Lyndon B. Johnson (January 4, 1965)
On this Hill which was my home, I am stirred by old friendships.
Though total agreement between the Executive and the Congress is
impossible, total respect is important.
I am proud to be among my colleagues of the Congress whose legacy to their
trust is their loyalty to their Nation.
I am not unaware of the inner emotions of the new Members of this body
Twenty-eight years ago, I felt as you do now. You will soon learn that you
are among men whose first love is their country, men who try each day to do
as best they can what they believe is right.
We are entering the third century of the pursuit of American union.
Two hundred years ago, in 1765, nine assembled colonies first joined
together to demand freedom from arbitrary power.
For the first century we struggled to hold together the first continental
union of democracy in the history of man. One hundred years ago, in 1865,
following a terrible test of blood and fire, the compact of union was
For a second century we labored to establish a unity of purpose and
interest among the many groups which make up the American community.
That struggle has often brought pain and violence. It is not yet over. But
we have achieved a unity of interest among our people that is unmatched in
the history of freedom.
And so tonight, now, in 1965, we begin a new quest for union. We seek the
unity of man with the world that he has built--with the knowledge that can
save or destroy him--with the cities which can stimulate or stifle
him--with the wealth and the machines which can enrich or menace his
We seek to establish a harmony between man and society which will allow
each of us to enlarge the meaning of his life and all of us to elevate the
quality of our civilization. This is the search that we begin tonight.
STATE OF THE WORLD
But the unity we seek cannot realize its full promise in
isolation. For today the state of the Union depends, in large measure, upon
the state of the world.
Our concern and interest, compassion and vigilance, extend to every corner
of a dwindling planet.
Yet, it is not merely our concern but the concern of all free men. We will
not, and we should not, assume that it is the task of Americans alone to
settle all the conflicts of a torn and troubled world.
Let the foes of freedom take no comfort from this. For in concert with
other nations, we shall help men defend their freedom.
Our first aim remains the safety and the well-being of our own country.
We are prepared to live as good neighbors with all, but we cannot be
indifferent to acts designed to injure our interests, or our citizens, or
our establishments abroad. The community of nations requires mutual
respect. We shall extend it--and we shall expect it.
In our relations with the world we shall follow the example of Andrew
Jackson who said: "I intend to ask for nothing that is not clearly right
and to submit to nothing that is wrong." And he promised, that "the honor
of my country shall never be stained by an apology from me for the
statement of truth or for the performance of duty." That was this Nation's
policy in the 1830's and that is this Nation's policy in the 1960's.
Our own freedom and growth have never been the final goal of the American
We were never meant to be an oasis of liberty and abundance in a worldwide
desert of disappointed dreams. Our Nation was created to help strike away
the chains of ignorance and misery and tyranny wherever they keep man less
than God means him to be.
We are moving toward that destiny, never more rapidly than we have moved in
the last 4 years.
In this period we have built a military power strong enough to meet any
threat and destroy any adversary. And that superiority will continue to
grow so long as this office is mine--and you sit on Capitol Hill.
In this period no new nation has become Communist, and the unity of the
Communist empire has begun to crumble.
In this period we have resolved in friendship our disputes with our
neighbors of the hemisphere, and joined in an Alliance for Progress toward
economic growth and political democracy.
In this period we have taken more steps toward peace--including the test
ban treaty--than at any time since the cold war began.
In this period we have relentlessly pursued our advances toward the
conquest of space.
Most important of all, in this period, the United States has reemerged into
the fullness of its self-confidence and purpose. No longer are we called
upon to get America moving. We are moving. No longer do we doubt our
strength or resolution. We are strong and we have proven our resolve.
No longer can anyone wonder whether we are in the grip of historical decay.
We know that history is ours to make. And if there is great danger, there
is now also the excitement of great expectations.
AMERICA AND THE COMMUNIST NATIONS
Yet we still live in a troubled and
perilous world. There is no longer a single threat. There are many. They
differ in intensity and in danger. They require different attitudes and
With the Soviet Union we seek peaceful understandings that can lessen the
danger to freedom.
Last fall I asked the American people to choose that course. I will carry
forward their command.
If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other
I am sure that the American people would welcome a chance to listen to the
Soviet leaders on our television--as I would like the Soviet people to hear
our leaders on theirs.
I hope the new Soviet leaders can visit America so they can learn about our
country at firsthand.
In Eastern Europe restless nations are slowly beginning to assert their
identity. Your Government, assisted by the leaders in American labor and
business, is now exploring ways to increase peaceful trade with these
countries and with the Soviet Union. I will report our conclusions to the
In Asia, communism wears a more aggressive face. We see that in Viet-Nam.
Why are we there?
