Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks With the Vice President on the Youth Opportunities Campaign.

August 21, 1965

Mr. Vice President, Secretary Wirtz, members of the Council, my friends:

On behalf of the entire Nation, I want to thank the Vice President and his very special task force on Youth Opportunity. The material that you have presented to me is much more than a statistical report; it is a passport to the future for hundreds of thousands of young Americans.

In this all-out effort, Mr. Vice President, that you and members of your group have made in an attempt to help these young men and women, you enlisted the willing support of the various groups that you have just listed, and we all owe a very special thank you to them, particularly to the employers who were willing to open their arms and accept new people to their ranks.

Your goal was set deliberately high, at half a million in the public and private sector. We thought we might not reach it, but at least it was a daring adventure, and you always like to undertake assignments of that kind.

But what we did was really underestimate what the task force could do under your leadership, and what the Americans of this country would do for their fellow man.

I thought, as you were speaking, I guess if we had a man-of-the-year poll--that type of poll in the Government--that the Vice President would be voted the one person in the Government that is everybody's best friend. If the Secretary of State, Defense, or Labor or any of them had a peculiar and particular and delicate situation on their hands, I imagine they would want to talk to him--and they usually do--to get not only sympathy and understanding, but to get some energy and some effort and some constructive leadership. I know that is true of the Cabinet. It is particularly true with me. In a very wide range of fields and complex subjects, I find the Vice President specializes in practically all of them.

But what is quite appealing to me about him and what always has been, is that he could get so wrapped up in the individual boy--the Negro boy that is 16 years old, that lives down in Podunk, x State, who comes from a broken home, who sleeps in a room at night where rats are known to roam, and who doesn't really have much opportunity ahead for him. And the Vice President goes out with the help of Secretary Wirtz and others, and shows up here not with 500,000 jobs but 820,000--maybe 880. I heard him give the figure 880--they told me 820--and I shouldn't be surprised if he hasn't gotten 60,000 extra ones since my speech was written.

But I think that in this day and time when we have specialists who concentrate on really what we do wrong and point up the little errors that their country makes, or their leaders make, or their Government makes--always constructive, but they do, on occasions I observe, have some comments about some mistake that was made or how it could have been done better. I think this is a rather astonishing record of performance, and I just don't know how to tell the Vice President and Secretary Wirtz and the other members of the Council here how much I appreciate it or how much I want to tell industry, the businessmen, the power company, the transportation company, the paper factory, the folks that really had some compassion and then were willing to listen and were willing to extend themselves a little to do something about it.

I think the leaders in this Nation, in industry and in labor and in Government, should be thanked for their unstinting support. And that is what I want to emphasize this morning. If they had not listened to the recommendations it never would have gotten off the ground.

Now what we have done this summer is more than just a matter of finding summer jobs for youngsters. We have added a real new dimension to these youngsters' lives. So we are going to raise that goal that we set before. It has been exceeded a couple of times. I guess this is August 21--that is at least 6 days before my birthday--that is the way I keep things now. I am going to hold it off as long as I can.

I want to say this morning that we are not only going to continue this vital program, but I am going to charge the Vice President, on August 21, with finding a million jobs before the summer ends. Now if he has 880,000, as he said, that is just 120,000. If he has 820,000, that is 180,000. But that is a sizable undertaking and I am going to ask him to shoot at that, and I am going to ask the business people of this country to come in kind of like the United Fund drive. We are just close to going over the top and let's get a million jobs for these young people before the school term starts.

I have another assignment I want to give him. At the start of the school term last fall there were 3,100,000 young people who left school without a high school diploma. Their unemployment rate was almost 17 percent. It was four times the rate of the entire balance of the labor force. Now, during the coming school year, we face the prospect again of another three-quarters of a million youngsters dropping out. Many of them will never even begin the new term. So the decision for many people to remain in school must be given the highest priority.

Therefore, I am going to ask the Vice President this morning to call some people together in Government, and the leaders out in the country, to take immediate steps to try to mobilize nationwide support behind a back-to-school drive, and let's get everybody in school in September that we can.

I know he will be calling on each of you in this room a little later, but I want to call on you now to try to do your bit, put in your nickel's worth and help the Vice President get this campaign underway, because it is a very laudable goal.

