President Lyndon B. Johnson's
Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner in New Orleans
October 9, 1964
Mr. Chairman; Governor McKeithen; your great senior Senator Allen Ellender,
my old friend; your fine mayor, Mayor Schiro; Mrs. Long; my longtime and my
valued friend and colleague, one of the most promising young men in this Nation,
Russell Long; Congressman Willis, Congressman Morrison, Congressman Thompson,
Congressman Gillis Long--all of whom serve this Nation and this State with great
distinction and with credit to Louisiana and the Congress; Mr. Marshall Brown;
Mr. Donelon--all my friends in Louisiana:
You have touched me with your generosity and your cordiality.
I deeply appreciate the very fine welcome that you gave Lady Bird
and Luci when they came in this evening. Every 4 years we seem
to have a habit of coming home to New Orleans, and ending our
trip on a whistlestop in this lovely, enterprising city. I, through
the years, have always felt close to the people of Louisiana because
I was born and reared in an adjoining State, in a neighboring
I have, as Russell said, spent some time in the Congress, and
through those almost 30 years there the Louisiana representatives
have always been fair, and just, and effective. I would much rather
have them with me than against me, and I have had them both ways.
Finally--after having opposed Russell on two or three items,
on various amendments, on my bill, just before they got ready
to pass them, he would get up and offer an amendment and take
that left hand and talk Senators into voting for it--I finally
just told the Secretary of the Senate that I was going to start
voting for Russell's amendments--it was easier to join him than
to fight him. And I have been doing that through the years now,
and I have been signing his bills.
Senator Ellender gets me to do nearly everything he wants me
to without any pilon or lagniappe. But when the going gets tough
and he just really has to move heaven and earth, he will put on
one of those good feeds of his and he will bring up some of this
New Orleans candy that he makes, that we call pralines.
I thought he just reserved it for myself until the other day
when I went over to have lunch at the White House and the table
was empty, with just one plate there. I said, "Where in the
world is Mrs. Johnson?" And they said, "She is up eating
with Senator Ellender."
I said, "How long has she been gone?" And they said,
"About 15 minutes."
So I put on my hat and invited myself. I went up there and
I was the only man there except Allen, and he had all the pretty
women in Washington up there in the room eating with him!
So this Louisiana delegation is something that I am very proud
of, something that I have enjoyed working with. And I want to
remind the people in New Orleans and all Louisiana what Mr. Rayburn
said one time when they asked him why Texas had such a good, effective
delegation in the Congress. He said, "Well, we pick them
young, and we pick them honest. We send them there, and we keep
The last 4 days I have followed that train trip through every
yard of the South, and I have called three or four times a day
myself just to see how everything was getting along. I don't need
to tell you what great pride I have had in my wife and in my daughters
and, most of all, in their affection for the people of their homeland
and their willingness to come out and stand up on their tiptoes
and look them straight in the eyes and tell them what they thought
of them and how much we cared and how much we needed them. And
I particularly appreciate the way you have reciprocated here in
Now, on this occasion, at the close of this week of our campaign,
there ought to be grateful pride in the heart of every American.
On the main streets of America, history is being made. From Maine
to California, from the Midwest to the Deep South, the people
of America are coming out. And they are coming out to stand up
and be counted for their country.
On the streets of all sections we are seeing the largest crowds
that we have ever seen in any election period. You know, and I
think I know, what this means, and if you don't know what it means,
I am going to tell you what it means.
Our cause is no longer the cause of a party alone. Our cause
is the cause of a great Nation. Our cause is the cause of the
country that you love. Our cause is the country that you would
die for, and the people are laying down their partisanship.
They are asking us to take up their trust. They are asking
us to keep this Nation prosperous. They are asking us to keep
this Nation progressive. They are asking us to keep this country,
and all the world, at peace.
The party of the people will not fail the trust of the people.
And our first trust is victory, itself, on November 3d, and that
is what we are going to have.
