Here is a video excerpt of Lyndon
B. Johnson's Address to the Nation. Scroll down for the
It follows the full text transcript of
Lyndon B. Johnson's Address to the Nation,
nationally televised and delivered
in the Oval Office of the White House at Washington D.C. -
March 31, 1968.
Good evening, my
Tonight I want to
speak to you of peace in Vietnam and Southeast
No other question so preoccupies our people. No
other dream so absorbs the 250 million human
beings who live in that part of the world. No
other goal motivates American policy in
For years, representatives of our Government and
others have traveled the world--seeking to find
a basis for peace talks.
Since last September, they have carried the
offer that I made public at San Antonio. That
offer was this:
That the United States would stop its
bombardment of North Vietnam when that would
lead promptly to productive discussions--and
that we would assume that North Vietnam would
not take military advantage of our restraint.
Hanoi denounced this offer, both privately and
publicly. Even while the search for peace was
going on, North Vietnam rushed their
preparations for a savage assault on the people,
the government, and the allies of South Vietnam.
Their attack--during the Tet holidays--failed to
achieve its principal objectives.
It did not collapse the elected government of
South Vietnam or shatter its army--as the
Communists had hoped.
It did not produce a "general uprising" among
the people of the cities as they had predicted.
The Communists were unable to maintain control
of any of the more than 30 cities that they
attacked. And they took very heavy casualties.
But they did compel the South Vietnamese and
their allies to move certain forces from the
countryside into the cities.
They caused widespread disruption and suffering.
Their attacks, and the battles that followed,
made refugees of half a million human beings.
The Communists may renew their attack any day.
They are, it appears, trying to make 1968 the
year of decision in South Vietnam--the year that
brings, if not final victory or defeat, at least
a turning point in the struggle.
This much is clear:
If they do mount another round of heavy attacks,
they will not succeed in destroying the fighting
power of South Vietnam and its allies.
But tragically, this is also clear: Many men--on
both sides of the struggle--will be lost. A
nation that has already suffered 20 years of
warfare will suffer once again. Armies on both
sides will take new casualties. And the war will
There is no need for this to be so.
There is no need to delay the talks that could
bring an end to this long and this bloody war.
Tonight, I renew the offer I made last
August--to stop the bombardment of North
Vietnam. We ask that talks begin promptly, that
they be serious talks on the substance of peace.
We assume that during those talks Hanoi will not
take advantage of our restraint.
We are prepared to move immediately toward peace
So, tonight, in the hope that this action will
lead to early talks, I am taking the first step
to deescalate the conflict. We are
reducing--substantially reducing--the present
level of hostilities.
And we are doing so unilaterally, and at once.
Tonight, I have ordered our aircraft and our
naval vessels to make no attacks on North
Vietnam, except in the area north of the
demilitarized zone where the continuing enemy
buildup directly threatens allied forward
positions and where the movements of their
troops and supplies are clearly related to that
The area in which we are stopping our attacks
includes almost 90 percent of North Vietnam's
population, and most of its territory. Thus
there will be no attacks around the principal
populated areas, or in the food-producing areas
of North Vietnam.
Even this very limited bombing of the North
could come to an early end--if our restraint is
matched by restraint in Hanoi. But I cannot in
good conscience stop all bombing so long as to
do so would immediately and directly endanger
the lives of our men and our allies. Whether a
complete bombing halt becomes possible in the
future will be determined by events.
Our purpose in this action is to bring about a
reduction in the level of violence that now
It is to save the lives of brave men--and to
save the lives of innocent women and children.
It is to permit the contending forces to move
closer to a political settlement.
And tonight, I call upon the United Kingdom and
I call upon the Soviet Union--as cochairmen of
the Geneva Conferences, and as permanent members
of the United Nations Security Council--to do
all they can to move from the unilateral act of
de-escalation that I have just announced toward
genuine peace in Southeast Asia.
Now, as in the past, the United States is ready
to send its representatives to any forum, at any
time, to discuss the means of bringing this ugly
war to an end.
I am designating one of our most distinguished
Americans, Ambassador Averell Harriman, as my
personal representative for such talks. In
addition, I have asked Ambassador Llewellyn
Thompson, who returned from Moscow for
consultation, to be available to join Ambassador
Harriman at Geneva or any other suitable
place--just as soon as Hanoi agrees to a
I call upon President Ho Chi Minh to respond
positively, and favorably, to this new step
But if peace does not come now through
negotiations, it will come when Hanoi
understands that our common resolve is
unshakable, and our common strength is
Tonight, we and the other allied nations are
contributing 600,000 fighting men to assist
700,000 South Vietnamese troops in defending
their little country.
