Lyndon B. Johnson
State of the Union Address
January 14, 1969
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress and my fellow ,Americans
For the sixth and the last time, I present to the Congress my assessment
of the State of the Union.
I shall speak to you tonight about challenge and opportunity--and about
the commitments that all of us have made together that will, if we carry
them out, give America our best chance to achieve the kind of great society
that we all want. Every President lives, not only with what is, but with
what has been and what could be.
Most of the great events in his Presidency are part of a larger sequence
extending back through several years and extending back through several
Urban unrest, poverty, pressures on welfare, education of our people,
law enforcement and law and order, the continuing crisis in the Middle
East, the conflict in Vietnam, the dangers of nuclear war, the great difficulties
of dealing with the Communist powers, all have this much in common: They
and their causes--the causes that gave rise to them--all of these have
existed with us for many years. Several Presidents have already sought
to try to deal with them. One or more Presidents will try to resolve them
or try to contain them in the years that are ahead of us.
But if the Nation's problems are continuing, so are this great Nation's
--the democratic system,
--our sense of exploration, symbolized most recently by the wonderful flight
of the Apollo 8, in which all Americans took great pride,
--the good commonsense and sound judgment of the American people, and
--their essential love of justice.
We must not ignore our problems. But .neither should we ignore our strengths.
Those strengths are available to sustain a President of either party--to
support his progressive efforts both at home and overseas.
Unfortunately, the departure of an administration does not mean the
end of the problems that this administration has faced. The effort to meet
the problems must go on, year after year, if the momentum that we have
all mounted together in these past years is not to be lost.
Although the struggle for progressive change is continuous, there are
times when a watershed is reached--when there is--if not really a break
with the past--at least the fulfillment of many of its oldest hopes, and
a stepping forth into a new environment, to seek new goals. I think the
past 5 years have been such a time.
We have finished a major part of the old agenda.
Some of the laws that we wrote have already, in front of our eyes,
taken on the flesh of achievement.
Medicare that we were unable to pass for so many years is now a part
of American life.
Voting rights and the voting booth that we debated so long back in the
riffles, and the doors to public service, are open at last to all Americans
regardless of their color.
Schools and school children all over America tonight are receiving Federal
assistance to go to good schools.
Preschool education--Head Start--is already here to stay and, I think,
so are the Federal programs that tonight are keeping more than a million
and a half of the cream of our young people in the colleges and the universities
of this country.
Part of the American earth--not only in description on a map, but in
the reality of our shores, our hills, our parks, our forests, and our mountains--has
been permanently set aside for the American public and for their benefit.
And there is more that will be set aside before this administration ends.
Five million Americans have been trained for jobs in new Federal programs.
I think it is most important that we all realize tonight that this Nation
is close to full employment--with less unemployment than we have had at
any time in almost 20 years. That is not in theory; that is in fact. Tonight,
the unemployment rate is down to 3.3 percent. The number of jobs has grown
more than 8 1/2 million in the last 5 years. That is more than in all the
preceding 12 years.
These achievements completed the full cycle, from idea to enactment
and, finally, to a place in the lives of citizens all across this country.
I wish it were possible to say that everything that this Congress and
the administration achieved during this period had already completed that
cycle. But a great deal of what we have committed needs additional funding
to become a tangible realization.
Yet the very existence of these commitments--these promises to the American
people, made by this Congress and by the executive branch of the Government--are
achievements in themselves, and failure to carry through on our commitments
would be a tragedy for this Nation.
This much is certain: No one man or group of men made these commitments
alone. Congress and the executive branch, with their checks and balances,
reasoned together and finally wrote them into the law of the land. They
now have all the moral force that the American political system can summon
when it acts as one.
They express America's common determination to achieve goals. They imply
In most cases, you have already begun that action--but it is not fully
completed, of course.
Let me speak for a moment about these commitments. I am going to speak
in the language which the Congress itself spoke when it passed these measures.
I am going to quote from your words.
In 1966, Congress declared that "improving the quality of urban life
is the most critical domestic problem facing the United States." Two years
later it affirmed the historic goal of "a decent home . . . for every American
family." That is your language.
Now to meet these commitments, we must increase our support for the
model cities program, where blueprints of change are already being prepared
in more than 150 American cities
To achieve the goals of the Housing Act of 1968 that you have already
passed, we should begin this year more than 500,000 homes for needy families
in the coming fiscal year. Funds are provided in the new budget to do just
this. This is almost 10 times--10 times--the average rate of the past 10
Our cities and our towns are being pressed for funds to meet the needs
of their growing populations. So I believe an urban development bank should
be created by the Congress. This bank could obtain resources through the
issuance of taxable bonds and it could then lend these resources at reduced
rates to the communities throughout the land for schools, hospitals, parks,
and other public facilities.