Too much that is precious, too much that we prize, too much
that is part of America itself is at stake for any Democrat, anyone
who takes pride in being a Democrat, to rest these next 24 days.
This year, as in no year before, you work not as partisans
for party, but you work as Americans for America. If victory is
our first trust, no less a trust is the margin by which that victory
If our position in the world is not to be weakened, if we are
to spare ourselves wasteful years of antagonism and division,
and animosity here at home, the American people on November 3d
must give a decisive reply that will be understood and heard throughout
the world. And make no mistake about it, the spotlight of the
world is on you November 3d.
When victory is ours--for our country, not for ourselves--I
want it to mean a mandate for beginning a new era in American
affairs, an era of courage, an era of commonsense, and an era
of American confidence.
When the next President takes the oath of office next year,
it will be 20 years since the end of World War II. When that war
ended, you remember and I have not forgotten what we were told.
Voices at home, and voices abroad, predicted:
--That depression would be inevitable.
--That communism would be irresistible.
--That war would be unavoidable.
And the American people listened and heard, but refused to
accept those doctrines. In hope, in faith, in confidence, we took
In the Full Employment Act of 1946 America made a commitment
against depression-and made a commitment for prosperity--here
In the Truman doctrine and the Marshall plan of 1948 we made
our commitment against the spread of communism and for the strength
of freedom throughout the world.
In all that we did, we honored our oldest commitment as a Nation
and as a people, against war and for peace.
The years have been long. The trials have been many.
The burdens have been great. But the times are beginning to
respond to America's steadfast purpose.
This administration is the first in a century not to experience
a recession or a depression. This administration is the first
since midcentury under which no Nation in the world has fallen
to communism. This administration is the first of the postwar
age to offer a record not only of peace preserved but of peace
courageously and effectively pursued.
What the American people set out to do is coming true.
Others would have you believe that prosperity is false. Well,
ask yourselves or your wife when you go home tonight if that is
true. You know it is real.
Others would have you believe that freedom is faltering, but
you know that you are freer now than you were when you were 21.
And the yoke of dictatorship and the yoke of colonialism is being
thrown off of nations all around the world, and new nations are
being born, and independence and freedom are on the march.
Others would have you believe that the pursuit of peace is
unworthy work, but you know it is the most noble work that any
nation can do.
The point that I am making is simply this: The meaning of our
victory in November will be just this--to assure this confident
people of leadership with confidence to match their own. There
is work to do, and we can either do it together, united, or we
can do it divided, eating on each other.
The platform on which I stand says: "The Federal Government
exists not to grow larger, but to enlarge the individual potential
and achievement of the people. The Federal Government exists not
to subordinate the States, but to support them."
I quote the words, but I might offer them as my own, for those
words I wrote into the platform. Those words are my beliefs and
they have been my beliefs all my life. For so long as I serve
in the White House, your Government will be dedicated not to encroaching
upon the rights of the States, but to helping the States meet
their responsibilities to their own people.
Let me be specific.
If we are to heal our history and make this Nation whole, prosperity
must know no Mason-Dixon line and opportunity must know no color
line. Robert E. Lee, a great son of the South, a great leader
of the South--and I assume no modern day leader would question
him or challenge him--Robert E. Lee counseled us well when he
told us to cast off our animosities, and raise our sons to be
From the tip of Texas to the tip of Florida, this crescent
of the Gulf offers one of the great opportunities of the Western
World. I want to see that opportunity fulfilled.
I want us to wipe poverty off the face of the South--and off
the conscience of the Nation.
I want us to assure our young the best of education at every
level, and the expectation of a good job in their home State when
their school years are through.
I want us to assure our aged that when they need hospital care
they will have it, and they will have paid for it in advance,
by themselves, and with the help of their employers, under social
I may turn out the lights in the White House chandeliers but
I am determined that no one will turn out the lights of the REA
in the farmhouses of Louisiana.