Our presence there has always rested on this
basic belief: The main burden of preserving
their freedom must be carried out by them--by
the South Vietnamese themselves.
We and our allies can only help to provide a
shield behind which the people of South Vietnam
can survive and can grow and develop. On their
efforts--on their determination and
resourcefulness--the outcome will ultimately
That small, beleaguered nation has suffered
terrible punishment for more than 20 years.
I pay tribute once again tonight to the great
courage and endurance of its people. South
Vietnam supports armed forces tonight of almost
700,000 men--and I call your attention to the
fact that this is the equivalent of more than 10
million in our own population. Its people
maintain their firm determination to be free of
domination by the North.
There has been substantial progress, I think, in
building a durable government during these last
3 years. The South Vietnam of 1965 could not
have survived the enemy's Tet offensive of 1968.
The elected government of South Vietnam survived
that attack--and is rapidly repairing the
devastation that it wrought.
The South Vietnamese know that further efforts
are going to be required:
•--to expand their own armed forces,
•--to move back into the countryside as quickly
as possible, •--to increase their taxes, •--to select the very best men that they have
for civil and military responsibility, •--to achieve a new unity within their
constitutional government, and •--to include in the national effort all those
groups who wish to preserve South Vietnam's
control over its own destiny. Last week President Thieu ordered the
mobilization of 135,000 additional South
Vietnamese. He plans to reach--as soon as
possible--a total military strength of more than
To achieve this, the Government of South Vietnam
started the drafting of 19-year-olds on March
1st. On May 1st, the Government will begin the
drafting of 18-year-olds.
Last month, 10,000 men volunteered for military
service--that was two and a half times the
number of volunteers during the same month last
year. Since the middle of January, more than
48,000 South Vietnamese have joined the armed
forces--and nearly half of them volunteered to
All men in the South Vietnamese armed forces
have had their tours of duty extended for the
duration of the war, and reserves are now being
called up for immediate active duty.
President Thieu told his people last week:
"We must make greater efforts and accept more
sacrifices because, as I have said many times,
this is our country. The existence of our nation
is at stake, and this is mainly a Vietnamese
He warned his people that a major national
effort is required to root out corruption and
incompetence at all levels of government.
We applaud this evidence of determination on the
part of South Vietnam. Our first priority will
be to support their effort.
We shall accelerate the re-equipment of South
Vietnam's armed forces--in order to meet the
enemy's increased firepower. This will enable
them progressively to undertake a larger share
of combat operations against the Communist
On many occasions I have told the American
people that we would send to Vietnam those
forces that are required to accomplish our
mission there. So, with that as our guide, we
have previously authorized a force level of
Some weeks ago--to help meet the enemy's new
offensive--we sent to Vietnam about 11,000
additional Marine and airborne troops. They were
deployed by air in 48 hours, on an emergency
basis. But the artillery, tank, aircraft,
medical, and other units that were needed to
work with and to support these infantry troops
in combat could not then accompany them by air
on that short notice.
In order that these forces may reach maximum
combat effectiveness, the Joint Chiefs of Staff
have recommended to me that we should prepare to
send--during the next 5 months--support troops
totaling approximately 13,500 men.
A portion of these men will be made available
from our active forces. The balance will come
from reserve component units which will be
called up for service.
The actions that we have taken since the
beginning of the year:
•--to reequip the South Vietnamese forces,
•--to meet our responsibilities in Korea, as
well as our responsibilities in Vietnam, •--to meet price increases and the cost of
activating and deploying reserve forces, •--to replace helicopters and provide the other
military supplies we need, all of these actions
are going to require additional expenditures.
The tentative estimate of those additional
expenditures is $2.5 billion in this fiscal
year, and $2.6 billion in the next fiscal year.
These projected increases in expenditures for
our national security will bring into sharper
focus the Nation's need for immediate action:
action to protect the prosperity of the American
people and to protect the strength and the
stability of our American dollar.
On many occasions I have pointed out that,
without a tax bill or decreased expenditures,
next year's deficit would again be around $20
billion. I have emphasized the need to set
strict priorities in our spending. I have
stressed that failure to act and to act promptly
and decisively would raise very strong doubts
throughout the world about America's willingness
to keep its financial house in order.
Yet Congress has not acted. And tonight we face
the sharpest financial threat in the postwar
era--a threat to the dollar's role as the
keystone of international trade and finance in
Last week, at the monetary conference in
Stockholm, the major industrial countries
decided to take a big step toward creating a new
international monetary asset that will
strengthen the international monetary system. I
am very proud of the very able work done by
Secretary Fowler and Chairman Martin of the
Federal Reserve Board.