We are there, first, because a friendly nation has asked us for help
against the Communist aggression. Ten years ago our President pledged our
help. Three Presidents have supported that pledge. We will not break it
Second, our own security is tied to the peace of Asia. Twice in one
generation we have had to fight against aggression in the Far East. To
ignore aggression now would only increase the danger of a much larger war.
Our goal is peace in southeast Asia. That will come only when aggressors
leave their neighbors in peace.
What is at stake is the cause of freedom and in that cause America will
never be found wanting.
THE NON-COMMUNIST WORLD
But communism is not the only source of trouble and
unrest. There are older and deeper sources--in the misery of nations and in
man's irrepressible ambition for liberty and a better life.
With the free Republics of Latin America I have always felt--and my country
has always felt--very special ties of interest and affection. It will be
the purpose of my administration to strengthen these ties. Together we
share and shape the destiny of the new world. In the coming year I hope to
pay a visit to Latin America. And I will steadily enlarge our commitment to
the Alliance for Progress as the instrument of our war against poverty and
injustice in this hemisphere.
In the Atlantic community we continue to pursue our goal of 20 years--a
Europe that is growing in strength, unity, and cooperation with America. A
great unfinished task is the reunification of Germany through
This European policy is not based on any abstract design. It is based on
the realities of common interests and common values, common dangers and
common expectations. These realities will continue to have their
way--especially, I think, in our expanding trade and especially in our
Free Americans have shaped the policies of the United States. And because
we know these realities, those policies have been, and will be, in the
interest of Europe.
Free Europeans must shape the course of Europe. And, for the same reasons,
that course has been, and will be, in our interest and in the interest of
I found this truth confirmed in my talks with European leaders in the last
year. I hope to repay these visits to some of our friends in Europe this
In Africa and Asia we are witnessing the turbulent unfolding of new nations
We welcome them to the society of nations.
We are committed to help those seeking to strengthen their own
independence, and to work most closely with those governments dedicated to
the welfare of all of their people.
We seek not fidelity to an iron faith, but a diversity of belief as varied
as man himself. We seek not to extend the power of America but the progress
of humanity. We seek not to dominate others but to strengthen the freedom
of all people.
I will seek new ways to use our knowledge to help deal with the explosion
in world population and the growing scarcity in world resources.
Finally, we renew our commitment to the continued growth and the
effectiveness of the United Nations. The frustrations of the United Nations
are a product of the world that we live in, and not of the institution
which gives them voice. It is far better to throw these differences open to
the assembly of nations than to permit them to fester in silent danger.
These are some of the goals of the American Nation in the world in which we
For ourselves we seek neither praise nor blame, neither gratitude nor
We seek peace.
We seek freedom.
We seek to enrich the life of man.
For that is the world in which we will flourish and that is the world that
we mean for all men to ultimately have.
TOWARD THE GREAT SOCIETY
World affairs will continue to call upon our energy
and our courage.
But today we can turn increased attention to the character of American
We are in the midst of the greatest upward surge of economic well-being in
the history of any nation.
Our flourishing progress has been marked by price stability that is
unequalled in the world. Our balance of payments deficit has declined and
the soundness of our dollar is unquestioned. I pledge to keep it that way
and I urge business and labor to cooperate to that end.
We worked for two centuries to climb this peak of prosperity. But we are
only at the beginning of the road to the Great Society. Ahead now is a
summit where freedom from the wants of the body can help fulfill the needs
of the spirit.
We built this Nation to serve its people.
We want to grow and build and create, but we want progress to be the
servant and not the master of man.
We do not intend to live in the midst of abundance, isolated from neighbors
and nature, confined by blighted cities and bleak suburbs, stunted by a
poverty of learning and an emptiness of leisure.
The Great Society asks not how much, but how good; not only how to create
wealth but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but where we are
It proposes as the first test for a nation: the quality of its people.
This kind of society will not flower spontaneously from swelling riches and
It will not be the gift of government or the creation of presidents. It
will require of every American, for many generations, both faith in the
destination and the fortitude to make the journey.
And like freedom itself, it will always be challenge and not fulfillment.
And tonight we accept that challenge.
A NATIONAL AGENDA
I propose that we begin a program in education to ensure
every American child the fullest development of his mind and skills.
I propose that we begin a massive attack on crippling and killing
I propose that we launch a national effort to make the American city a
better and a more stimulating place to live.
I propose that we increase the beauty of America and end the poisoning of
our rivers and the air that we breathe.
I propose that we carry out a new program to develop regions of our country
that are now suffering from distress and depression.
I propose that we make new efforts to control and prevent crime and
I propose that we eliminate every remaining obstacle to the right and the
opportunity to vote.
I propose that we honor and support the achievements of thought and the
creations of art.