I so much want us to maintain a prosperous, free enterprise
economy, so your Governor can continue bringing in new plants
and new payrolls and new jobs in the north and in the south of
Yes, I see a day, and I know that you see it, too, when New
Orleans will stand as a Queen City on this crescent.
--A center of trade with the world.
--A center of culture for the Nation.
--A terminal for waterways reaching the heart of America.
--A port for the spaceships that are returning from
--A good and gracious city for your families to call
We are not going to lose that tomorrow in divisions over things
of the past. For all America, that will be the meaning of the
victory that we seek November 3d.
We are going to show the courage to unite America, the commonsense
to keep America strong and prepared, and the confidence to seek
after peace for the lives of our own people and the lives of all
Courage, commonsense, and confidence--those are the qualities
that will serve our country's cause, and in this election our
country's cause is the cause that we are determined to carry to
When I became Democratic leader after General Eisenhower had
sent the party of which I was a member to a terrible defeat in
1952, I told the Members of the Senate who were in the Democratic
caucus that I was a free man first, an American second, a Senator
third, and a Democrat fourth, in that order; that when my President
was right and when he spoke for all America and when he sought
to unite us against a common enemy, he would have my support.
When I thought he was wrong, I would oppose him with decency
and dignity, and I would give him my reasons for it, and I would
try to suggest an alternative. But I would never personally attack
him or assassinate him or talk about his wife or his children
or his dogs.
I kept that pledge, and for 8 years I served as leader of the
Senate during a period that we had a Republican President and
a Democratic Congress. And every election, every 2 years, they
rewarded us by increasing my majority. The people of America want
public servants in America to do what is best for their country
first, and if they do what is best for their country, they will
do what is best for themselves.
When I was called upon in a matter of moments to assume the
awesome responsibilities of the Presidency following that tragic
day in Dallas, I said to the people of this Nation and the world
that with God's help and with your prayers I will do my deadlevel
best. I have done that.
I have spent long hours, I have worked hard, I have worked
with a clear conscience, I have done everything that I could with
the talents that the good Lord gave me to try to unite this country
and to try to have peace in the world.
We had a crisis in Panama a few days after I went in and they
shot our soldiers. We had a crisis in Guantanamo, and some of
our people in the country hollered, "Let's send the Marines
in," and I said, "No, we will send the admiral in to
cut the water off instead of a Marine in to turn it on."
We had our ships fired on in the Tonkin Gulf, and we made a
prompt reply, an appropriate reply. But we have never lost our
heart and I hope we will never lose our head. We are going to
keep our eyes in the stars, but we are going to keep our feet
on the ground.
I think it is a wonderful thing for Louisiana to do, to give
us this dinner tonight. I am proud of your delegation. I am especially
grateful to Hale and Lindy Boggs and Tommy for all the hard work
and days that they spent with Lady Bird, Luci, and Lynda, helping
them through these States that we love.
I don't want to conclude this talk, though, without telling
you that some of my political philosophy was born in this State.
As a young secretary, I came to New Orleans before I ever went
to Washington. I saw something about the political history of
Louisiana. And I saw a man who was frequently praised, and a man
who was frequently harassed and criticized, and I became an admirer
of his because I thought he had a heart for the people.
When I went to Washington in the dark days of the depression
as a young country kid from the poor hills of Texas, I had a standing
rule with the page office that every time Senator Long took the
floor, he would call me on the phone and I would go over there
and perch in the Gallery and listen to every word he said. And
I heard them all.
I heard a lot about the history of this State. I heard a lot
of names in this State. But I never heard him make a speech that
I didn't think was calculated to do some good for some people
who needed some speeches made for them and couldn't make them
The things that I am talking about from coast to coast--I talked
to six New England States last week and I am going to speak in
six western States next week--the things I am talking about from
coast to coast tonight and tomorrow and next week are the things
that he talked about 30 years ago.
He thought that every man had a right to a job, and that was
long before the Full Employment Act.
