The President's News Conference at the New York World's Fair
THE PRESIDENT. My fellow travelers, I am happy to take a brief time out before our lunch to give you a few items that I thought would be helpful to you over the weekend, so I will make a few announcements.
[1.] first, the important indicators show that our economic expansion continues to be strong and healthy. That is confirmed by the Advisory Committee meeting yesterday in Hot Springs,1 but we have some figures that further support it that should be of interest.
1 Spring meeting of the Business Council in Hot Springs, Va.
New car sales in April, on which we just have the figures, were running at an annual rate of 8 million automobiles. That compares to 7.6 in March, up at a rate of 400,000. Retail sales for the week ended May 2d were $5.1 billion, and that is over 4 percent higher than the week before, and it is 6 percent higher than the same week last year, so retail sales are up 6 percent over last year.
Employment continues to rise. After seasonal corrections, employment went up by 750,000 jobs in April. This is a continuation of a very steady rise which has added more than 1.4 million jobs since December. That is 1,400,000 since December, the last 5 months, and 1.8 million in the past year.
In the midst of this steady expansion and rise of employment, the wholesale price index in the first week of May just closed actually declined to 100.1 percent of the 1957-59 average. Compare that with what is happening in other countries, as I gave you the other day2--France, Italy, and Germany-and the increases there, and you will see how fortunate we have been and how important it is that all segments of our economy, labor and business, employer and employee, and most of all Government--that they are friends instead of irritating adversaries.
2 See Item 316 .
All Americans benefit from the fact that we are holding the price line now while we are moving ahead to create new jobs, and we are reaching new heights of prosperity in America.
[2.] We have already begun on our program to help young men rejected by the draft for mental and educational reasons. If we can help them soon enough to find jobs, or training, or to go back to school, we can keep them from being condemned to a life of poverty. During these last 2 days I have seen many men who were rejected. If you will remember, those of you who were with me at the North Carolina farm family, the oldest boy had been rejected not because of his physical deficiencies but because of his lack of education. We can salvage them for fruitful, productive lives in American society if we can move fast enough.
In the first 30 days of this program, 9,500 young men were referred to public employment offices in 36 States after failing Selective Service tests. This report has just come in for the first 30 days. Two-thirds of these 9,500 were out of school and unemployed. We have already given 7,000 of the young men counseling interviews, and we have referred 1,255 to employers and more than a third of them have already found jobs.
Many of the rejectees have been enrolled in a training course and we have gotten 58 of them to go back to school. If we can catch the unskilled and undereducated and give them help at this early stage of their lives, we can go forward toward conquering poverty.
Therefore, I intend to send a personal message from the President of the United States with each of the rejection notices that is sent out by Selective Service, urging every rejectee to seek help immediately at his local employment office. I think the success we have had with the 9,500 in the last 30 days justifies that action.
I am ordering a task force on manpower conservation to immediately establish an operations planning group, chaired by the Department of Labor, to coordinate and to develop a vigorous and comprehensive effort to mobilize the full combined resources of Federal, State, and local governments along with the resources of all private groups to help these young men find a place in our national life.
[3.] So that our natural resources might be available to help those who really need help, I have required quarterly reports, as I have told you on other occasions, from all the Government agencies, a quarterly report on economies in operation and personnel. Some of these may be too small to interest you, but they set a good example, and I am going to continue to emphasize them even if you can't publicize them.
I received the first of these quarterly reports on April 20th. I am pleased with the reductions that have been made. The big savings, like the more than $2 billion cut in Defense spending, can attract a headline, but these smaller savings throughout the Government are the real proof that economy's spirit is here and it is here to stay. I want to give you a few of the dozens of reductions which have been made recently that came in to me on these reports, and that I jotted down coming up here.
The Federal Aviation Agency is consolidating eight aircraft maintenance bases into four. This will produce increased operating efficiency as well as operating savings estimated at $1 million.
The Small Business Administration has eliminated the position of Deputy Regional Director and, as a result, 11 positions have already been abolished.
The Post Office Department has saved $250,000 by measuring mail volume less frequently. They don't have as many statistics as often, but they are spending a quarter of a million less.
The Internal Revenue Service, by realigning functions, improving clerical specialization, has saved 42 jobs for me at a savings of $218,000.
