The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen:
[1.] I want to first of all congratulate the press on their new record today. You have just completed a new record of orbits between Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch. I want to congratulate you on your successful reentry.
We have had a very happy and busy birthday weekend. I am very grateful for all the thoughtful expressions which have reached us from so many families across the land and from leaders in other parts of the world.
From the way it has begun I anticipate that this 57th year may be one of the best years, and that is a very happy thought for me. The weekend has been made especially happy by the presence here of so many good and old and trusted, cherished friends.
I am especially happy to have one of my very favorite couples--Mr. and Mrs. Larry O'Brien. 1 Many of you have been writing about Larry's departure from the White House and I can confirm that this afternoon. But I did want him to spend a weekend here in Texas before he departed. I also want to say a word or so about Larry's future in a few moments.
1Lawrence F. O'Brien, Special Assistant to the President.
The Postmaster General and his lovely wife came down to check on the White House ZIP code. Secretary Rusk and Mrs. Rusk wanted to check up on our relations between the United States and Texas. And I think they have found them generally good the last 24 hours.
Ambassador Goldberg, of course, was eager to come back because he is just naturally more at home in cowboy country.
Seriously though, I do have a statement that I want to make to you before we go back to Washington this afternoon, and that is this:
THE GEMINI 5 ACHIEVEMENT [2.] This is a moment of very great achievement not only for Astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad but for everyone whose hopes have ridden with Gemini 5. 2
2 See Item 462.
I am so happy that Mr. Webb and Mr. Seamans,3 who had so much to do with directing this very successful venture, are here to share with us the pride we all feel today. And I deeply regret that our late, beloved President Kennedy, under whose leadership all of this work was so carefully planned and thought out, can't be here to enjoy the fruits and success of his planning and his forethought.
3James E. Webb, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and R. C. Searoans, Jr., Associate Administrator.
The successful completion of the 8-day, 3 million-mile flight of the Gemini 5 proves, I think, not only man's capacity for endurance in space but it proves that man is in space to stay.
We can be, and we are, enormously proud of every member of our space team--that means all the scientists and the technicians and the controllers and the trackers. To everyone who contributed in any way, as President of this country, I want, this afternoon, to extend the thanks of the entire Nation for a job well done. To Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad, and to their wonderful families, I want to simply repeat again: We are all very deeply proud of you.
The difficulties and disappointments of this flight have served to increase our appreciation and our respect and our trust for the skill and the ability of all the men involved. We can face the challenges and the opportunities with far greater confidence and certainty in the future, and I think this is an unmistakable gain for all of us.4
4On August 31, 1965, the White House announced that the President had approved the following policy on the promotion and decoration of astronauts:
1. Each military astronaut will receive a onegrade promotion as a direct result of the first successful space flight, but not beyond the grade of colonel in the Air Force and Marine Corps or captain in the Navy. Promotions to general officer rank will be accomplished through usual military selection board process.
2. Each Gemini astronaut will be awarded the NASA Medal for Exceptional Service (or Cluster) after completion of a successful space flight. The NASA Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest award which can be given by that agency, will be awarded for exceptional accomplishments in the Gemini program including, but not limited to, accomplishments in actual flight.
3. Military decorations associated with space flights, such as awards for exceptional heroism or other distinguished service, will be determined on an individual basis consistent with general policy governing the award of traditional military decorations.
Only 7 years ago we were neither first nor second in space--we just weren't in space at all. And as we meet here this afternoon, the capacity of this country for leadership in this realm is no longer in valid question or dispute anyplace in the world. Openly, proudly, we are proceeding on our course, willing always to share our knowledge and our gains with all of mankind. So, I would repeat and I would renew again this afternoon America's invitation to all nations to join together to make this adventure a joint adventure.
This globe seems much smaller today than it has ever seemed before.
Somehow the problems which yesterday seemed large and ominous and insoluble today appear much less foreboding. As man increases his knowledge of the heavens, why should he fear the unknown on earth? As man draws nearer to the stars, why should he not also draw nearer to his neighbor?
As we push ever more deeply into the universe-probing its secrets, discovering its way--we must also constantly try to learn to cooperate across the frontiers that really divide earth's surface.
No national sovereignty rules in outer space. Those who venture there go as envoys of the entire human race. Their quest, therefore, must be for all mankind. And what they find should belong to all mankind. And that is the basis of the program of which our proud astronauts Cooper and Conrad are a part today.
For, as the great Woodrow Wilson said of this country half a century ago, "We ask nothing for ourselves that we do not also ask for all of humanity."
And we ask peace. Peace--and the real opportunity to help our neighbors, to improve the quality of all of our lives, to enlarge the meaning of liberty for all, and to secure for all the rights and dignities intended for man by his Creator.
