Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Television Address to the American People.

October 07, 1964

My fellow Americans:

I have been in this office for almost a year--ever since that black and unforgettable day when America lost one of its greatest leaders--cut down in the fullness of his manhood and promise.

I have drawn much of my strength in this task from loyal and dedicated public servants. Most of all I have drawn strength from the warm support and understanding of the American people.

I will always be grateful to you for that.

I am now on a tour that will take me to every section of the country--to discuss with you the important issues of this campaign.

Few presidential elections in our entire history have presented--as this one does-a basic choice that involves the fundamental principles of American life.

We must decide whether we will move ahead by building on the solid structure created by forward-looking men of both parties over the past 30 years. Or whether we will begin to tear down this structure and move in a radically different, and--I believe--a deeply dangerous direction.

Most of you listening to me have felt the steady progress of American prosperity in your own life and the life of your family. Most of you, more than ever before, can look forward, with confidence, to a steadily improving life for your children.

Our prosperity is not just good luck. It rests on basic beliefs which a generation of leaders has carefully woven into the fabric of American life.

Our prosperity rests on the basic belief that the work of free individuals makes a nation-and it is the job of Government to help them do the best they can.

Our prosperity rests on the basic belief that our greatest resource is the health and skills and knowledge of our people. We have backed up this belief with public and private investment in education and training, and many other programs.

Our prosperity rests on the basic belief that older Americans--those who have fought our wars and built our Nation--are entitled to live out their lives in dignity. We have backed up this belief, for over 30 years, with the social security system--supported by every President of both parties.

Our prosperity rests on the basic belief that individual farmers and individual workers have a right to some protection against those forces which might deprive them of a decent income from the fruits of their labor. We have backed up this belief with a system of fair collective bargaining. We have backed it with agricultural programs which have kept the farmer from suffering the neglect and despair of only a few decades ago.

Today our whole approach to these problems is under attack.

We are now told that we the people acting through Government should withdraw from education, from public power, from agriculture, from urban renewal, and from a host of other vital programs.

We are now told that we should end social security as we know it, sell TVA, strip labor unions of many of their gains, and terminate all farm subsidies.

We are told that the object of leadership is not to pass laws but to repeal them.

And these views have been supported by a consistent record of opposition in the Congress to every progressive proposal of both parties--Democratic and Republican.

This is a radical departure from the historic and basic current of American thought and action. It would shatter the foundation on which our hopes for the future rest.

Too many have worked too hard and too long to let this happen now.

I propose to build on the basic beliefs of the past, to innovate where necessary, to work to bring us closer to a growing abundance in which all Americans can seek to share.

The choice is yours.

For 20 years our country has been the guardian at the gate of freedom. Our cause has been the cause of all mankind.

The strength of that leadership has come from the fact that every President, and the leaders of both parties, have followed the same basic principles of foreign policy. They have built our strength--so that today America is the greatest military power on earth.

They have moved with courage and firmness to the defense of freedom. President Truman met Communist aggression in Greece and Turkey. President Eisenhower met Communist aggression in the Formosa Strait. President Kennedy met Communist aggression in Cuba.

And, when our destroyers were attacked, we met Communist aggression in the waters around Viet-Nam.

But each of these Presidents has known that guns and rockets alone do not bring peace. Only men can bring peace.

They have used our great power with restraint-never once taking a reckless risk which might plunge us into large-scale war.

They have patiently tried to build bridges of understanding between people and nations. They have used all their efforts to settle disputes peacefully--working with the United Nations. They have never been afraid to sit down at the council table to work out agreements which might lessen the danger of war without increasing the danger to freedom.

But today these established policies are under the severest attack.

We are told we should consider using atomic weapons in Viet-Nam, even in Eastern Europe should there be an uprising.

We are told we should break off relations with Russia--and with it any hope of lasting agreement. We are urged to withdraw from the United Nations and stop our help to other countries.

We have heard the test ban treaty denounced. This is the treaty that has halted the radioactive poisoning of the air we breathe.

We are urged to threaten others with force if they don't do as we say.

We are told, in effect, to withdraw into an armed camp--with a few carefully selected friends--and try to intimidate our adversaries into submission.

This kind of attack contradicts the entire course of America in the postwar period.

If we should follow this course--if we should discard the tested policies of the last 20 years--the peace of the world will be in grave danger.

I will not discard them. I will continue them. I will match firmness to strength. And I will continue, with all the skill at my command, the patient search for lasting peace.

Here, again, the choice is yours.

I will discuss these issues in the next few weeks. They are among the most important questions ever presented to the American people.

It is you who will decide these questions. And you will decide them on November 3 in polling booths across the Nation. No person can afford to sit comfortably at home, confident that others will take care of the job. You must work, and register, and vote.

For this is a turning point in the history of our Nation. At stake is all that we have so carefully built, and all the hopes that rest upon it.

I will do all I can.

I need your help.

Then we can turn to our work. Together we will build the Great Society--a place where every one of us has the chance to seek happiness and fulfillment to the limit of his abilities.

And we will work together to make the world a place where free men can live in peace.

Note: The President's remarks, filmed and taped at the White House on October 6, were telecast nationwide by the Columbia Broadcasting Company at 9:30 p.m. on October 7.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Television Address to the American People. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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