But to make this system work the United States
just must bring its balance of payments to--or
very close to--equilibrium. We must have a
responsible fiscal policy in this country. The
passage of a tax bill now, together with
expenditure control that the Congress may desire
and dictate, is absolutely necessary to protect
this Nation's security, to continue our
prosperity, and to meet the needs of our people.
What is at stake is 7 years of unparalleled
prosperity. In those 7 years, the real income of
the average American, after taxes, rose by
almost 30 percent--a gain as large as that of
the entire preceding 19 years.
So the steps that we must take to convince the
world are exactly the steps we must take to
sustain our own economic strength here at home.
In the past 8 months, prices and interest rates
have risen because of our inaction.
We must, therefore, now do everything we can to
move from debate to action--from talking to
voting. There is, I believe--I hope there is--in
both Houses of the Congress--a growing sense of
urgency that this situation just must be acted
upon and must be corrected.
My budget in January was, we thought, a tight
one. It fully reflected our evaluation of most
of the demanding needs of this Nation.
But in these budgetary matters, the President
does not decide alone. The Congress has the
power and the duty to determine appropriations
The Congress is now considering our proposals
and they are considering reductions in the
budget that we submitted.
As part of a program of fiscal restraint that
includes the tax surcharge, I shall approve
appropriate reductions in the January budget
when and if Congress so decides that that should
One thing is unmistakably clear, however: Our
deficit just must be reduced. Failure to act
could bring on conditions that would strike
hardest at those people that all of us are
trying so hard to help.
These times call for prudence in this land of
plenty. I believe that we have the character to
provide it, and tonight I plead with the
Congress and with the people to act promptly to
serve the national interest, and thereby serve
all of our people.
Now let me give you my estimate of the chances
• the peace that will one day stop the
bloodshed in South Vietnam, • that will permit all the Vietnamese people to
rebuild and develop their land, • that will permit us to turn more fully to our
own tasks here at home.
I cannot promise that the initiative that I have
announced tonight will be completely successful
in achieving peace any more than the 30 others
that we have undertaken and agreed to in recent
But it is our fervent hope that North Vietnam,
after years of fighting that have left the issue
unresolved, will now cease its efforts to
achieve a military victory and will join with us
in moving toward the peace table.
And there may come a time when South
Vietnamese--on both sides--are able to work out
a way to settle their own differences by free
political choice rather than by war.
As Hanoi considers its course, it should be in
no doubt of our intentions. It must not
miscalculate the pressures within our democracy
in this election year.
We have no intention of widening this war.
But the United States will never accept a fake
solution to this long and arduous struggle and
call it peace.
No one can foretell the precise terms of an
Our objective in South Vietnam has never been
the annihilation of the enemy. It has been to
bring about a recognition in Hanoi that its
objective--taking over the South by force--could
not be achieved.
We think that peace can be based on the Geneva
Accords of 1954--under political conditions that
permit the South Vietnamese--all the South
Vietnamese--to chart their course free of any
outside domination or interference, from us or
from anyone else.
So tonight I reaffirm the pledge that we made at
Manila--that we are prepared to withdraw our
forces from South Vietnam as the other side
withdraws its forces to the north, stops the
infiltration, and the level of violence thus
Our goal of peace and self-determination in
Vietnam is directly related to the future of all
of Southeast Asia--where much has happened to
inspire confidence during the past 10 years. We
have done all that we knew how to do to
contribute and to help build that confidence.
A number of its nations have shown what can be
accomplished under conditions of security. Since
1966, Indonesia, the fifth largest nation in all
the world, with a population of more than 100
million people, has had a government that is
dedicated to peace with its neighbors and
improved conditions for its own people.
Political and economic cooperation between
nations has grown rapidly.
I think every American can take a great deal of
pride in the role that we have played in
bringing this about in Southeast Asia. We can
rightly judge--as responsible Southeast Asians
themselves do--that the progress of the past 3
years would have been far less likely--if not
completely impossible--if America's sons and
others had not made their stand in Vietnam.
At Johns Hopkins University, about 3 years ago,
I announced that the United States would take
part in the great work of developing Southeast
Asia, including the Mekong Valley, for all the
people of that region. Our determination to help
build a better land--a better land for men on
both sides of the present conflict--has not
diminished in the least. Indeed, the ravages of
war, I think, have made it more urgent than
So, I repeat on behalf of the United States
again tonight what I said at Johns Hopkins--that
North Vietnam could take its place in this
common effort just as soon as peace comes.
Over time, a wider framework of peace and
security in Southeast Asia may become possible.
The new cooperation of the nations of the area
could be a foundation-stone. Certainly
friendship with the nations of such a Southeast
Asia is what the United States seeks--and that
is all that the United States seeks.