The Rural Electrification Administration abolished its Electric farming Branch because its services could be obtained from other sources, and thereby saved nine jobs.
The Weather Bureau is using hydrogen instead of helium for weather balloons at some of its field stations, and it is saving $14,000 in that effort.
[4.] There is a possibility of another economy coming up. It may or may not develop. This one will require personal action by the President. I have sent to the Congress a budget amendment requesting an appropriation of $800,000 to provide staff assistance to a newly elected President between election and inauguration, and to an outgoing President for 6 months after election. This is required by the Presidential Transition Act that was passed in 1963.
I am informed by the Budget Director that my reelection would save this $800,000. While I have no announcement to make at this time, I think all of you know how strongly I feel about economy.
[5.] I am proclaiming World Trade Week. It seems appropriate to declare this week at a time when the important Kennedy Round is going on in Geneva.
In that same spirit, we are announcing today that the United States and Rumania have agreed to open discussions in Washington on May 19th on a number of topics, with emphasis on trade which affects our relations. The American delegation will be headed by Under Secretary Harriman,3 and the Rumanian delegation by Vice Premier Gaston-Marin. These conversations are another example of our effort to increase peaceful contact with the people of Eastern Europe as a pursuit of a lasting peace.
3 Under Secretary of State W. Averell Harriman.
[6.] I have received from the Secretary of State a very important report on the East-West Center in Hawaii, from the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs. I have reviewed the report, which was prepared under the direction of Mr. Roy E. Larsen,4 and I am sending a letter to the Secretary of State today to express my own pleasure at the Commission's conclusion that the East-West Center has made remarkable progress since it was established in 1960 by legislation that I authored when I was a Member of the Senate.
4 Vice Chairman of the Commission. The Commission's report (45 pp., processed) was made available by the State Department.
I am authorizing Secretary Rusk to adopt a major recommendation of the Commission's report and to establish an Advisory Board of outstanding citizens to advise the Secretary of State in the advancement of the work of the East-West Center. The Chairman of that Board will be the Governor of Hawaii, Governor Burns, John Burns.
[7.] I have regretfully accepted the resignation of Mr. J. M. Chambers as Deputy Director of the Office of Emergency Planning. He has, as you know, had a great record in the Marines during the war, and with the Senate Armed Services Committee for a number of years. He has served his country well in a most difficult and a most critical assignment.
I am sending to the Senate the nomination of Mr. Frederick W. Ford, of West Virginia, for reappointment to another 7-year term as a member of the Federal Communications Commission. He was appointed by President Eisenhower and his term expired in July.
I intend to appoint Mr. Otto Eckstein of Lexington, Mass., with whom I have conferred, as a member of the President's Council on Economic Advisers. Mr. Eckstein will replace Mr. John Lewis, who I intend to send to an important overseas post. Mr. Eckstein is Professor of Economics at Harvard University.
If you need any background on these folks, George 5 can arrange it when you get back this evening.
5 George E. Reedy, Press Secretary to the President.
[8.] I have just authorized the sending of this wire to the King of Laos, on Laos Constitution Day, and I say I extend my personal felicitations, and I take this opportunity to express my agreement with His Majesty's most recent wise actions and sage counsel.
"While, as I have already said publicly, we can understand the frustrations that many good Laotians must feel over the situation in which their country has found itself these past years, we nonetheless could not but deplore any action which would destroy the international fabric provided to assure the independence of your country.
"As you know, the United States Government continues to adhere as firmly as ever to the Geneva agreements and to support the Government of National Union under Prince Souvanna Phouma. We recognize only too well that the full implementation of these agreements as well as the effectiveness of the government have been seriously hampered by the violations and intransigence of others, but we are gratified to know that you and the Prime Minister will persevere in this course with renewed determination.
"I can assure Your Majesty that the United States Government will continue to support you in your efforts to bring unity, bring peace, and bring prosperity to your kingdom and to preserve its independence and neutrality."
Thank you, and I will be glad to have any questions.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, you spoke this morning about hitting the anvil again and again and again on the poverty program. Can we look forward to some more traveling?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes. We are going to have a good deal of traveling this year. We believe in meeting the people. We believe in reporting to the people. We believe in giving the people a chance to see us and to hear us, and to agree with us and to disagree with us, to criticize us and to approve us. This is a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We will be out seeing them, particularly when we need a little encouragement, to get away from the sidewalks of Washington.
