Quotations by Johnson, Lyndon


Now we may have more preachers out there than we have drinkers. But a fellow told me a story one time about a man down in Kentucky, where they make bourbon. And he said you can take a jigger, or two jiggers, and get by all right. But if you try to take the whole bottle, why you have lost what you started with. So don’t try to take it too quick. And don’t try to do all of it at once.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
“Remarks to a Group of Southern Negroes,” speech (2 Apr 1965)
Added on 10-Jul-13 | Last updated 10-Jul-13
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I once told Nixon that the Presidency is like being a jackass caught in a hail storm. You’ve got to just stand there and take it.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
“The Last Days of the President: LBJ in Retirement,” Atlantic Monthly (Jul 1973)
Added on 6-Nov-12 | Last updated 6-Nov-12
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I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. First, let her think she’s having her way. And second, let her have it.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
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Face saving is not my major purpose in life. While you’re saving your face, you’re losing your ass.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

In Philip Geyelin, Lyndon B. Johnson and the World (1966).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 4-Sep-12
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If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing the thinking.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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The best way to kill a new idea is to put it in an old-line agency.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

Quoted in Rowland Evans, Jr., and Robert Novak, Lyndon B. Johnson (1966)

Added on 16-Jan-09 | Last updated 16-Jan-09
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People don’t support you because they like you. You can count on a person’s support only when you do something for him or something to him.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

In Richard Nixon, In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat, and Renewal, ch. 21 (1990)
Added on 24-Oct-12 | Last updated 24-Oct-12
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It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

On FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover; quoted in The New York Times (31 Oct 1971).
Added on 14-Nov-12 | Last updated 14-Nov-12
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Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

Private comment, quoted in John Kenneth Galbraith, Name-Dropping (1999).
Added on 28-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Nov-12
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Whatever the laws may provide, however lofty may be their sentiments, a man without a vote is a man without protection.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

Comment, as Senate Majority Leader.
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Every President wants to do right.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

In George Christian, The President Steps Down, ch. 1 (1970).
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If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: “President Can’t Swim.”

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
Added on 19-Dec-12 | Last updated 19-Dec-12
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No member of our generation who wasn’t a Communist or a dropout in the thirties is worth a damn.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
Added on 2-Jan-13 | Last updated 2-Jan-13
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One lesson you better learn if you want to be in politics is that you never go out on a golf course and beat the President.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
Added on 9-Jan-13 | Last updated 9-Jan-13
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If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice yo’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

In Bill Moyers, "What a Real President Was Like," Washington Post (13 Nov 1988)
Added on 16-Jan-13 | Last updated 16-Jan-13
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That’s just the trouble, Sam Houston — it’s always my move. And damnit, I sometimes can’t tell whether I’m making the right move or not. Now take this Vietnam mess. How in the hell can anyone know for sure what’s right and what’s wrong, Sam?

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

In Sam Houston Johnson, My Brother Lyndon, ch. 1 (1969).
Added on 23-Jan-13 | Last updated 23-Jan-13
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There are no favorites in my office. I treat them all with the same general inconsideration.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Mar-13 | Last updated 20-Mar-13
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You aren’t learning anything when you’re talking.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

Sometimes given as "You ain't learning anything when you're talking."
Added on 22-May-13 | Last updated 22-May-13
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Don’t spit in the soup. We’ve all got to eat.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

Comment when he was U. S. Senate majority leader.
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Son, in politics you’ve got to learn that overnight chicken shit can turn to chicken salad.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
(Attributed)

Quoted in Fawn Brodie, Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character, ch. 25 (1983). Reply to a reporter who asked him about his embracing Richard Nixon, after Nixon's 1958 vice presidential tour of South America, where Nixon had stood up to an angry crowd in Caracas, Venezuela. Johnson had previously referred to Nixon as "chicken shit."
Added on 17-Jul-13 | Last updated 17-Jul-13
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But now Nixon has come along and everything I’ve worked for is ruined. There’s a story in the paper every day about him slashing another one of my Great Society programs. I can just see him waking up in the morning, making that victory sign of his and deciding which program to kill. It’s a terrible thing for me to sit by and watch someone else starve my Great Society to death. She’s getting thinner and thinner and uglier and uglier all the time; now her bones are beginning to stick out and her wrinkles are beginning to show. Soon she’ll be so ugly that the American people will refuse to look at her; they’ll stick her in a closet to hide her away and there she’ll die. And when she dies, I, too, will die.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
LBJ and the American Dream, ch. 10 (1971)
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Presidents quickly realize that while a single act might destroy the world they live in, no one single decision can make life suddenly better or can turn history around for the good.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Time (5 Feb 1973)
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John F. Kennedy was the victim of the hate that was a part of our country. It is a disease that occupies the minds of the few but brings danger to the many.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Address, Mitchell Field, New York (9 May 1964)

