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Remarks at the Verrazano Monument, Staten Island, New York

by Lyndon B. Johnson: 1963-1969

Reverend clergy, Senator Kennedy, Governor O'Connor, member of the delegation in Congress from New York, distinguished public officials, ladies and gentlemen:

            I am very happy to be here this afternoon among so many good Democrats and so many good friends. I want to thank all of you for being so good to us back in 1964 when the great State of New York gave us a landslide majority of more than two million votes.

I want to thank you in advance for the great majority you are going to give Frank O'Connor, your Democratic gubernatorial candidate, this year.

I want each of you to know that your entire Democratic delegation, headed by Senator Robert Kennedy in the Senate and by the Members of the House who sit on this platform this afternoon, have been a strong right arm to the President and the entire Democratic platform and the Democratic program.

I know that you recognize by name, by face, and by reputation one of the most able and outstanding men in the United States Senate who just addressed you, Senator Robert Kennedy.

Your great Congressman--Jack Murphy. He has done the job for Staten Island and for Brooklyn and I want you to keep him on the job. We need his kind of leadership in Congress. It earned him many of our Nation's highest military decorations. It has placed him at the head of a task force of distinguished combat veterans who journeyed to Vietnam and Southeast Asia this year.

All the good things that he stands for are matched by another young outstanding county leader and city councilman, Bob Lindsay.

There is one point that I want to make and I hope that each of you will hear and understand. There is a great and valuable, necessary and potential Democratic chief executive on this platform this afternoon. He led the fight for justice as a great district attorney in Queens. He led the New York City Council as few men before him have ever led it. And he will give you in New York and the entire Nation the kind of leadership that we need and the programs which we must have in the years to come. Your next Governor--Frank O'Connor.

And I make the same prediction for Frank O'Connor's partners in the Democratic leadership:

            Howard Samuels, a dynamic businessman and your next Lieutenant Governor.

Frank Sedita, a leader of your New York bar and your next Democratic Attorney General.

            Arthur Levitt--a leader in fiscal responsibility and a sure thing to stay on the job as your State Comptroller.

I want to take a moment to make sure that all of you know a number of fine Congressmen who stand beside me in Washington, who try to serve your interests each and every hour of every day in the year: from Brooklyn, Eugene Keogh. And the man who will succeed him, Frank Brasco. My longtime friend, your able Congresswoman, Mrs. Edna Kelly. And Abe Multer. And Hugh Carey. And from Manhattan, Leonard Farbstein. And from Queens, Ben Rosenthal. And from the Bronx, Jack Bingham. And from Long Island, Herbert Tenzer and Lester Wolff.

And from upstate, Max McCarthy and Jim Hanley.

            Under our old immigration law, even Christopher Columbus would have had a hard time getting into this country. But we wiped out that immigration policy which was a standing insult to people for many years.

A person born in England was 12 times more welcome to our shores under the old policy than someone born in Italy,, or Greece, or Portugal, or Poland.

So we challenged that and have changed all of that since last year. We have stopped asking people these days--after Congress acted on the immigration law--"Where were you born?" Now all we want to know is: "What can you do? What can you contribute?"

I believe that the people of this great State are proud of that immigration act and I am proud of all the laws that the 89th Congress gave us. The laws for better education for our children; the laws for better jobs for the heads of our families; the laws for better health for our bodies; the laws for the fight against poverty; the plans and the measures that we have in the hopper today to remake the cities of this land.

I am proud of Staten Island's Jack Murphy, because he was one of the leaders in getting this job done.

I didn't come out here to see you this afternoon because I was running for anything this year. But Jack Murphy is running for something this year. And I want each and every one of you to give him your wholehearted support.

I told your neighbors over in New Jersey last week that the Republican symbol is the elephant. And the elephant never forgets. The Republicans remember that the only way they have ever elected people is by scaring people. They always go back to one word--fear.

They know fear. The Republicans were fearful to pass Medicare. Nine out of ten voted to recommit one of the best bills we have ever passed for all of the people--the Medicare bill. They said it was socialized medicine. What it was really was freedom from fear for about 20 million Americans.

The Republicans were afraid to fund the war on poverty. Ninety percent of them voted to recommit that bill. They said it was a giveaway. The only thing the war on poverty gave away was hope; hope for poor Americans that they might overcome the fear of being poor.

Today the war on poverty has already helped nine million poor Americans. And they are glad that fear struck out.

The Republicans were afraid to pass the school bill that Hugh Carey helped to lead through the House. Sixty-eight percent voted to recommit the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--and to recommit killed it. They said it would put the Federal Government in the schoolhouse.

What it did was to put books on the shelves in libraries--30 million new American books--and to get better teachers to teach American children. And this afternoon, five million educationally deprived American children are glad that the motion to recommit struck out.

Afraid, afraid, afraid. Republicans are afraid of their own shadows and they are afraid of the shadow of progress. But the only thing that most Americans are afraid of are Republicans. And that is why the Americans have given us a Democratic Congress and that is why the Congress has given us more education bills, more health bills, more dollars to fight poverty, more dollars to rebuild cities, more dollars to help people with Medicare than any Congress in the history of this Nation.

I hope you people will remember that on election day by returning every member of the Democratic delegation from the great State of New York.

New York for many, many years has been the first State of the Union, the first State in resources, first in population, the first State in leadership, the first State in giving to this Nation outstanding chief executives. And I hope and I believe that this November you are going to return to your ways of old, the days when you elected Franklin Roosevelt as Governor of New York, when you elected Al Smith as Governor of New York, when you elected Herbert Lehman as Governor of New York. I think you are going to elect Frank O'Connor as Governor of New York.

And with Frank O'Connor in New York and Robert Kennedy in the Democratic delegation in Washington and with me helping from the sidelines, we will try to get a job done for all the good people of the greatest State in the Union.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:30 p.m. at the Verrazano Monument, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Staten Island, N.Y. In his opening words he referred to Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York and Frank O'Connor, Democratic candidate for Governor of New York.

Reprinted with permission from John Wolley and Gerhard Peters of the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara at the American Presidency Project.

About The Author

This is part of the presidential paper historical series featuring past presidential public papers related to immigration law. The papers of our past Presidents show the impact of immigration law in American history. We thank the efforts of the American Presidency Project who have gathered these important archival documents.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.