This flight of Gemini 5 was a journey of peace by men of peace. Its successful conclusion is a noble moment for all mankind, and it is a very fitting opportunity for us today to renew our pledge to continue our search for a world in which peace reigns and in which justice prevails.
To demonstrate the earnestness of that pledge, and to express our commitment to the peaceful uses of space exploration, I intend to ask as many of our astronauts as possible--when Mr. Webb thinks their schedule and program will permit--to visit the various capitals of the world. Some, I hope, will be able to journey abroad very Soon.
Secretary Rusk and Director Webb and I spent a good part of last evening going over the anticipated problems that will arise and the schedules that will have to be worked out. But Gemini is really just the beginning. We resolve to have many more such journeys--in space and on earth--until man at last is at peace with himself.
THE END OF THE SHIPPING STRIKE [3.] I am glad, also, to announce to you today that the eight east coast and gulf shipping companies and three licensed officer unions have reached agreement. So the normal operation of the merchant marine will now be resumed again.
The losses from the 75-day tie-up of a hundred ships can never be recovered. It took too long to settle these cases. We all know that.
But this was very constructive bargaining. More was done during this period than simply putting new patches on the leaky hull of maritime labor relations.
A firm basis has already been laid in these agreements to resolve manning disputes resulting from automation, without interruption of future operations.
New principles of parity have been built into the pattern of these three contracts.
The economic terms are built around specific recognition of established stabilization policies.
Provision has been made for taking a clear look at the questions which really must be faced if the pension plans in this industry are to be found.
These settlements are steps toward a new and a responsible maritime policy for the United States of America. They will give the rule of good sense a much better chance to work in the future. No man has done more to bring about this important settlement-the one that was reached in the wee hours of this morning--than the very able and distinguished Secretary of Labor, Willard Wirtz. He has worked patiently, he has worked tirelessly, he has worked reasonably around the clock. And all of America owes him an enormous vote of thanks.
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC [4.] The Secretary of State and I spent yesterday afternoon and last evening and this morning reviewing various matters of interest around the world.
Secretary Rusk reported that in the Dominican Republic the OAS committee is continuing its very patient and determined work for peace.
It is clear now that this work corresponds to the real hopes of the Dominican people and to the hopes of the whole Western Hemisphere. It is also clear that the OAS committee is right in its belief that the time for agreement is now.
We have followed the negotiations closely and we will support the changes which the OAS committee has proposed in its Act of Reconciliation.5 We believe that these changes strengthen the document by making clearer provisions for the procedure of disarmament, and by reinforcing the authority of what will be a fully sovereign provisional government.
5On August 31, 1965, the Act of Dominican Reconciliation, proposed by the ad hoc committee of the Organization of American States, was signed at Santo Domingo (OAS doc. 281). A summary of the terms is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 53, P. 478).
I am confident that the Dominican people and the members of the OAS are one in their belief that any who continue to oppose the OAS solution are serving no true interest of their country or peace in the world. And it is greatly to the credit of the Organization of the American States that all members of its committee and all officers of the Inter-American Peace Force are doing their dead level best to bring all sides to agreement on the OAS proposal in its present form.
THE KASHMIR ISSUE [5.] The Secretary and I also discussed the tense and difficult situation in Kashmir. We are naturally greatly concerned over any flare-up involving India and Pakistan. Our long-standing and our very consistent stance has always been that the Kashmir issue must, and should be, solved by peaceful means. The U.N. is already involved, and we hope that the constructive efforts of the Secretary General may be successful there.
I might add that we are also always acutely interested in the course of affairs in the subcontinent in general. This is an area to which the United States has provided truly massive assistance and to whose people the United States is deeply attached.
THE YEMEN AGREEMENT [6.] In the Middle East, we are happy to see the statesmanlike agreement between King Faisal and President Nasser, 6 which seems to offer great promise of a peaceful settlement in Yemen. This crisis has long been a very disruptive element in the relations between our two friends. We share their confidence that this long-festering issue is on the road to settlement by negotiation rather than force, and that is most encouraging.
6King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of the United Arab Republic.
THE NEGOTIATIONS IN GENEVA [7.] In Geneva today, our negotiators are continuing their efforts to make progress toward a sound international agreement to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The cause of peace has no more urgent task.
We regret very much that some are still unwilling to join in serious negotiations on the false grounds that our proposals would permit nuclear proliferation in Europe.
In the same way, we regret that these proposals have been misunderstood by others as if they interfered with the legitimate defensive interests of any of the NATO allies. They do nothing of the sort, and I am glad to say that we have had full consultation and understanding with such outstanding leaders as Chancellor Erhard 7 on this point.
7 Ludwig Erhard, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
APPOINTMENT OF AMBASSADOR TO POLAND [8.] Early in 1964, speaking at VMI, I pledged my administration to a policy of building bridges across the gulf which has divided us for more than two decades from the people of Eastern Europe.