I ask employers, the unions, the civic, the trade, the religious organizations, the State and local governments, to exert every influence that they can command to bring these young people the facts about how important it is to stay in school. Because once the importance of education is impressed upon them, this administration will do everything in its power to see that they get it.

One of the real bright spots in the world today--and it is bright in most of the continents--but the bright spot in our continent, in our area, is the lack of jealousy and envy and hate and fear that exists between business and labor, and employer and employee; associations and organizations that used to put out these mimeographed handouts every other day predicting that the country was going to pot, are now spending that great reservoir of energy and talent on finding jobs for young people, helping them get back to school, helping us develop better health programs and things of that nature, and providing more jobs, making extra capital investments.

I am just so proud that our gross national product is growing, that the depth of our hatreds are being minimized, and that there is a minimum of actual hate between our business and labor groups existing. And this is a good demonstration of it.

We have a rather low unemployment figure-the lowest unemployment rate in 8 years. If any of you in here have any jobs to pass out, we welcome them, and we will try to make it the lowest in 10 years if you will help us a little bit.

Thank you very much.

THE VICE PRESIDENT'S REMARKS I am pleased to report to you, Mr. President, that your Youth Opportunities Campaign, launched earlier this year, produced over 880,000 work and training opportunities for young Americans between the ages of 16 and 21 in less than 3 months from May 23, when you announced the Youth Opportunities Campaign.

The business community, the labor movement, service and religious organizations, Federal, State, and local governments rallied to your call to produce this success.

The impact of the Youth Employment Opportunity Campaign is illustrated clearly in the Department of Labor's unemployment figures for July. Unemployment among the 16- through 21-year-old group dropped to 12.3 from 18.5 percent in June. At the same time, employment for this group rose by 800,000.

The Youth Opportunity Campaign contributed to the improvement of the national employment figures for July. Unemployment in June stood at 4.7 but fell to 4.5 percent in July--the lowest level since October 1957.

As you recall, Mr. President, your message was direct and to the point. Unless Federal, State, and local governments, business and civic and religious leadership collaborated in the Youth Opportunity Campaign, more than 2 million 16- through 21-year-olds, as you reminded us, would be unable to find work this summer.

The work in the training opportunities that were produced not only gave the Nation's youth money to continue in school or to contribute to the family budget, but also to serve as gateways to future careers. These job opportunities produced the self-confidence and self-respect which is the vital byproduct of steady employment.

The Youth Opportunity Campaign task force mounted a massive cross-country push that produced jobs at the rate of 10,000 daily. Within the Federal Government over 26,000 young men and women were placed in jobs, another 50,000 were enrolled in the Neighborhood Youth Corps. But in the large majority of the jobs, the large majority came from private industry--labor, service and religious organizations, State and local governments. Almost 300,000 jobs were reported in 7,000 letters from American businessmen to the Secretary of Commerce. Hundreds of thousands of additional job openings were offered by over 80,000 employers who communicated with the State employment service offices.

Mr. President, we are indebted to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and the National City Managers Association that worked closely with the Cabinet task force in organizing support for the program through their local communities.

The Youth Opportunity Campaign depended on employers offering jobs, but it also needed the help of the communications industry, trade associations, and national organizations. Radio and television stations across the country were asked for and readily contributed hundreds of hours of public service time to bring the campaign and the need for it across to the American public.

Through regular reporting and editorial comment, newspapers supported the campaign, offering free of charge the want ad column to young people who wanted a job.

Five thousand AM and FM radio stations and 700 television stations received the original campaign kit as the campaign progressed and they were blanketed with up-to-date fact sheets and releases. Four hundred trade and civic organizations also cooperated.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Federation of Independent Businessmen, the National Council of Churches, and many others endorsed the program and your message, Mr. President. Still many others included the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Urban League, the AFL-CIO, Lions International, Big Brothers of America, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Young Presidents' Organization-all these people helped do the job.

I am happy to report to you, Mr. President, that despite the fact there was still much more to do, through the energetic work of your Cabinet officers who worked day and night to launch this effort we can give you at least some reasonably reassuring report of progress in the matter of youth employment opportunities.

Mr. President, I am sure that our people would like to hear from you, and it is my privilege to present the President of the United States.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz.

On the same day the White House made public a summary of a task force report on the President's Youth Opportunities Campaign (1 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs. 129).

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

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