Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts at a Dinner Honoring the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice

January 25, 1968

Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey, Speaker and Mrs. McCormack, Chief Justice and Mrs. Warren, members of the Supreme Court, members of the Cabinet, Governor and Mrs. Hughes, distinguished guests:

We have many dinners in this house during the course of a year. But none is quite as symbolic and meaningful as the one that we have in honor of the President of the Senate, the distinguished Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

For this is the night when we pay formal tribute to a great American institution: the famous system of "checks and balances." That is not to be confused with balance of payments--which is something entirely different and considerably less reliable.

There have been times, in our history, when "check and balance" really meant "stop and freeze."

There have been times when the various branches of Government seemed fixed on different stars--when each seemed determined to bend the others to its will.

These occasions have always been quite interesting to the historians. They have also provided material for the commentators, and some little rhetoric for our political campaigns.

But they have never been very useful for the people of this country--whom each of us is sworn to serve.

This is not to say that strong opinions are out of place when great issues are debated. But after the strong opinions have been aired, the people want progress. They want a reasonable degree of cooperation between the branches in trying to meet the needs of the public. They want checks and balances--and then they want forward movement.

The great periods of progress in America have come when the leaders of each branch were more concerned with making progress than with establishing their predominance. When the good of the people was their single concern, their differences somehow paled into insignificance.

In their separate roles, bearing their diverse responsibilities, they contributed to the common good.

In our time, America has been blessed with three leaders who have always placed the interests of the people before institutional pride or personal power.

Hubert Humphrey is loyal to the Senate-John McCormack to the House--and Earl Warren to the Court. Yet they know that these great institutions exist only for a larger purpose--to serve the people. They have borne great responsibilities and all of them have helped to make great decisions. Yet somehow none of them has ever seemed to have forgotten the people. They have earned great honors, and they have occupied great offices. Yet they retain a simple integrity that communicates to every man and woman.

So tonight, here in the First House of the Land, we have come to celebrate these great institutions of our Government. And we mark, as well, the progress of our people and what they have known because men such as these three have served these institutions in our time--and through them, they have served the common good.

So I ask those of you who have come from throughout the land to join me tonight in a toast to the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice.


Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Speaker and Mrs. McCormack, Mr. Chief Justice and Mrs. Warren, and the honored guests of this evening:

Mr. President, you have greatly honored the Speaker and the Chief Justice and me this evening, and Mrs. Humphrey. You have not only opened this house to us, but more importantly, you have opened your heart to us.

We feel a fellowship and a friendship here tonight that goes far beyond the principles of constitutional law or even the heritage of government.

There is a fellowship and a friendship here which ties us and binds us together. I hope that somehow we can repay your kindness in the months ahead and to repay it with renewed efforts to lighten your awesome burdens.

We are all very conscious tonight of the tremendous demands upon you--the incredible burden that you bear--and the great responsibility that is yours.

For these are times of great decisions when, in the words of one of your predecessors, President Truman, "To be President of the United States is to be lonely--and very lonely."

In your State of the Union Address you spoke of our country as a mighty ship cutting through troubled waters. I like that analogy because it told us of the movement of this Nation and also of its strength. We know that this great ship, this America, cutting through stirred and troubled waters, can have but one hand on the helm.

Many of us, Mr. President, with you-advising you--counseling you--and hopefully, helping you--but only one hand at the helm. Yes, one hand must steer through the storms of the moment and at the same time, chart the course of the future.

We who work with you, well we know that the greatest victories can often go unnoticed and even unpraised. Crises that are averted are soon forgotten, although they may have menaced the security of all mankind.

We also know that historic legislation which has vastly enriched the life of every American is soon accepted as commonplace and taken for granted.

I guess, Mr. President, this is the price of leadership-leadership that is more than just a promise, but is in fact an achievement.

Meanwhile, this great ship, America, must move on towards what another President called its rendezvous with destiny.

Tonight in this room are men and women who are proud to be with you on this great adventure and this great fulfillment of the promise of America.

I am sure you know, Mr. President, how proud I am to be with you and the Speaker and the Chief Justice and the others.

So, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Speaker and Mrs. McCormack, the Chief Justice and Mrs. Warren, Members of the Cabinet and the Congress and the honored guests who have gathered in this historic home--I ask you to join me tonight in a tribute to a man who is firm and resolute, who is strong and kind, and who governs with compassion and yet with understanding and strength.

To the President of the United States.


Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Humphrey, Mr. Chief Justice and Mrs. Warren, my distinguished colleagues, distinguished members of the Cabinet, and other honored ladies and gentlemen present this evening:

I appreciate very much the kind words uttered by the President. We are gathered tonight in the President's Mansion, presently occupied by a family that is typical of American life--with high moral values that constitute an inspiration for all others to follow.

The Chief Executive of our country is a man of broad experience, unexcelled by any of his predecessors, of outstanding ability, a keen and penetrating and decisive mind, kind but firm, and possessing the moral and human courage to met the trying and challenging problems of this period of the world's history.

By word, deed, and action, he shows his love for mankind, with special compassion and consideration for the sick, the afflicted, the poor, the underprivileged, the persecuted, and the oppressed.

To such a man I offer a toast: Ladies and gentlemen, to the President of the United States.


Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Humphrey, Mr. Speaker, Mrs. McCormack, my colleagues, members of the Cabinet, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

You do us great honor, Mr. President, in inviting us to your home on this occasion. I wish I could express in words the feelings that I am sure we all have, but I think I can do no more than to echo the words and the sentiments of the Vice President and the Speaker who have preceded me.

This is a great company that you have brought together tonight--one that would inspire any American to be a part of. It represents exactly what you said a few moments ago, Mr. President, and what you emphasized in your State of the Union Message a few nights ago: The unity that our country needs and the unity that we have the strength to bring about if we have the will to bring it about.

To see the members of all branches of the Government here tonight in fellowship, in friendship, and with one spirit--the spirit to do for our country what needs to be done-any American who is in this company would be thrilled tonight, not only thrilled, but he would have his heart warmed by reason of the associations.

And it is my hope that this will be a great year for our country because of the fellowship that is manifested here tonight.

I am one who believes that although these are perilous times, that our country is strong enough, does have the unity when it is sufficiently hard pressed to do what is necessary for the benefit of all.

It is my hope that in this year which is a tremendously important year for you, Mr. President, that we will be able together to solve many of these great problems that you spoke of in your State of the Union Message last week.

So, in further answer of that hope, and that desire, ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you to join with me in a toast to the President of the United States and Mrs. Johnson.

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President and Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey, Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mrs. McCormack, Chief Justice of the United States and Mrs. Earl Warren, and Governor and Mrs. Richard I. Hughes of New Jersey.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts at a Dinner Honoring the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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