One day, my fellow citizens, there will be peace
in Southeast Asia.
It will come because the people of Southeast
Asia want it--those whose armies are at war
tonight, and those who, though threatened, have
thus far been spared.
Peace will come because Asians were willing to
work for it--and to sacrifice for it--and to die
by the thousands for it.
But let it never be forgotten: Peace will come
also because America sent her sons to help
It has not been easy--far from it. During the
past 4½ years, it has been my fate and my
responsibility to be Commander in Chief. I have
lived---daily and nightly--with the cost of this
war. I know the pain that it has inflicted. I
know, perhaps better than anyone, the misgivings
that it has aroused.
Throughout this entire, long period, I have been
sustained by a single principle: that what we
are doing now, in Vietnam, is vital not only to
the security of Southeast Asia, but it is vital
to the security of every American.
Surely we have treaties which we must respect.
Surely we have commitments that we are going to
keep. Resolutions of the Congress testify to the
need to resist aggression in the world and in
But the heart of our involvement in South
Vietnam--under three different presidents, three
separate administrations--has always been
America's own security.
And the larger purpose of our involvement has
always been to help the nations of Southeast
Asia become independent and stand alone,
self-sustaining, as members of a great world
community--at peace with themselves, and at
peace with all others.
With such an Asia, our country--and the
world--will be far more secure than it is
I believe that a peaceful Asia is far nearer to
reality because of what America has done in
Vietnam. I believe that the men who endure the
dangers of battle--fighting there for us
tonight--are helping the entire world avoid far
greater conflicts, far wider wars, far more
destruction, than this one.
The peace that will bring them home someday will
come. Tonight I have offered the first in what I
hope will be a series of mutual moves toward
I pray that it will not be rejected by the
leaders of North Vietnam. I pray that they will
accept it as a means by which the sacrifices of
their own people may be ended. And I ask your
help and your support, my fellow citizens, for
this effort to reach across the battlefield
toward an early peace.
Finally, my fellow Americans, let me say this:
Of those to whom much is given, much is asked. I
cannot say and no man could say that no more
will be asked of us.
Yet, I believe that now, no less than when the
decade began, this generation of Americans is
willing to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet
any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe
to assure the survival and the success of
Since those words were spoken by John F.
Kennedy, the people of America have kept that
compact with mankind's noblest cause.
And we shall continue to keep it.
Yet, I believe that we must always be mindful of
this one thing, whatever the trials and the
tests ahead. The ultimate strength of our
country and our cause will lie not in powerful
weapons or infinite resources or boundless
wealth, but will lie in the unity of our people.
This I believe very deeply.
Throughout my entire public career I have
followed the personal philosophy that I am a
free man, an American, a public servant, and a
member of my party, in that order always and
For 37 years in the service of our Nation, first
as a Congressman, as a Senator, and as Vice
President, and now as your President, I have put
the unity of the people first. I have put it
ahead of any divisive partisanship.
And in these times as in times before, it is
true that a house divided against itself by the
spirit of faction, of party, of region, of
religion, of race, is a house that cannot stand.
There is division in the American house now.
There is divisiveness among us all tonight. And
holding the trust that is mine, as President of
all the people, I cannot disregard the peril to
the progress of the American people and the hope
and the prospect of peace for all peoples.
So, I would ask all Americans, whatever their
personal interests or concern, to guard against
divisiveness and all its ugly consequences.
Fifty-two months and 10 days ago, in a moment of
tragedy and trauma, the duties of this office
fell upon me. I asked then for your help and
God's, that we might continue America on its
course, binding up our wounds, healing our
history, moving forward in new unity, to clear
the American agenda and to keep the American
commitment for all of our people.
United we have kept that commitment. United we
have enlarged that commitment.
Through all time to come, I think America will
be a stronger nation, a more just society, and a
land of greater opportunity and fulfillment
because of what we have all done together in
these years of unparalleled achievement.
Our reward will come in the life of freedom,
peace, and hope that our children will enjoy
through ages ahead.
What we won when all of our people united just
must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust,
selfishness, and politics among any of our
Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I
should not permit the Presidency to become
involved in the partisan divisions that are
developing in this political year.
With America's sons in the fields far away, with
America's future under challenge right here at
home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for
peace in the balance every day, I do not believe
that I should devote an hour or a day of my time
to any personal partisan causes or to any duties
other than the awesome duties of this
office--the Presidency of your country.
Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not
accept, the nomination of my party for another
term as your President.
But let men everywhere know, however, that a
strong, a confident, and a vigilant America
stands ready tonight to seek an honorable
peace--and stands ready tonight to defend an
honored cause--whatever the price, whatever the
burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may