don't we talk about both sides sitting down?" Your President is ready.
I hope in the days to come that you will just stop, look, and listen as you hear these voices talking about what is wrong with your country, what is wrong with your Government, what is wrong with our men, what mistakes we have made. And ask them if they won't give a little equal time to point out just could it be that the other side has made some mistakes, too?
So let us leave clearly undisputed, without any question or doubt, these thoughts with you this evening: This Communist aggression will not succeed in South Vietnam any more than it succeeded anywhere else in the world. We shall not ever retreat. We shall not break our word to the people of South Vietnam.
We shall meet the challenge of these days that are ahead. They will be trying, they will require our best patience, but we will meet them with the conviction of Abraham Lincoln--that human freedom cannot be the province of one race alone. We shall meet it, too, with the courage and perseverance of George Rogers Clark--a very brave soldier of liberty.
Destiny brought these two giants through Vincennes. I think it is right that in a new time of trial that we should rededicate this ground to the cause of freedom which they led.
I know as we go back to the Capital and as we hear the discussions in the executive and legislative and judicial branches, I know that I will carry with me the strength that comes from looking into your eyes and seeing the determination in your faces, and believing that you feel as I do that every person in the United States in this critical hour has an obligation to support the men who are pledged to protect that flag wherever we carry it.
I believe that I speak for each of you when I say--not just to you the people of Vincennes, but to you the people of America, and to you, any people that may be listening tonight--we shall persist and we shall succeed.
Note: The President spoke at 6:30 p.m. in the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park at Vincennes, Ind. In his opening words he referred to Governor and Mrs. Roger D. Branigin, Mayor Earl C. Lawson of Vincennes, Senator Vance Hartke, Senator and Mrs. Birch Bayh, Representative Winfield K. Denton, and Representative William G. Bray, all of Indiana.
As enacted, the bill (H.R. 9599) establishing the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is Public Law 89-517 (80 Stat. 325).
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Vincennes, Indiana, Upon Signing Bill Establishing the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238297