I said then "They will be," I said, "bridge" of increased trade, of ideas, of visitors, and of humanitarian aid."
Our hopes for the people of these countries are identical to their own aspirations for their own future. We want to strengthen their ability to shape their own society. And we seek to bring every European nation closer to its neighbors in the ties of peace.
And so today I am very pleased to announce one of the most important steps that this Nation has yet taken to implement that policy: I am asking a member of my Cabinet, a vigorous, intelligent, highly trained, and deeply committed public servant--Postmaster General John Gronouski--to serve as United States Ambassador to Poland.
I have discussed this assignment at great length with Secretary Rusk and other top key officials in the Department of State. And we believe that Mr. Gronouski's appointment reaffirms our strong desire for increased trust and friendly cooperation between Poland and the United States.
Mr. Gronouski is going to Warsaw to do everything in his power to further increase understanding and goodwill between Poland and our country. He is a grand and a very warm human being who enjoys people. His background and his experience uniquely qualify him to translate American ideals to Poland and Polish ideals to America.
I have asked Mr. Gronouski to say to the peoples and to the leaders of Poland that a deep and historic bond exists between Poland and the United States. Let, therefore, trust grow between us. Let us strengthen that bond, and let us work together for the peace and the liberty that we all seek for all peoples everywhere.
John Gronouski is the man, I think, that can carry that message.
America is in his blood, but so is Poland.
He was born the grandson of a Polish immigrant. He is a member of the Polish Institute of the Arts and Sciences of Chicago, a director of the Pulaski Foundation, the honorary chairman of the Committee for an Endowed Chair in Polish Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1963 he became Postmaster General by selection of President Kennedy. He was the first American of Polish descent to ever serve in the Cabinet. And it was my great pleasure to reappoint him to the Postmaster Generalship last February.
But John Gronouski is more. He is one of the very few men with a doctor of philosophy degree ever to sit in the Cabinet. And as an expert on international economics and on government finance, he established a most outstanding record as commissioner of taxation for one of the great, progressive States in the Union--Wisconsin. He is a talented administrator who has opened up new paths of progress for the postal service of the United States.
Just as another very extraordinary American-who I am delighted to see with us today--Ambassador Arthur Goldberg, left the Supreme Court to accept a very extraordinary and highly significant diplomatic assignment, John Gronouski is now leaving the Cabinet with a distinguished record and high honor to serve his President and his country.
And he is, by the way, enhancing a noble and unique tradition. For the man who really set up our postal service, our first Postmaster General, also went on to later serve his country as Ambassador. His name was Benjamin Franklin.
APPOINTMENT OF POSTMASTER GENERAL [9.] Now to succeed John Gronouski as Postmaster General, I have chosen a man widely recognized as a very talented and ardent practitioner of government, a very skilled manager and organizer whose endless capacity for work and clear vision of the greater public good have earned him immense respect and affection among all who know him. He has been Special Assistant to the President for Congressional Relations; his name is Lawrence F. O'Brien.
Larry O'Brien's credentials are as impressive as the job of Postmaster General is demanding. His appointment recognizes merit and recognizes demonstrated ability in government. He is a veteran of 3 years in the Army. He was for 17 years a businessman in Massachusetts. In 1960 he served as national director of organization in the late beloved John F. Kennedy's campaign for the Democratic nomination for President, and later as national director of organization for the Kennedy-Johnson campaign.
He came to the White House in 1961 as President Kennedy's Chief Assistant for Congressional Relations. He became the key legislative architect of the New Frontier. After the tragedy of November 22, 1963, he stayed on--at the President's request--to help enact legislation that meant so much to President Kennedy and to the Kennedy-Johnson administration.
I know of no single individual who has contributed more to the enactment of legislation that touches the lives of more Americans than Larry O'Brien.
From voting rights to medical care, from the tax cut to the war on poverty, from the Peace Corps to education, Larry O'Brien has expressed his compassion for people in the enactment of major legislation.
He enjoys the high regard of Congress and the executive branch of Government. He will be warmly welcomed into the Cabinet by his new colleagues. I have conferred with the leadership of the Congress and they expressed their great pleasure also. We all know him to be a man concerned not only with the process of government but with the philosophy of government.
Wise counselor, gifted strategist, efficient manager, warm humanitarian, he is a man who-as the respected Business Week magazine pointed out last April--has earned the title of "the 11th Cabinet member."
So I am very proud this afternoon to make him a member of the Cabinet in fact as well as in the magazine and in reputation. He will continue to be a very strong right arm to the President. Don't be surprised if you see him on the Hill occasionally.
But let me caution you, Larry--just because Ben Franklin went to Paris and John Gronouski is going to Warsaw, that doesn't mean that you are ever going to Dublin.
