Lyndon Baines Johnson
Wednesday, January 20, 1965
My fellow countrymen, on this occasion, the oath I have taken before you and before God is not mine alone, but ours together. We are one nation and one people. Our fate as a nation and our future as a people rest not upon one citizen, but upon all citizens.
This is the majesty and the meaning of this moment.
For every generation, there is a destiny. For some, history decides. For this generation, the choice must be our own.
Even now, a rocket moves toward Mars. It reminds us that the world will not be the same for our children, or even for ourselves in a short span of years. The next man to stand here will look out on a scene different from our own, because ours is a time of change—rapid and fantastic change bearing the secrets of nature, multiplying the nations, placing in uncertain hands new weapons for mastery and destruction, shaking old values, and uprooting old ways.
Our destiny in the midst of change will rest on the unchanged character of our people, and on their faith.
They came here—the exile and the stranger, brave but frightened—to find a place where a man could be his own man. They made a covenant with this land. Conceived in justice, written in liberty, bound in union, it was meant one day to inspire the hopes of all mankind; and it binds us still. If we keep its terms, we shall flourish.
First, justice was the promise that all who made the journey would share in the fruits of the land.
In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry. In a land of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended. In a great land of learning and scholars, young people must be taught to read and write.
For the more than 30 years that I have served this Nation, I have believed that this injustice to our people, this waste of our resources, was our real enemy. For 30 years or more, with the resources I have had, I have vigilantly fought against it. I have learned, and I know, that it will not surrender easily.
But change has given us new weapons. Before this generation of Americans is finished, this enemy will not only retreat—it will be conquered.
Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his fellow, saying, “His color is not mine,” or “His beliefs are strange and different,” in that moment he betrays America, though his forebears created this Nation.
Liberty was the second article of our covenant. It was self-government. It was our Bill of Rights. But it was more. America would be a place where each man could be proud to be himself: stretching his talents, rejoicing in his work, important in the life of his neighbors and his nation.