Dedication of JFK Cultural Center.
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Let us have our heroes. Let us continue to believe that some have been truly great; that it lies within human ability to overcome temptations and trials; that it is sublime to suffer and be strong. Petty biographers with inferior souls and jealous hearts would rob us of these happy privileges. Sensationalism is alright for yellow journalism, but in biography we wish to see our famous men and women as they were and feel the power of the strength and beauty of their lives. Down with the debunking biographers.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
College essay

In Lyndon Baines Johnson: The Formative Years, ch. 6, Southwest Texas State College Press (1965).
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You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: “Now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.” You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, “You are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe you have been completely fair. … This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity — not just legal equity but human ability — not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Commencement Address, Howard University (4 Jun 1965)

On Affirmative Action.
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We live amid falling taboos. In our crowded little hour of history we have seen how the prejudice of religion no longer can bar the way to the White House. Some of you may live to see the day when the prejudice of sex no longer places the Presidency beyond the reach of a greatly gifted American lady. Long before them, I hope you will see a woman member of the Supreme Court of the United States. In Congress and in our State Legislatures we need more women to bring their sensitive experience to the shaping of our decisions.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Commencement Address, National Cathedral School (5 Jun 1962)
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We know that most people’s intentions are good. We don’t question their motives; we’ve never said they’re unpatriotic, although they say some pretty ugly things about us. And we believe very strongly on preserving the right to differ in this country, and the right to dissent; and if I have done a good job of anything since I’ve been president, it’s to ensure that there are plenty of dissenters.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Comment (17 Nov 1967)

Quoted in Vietnam: A Television History, "Homefront USA" (1983)
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I want to make a policy statement. I am unabashedly in favor of women.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Comment (4 Mar 1964)

On the appointment of ten women to top posts, under his pledge to end a "stag government."

Added on 20-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Oct-08
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I’d rather give my life than be afraid to give it.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Comment (Nov 1963)

Rejecting the Secret Service's advice not to march publicly in John Kennedy's funeral procession. In William Manchester, The Death of a President (1967).
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There is but one way for a president to deal with Congress, and that is continuously, incessantly, and without interruption. If it is really going to work, the relationship has got to be almost incestuous. He’s got to know them better than they know themselves. And then, on the basis of this knowledge, he’s got to build a system that stretches from the cradle to the grave, from the moment a bill is introduced to the moment it is officially enrolled as the law of the land.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Comment to Doris Kearns, in Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976)
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I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved — the Great Society — in order to get involved with that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs. All my hopes to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. All my dreams to provide education and medical care to the browns and the blacks and the lame and the poor. But if I left that war and let the Communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser and we would find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere on the entire globe.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
In Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, ch. 9, (1976).

Conversation with the author.
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It is part of the price of leadership of this great and free nation to be the target of clever satirists. You have given the gift of laughter to our people. May we never grow so somber or self-important that we fail to appreciate the humor in our lives.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Letter to the Smothers Brothers (Nov 1968)

Replying to a letter from them apologizing for making him the target of so much of their humor. More info here and here.
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There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
News conference, Johnson City, Texas (28 Nov 1964)
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We learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Press conference (28 Jul 1965)

Defending his decision to to not withdraw US troops from Vietnam.
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Every child must be encouraged to get as much education as he has the ability to take. We want this not only for his sake — but for the nation’s sake. Nothing matters more to the future of our country: not military preparedness — for armed might is worthless if we lack the brain power to build a world of peace; not our productive economy — for we cannot sustain growth without trained manpower; not our democratic system of government — for freedom is fragile if citizens are ignorant.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Special Message to Congress, “Toward Full Educational Opportunity” (12 Jan. 1965)
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The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech (30 Apr 1964)
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Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the House, Members of the Senate, my fellow Americans, all I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech before Congress (27 Nov 1963)

Five days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Congressional Record (House), Nov. 27, 1963, vol. 109, part 17, House Document 178, p. 22838, GPO (1963).
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I pray we are still a young and courageous nation, that we have not grown so old and so fat and so prosperous that all we can think about is to sit back with our arms around our money bags. If we choose to do that I have no doubt that the smoldering fires will burst into flame and consume us — dollars and all.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech in Congress (7 May 1947)
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As it was 189 years ago, so today the cause of America is a revolutionary cause. And I am proud this morning to salute you as fellow revolutionaries. Neither you nor I are willing to accept the tyranny of poverty, nor the dictatorship of ignorance, nor the despotism of ill health, nor the oppression of bias and prejudice and bigotry. We want change. We want progress. We want it both abroad and at home — and we aim to get it.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech to government summer interns (4 Aug 1965)
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All of us realize that war requires action. What is sometimes harder for us to realize is that peace and neutrality also require action.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Armistice Day, Brenham, Texas (11 Nov 1939)
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I pray that when historians write the story of this time in our lives, that it may be recorded that this President tried, tried to lead his Nation, tried to lead his Nation with justice and with compassion and with courage — and there was faith and there was firmness in his heart. May it further be written that the people of the United States cast out their doubts, took great pride in their achievements, and bravely made of this land and this world a brighter, happier place for all mankind. This is our choice. This is our decision. Let us all be greatly determined that this society shall survive and this society shall succeed. And what it should be will be for all time to come.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Brown University Convocation (28 Sep 1964)
    (Source)
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Whether we are New Dealer, Old Dealer, Liberty Leaguer or Red, whether we agree or not, we still have the right to think and speak how we feel.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Chamber of Commerce Barbeque, Smithville, Texas (15 Sep 1939)
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I believe that the essence of government lies with unceasing concern for the welfare and dignity and decency and innate integrity of life for every individual. I don’t like to say this and wish I didn’t have to add these words to make it clear but I will — regardless of color, creed, ancestry, sex or age.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Civil Rights symposium, LBJ Library, Austin, Texas, (12 Dec 1972)
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At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have the right to vote. … Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes. … No law that we now have on the books … can insure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it. … There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States’ rights or National rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Congress (15 Mar 1965)

