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not tell us the answer to the profound question that we must answer in our lifetime. You may have heard of the latest computer that was developed for our Armed Forces to which the anxious question was put one time by a top general. The question was this: "Will there be peace or war in our time?"
The wheels whirred, the lights flashed, the machine ground out the answer, “Yes.”
The general was upset. He quickly fed back the question, "Yes, what?”
And the answer came, "Yes, sir."
Well, questions of war and peace and questions of man's deepest hopes are not going to be answered by these machines. They are going to be answered by the people of our land, people like you and me working together, people who love their country.
A lot of people are asking tonight, "Why are we in Vietnam?" That question is no question that anyone can answer. No machine certainly can answer it. People have a right to ask it. Their sons and their brothers and their fathers are dying out there. Others are suffering wounds that they will carry the rest of their lives. And the cost of war is in the billions. You ought to ask the question "Why?"
Yesterday in Washington, President Eisenhower told me a story while we were eating lunch in the White House Mansion. He said he was sitting in a jeep with a young Army captain out in the mountains of Tunisia during the earliest days of the African campaign, when he was our Commander.
The young man suddenly broke off the course of the conversation and said, "General, tell me, what in the devil are we doing here anyway? Why are we fighting this crazy war?"
President Eisenhower said he thought for a minute, then he looked at this young Army captain from a rural area in the United
States and he replied, "Captain, because if we didn't, someone like us would have to fight it for us someday."
And most of us don't like to have somebody else do our fighting for us.
I know there are many reasons why what we are doing in Vietnam is important. We have a treaty there that we must honor. We signed a contract that we must observe. We want to protect this little nation, South Vietnam, from being gobbled up by the Communists. And we need to prevent disorder in Vietnam from spilling over into all of Asia.
But those answers, as valid as they are, do not really adequately tell a mother or a wife why her son or why her husband has gone and given his life on the soil of Vietnam. It is the answer General Eisenhower gave that young captain, I think, that sheds light on the conflict in Vietnam tonight. If we didn't, someone like us would have to fight for us some other day closer to home or maybe here at home, itself.
That is true as long as some men in this world refuse to live in peace. That is true as long as they try to make might right. That is true as long as they try by force to take over little countries, small countries. That is true as long as violence is their way of imposing their will on others.
Someone is going to have to convince them they are wrong. And if we don't—the next generation will.
I do not know that if we win in Vietnam there will never be another Communist effort to gobble up another free country. But I do know that if we fail in Vietnam, they will have a good precedent for trying to gobble up a lot more territory.
They will be encouraged to take advantage of every unrest wherever it occurs. They will be spurred in the use of their guerrilla warfare as a way to conquer what they could not conquer by open invasion.
Aggression is never satisfied until it is stopped. Nice words and solemn warnings of rhetoric won't stop an aggressor or a guerrilla or a Communist. So we are in Vietnam tonight. Our men are out there fighting because, as General Eisenhower said, we hope others after us will not have to do our fighting for us.
For the great sweep of coast that is Vietnam, with one of the greatest food-producing areas in all the world, for it to fall to aggression would mean that somewhere else someone else might have to fight. Whether it would be in the green jungles of Thailand, on the peaks of the Himalayas, or on the Straits of Borneo, I cannot tell you.
But this I do know: That, too, would be costly. And it would be long and it would be hard.
There are no easy options in this modern world in which we live. We cannot choose between war and peace as if they were the only two alternatives. The choice is often between a certain kind of war now or a more dangerous kind of war later. The choice is often between an uneasy peace in most of the world while one part of the world is the center of conflict or a peace that is broken on many fronts.
So, my friends of Oklahoma, your Presi
dent, your country-all 50 States, more than 300,000 of our finest young men-have taken our stand and we have done so because we believe we had to, because we believe we must. One day it is going to be over. Someday those boys are going to come marching home. Until then, I ask on behalf of them, for all of them, all of our men in Vietnam, I ask you to give them all you can give them. Give them your hopes, give them your prayers, give them your support, give them your confidence. That is the Oklahoma way. I know you won't let us down.