I propose that we make an all-out campaign against waste and inefficiency.
Our basic task is threefold:
First, to keep our economy growing;
--to open for all Americans the opportunity that is now enjoyed by most
--and to improve the quality of life for all.
In the next 6 weeks I will submit special messages with detailed proposals
for national action in each of these areas.
Tonight I would like just briefly to explain some of my major
recommendations in the three main areas of national need.
1. A GROWING ECONOMY
First, we must keep our Nation prosperous. We seek full
employment opportunity for every American citizen. I will present a budget
designed to move the economy forward. More money will be left in the hands
of the consumer by a substantial cut in excise taxes. We will continue
along the path toward a balanced budget in a balanced economy.
I confidently predict--what every economic sign tells us tonight--the
continued flourishing of the American economy.
But we must remember that fear of a recession can contribute to the fact of
a recession. The knowledge that our Government will, and can, move swiftly
will strengthen the confidence of investors and business.
Congress can reinforce this confidence by insuring that its procedures
permit rapid action on temporary income tax cuts. And special funds for
job-creating public programs should be made available for immediate use if
Our continued prosperity demands continued price stability. Business,
labor, and the consumer all have a high stake in keeping wages and prices
within the framework of the guideposts that have already served the Nation
Finding new markets abroad for our goods depends on the initiative of
American business. But we stand ready--with credit and other help--to
assist the flow of trade which will benefit the entire Nation.
ON THE FARMS
Our economy owes much to the efficiency of our farmers. We must
continue to assure them the opportunity to earn a fair reward. I have
instructed the Secretary of Agriculture to lead a major effort to find new
approaches to reduce the heavy cost of our farm programs and to direct more
of our effort to the small farmer who needs the help the most.
We can help insure continued prosperity through:
--a regional recovery program to assist the development of stricken areas
left behind by our national progress;
--further efforts to provide our workers with the skills demanded by modern
technology, for the laboring-man is an indispensable force in the American
--the extension of the minimum wage to more than 2 million unprotected
--the improvement and the modernization of the unemployment compensation
And as pledged in our 1960 and 1964 Democratic platforms, I will propose to
Congress changes in the Taft-Hartley Act including section 14(b). I will do
so hoping to reduce the conflicts that for several years have divided
Americans in various States of our Union.
In a country that spans a continent modern transportation is vital to
TRANSPORTATION FOR GROWTH
I will recommend heavier reliance on competition
in transportation and a new policy for our merchant marine.
I will ask for funds to study high-speed rail transportation between urban
centers. We will begin with test projects between Washington and Boston. On
high-speed trains, passengers could travel this distance in less than 4
II. OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL
Second, we must open opportunity to all our people.
Most Americans enjoy a good life. But far too many are still trapped in
poverty and idleness and fear.
Let a just nation throw open to them the city of promise:
--to the elderly, by providing hospital care under social security and by
raising benefit payments to those struggling to maintain the dignity of
their later years;
--to the poor and the unfortunate, through doubling the war against poverty
--to Negro Americans, through enforcement of the civil rights law and
elimination of barriers to the right to vote;
--to those in other lands that are seeking the promise of America, through
an immigration law based on the work a man can do and not where he was born
or how he spells his name.
III. TO ENRICH THE LIFE OF ALL
Our third goal is to improve the quality of
We begin with learning.
Every child must have the best education that this Nation can provide.
Thomas Jefferson said that no nation can be both ignorant and free. Today
no nation can be both ignorant and great.
In addition to our existing programs, I will recommend a new program for
schools and students with a first year authorization of $1,500 million.
It will help at every stage along the road to learning.
For the preschool years we will help needy children become aware of the
excitement of learning.
For the primary and secondary school years we will aid public schools
serving low-income families and assist students in both public and private
For the college years we will provide scholarships to high school students
of the greatest promise and the greatest need and we will guarantee
low-interest loans to students continuing their college studies.
New laboratories and centers will help our schools--help them lift their
standards of excellence and explore new methods of teaching. These centers
will provide special training for those who need and those who deserve
THROUGH BETTER HEALTH
Greatness requires not only an educated people but a
Our goal is to match the achievements of our medicine to the afflictions of
We already carry on a large program in this country for research and
In addition, regional medical centers can provide the most advanced
diagnosis and treatment for heart disease and cancer and stroke and other
New support for medical and dental education will provide the trained
people to apply our knowledge.
Community centers can help the mentally ill and improve health care for
school-age children from poor families, including services for the mentally
THROUGH IMPROVING THE WORLD WE LIVE IN
An educated and healthy people require surroundings in harmony with
their hopes. In our urban areas the central problem today is to protect and
restore man's satisfaction in belonging to a community where he can find
security and significance.