Since we enacted the Social Security Act back in 1935, Congress has
recognized the necessity to "make more adequate provision for aged persons
. . . through maternal and child welfare . . . and public health." Those
are the words of the Congress--"more adequate."
The time has come, I think, to make it more adequate. I believe we should
increase social security benefits, and I am so recommending tonight.
I am suggesting that there should be an overall increase in benefits
of at least 13 percent. Those who receive only the minimum of $55 should
get $80 a month.
Our Nation, too, is rightfully proud of our medical advances. But we
should remember that our country ranks 15th among the nations of the world
in its infant mortality rate.
I think we should assure decent medical care for every expectant mother
and for their children during the first year of their life in the United
States of America.
I think we should protect our children and their families from the costs
of catastrophic illness.
As we pass on from medicine, I think nothing is clearer to the Congress
than the commitment that the Congress made to end poverty. Congress expressed
it well, I think, in 1964, when they said: "It is the policy of the United
States to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this
This is the richest nation in the world. The antipoverty program has
had many achievements. It also has some failures. But we must not cripple
it after only 3 years of trying to solve the human problems that have been
with us and have been building up among us for generations.
I believe the Congress this year will want to improve the administration
of the poverty program by reorganizing portions of it and transferring
them to other agencies. I believe, though, it will want to continue, until
we have broken the back of poverty, the efforts we are now making throughout
I believe, and I hope the next administration--I believe they believe--that
the key to success in this effort is jobs. It is work for people who want
In the budget for fiscal 1970, I shall recommend a total of $3.5 billion
for our job training program, and that is five times as much as we spent
in 1964 trying to prepare Americans where they can work to earn their own
The Nation's commitment in the field of civil rights began with the
Declaration of Independence. They were extended by the 13th, 14th, and
15th amendments. They have been powerfully strengthened by the enactment
of three far-reaching civil rights laws within the past 5 years, that this
Congress, in its wisdom, passed.
On January 1 of this year, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 covered over
20 million American homes and apartments. The prohibition against racial
discrimination in that act should be remembered and it should be vigorously
enforced throughout this land.
I believe we should also extend the vital provisions of the Voting Rights
Act for another 5 years.
In the Safe Streets Act of 1968, Congress determined "To assist state
and local governments in reducing the incidence of crime."
This year I am proposing that the Congress provide the full $300 million
that the Congress last year authorized to do just that.
I hope the Congress will put the money where the authorization is.
I believe this is an essential contribution to justice and to public
order in the United States. I hope these grants can be made to the States
and they can be used effectively to reduce the crime rate in this country.
But all of this is only a small part of the total effort that must be
made--I think chiefly by the local governments throughout the Nation--if
we expect to reduce the toll of crime that we all detest.
Frankly, as I leave the Office of the Presidency, one of my greatest
disappointments is our failure to secure passage of a licensing and registration
act for firearms. I think if we had passed that act, it would have reduced
the incidence of crime. I believe that the Congress should adopt such a
law, and I hope that it will at a not too distant date.
In order to meet our long-standing commitment to make government as
efficient as possible, I believe that we should reorganize our postal system
along the lines of the Kappelreport.
Frederick R. Kappel, Chairman of the Commission on Executive, Legislative
and Judicial Salaries.
I hope we can all agree that public service should never impose an unreasonable
financial sacrifice on able men and women who want to serve their country.
I believe that the recommendations of the Commission on Executive, Legislative
and Judicial Salaries are generally sound. Later this week, I shall submit
a special message which I reviewed with the leadership this evening containing
a proposal that has been reduced and has modified the Commission's recommendation
to some extent on the congressional salaries.
For Members of Congress, I will recommend the basic compensation not
of the $50,000 unanimously recommended by the Kappel Commission and the
other distinguished Members, but I shall reduce that $50,000 to $42,500.
I will suggest that Congress appropriate a very small additional allowance
for official expenses, so that Members will not be required to use their
salary increase for essential official business.
I would have submitted the Commission's recommendations, except the
advice that I received from the leadership--and you usually are consulted
about matters that affect the Congress--was that the Congress would not
accept the $50,000 recommendation, and if I expected my recommendation
to be seriously considered, I should make substantial reductions. That
is the only reason I didn't go along with the Kappel report.