He thought that every boy and girl ought to have a chance for
all the education they could take, and that is before the GI bill
He thought that the old folks ought to have social security
and old age pensions, and I remember when he just scared the dickens
out of Mr. Roosevelt and went on a nationwide radio hookup talking
for old folks' pensions. And out of this probably came our social
He believed in medical care for those so that they could live
in decency and dignity in their declining years, without their
children having to come and move them into their house with them.
He was against poverty and hated it with all his soul and spoke
until his voice was hoarse.
Well, like Jack Kennedy, he believed in those same things.
But their voices are still tonight, but they have left some to
carry on. And as long as the good Lord permits me, I am going
to carry on.
Now, the people that would use us and destroy us first divide
us. There is not any combination in the country that can take
on Russell Long, Allen Ellender, Lyndon Johnson, and a few others
if we are together. But if they divide us, they can make some
hay. And all these years they have kept their foot on our necks
by appealing to our animosities, and dividing us.
Whatever your views are, we have a Constitution and we have
a Bill of Rights, and we have the law of the land, and two-thirds
of the Democrats in the Senate voted for it and three-fourths
of the Republicans. I signed it, and I am going to enforce it,
and I am going to observe it, and I think any man that is worthy
of the high office of President is going to do the same thing.
But I am not going to let them build up the hate and try to
buy my people by appealing to their prejudice. I heard a great
son of Texas who came from an adjoining State, whose name I won't
call, but he was expelled from the university over there and he
started West, and he got to Texas as a boy and stopped to see
a schoolmate of his.
He liked things so well in Texas that he just decided to make
it his permanent address. In 4 years he went to the Congress.
After he had been in the House 2 years, he became the Democratic
leader, and he served a few years as Democratic leader. And he
went to the Senate and he served in the Senate 4 years and he
became the Democratic leader in the Senate. He served the district
that Mr. Rayburn later served.
When Mr. Rayburn came up as a young boy of the House, he went
over to see the old Senator, the leader, one evening, who had
come from this Southern State, and he was talking about economic
problems. He was talking about how we had been at the mercy of
certain economic interests, and how they had exploited us. They
had worked our women for 5 cents an hour, they had worked our
men for a dollar a day, they had exploited our soil, they had
let our resources go to waste, they had taken everything out of
the ground they could, and they had shipped it to other sections.
He was talking about the economy and what a great future we
could have in the South, if we could just meet our economic problems,
if we could just take a look at the resources of the South and
develop them. And he said, "Sammy, I wish I felt a little
better. I would like to go back to old"-and I won't call
the name of the State; it wasn't Louisiana and it wasn't Texas--"I
would like to go back down there and make them one more Democratic
speech. I just feel like I have one in me. The poor old State,
they haven't heard a Democratic speech in 30 years. All they ever
hear at election time is Negro, Negro, Negro!"
So we have the law of the land, and we are going to appeal
to all Americans that fight in uniform and work in factory and
on the farm to try to conduct themselves as Americans. Equal opportunity
for all, special privileges for none, because there is only one
real big problem that faces you. It is not even the economic problem
and it is not the Negro problem.
The only problem that faces you is whether you are going to
live or die, and whether your family is going to live or die.
I sat through 37 meetings of the National Security Council
during the Cuban crisis. I never left home in the morning but
what I realized I might not ever see her again that day. She might
not be there or I might not be there. I sat at that table with
the most trained generals and admirals we had, with four and five
stars, and their war maps were out, and they took us from this
stage to that stage, and we had our fleet moving, and we had our
planes in the sky, and we had them loaded with our bombs. And
we knew they had their missiles pointing at us.
And the coolest man in that room, whose thumb was sitting there
that could be put on the button, was the Commander in Chief, John
Fitzgerald Kennedy, who had been abused all over that country.
He is not here to defend himself, but I say shame on you that
in his absence would attribute to him unworthy motives.