The first step is to break old patterns--to begin to think and work and
plan for the development of the entire metropolitan areas. We will take
this step with new programs of help for the basic community facilities and
for neighborhood centers of health and recreation.
New and existing programs will be open to those cities which work together
to develop unified long-range policies for metropolitan areas.
We must also make some very important changes in our housing programs if we
are to pursue these same basic goals.
So a Department of Housing and Urban Development will be needed to
spearhead this effort in our cities.
Every citizen has the right to feel secure in his home and on the streets
of his community.
To help control crime, we will recommend programs:
--to train local law enforcement officers;
--to put the best techniques of modern science at their disposal;
--to discover the causes of crime and better ways to prevent it.
I will soon assemble a panel of outstanding experts of this Nation to
search out answers to the national problem of crime and delinquency, and I
welcome the recommendations and the constructive efforts of the Congress.
The Beauty of America
For over three centuries the beauty of America has sustained our spirit and
has enlarged our vision. We must act now to protect this heritage. In a
fruitful new partnership with the States and the cities the next decade
should be a conservation milestone. We must make a massive effort to save
the countryside and to establish--as a green legacy for tomorrow--more
large and small parks, more seashores and open spaces than have been
created during any other period in our national history.
A new and substantial effort must be made to landscape highways to provide
places of relaxation and recreation wherever our roads run,
Within our cities imaginative programs are needed to landscape streets and
to transform open areas into places of beauty and recreation.
We will seek legal power to prevent pollution of our air and water before
it happens. We will step up our effort to control harmful wastes, giving
first priority to the cleanup of our most contaminated rivers. We will
increase research to learn much more about the control of pollution.
We hope to make the Potomac a model of beauty here in the Capital, and
preserve unspoiled stretches of some of our waterways with a Wild Rivers
More ideas for a beautiful America will emerge from a White House
Conference on Natural Beauty which I will soon call.
Art and Science
We must also recognize and encourage those who can be
pathfinders for the Nation's imagination and understanding.
To help promote and honor creative achievements, I will propose a National
Foundation on the Arts.
To develop knowledge which will enrich our lives and ensure our progress, I
will recommend programs to encourage basic science, particularly in the
universities--and to bring closer the day when the oceans will supply our
growing need for fresh water.
For government to serve these goals it must be modern in structure,
efficient in action, and ready for any emergency.
I am busy, currently, reviewing the structure of the entire executive
branch of this Government. I hope to reshape it and to reorganize it to
meet more effectively the tasks of the 20th century.
Wherever waste is found, I will eliminate it.
Last year we saved almost $3,500 million by eliminating waste in the
And I intend to do better this year.
And very soon I will report to you on our progress and on new economies
that your Government plans to make.
Even the best of government is subject to the worst of hazards.
I will propose laws to insure the necessary continuity of leadership should
the President become disabled or die.
In addition, I will propose reforms in the electoral college--leaving
undisturbed the vote by States--but making sure that no elector can
substitute his will for that of the people.
Last year, in a sad moment, I came here and I spoke to you after 33 years
of public service, practically all of them here on this Hill.
This year I speak after 1 year as President of the United States.
Many of you in this Chamber are among my oldest friends. We have shared
many happy moments and many hours of work, and we have watched many
Presidents together. Yet, only in the White House can you finally know the
full weight of this Office.
The greatest burden is not running the huge operations of government--or
meeting daily troubles, large and small--or even working with the
A President's hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is
Yet the Presidency brings no special gift of prophecy or foresight. You
take an oath, you step into an office, and you must then help guide a great
The answer was waiting for me in the land where I was born.
It was once barren land. The angular hills were covered with scrub cedar
and a few large live oaks. Little would grow in that harsh caliche soil of
my country. And each spring the Pedernales River would flood our valley.
But men came and they worked and they endured and they built.
And tonight that country is abundant; abundant with fruit and cattle and
goats and sheep, and there are pleasant homes and lakes and the floods are
Why did men come to that once forbidding land?
Well, they were restless, of course, and they had to be moving on. But
there was more than that. There was a dream--a dream of a place where a
free man could build for himself, and raise his children to a better
life--a dream of a continent to be conquered, a world to be won, a nation
to be made.
Remembering this, I knew the answer.
A President does not shape a new and personal vision of America.
He collects it from the scattered hopes of the American past.
It existed when the first settlers saw the coast of a new world, and when
the first pioneers moved westward.
It has guided us every step of the way.
It sustains every President. But it is also your inheritance and it belongs
equally to all the people that we all serve.
It must be interpreted anew by each generation for its own needs; as I have
tried, in part, to do tonight.
It shall lead us as we enter the third century of the search for a more
This, then, is the state of the Union: Free and restless, growing and full
So it was in the beginning.
So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to
keep the faith.