Thanksgiving in 1963
November 29, 1963
Johnson's Thanksgiving Address Asks Nation to 'Banish Rancor' and Move
On to 'New Greatness'
By TOM WICKER
WASHINGTON, Nov. 28--President Johnson, in a Thanksgiving message to
the nation, called tonight for a "new American greatness" to arise
from the memory of John F. Kennedy.
Speaking on television from his office in the west executive wing of
the White House, Mr. Johnson said:
"Let us today renew our dedication to the ideals that are American.
"Let us pray for His divine wisdom in banishing from our land any
injustice or intolerance or oppression to any of our fellow Americans,
whatever their opinion, whatever the color of their skins, for God
made all of us, not some of us, in His image. All of us, not some of
us, are His children."
A Solemn Manner
The President, seated in a deep leather chair between an American flag
and the Presidential flag, spoke as solemnly as he did yesterday in
his address to a joint session of Congress. He declared:
"It is this work that I most want us to do--to banish rancor from our
words and malice from our hearts--to close down the poison springs of
hatred and intolerance and fanaticism."
The President closed his brief address with an appeal for Americans to
"remember your country and remember me each day in your prayers."
In that way, he said, there may emerge from the tragedy of last week
"a new American greatness, a new day, when peace is more secure, when
justice is more universal, when freedom is more strong, in every home
of all mankind."
Renames Space Center
The President also announced that Station No. 1 of the Atlantic
missile range and the space agency's operations center in Florida
would be renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Cape Canaveral, he
said, will hereafter be known as Cape Kennedy.
The President's talk, the first he has addressed directly to the
American people, came at the end of a busy day.
In mid-afternoon, he spent more than an hour at the White House with
Secretary of State Dean Rusk and McGeorge Bundy, his special assistant
for national security affairs.
Administration sources said the meeting was "a general, wide-ranging
discussion of foreign policy problems, projecting ahead for the next
two months to try to anticipate what the President will be dealing with."
There have been reports that Mr. Johnson is anxious to have a firm
understanding of the foreign scene so he may judge whether he can
safely concentrate on pressing legislative problems in Congress.
After the speech, Mr. Johnson went to his home--he will not move into
the White House with his family until late next week--for a
traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
The Johnson menu included roast turkey with cornbread stuffing, giblet
gravy, sweet potatoes, French green beans, cranberries and fruit dessert.
Mr. Johnson's address tonight was carried by the national television
networks at 6:15 P.M., Eastern standard time.
He began with the simple introduction: "My fellow Americans."
On this Thanksgiving, he said, he was asking their help, their
strength and their prayers "that God may guard this republic and guide
my every labor."
No one, he said, had the "divine wisdom" to fathom why Mr. Kennedy had
been killed, but everyone had the "human duty of determining what is
to be, what is to be for America, for the world, for the cause we
lead, for all the hopes that live in our hearts."
Although a great leaders is dead, he said, "a great nation must move
on. Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or
to lose. I am resolved that we shall win the tomorrows before us."
Much to Be Thankful For
There were many things for this generation of Americans to be thankful
for, the President said, continuing:
"Our harvests are bountiful, our factories flourish, our homes are
safe, our defenses are secure. We live in peace. The goodwill of the
world pours out for us."
But more than any of these things, Mr. Johnson said, "we know tonight
that our system is strong--strong and secure. A deed that was meant to
tear us apart has bound us together."
In the ordeal of Mr. Kennedy's murder and the transition of the
Presidency, Mr. Johnson said the American people "have shown what John
F. Kennedy called upon us to show in his proclamation of this
Thanksgiving--that decency of purpose, that steadfastness of resolve,
that strength of will which we inherited from our forefathers."
Nothing better demonstrated this, he said, than his first callers,
former President Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mr. Johnson
"Since last Friday Americans have turned to the good, decent values of
our life. These have served us. Yes, these have saved us."
Mr. Johnson said that the greatest problems faced by each of the five
Presidents he had known in his 32 years in Washington was "the burden
of his own countrymen's unthinking and unreasoning hate and division."
It was that attitude that the President seemed most concerned about,
for, he said, "the fate of this office is the fate of us all."
The President began his day the way many of them will begin from now
on, with an intelligence briefing on world problems.
Ordinarily military aides conduct the President's briefing, but today
Mr. Johnson talked with John A. McCone, the head of the Central
Intelligence Agency. Mr. McCone came to the spacious Johnson house,
The Elms, in Spring Valley.
Later the Presidential family posed for pictures in the living-room
fireplace, a spot that used to be central to the parties given by Mrs.
Perle Mesta, who owned the house before the Johnsons bought it in 1961.
Mr. Johnson wore a dark grey suit and black tie. Mrs. Johnson was
seated in front of him, in black. Standing by her were their
daughters, Lynda Bird, 19, wearing a green dress, and Lucy Baines, 16,
wearing a black dress with a fur collar.
Mr. Johnson chatted comfortably with some of the reporters who had
come in with the photographers. "I know I'm keeping you all busy," he
said. "I hope I didn't ruin your Thanksgiving."
Today it was not a long drive and few persons saw the Johnson family,
under close security guard, pass along Massachusetts Avenue to the
white stone Methodist church at Mt. Vernon place. The
Interdenominational service was at 11 A.M.
With the Johnson family was Ens. Bernard Rosenbach of Comfort, Tex.,
Lynda Bird's fiancÈ, Mr. and Mrs. Horace Busby and Mrs. Glynn
Steagall. Mr. Busby and Mrs. Steagall are on Mr. Johnson's staff.
Six congregations had joined for the service. The clergymen
participating were the Rev. Dr. Albert P. Shirkey, the host pastor,
Dr. George R. Davis of the National City Christian Church, Rabbi
Norman Gerstenfeld of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, the Rev. Dr.
Sett Brooks of the Universalist National Methodist Church, Dr.
Clarence W. Cranford of the Calvary Baptist Church and Rabbi Stanley
Rabinowitz of Adas Israel Synagogue.
Dr. Shirkey said the presence of Mr. Johnson and his family was "a
prophecy of the spiritual leadership that they are determined to give
Rabbi Rabinowitz gave the sermon. He said that Mr. Johnson had
translated the murder of Mr. Kennedy into a national summons for the
rejection of hatred and violence.
"President Johnson perceptibly grasped that ancient truth in his
address to a joint session of Congress yesterday when he stated that
out of disaster we shall gain greatness and strength," the rabbi said.
The President joined the rest of the congregation in singing the hymn
"Now Thank We All Our God." He also sang with them "America the
Beautiful"--the patriotic hymn from which he quoted yesterday in his
address to Congress.
After the service, he told the Rev. Dr. Shirkey that it "could not
have been more fitting."
The pastor said Mrs. Johnson had told him, "We just want you to know
that it helped."
The Johnsons were applauded by about 100 spectators who saw them leave
the church to return to The Elms.