In 1967 1 recommended to the Congress a fair and impartial random selection
system for the draft. I submit it again tonight for your most respectful
I know that all of us recognize that most of the things we do to meet
all of these commitments I talk about will cost money. If we maintain the
strong rate of growth that we have had in this country for the past 8 years,
I think we shall generate the resources that we need to meet these commitments.
We have already been able to increase our support for major social programs--although
we have heard a lot about not being able to do anything on the home front
because of Vietnam; but we have been able in the last
5 years to increase our commitments for such things as health and education
from $30 billion in 1964 to $68 billion in the coming fiscal year. That
is more than double. That is more than it has ever been increased in the
188 years of this Republic, notwithstanding Vietnam.
We must continue to budget our resources and budget them responsibly
in a way that will preserve our prosperity and will strengthen our dollar.
Greater revenues and the reduced Federal spending required by Congress
last year have changed the budgetary picture dramatically since last January
when we made our estimates. At that time, you will remember that we estimated
we would have a deficit of $8 billion. Well, I am glad to report to you
tonight that the fiscal year ending June 30, 1969, this June, we are going
to have not a deficit, but we are going to have a $2.4 billion surplus.
You will receive the budget tomorrow. The budget for the next fiscal
year, that begins July 1--which you will want to examine very carefully
in the days ahead--will provide a $3.4 billion surplus.
This budget anticipates the extension of the surtax that Congress enacted
last year. I have communicated with the President-elect, Mr. Nixon, in
connection with this policy of continuing the surtax for the time being.
I want to tell you that both of us want to see it removed just as soon
as circumstances will permit, but the President-elect has told me that
he has concluded that until his administration, and this Congress, can
examine the appropriation bills, and each item in the budget, and can ascertain
that the facts justify permitting the surtax to expire or to be reduced,
he, Mr. Nixon, will support my recommendation that the surtax be continued.
Americans, I believe, are united in the hope that the Paris talks will
bring an early peace to Vietnam. And if our hopes for an early settlement
of the war are realized, then our military expenditures can be reduced
and very substantial savings can be made to be used for other desirable
purposes, as the Congress may determine.
In any event, I think it is imperative that we do all that we responsibly
can to resist inflation while maintaining our prosperity. I think all Americans
know that our prosperity is broad and it is deep, and it has brought record
profits, the highest in our history, and record wages.
Our gross national product has grown more in the last 5 years than any
other period in our Nation's history. Our wages have been the highest.
Our profits have been the best. This prosperity has enabled millions to
escape the poverty that they would have otherwise had the last few years.
I think also you will be very glad to hear that the Secretary of the
Treasury informs me tonight that in 1968 in our balance of payments we
have achieved a surplus. It appears that we have, in fact, done better
this year than we have done in any year in this regard since the year 1957.
The quest for a durable peace, I think, has absorbed every administration
since the end of World War II. It has required us to seek a limitation
of arms races not only among the superpowers, but among the smaller nations
as well. We have joined in the test ban treaty of 1963, the outer space
treaty of 1967, and the treaty against the spread of nuclear weapons in
This latter agreement--the nonproliferation treaty--is now pending in
the Senate and it has been pending there since last July. In my opinion,
delay in ratifying it is not going to be helpful to the cause of peace.
America took the lead in negotiating this treaty and America should now
take steps to have it approved at the earliest possible date.
Until a way can be found to scale down the level of arms among the superpowers,
mankind cannot view the future without fear and great apprehension. So,
I believe that we should resume the talks with the Soviet Union about limiting
offensive and defensive missile systems. I think they would already have
been resumed except for Czechoslovakia and our election this year.
It was more than 20 years ago that we embarked on a program of trying
to aid the developing nations. We knew then that we could not live in good
conscience as a rich enclave on an earth that was seething in misery.
During these years there have been great advances made under our program,
particularly against want and hunger, although we are disappointed at the
appropriations last year. We thought they were woefully inadequate. This
year I am asking for adequate funds for economic assistance in the hope
that we can further peace throughout the world.
I think we must continue to support efforts in regional cooperation.
Among those efforts, that of Western Europe has a very special place in
The only course that is going to permit Europe to play the great world
role that its resources permit is to go forward to unity. I think America
remains ready to work with a united Europe, to work as a partner on the
basis of equality.