We have been in 13 States in the last 13 days. We may not cover that many States in the next 13 days, but we are not going into seclusion.
Q. Mr. President, can you give us your reaction to the big crowds that turned out to see you?
THE PRESIDENT. Would you repeat your question?
Q. Can you give us your reaction to the big crowds that turned out to see you in Atlanta and the other places, and whether you see any political implication in the warm reception you got through the South?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think the people of that section are great Americans. I think, as I said in that speech,6 they have sent hundreds of thousands of the flower of their manhood to war to protect this country. They have a great respect for the office of the Presidency. They feel that they honor and pay tribute to that office when the President visits them. They reciprocate his attention.
6 see Item 330.
Georgia has always been one of the great Democratic States. It provided the largest Democratic majority of any State in the Union on occasions, and the highest percentage of any State that went for President Kennedy, I believe, with the exception of Rhode Island.
I must say that when some of the men told me that they had never seen crowds like that before, I just had to say that I have been in political life for 32 years, and I haven't seen them either. But I think it is a good omen. I don't think I ever saw as many people as I saw at Gainesville yesterday.
Senator Talmadge told me he has never seen that many in his life. The Congressman from the district told me the same thing. Most of the officials felt that way. I don't know how many were there, but it shows a great interest in their Government, and it is a healthy thing. I hope that all the people of both parties, whatever their affiliations may be, will come out this year and maintain an interest in the governmental processes.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any feeling about whether your trip to the South might have some impact on the civil rights bill?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I hope that my trip through the Appalachian States made my views a little better known to the people of those States, if not better accepted in some instances. I think it is important that we have leadership in the Presidency. I have tried to, in my own humble way, exercise it as best I could.
I told the people in Atlanta yesterday how I felt about our country, and I told the people of New York today, and I told them both the same thing, just as I told business that I thought it was important that we watch inflation and I told the labor union people the same thing, just as I have told the railroads and told the Brotherhoods.
We must provide that leadership if we expect the people to follow it. They can't follow a vacuum. I am going to communicate with them as often as I can, assuming it meets your pleasure and you don't think I am getting overexposed. The real overexposure that bothers me is these friends that are really knocking my block off, all concerned about my overexposure. I can't quite see what is happening. It has me somewhat frustrated.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, there were hints in the speeches in Georgia yesterday and again in the Atlantic City speech for tonight that you might be interested in the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party.7 What better place would there be to declare it openly than the United States Pavilion at the World's fair?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't figured that one out. There could be other better places. I wouldn't want to shoot from the hip and act on the spur of the moment. I don't have any definite plans as of yet. It is unlikely that I will have any until the Convention. I think that what develops there will depend on the attitude of the delegates, the situation in the country, and my own personal feelings in the matter.
7 See Items 330, 332, and 338.
[12.] Q. Mr. President, in recent weeks Mr. Christian Herter has voiced the belief that the Kennedy Round in the tariff negotiations in Geneva may be in for great difficulties. I wonder if you could express your views on this for us?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we have difficulties, and we will have serious problems. I think it is entirely too early to conclude the outcome of these negotiations. We know our position. We know that that position is not embraced by all of the parties to this Round, but we are going to be as persuasive as we can. We believe that right will ultimately prevail, and I always maintain an optimistic position. I never was elected predicting my own defeat.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, you are going to speak tonight in the Convention Hall at Atlantic City. The Democratic National Convention will be held there in August. I plan to write a story saying that President Johnson spoke in this hall tonight, and that it seemed to me to be a sort of rehearsal for his acceptance speech in August. Do you see anything wrong with that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would be the last man in the world to show my sensitivity by criticizing a story that had not been written. The 'press thinks I am a little bit too sensitive anyway when I point out some inaccuracies about stories that have already been written and published, and so forth. But I hope the rest of them will not think that I am unduly partial when I observe that I have had a very high regard for your political prophesies throughout the years.