At Oak Ridge we have developed the mightiest, most awesome
power that human ingenuity could contemplate or conceive. By a
thumb on a button you can wipe out 300 million lives in a matter
of moments. And this is no time and no hour and no day to be rattling
your rockets around. Or clicking your heels like a storm trooper.
I say that because this is a moment when all nations must look
all ways to try to find some ways and means to learn to live together
without destroying each other. I have no reference to any nation,
any country, or any individual. I just say that when you look
at history, and you see what has happened to us in our lifetime,
we have gone through two wars, and then you see what the next
war could bring us, it is no time to preach division or hate.
If there ever was a time for us to try to unite and find areas
of agreement, it is now. We are the mightiest nation in all the
world, but that power must be used to prevent a war, instead of
I don't want to imply that there is any man in my party that
wants to start one or anyone in any other party that wants to
start one. I think the Republicans are just as patriotic as the
Democrats. And I haven't met any man that I know that I think
wants to involve this country in any danger that he can avoid.
I just say it is time for all of us to put on our thinking
caps. It is time for all of us to follow the Golden Rule. It is
time for all of us to have a little trust and a little faith in
each other, and to try to find some areas that we can agree on
so we can have a united program.
I told you about the support that Vandenberg gave Truman in
Greece and Turkey, about the support that I gave Eisenhower, Republican
and Democrat, about the support that President Kennedy received
in the Cuban missile crisis. And this is an hour when we must
not become so bitter or so divided or hate each other so much
in an election period that we will let the other nations think
we are divided.
The Kaiser thought we were divided and wouldn't go to war and
he sank the Lusitania and we became involved. Hitler thought we
were divided because a few Senators were preaching isolationism
and talking about munitions makers and he thought that he could
take a part of the world and we would sit there in our rocking
chairs and do nothing about it. And he got fooled.
Let no would-be conqueror ever mistake Uncle Sam. We do not
seek any wars. But we are prepared and ready and willing to defend
our freedom. And we are not about to yield it or sacrifice it
or whittle it away to anybody.
The election is coming up November the 3d. You have your choice.
You have two parties. You have two tickets. You have men on both
tickets who are experienced in the Congress, who served there
many years. You don't have to have anybody come down here and
tell you what is right. You don't have to have anybody come down
here and tell you what you ought to do. You know what is best
for you, and you go do it. And I am not even going to make a recommendation
If you think in your own heart that the course of wisdom for
your country is this course, then you follow whatever you think
it is. Because I believe that every other man is actuated by the
same motives that I think I am actuated by. He wants to do what
I have never seen a man in Congress that I thought went there
on a platform of doing what is wrong. He wants to do what is right.
And I know the people of Louisiana want to do what is right.
And I hope if you do what you think is right, that somehow
or other it is the same thing that I think is right. But if it
is not, I won't question your patriotism, I won't question your
Americanism, I won't question your ancestry. I may quietly in
the sanctity of our bedroom whisper to Lady Bird my own personal
opinion about your judgment.
NOTE: The President spoke at 9:40 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Jung Hotel
in New Orleans. In his opening remarks he referred to the chairman of the dinner,
Ray Morvant, State Director, U.S. Savings Bond Division, Department of the Treasury,
Governor John J. McKeithen of Louisiana, Senator Allen I. Ellender of Louisiana,
Mayor Victor H. Schiro of New Orleans, Senator and Mrs. Russell B. Long and
Representatives Edwin E. Willis, James H. Morrison, T. A. Thompson, and Gillis
W. Long, all of Louisiana, Marshall Brown, Louisiana State Democratic committeeman,
and Thomas F. Donelon, president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Later he referred
to Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana and Mrs. Boggs, and their son Tommy.
He also referred to Huey P. Long, U.S. Senator from Louisiana from 1932 to 1935
and father of Senator Russell B. Long.
Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64. Volume II, entry 648, pp. 1281-1288. Washington,
D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1965.
June 6, 2007