For the future, the quest for peace, I believe, requires:
--that we maintain the liberal trade policies that have helped us become
the leading nation in world trade,
--that we strengthen the international monetary system as an instrument
of world prosperity, and
--that we seek areas of agreement with the Soviet Union where the interests
of both nations and the interests of world peace are properly served.
The strained relationship between us and the world's leading Communist
power has not ended--especially in the light of the brutal invasion of
Czechoslovakia. But totalitarianism is no less odious to us because we
are able to reach some accommodation that reduces the danger of world catastrophe.
What we do, we do in the interest of peace in the world. We earnestly
hope that time will bring a Russia that is less afraid of diversity and
The quest for peace tonight continues in Vietnam, and in the Paris talks.
I regret more than any of you know that it has not been possible to
restore peace to South Vietnam.
The prospects, I think, for peace are better today than at any time
since North Vietnam began its invasion with its regular forces more than
4 years ago.
The free nations of Asia know what they were not sure of at that time:
that America cares about their freedom, and it also cares about America's
own vital interests in Asia and throughout the Pacific.
The North Vietnamese know that they cannot achieve their aggressive
purposes by force. There may be hard fighting before a settlement is reached;
but, I can assure you, it will yield no victory to the Communist cause.
I cannot speak to you tonight about Vietnam without paying a very personal
tribute to the men who have carried the battle out there for all of us.
I have been honored to be their Commander in Chief. The Nation owes them
its unstinting support while the battle continues--and its enduring gratitude
when their service is done.
Finally, the quest for stable peace in the Middle East goes on in many
capitals tonight. America fully supports the unanimous resolution of the
U.N. Security Council which points the way. There must be a settlement
of the armed hostility that exists in that region of the world today. It
is a threat not only to Israel and to all the Arab States, but it is a
threat to every one of us and to the entire world as well.
Now, my friends in Congress, I want to conclude with a few very personal
words to you.
I rejected and rejected and then finally accepted the congressional
leadership's invitation to come here to speak this farewell to you in person
I did that for two reasons. One was philosophical. I wanted to give
you my judgment, as I saw it, on some of the issues before our Nation,
as I view them, before I leave.
The other was just pure sentimental. Most all of my life as a public
official has been spent here in this building. For 38 years-since I worked
on that gallery as a doorkeeper in the House of Representatives--I have
known these halls, and I have known most of the men pretty well who walked
I know the questions that you face. I know the conflicts that you endure.
I know the ideals that you seek to serve.
I left here first to become Vice President, and then to become, in a
moment of tragedy, the President of the United States.
My term of office has been marked by a series of challenges, both at
home and throughout the world.
In meeting some of these challenges, the Nation has found a new confidence.
In meeting others, it knew turbulence and doubt, and fear and hate.
Throughout this time, I have been sustained by my faith in representative
democracy--a faith that I had learned here in this Capitol Building as
an employee and as a Congressman and as a Senator.
I believe deeply in the ultimate purposes of this Nation--described
by the Constitution, tempered by history, embodied in progressive laws,
and given life by men and women that have been elected to serve their fellow
Now for 5 most demanding years in the White House, I have been strengthened
by the counsel and the cooperation of two great former Presidents, Harry
S. Truman and Dwight David Eisenhower. I have been guided by the memory
of my pleasant and close association with the beloved John F. Kennedy,
and with our greatest modern legislator, Speaker Sam Rayburn.
I have been assisted by my friend every step of the way, Vice President
Hubert Humphrey. I am so grateful that I have been supported daily by the
loyalty of Speaker McCormack and Majority Leader Albert.
I have benefited from the wisdom of Senator Mike Mansfield, and I am
sure that I have avoided many dangerous pitfalls by the good commonsense
counsel of the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Senator Richard Brevard
I have received the most generous cooperation from the leaders of the
Republican Party in the Congress of the United States, Senator Dirksen
and Congressman Gerald Ford, the Minority Leader.
No President should ask for more, although I did upon occasions. But
few Presidents have ever been blessed with so much.
President-elect Nixon, in the days ahead, is going to need your understanding,
just as I did. And he is entitled to have it. I hope every Member will
remember that the burdens he will bear as our President, will be borne
for all of us. Each of us should try not to increase these burdens for
the sake of narrow personal or partisan advantage.
Now, it is time to leave. I hope it may be said, a hundred years from
now, that by working together we helped to make our country more just,
more just for all of its people, as well as to insure and guarantee the
blessings of liberty for all of our posterity.
That is what I hope. But I believe that at least it will be said that