NOTE: The President spoke at 8:55 p.m. at groundbreaking ceremonies for a new water and sewer system funded by an Economic Development Administration grant and loan. In his opening words he referred to Representative Ed Edmondson, Senator A. S. Mike Monroney, and Senator Fred R. Harris, all of Oklahoma. During his remarks he referred to, among others, Henry Bellmon, Governor of Oklahoma, Robert S. Kerr, Senator from Oklahoma 19491963, Sam Rayburn, Representative from Texas 1913-1961, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives 1940-1947, 1949-1953, 1955-1961, Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, majority leader of the House of Representatives, Hugh F. Owens, Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission, Lt. James R. Jones of the White House staff, and Farris Bryant, Director, Office of Emergency Planning and former Governor of Florida.
The Mid-America Industrial Site was formerly an ordnance plant which was declared surplus by the Federal Government and purchased by the State of Oklahoma in 1961.
417 The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch. August 27, 1966
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
THE PRESIDENT'S BIRTHDAY
[1.] Q. Sir, what have you been doing today?
THE PRESIDENT. I read the papers, some
messages came in, I signed some bills, signed several congratulatory messages and letters of various kinds that came out of the White House, talked to Senator Dirksen 1 on the telephone-he called me-I got a report on the rain. I guess that is about it.
Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, minority leader of the Senate.
Q. Is this rain going to inhibit the rest of your birthday?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. We won't walk much while it is raining, but we will have a quite, relaxing, restful day as near as we can. We didn't plan any
Q. How do you feel on your birthday, Mr. President? How is your health? Have you gained or lost weight since the first of the year, and that sort of thing?
THE PRESIDENT. I feel fine. I was a little tired when I came in last night, but I had a good rest during the day yesterday in between various meetings. I am not unusually tired. I doubt that I have ever been in better health. I feel good; I sleep well. I had a wonderful night's sleep last night.
I constantly have a problem with my weight. It is up and down. If I take two or three days on the road, I go down three or four pounds, then I come back up. But weight is no real problem. I haven't had to buy any new clothes. I am still wearing the same ranch clothes I have had all year. I think I had the best night's sleep I have had in a long time. I don't know whether it was the activities of the day, the fresh air, or sleeping in a bed that you are used to.
Q. Mr. President, might it have been the crowds? We were expecting something not quite so enthusiastic as a result of the polls we have heard about. What did you think about them yesterday?
THE PRESIDENT. I thought they were good-enjoyed them very much. I haven't seen anything that would indicate that we wouldn't have good turnouts in any polls that I have read.
Q. Mr. President, do you have anything else to say today about the Governor of Oklahoma?
THE PRESIDENT. No. We appreciated very much his coming out to see us. We enjoyed our visit in Oklahoma. I think Oklahoma is one of the States with a great future.
It is moving forward rapidly, improving its transportation system, conserving its resources, developing its rivers and bringing deep water inland. And the economic development of Oklahoma-like a good many other States right now-is going by leaps and bounds.
Q. Did Senator Dirksen offer you any wisdom over the phone today, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I always enjoy my visits with Senator Dirksen. He passed on his birthday greetings. President Eisenhower had come to the White House personally on Thursday, and talked to me about our trip yesterday.
Senator Dirksen had read reports about it. We reminded him that Luci and Pat2 had left Washington in company with the dog and had proceeded in the direction of Illinois; he at least had two or three extra constituents for a few days.
He talked to Mrs. Johnson for awhile. They are both great gardeners and beautification experts.
That was about the extent of the conversation.
Q. Does Mrs. Johnson have a surprise party planned for you today?
MRS. JOHNSON. No, I wouldn't say it is a surprise. It will be very casual and homelike, with some good friends and family.
We will have barbecue, Western-style beans and birthday cake; hopefully, a ride around the ranch, if it clears off enough.
Mr. and Mrs. Patrick J. Nugent, the President's son-in-law and daughter, who were married in Washington on August 6, 1966.
SOME BIRTHDAY REMINISCENCES
[2.] Q. Mr. President, do you feel you have any special problems on this birthday, as far as the world and the Nation are concerned?
THE PRESIDENT. A President always has many problems. They change from day to day and week to week. Sure, we have problems, grave ones. But we have none that we don't feel confident that we can find the answer to.
The problems that we have-as I have said so frequently all year-are the problems that we have been fighting so hard to attain, namely, full employment, a high standard of living, and better housing.
