Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President: Labor Day, 1967.

September 02, 1967

IN 1840, Andrew Johnson said, "I do not forget that I am a mechanic. I am proud to own it .... The Apostle Paul was a tentmaker; Socrates was a sculptor; Archimedes was a mechanic."

And he noted that Roger Sherman, who helped to write the American Constitution, was a cobbler of shoes.

The consistent thread through our national life is that men rise from their labors to lead their fellow men.

Very wisely, since 1894, we have observed Labor Day as a national celebration: to honor the working men and women of the country--and to remember that from our earliest days, many of our greatest leaders have been laboring men.

Today, it is good to pause and reflect about the course we are taking; about what it means to live and work in this rich Nation-and about where we are going from this critical moment in our century.

Too often, I believe, we see events only dimly; we concern ourselves with the passing affairs of the present--and miss the meaning of the quiet, deep-running currents in our time.

In the past few years, for example, we have lived through a time of historic economic growth and social progress, a period almost without precedent in our Nation. Yet most of us have accepted this swift and profound change as though it were routine. As we set our goals and prepare for the gains of the future, we should look at this history of the recent past. Consider these facts:

--Ten years ago, only 24 percent of American families had incomes above $7,000 a year.

--Today 54 percent--more than half of all American families--have incomes above $7,000. In 10 short years we have doubled the number of families who earn $600 a month.

--In real terms, the median family income in our Nation reached $7,436 in 1966, contrasted to $6, 162 in 1960, an increase of 21 percent in constant dollars.

These figures are a tribute to the energy and determination of our people--and to the remarkable productivity of labor and business in America.

In 1959, 22 percent of our people lived in poverty. Last year, that percentage had decreased to 15 percent.

This one fact strengthens my belief that the course we are taking in America is a good one--that our efforts to extend opportunity to all our citizens are succeeding.

I believe every American family should know this Labor Day that life is steadily improving in America.

We have moved forward--but not nearly far enough.

We have never been comforted by mere assurances of prosperous times for we know that private wealth is only a partial measure of our progress as a nation.

In America, our eyes are always on the road ahead--on the unsolved problems of the Nation, the great unfinished business of democracy, and on our most important goal--peace in all the world, and justice for all men.

Today, because our problems are great, because unfinished business crowds the national and the international agenda, our wealth imposes a solemn responsibility on every citizen.

Together, we who own so much must work more actively for equal opportunity-because we have learned that a victory for the poorest among us is a victory for everyone among us.

Together we must rebuild our cities, purify the air and water, heal the sick, care for the helpless and the elderly, better educate every young American.

Together, we must build a nation in which respect for law is the creed of every citizen. We must work so that justice is not only a legal term but a condition of life in every neighborhood--and that peace with justice is the ruling condition throughout the world.

On this Labor Day, let us celebrate the distance we have come--toward security for every family, toward the comforts which hard work and growing wealth can bring. Let us recognize and salute the many good leaders of labor as well as those who follow them.

And let us remember that these achievements are not a record to rest upon--but a foundation to build upon.

That is our task for tomorrow.

Note: See also Item 354.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President: Labor Day, 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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