I'll be glad to take any questions you may care to ask, and after the television time is over Secretary Rusk and Ambassador Goldberg and Administrator Webb will be glad, for a few minutes before you leave, to give you any material on background that you would like to have.
QUESTIONS STEEL MEDITATION EFFORTS [10.] Q. Mr. President, what do you hear from the steel strike?
THE PRESIDENT. We had a very lengthy report this morning. And the special mediators I asked to go up yesterday were meeting again, first, with the steel management, and later with the steel union. They have really made no progress since they went there yesterday. They have been going into the facts of the situation and we have carefully evaluated the factual report they have brought us. We are asking them to get back in touch with us after lunch this afternoon and we will give further attention to it during the day and the evening.
VIET-NAM [11.] Q. Mr. President, the Russians are reported to be saying that North Viet-Nam might be willing to start negotiations if there is another cessation of U.S. bombing. Do you credit these reports and, if so, are there any plans for another temporary halt on the bombing?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know where the reports are. I have not seen them, and we hear a lot of reports but so far as I am aware there is nothing official about them, and I expect some newspaperman is speculating.
Q. Mr. President, there have been a lot of published reports this week about new initiatives, perhaps on the fringe of Hanoi. Are we measurably any closer to peace talks? Can you discuss these reports and give us some background on it?
THE PRESIDENT. I would say that reports come and go but there is not anything that I can add to what I have said in my last press conference. The word "peace" is a great word in our vocabulary. We are searching for it. We are doing everything we can to prevail on all parties concerned to leave the battlefield and go to the conference table. But I have nothing official, or nothing reliable, that would indicate that any of the parties of interest are ready to do that at this time.
EFFECT OF A STEEL STRIKE [12.] Q. Mr. President, what would the steel strike do to the national economy? 8
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it would be very damaging. It would depend on how long it went on, to say the least. It is something we don't want to happen. I have appealed to both management and labor to let collective bargaining work, and I hope that it will be successful. We are going to do everything we can to ask both parties to be responsible, and to act in the national interest, and I hope and believe they will.
8 See Item 483.
SCHEDULE FOR A FLIGHT TO THE MOON [13.] Q. Mr. President, in light of the success of the Gemini 5 flight, where do we stand in our schedule to get a man on the moon ? Can we do it in this decade, sir ?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think that our schedule is going along very well. That's been our hope. Director Webb can go into further details with you in the backgrounder following this conference, but I don't want to be overoptimistic. A lot of hard work is ahead of us. It is going to be very costly in both time and resources. But I know of no project our Government has ever undertaken that has been better managed, that received more cooperation from the 20 thousand-odd business companies in this country, and all the workers belonging to labor, and the fine management team of Webb, Dryden,9 and Seamans. And I think that we will continue to advance and make progress and meet our goals.
9 Hugh L. Dryden, Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
STEEL MEDIATION EFFORTS [14.] Q. Mr. President, is there anything further you can do to put off the steel strike?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'm going to do everything I can to avoid it. We have to take one step at a time and see what progress is made, but I have no doubt but what management wants to avoid a strike if it can. I know that the workers want to avoid the costly price that the strike would bring. And we are trying to work it out in the American way, and I hope we'll be able to. If not, we'll have to look to the national interest and see what it requires and then carry it out.
ALLEVIATION OF RACIAL TENSIONS [15.] Q. Mr. President, the other day, in the wake of what happened in Los Angeles,10 you warned against further violence and lawlessness in the city streets, and afterward the Republican leader of the House11 suggested that by your remarks you might tend to incite the very thing that you are trying to prevent. Do you have any comment on this?
THE PRESIDENT. I would certainly hope not. I don't want to incite anything. I think we recognize that we have very serious problems in this area. And I think the Congress has acted very forthrightly and very effectively-at least most of the Congress--to find the answer to this problem.
10 See Items 426, 453.
11 Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, minority leader of the House of Representatives.
The higher education bill passed with only 22 votes against it last week. The poverty bill passed with an overwhelming vote. Both of those measures will be helpful to us. The elementary education bill passed by a rather substantial vote.
I think this Congress has done a great deal in the way of voters' rights. And what I said at the White House, I would remind you all, is something that I think every American recognizes is a fact. We have a good many of these problems that we need to face up to, and I don't think any Congress has ever faced up to them better than this Congress.
We have not concluded our work, but we are rapidly approaching the end. And if we can get the legislation we have asked, we can do our planning, we can make some mass assaults on these conditions, where 35 or 40 percent of the young people in a given area are unemployed, and can get them back to work, or get them back to school, or get them back in better housing and better living conditions.
I think that we will find an answer to these problems, and that is what I am trying to get the country to do. Housing, poverty, education, medical care, home rule--all of these are measures that I would hope the Congress would carefully consider and act upon, and they have done that in most fields. Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's fifty-first news conference was held at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Tex., at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 29, 1965.
Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240786