We are now at a point that I have envisioned and sought all of my adult life—or even as a boy. My earliest memories were hearing my grandfather, who was a leading advocate in this part of the country for social justice, talk about the plight of the tenant farmer, the necessity for the worker to have the protection of bargaining, the need for improvement of our transportation to get the farmer out of the mud with blacktop roads, particularly the red schoolhouse and the tenant purchase program where a worker could attain something of his own. I tried to reflect that in my speech yesterday in Denver.
That was the philosophy handed down to me by my father, that he expressed all through his political life, and also my grandfather, my mother's father.
So, both of my grandfathers and my own father, in his political years, believed in this. And later, when I went to college, the president of my school was constantly preaching better schools, better roads, better living conditions, and better protection for our workers.
Then I went out and taught in a MexicanAmerican school and dealt with the under
privileged. Folks could stay in school sometimes only 3 or 4 months and then they would have to leave to go and pick the beets or stay in the cotton fields, and things of that kind.
I longed for the day when we could really do something about minimum wages, elementary and secondary education, higher education, and better health, because I saw the effects of the tapeworm and the malnutrition on the children that I worked with, both in the poor districts in Houston and in the Latin American area of South Texas. I talked to Mr. David Dubinsky 3 this morning. He first excited me about the necessity of having an adequate minimum wage. We couldn't get a rule and couldn't get the bill up on the floor. We had to call a Democratic caucus and we had to really force the hand of the leadership.
We had to almost take the leadership away from the leaders of our own party in the Congress. We had rules problems in those days like you do now in Judge Smith's committee.
I remember Mr. Dubinsky got three of us from Texas to sign a petition to call a party caucus. That was, I guess, in 1938.
That was on a 25 cents an hour minimum wage, the first one in the Nation. And of the three, we were all threatened with political oblivion and defeat. Two of them were defeated in the next election in the primary of 1938-Maury Maverick of San Antonio and Congressman McFarlane of Wichita Falls.5
The minimum wage was 25 cents an hour. I don't know what happened to me except
I didn't have an opponent. This was my first term and they thought it was kind of fair to give a fellow a second term.
Before then, I eagerly sought to work with President Roosevelt in the NYA and I became State Director for the State of Texas.
Smitty asked a number of questions at the Press Office the other day on various birthdays that I had had. I thought about my NYA experiences and how we fought to get more children in elementary school in a work program very similar to what we are doing now in our poverty program; and how we tried to keep the children from dropping out of high school in 1934, 1935, and 1936.
We tried to have a college program where they could have a higher education. We tried to improve our health activities by training nurses in NYA, just as we are training them today. Here in this room, the first month I was President, we formulated the poverty program.
So through all these years I have sought, asked, and been given the opportunity to make some effort in the field of fighting a war on poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, disease, and for conserving our resources, beautifying our lands.
Our beautification program started when we built 400 highway parks in Texas. We put flowers in them and barbecue benches, and so forth, in the years 1935-36, 30 years ago.
But there is a difference between what a State NYA Director can do, to fight poverty and ugliness and to conserve resources as we did over here on this river in building our dams, and what a President can do. You have seen the ponds on all of these farms and the terracing that we have done. You know of the people that we have in our
universities and in the Job Corps. In those days we had CCC and NYA.
Being President does make a difference. Thirty years has made a difference.
GREAT SOCIETY PROGRAMS
[3.] I looked at the record the other day. Some people argue about whether you should say that a grant for a hospital in a city is an urban expenditure. Well, whether it is or it isn't, you saw the one in Ellenville, number 6,647.9
We are building those hospitals and we are building those parks, we are adding those recreational areas and we are going into the slums, and we are today spending about twice as much as I told President Eisenhower the day before yesterday-in this field than we were during the late fifties.
We are spending about a third more than we were just 22 years ago in the fields of education and health alone. In education we have increased our expenditure from $4 billion 800 million under President Kennedy to about $10.2 billion presently.
We have increased our health expenditure about $5 billion. The total appropri ations this year for health and education, just those two fields, is $10 billion more than they were 21⁄2 years ago.
When you consider that figure relatively, that is twice as much as Mr. Hoover spent on the entire Federal budget.
So when I come home and Mrs. Davis, who runs the ranch for us, tells me that her little Negro daughter is a runner-up in the all-around best student in the Stonewall School, I get great satisfaction to see the progress that has been made.
She couldn't have been in the Stonewall
National Youth Administration.
Merriman Smith of United Press International.
Civilian Conservation Corps. See Item 395.