Q. The answer is yes, I think, Mr. President.
[14.] Q. In your speech this morning, sir, you recalled that you voted for a cloture petition at one time.8
THE PRESIDENT. No, I signed a petition to force a caucus, to force a discharge of the wages and hours bill. That is what I said.
8 See Item 334.
Q. This was in the context--
THE PRESIDENT. That is right. They provide those things sometimes when they get a little confused. That is to give you all of the thing, but I delivered it correctly.
Q. It was in the context of your talk on civil rights, sir, and I wonder if you could comment on when you think cloture might be tried in the Senate, and generally your view on the pace of it?
THE PRESIDENT. Since I left the Senate, and the Majority Leader's position, I have taken a position that there is only one Majority Leader. If you have more than that, you get confused and frustrated and get into great difficulties. So as Vice President I never gave the Majority Leader any recommendations unless he asked for them, and as President I don't try to involve myself in the procedures of the Senate. I think that Senator Mansfield and Senator Humphrey are much closer to that situation than I am.
I am not trying to dodge you. I just plain don't know. I think that they would be better authorities on it than I am. I hope to get a vote during this month. I think that the national interest would indicate that we should have one. We have talked for more than 50 days now, and I would hope that we could get on to voting, and vote this program up and down, so that we can finish with a very fine record for all Members of Congress, the Members of both parties.
I think that Congress loses when there is a blockade and the Congress is guilty of inaction.
[15.] Q. Mr. President, Secretary McNamara and General Taylor have made frequent trips to South Viet-Nam in recent months. The frequency of these visits has raised apprehensions or fears among some people that this means the war is not going well in South Viet-Nam. What can you say on these "apprehensions," so to speak?
THE PRESIDENT. We have a good many problems out there. We all know that. We have had 3 governments in 4 months or 5 months. We know the problems we had when we just had one transition here at home. We are trying to meet with the new government as often as we can and as frequently as we can, and be as helpful as we can.
With the cooperation and counsel of Ambassador Lodge from time to time, I am going to have Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara, and General Taylor and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Wheeler, go in and provide this advice and assistance and counsel. But I would not conclude that every time they go out there it is because of some particular situation, because that is not true. They will be going there every few weeks, and be providing leadership and judgment, and making decisions. I think it is like our going out and seeing the people. We have to keep in touch with a situation that is as important to us as Viet-Nam.
[16.] Q. In your speech today, sir, you are suggesting that you will have a general school aid bill.9 You have not been listing that in your recent news conferences. I wondered if this is a bill that you are planning to put in in the next session of Congress, if you should be our President then, or are you thinking of a general school-aid bill this year?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I am thinking of any measure that will aid in the education of our children that is practicable and feasible at as early a date as possible, whether I am President or who is President. I think that the most important issue before our people today is the education of our young. I think that we must provide leadership and do everything we can to arouse the local community, the county government, the State and the Federal Government to make its maximum contribution in that field. I have no specific target or date line in mind. I want to do it as rapidly as possible.
9 See Item 338. Advance copies had been made available to the press.
[17.] Q. Mr. President, sir, the United Auto Workers negotiate this summer with the auto companies.
THE PRESIDENT. I think that is correct.
Q. I wondered, sir, since Mr. Reuther has said that he is going to insist at least on demands totaling 4.8 percent, whether you felt these negotiations presented a threat to your policy of keeping costs and prices stable?
THE PRESIDENT. I think we will have to see how those negotiations go before we go to passing judgment. I would not want to render a decision in advance. For my general views on the general subject, I would refer you to my statement to the labor leaders in the White House last week which I think covered it in its entirety.
[18.] Q. Mr. President, sir, it may develop that many people will not have enough withheld from their taxes because of the new tax bill.
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't get the first part of your question.
Q. It may develop that many people will not have enough taxes withheld from their weekly wages because of the tax bill. Do you propose any remedial action between now and the next filing period?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I think it is a decided improvement over what it has been, and a good many of us have to add something to what is withheld, and a good many of them have to have a refund, and we will never be able to hit it exactly on the nose. But I think that we have followed the course that will give us the least problems over the course of time involved. I wouldn't change it.
Q. Mr. President, if I could just come back to civil rights--
THE PRESIDENT. Gentlemen, you are right. I am trying to recognize you, but I want to hear from you, first. Stand up there with him. I have been pointing to you twice, but I missed you.