Introducing the Voting Rights Act
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We can draw lessons from the past, but we cannot live in it.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Consumer Advisory Council, Washington, DC (13 Dec 1963)
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This Administration has declared unconditional war on poverty and I have come here this morning to ask all of you to enlist as volunteers. Members of all parties are welcome to our tent. Members of all races ought to be there. Members of all religions should come and help us now to strike the hammer of truth against the anvil of public opinion again and again until the ears of this Nation are open, until the hearts of this Nation are touched, and until the conscience of America is awakened.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Convention of Amalgamated Clothing Workers, New York (9 May 1964)
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In the crisis of this hour — as in all others that we have faced since our Nation began — there are plenty of recommendations on how to get out of trouble cheaply and fast. Most of them in the last analysis really come down to this: Deny your responsibilities.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Democratic Party Dinner, Washington (7 Oct 1967)
    (Source)

Sometimes paraphrased "There are plenty of recommendations on how to get out of trouble cheaply and fast. Most of them come down to this: Deny your responsibility."
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I am persuaded that the people of the world have no grievances, one against the other. The hopes and desires of a man who tills the soil are about the same whether he lives on the banks of the Colorado or on the banks of the Danube.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, House of Representatives (7 May 1947)
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The separation of church and state is a source of strength, but the conscience of our nation does not call for separation between men of state and faith in the Supreme Being.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Illinois AFL-CIO Convention (1968)
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Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. To the extent that the Proclamation of Emancipation is not fulfilled in fact, to that extent we shall have fallen short of assuring freedom to the free.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Memorial Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (30 May 1963)
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The world has narrowed to a neighborhood before it has broadened to brotherhood.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, New York City (17 Dec 1963)

Johnson used this phrase in several speeches around this time, e.g., in a speech at the Pageant of Peace Ceremonies, Washington, DC (22 Dec 1963): "We hope that the world will not narrow into a neighborhood before it has broadened into a brotherhood."Alternate: "We live in a world that has narrowed to a neighborhood before it has broadened to brotherhood."
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The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Signing of the Voting Rights Act (6 Aug 1965)
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One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom — not only for political independence, but for personal liberty — not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men. That struggle was a turning point in our history. Today in far corners of distant continents, the ideals of those American patriots still shape the struggles of men who hunger for freedom. This is a proud triumph. Yet those who founded our country knew that freedom would be secure only if each generation fought to renew and enlarge its meaning.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Signing the Civil Rights Act (2 Jul 1964)
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The central fact of American civilization — one so hard for others to understand — is that freedom and justice and the dignity of man are not just words to us. We believe in them. Under all the growth and the tumult and abundance, we believe. And so, as long as some among us are oppressed — and we are part of that oppression — it must blunt our faith and sap the strength of our high purpose.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Signing the Voting Rights Act (6 Aug 1965)
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Added on 29-May-13 | Last updated 29-May-13
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Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, UN General Assembly (17 Dec 1963)
Added on 8-Apr-08 | Last updated 4-Sep-12
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More quotes by Johnson, Lyndon

We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, University of Michigan (22 May 1964)
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Added on 17-Apr-13 | Last updated 17-Apr-13
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But, most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (22 May 1964)
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Added on 18-Sep-13 | Last updated 18-Sep-13
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I taught school in the early days of my manhood and I think I know something about mothers. There is a thread of aspiration that runs strong in them. It is the fiber that has formed the most unselfish creatures who inhabit this earth. They want three things only; for their children to be fed, to be healthy, and to make the most of themselves.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Washington, D.C. Women’s Meeting (9 Jul 1963)
Added on 31-Jul-13 | Last updated 15-Jul-13
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A rioter with a Molotov cocktail in his hands is not fighting for civil rights any more than a Klansman with a sheet on his back and a mask on his face.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Washington, DC (20 Aug 1965)
Added on 7-Aug-13 | Last updated 7-Aug-13
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This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
State of the Union address (8 Jan 1964)
Added on 13-Jun-12 | Last updated 13-Jun-12
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More quotes by Johnson, Lyndon