Address to the U.N. General Assembly (December 17, 1963)
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, distinguished delegates to the United Nations, ladies and gentlemen:
We meet in a time of mourning, but in a moment of rededication. My Nation has lost a great leader. This organization has lost a great friend. World peace has lost a great champion.
But John F. Kennedy was the author of new hope for mankind, hope which was shared by a whole new generation of leaders in every continent, and we must not let grief turn us away from that hope. He never quarreled with the past. He always looked at the future. And our task now is to work for the kind of future in which he so strongly believed.
I have come here today to make it unmistakably clear that the assassin's bullet which took his life did not alter his Nation's purpose.
We are more than ever opposed to the doctrines of hate and violence, in our own land and around the world.
We are more than ever committed to the rule of law, in our own land and around the world.
We believe more than ever in the rights of man, all men of every color, in our own land and around the world.
And more than ever we support the United Nations as the best instrument yet devised to promote the peace of the world and to promote the well-being of mankind.
I can tell you today, as I told you in 1958 when I came as Majority Leader of the United States Senate to the first committee of this great tribunal, that the full power and partnership of the United States is committed to our joint effort to eliminate war and the threat of war, aggression and the danger of violence, and to lift from all people everywhere the blight of disease, and poverty, and illiteracy.
Like all human institutions, the United Nations has not achieved the highest of hopes that some held at its birth. Our understanding of how to live, live with one another, is still far behind our knowledge of how to destroy one another.
But as our problems have grown, this Organization has grown, in numbers, in authority, in prestige, and its member nations have grown with it, in responsibility and in maturity.
We have seen too much success to become obsessed with failure.
The peace-keeping machinery of the United Nations has worked in the Congo, in the Middle East, and elsewhere.
The great transition from colonial rule to independence has been largely accomplished.
The Decade of Development has successfully begun.
The world arms race has been slowed.
The struggle for human rights has been gaining new force.
And a start has been made in furthering mankind's common interest in outer space-in scientific exploration, in communications, in weather forecasting, in banning the stationing of nuclear weapons, and in establishing principles of law.
I know that vast problems remain, conflicts between great powers, conflicts between small neighbors, disagreements over disarmament, persistence of ancient wrongs in the area of human rights, residual problems , of colonialism, and all the rest. But men and nations, working apart, created these problems, and men and nations working together must solve them.
They can solve them with the help of this organization, when all members make it a workshop for constructive action, and not a forum for abuse; when all members seek its help in settling their own disputes as well as the disputes of others; when all members meet their financial obligations to it; and when all members recognize that no nation and no party and no single system can control the future of man.
When I entered the Congress of the United States 27 years ago, it was my very great privilege to work closely with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As a Member of Congress, I worked with him to bring about a profound but peaceful revolution. That peaceful revolution brought help and hope to the one-third of our Nation that was then "ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished."
We helped our working men and women obtain more jobs and we helped them obtain better wages. We helped our farmers to buy and improve their own land, and conserve their soil and water, and electrify their farms.
We harnessed the powers of the great rivers, as in the Tennessee Valley and the Lower Colorado. We encouraged the growth of cooperatives and trade unions. We curbed the excesses of private speculation. We built homes in the place of city slums. And we extended the rights of freedom to all of our citizens.
Now, on the world scale, the time has come, as it came to America 30 years ago, for a new era of hope, hope and progress for that one-third of mankind that is still beset by hunger and poverty and disease.
In my travels on behalf of my country and President Kennedy, I have seen too much of misery and despair in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America. I have seen too often the ravages of hunger, and tapeworm and tuberculosis, and the scabs and the scars on too many children who have too little health and no hope.
I think that you and I and our countries and this organization can, and must, do something about these conditions. I am not speaking here of a new way of life to be imposed by any single nation. I am speaking of a higher standard of living, to be inspired by these United Nations. It will not be achieved through some hopeful resolution in this assembly, but through a peaceful revolution in the world, through a recommitment of all our members, rich and poor, and strong and weak, whatever their location or their ideology, to the basic principles of human welfare and of human dignity.
In this effort, the United States will do its full share. In addition to bilateral aid, we have with great satisfaction assisted in recent years in the emergence and the improvement of international developmental institutions, both within and without this Organization.
We favor the steady improvement of collective machinery for helping the less-developed nations build modern societies. We favor an international aid program that is international in practice as well as purpose. Every nation must do its share. All United Nations and their members can do better. We can act more often together. We can build together a much better world.
The greatest of human problems, and the greatest of our common tasks, is to keep the peace and to save the future. All that we have built in the wealth of nations, and all that we plan to do toward a better life for all, will be in vain if our feet should slip, or our vision falter, and our hopes ended in another worldwide war. If there is one commitment more than any other that I would like to leave with you today, it is my unswerving commitment to the keeping and to the strengthening of the peace. Peace is a journey of a thousand miles, and it must be taken one step at a time.
We know what we want:
The United States of America wants to see the cold war end, we want to see it end once and for all;
The United States wants to prevent the dissemination of nuclear weapons to nations not now possessing them;
The United States wants to press on with arms control and reduction;
The United States wants to cooperate with all the members of this organization to conquer everywhere the ancient enemies of mankind--hunger, and disease and ignorance;
The United States wants sanity, and security, and peace for all, and above all.
President Kennedy, I am sure, would regard as his best memorial the fact that in his three years as President the world became a little safer and the way ahead became a little brighter. To the protection and the enlargement of this new hope for peace, I pledge my country and its Government.
My friends and fellow citizens of the world, soon you will return to your homelands. I hope you will take with you my gratitude for your generosity in hearing me so late in the session. I hope you will convey to your countrymen the gratitude of all Americans for the companionship of sorrow which you shared with us in your messages of the last few weeks. And I hope that you will tell them that the United States of America, sobered by tragedy, united in sorrow, renewed in spirit, faces the New Year determined that world peace, civil rights, and human welfare become not an illusion but a reality.
Man's age-old hopes remain our goal: that this world, under God, can be safe for diversity, and free from hostility, and a better place for our children and for all generations in the years to come. And therefore any man and any nation that seeks peace, and hates war, and is willing to fight the good fight against hunger and disease and ignorance and misery, will find the United States of America by their side, willing to walk with them, walk with them every step of the way.
Thank you very much.