[19.] Q. On civil rights, Mr. President, many of the people who are experts in that field have been warning that there may be a long, hot, difficult summer ahead in the way of demonstrations and so on. I wondered if you had in mind anything that the office of the President could do to head off this kind of difficult situation?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think that we know yet until they finish their conferences on the Hill, until they have some further votes, just how long it will take or what problems will confront them. I think the President ought to do anything that he can properly do without improperly using the powers of his office to get his program through.
And having been connected with the legislative branch of the Government for 32 years, I am sensitive to their problems. I will bear them in mind constantly, consistent with getting a program through the Congress, and I am going to do all I can to prevail upon men of good will to act on that program at the earliest possible date.
[20.] Q. Mr. President, this question may demand a philosophical answer, but this morning in speaking to the Clothing Workers you asked them to join you in your fight, in your war against poverty. You asked them to enlist as volunteers. I believe in Athens, at the university the other day, you said the same thing. You have said it several times. There are contrasts in where we have been this week and what we have heard. In two of your news conferences, one earlier this week and today, you have spoken glowingly about the economy and the prosperity of the Nation.
My question may have two answers. First of all, in a Nation with so much prosperity, how can you get these people riled up, inspired, to enlist in a war on poverty which is off the main highways, in the woods, number 1; and number 2, what would you have them do?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know how I can get them riled up. I hope by picture, and letting them look at conditions that exist in their own communities, with their neighbors; I hope by public speeches outlining what we have seen, and what the conditions are that exist; I hope by messages and by legislation; I hope by leadership, such as the distinguished Mayor of New York is giving here in New York, in their poverty 'program, that the people can be concerned with the problem and then do something about it.
I believe there has been more consideration given to poverty and to conditions of the 10 million families that are in that group during the last 30 days than has been given almost during the entire 30 years. The more we think about it the more we talk about it, and the more we plan about it the more will likely result. So that is first.
We are going to appeal to every labor group, we are going to appeal to every business group. We don't think they are necessarily enemies of each other. We are going to appeal to every government group-local, State, and national. We are going to try to enlist them in this crusade. We think that from what the Mayor of Chicago told me, what the Mayor of New York told me, what the Mayor of Pittsburgh told me, the Mayors and Governors of all the States in the Appalachian area--I have covered all of them but one, and Lady Bird covered it, Alabama; we have been to all 10 States-we think that we have those people talking about these problems and trying to lay plans locally to do something about it.
Second, you say what can individuals do? I said that in my speech. I gave you a few of the things I thought they could do and Lynda Bird charged me with stealing her lines, so I am a little hesitant to go into that.
But some of the things they can do are like--work like the Peace Corps is doing in foreign countries now, particularly as these Peace Corps people come back, and some of these labor people enlist, and as some of these business people that Sargent Shriver talked to down in Hot Springs yesterday.
Business people can donate money that they are now donating to foundations for general causes. We hope maybe we can find a way that they can donate additional money to sponsor local projects. That is what business can do.
Labor people can go out and have nurseries, take care of the little children while the mother is working. They can provide teachers to teach folks to read and write who don't know how to read and write.
I can't think of a greater satisfaction that a young Junior League lady could get than to teach some adult lady who couldn't read or write how to read and write and give her a chance to vote for the first time. We can conduct schools in our homes in that respect.
We can appeal to the labor unions to make contributions toward local sponsorship of these community plans. We can ask them to contribute to these 500,000 boys that are being sent back each year because they are not fit for the Army, to teach them, as I pointed out, what we are trying to do here now through the Employment Service.
We can try to find new jobs for them, we can create new opportunities in the service industries where they might fit in. Everybody talks these days about getting a new plant into their community, but we don't do enough about increasing service jobs, like opening up Appalachia to tourists. It would create a lot of jobs and we could train some of these people to fit into those guide jobs and things of that kind. There are a good many things that we can do and we must do and should do and will do. It is going to take a little time.
[21.] Lady Bird seems to be in a hurry to go, and if any of you have any questions you want to ask her, she is available.
Bob Eaton, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's eighteenth news conference was held in the auditorium at the United States pavilion at the New York World's fair at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, 1964.
Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference at the New York World's Fair Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238712