LBJ Transcript of conversation with Sargent Shriver, February 1, 1964

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 9:55 am: Edit Post

LBJ Transcript of conversation with Sargent Shriver, February 1, 1964

LBJ Transcript of conversation with Sargent Shriver, February 1, 1964

LBJ Transcript of conversation with Sargent Shriver, February 1, 1964

LBJ Poverty Transcripts

Below are two transcripts, the tapes of which we'll hear in class, that offer some insight on LBJ's attitude toward poverty. The first contains a portion of an early February conversation between the President and Sargent Shriver, whom LBJ was about to appoint as his special assistant to coordinate the anti-poverty campaign. Question: Do you get a clear sense of LBJ's anti-poverty agenda from this conversation? Did Shriver?

The second call concerns the traditional Labor Day campaign kickoff speech, and is between LBJ and one of his closest aides, Bill Moyers. Here, the President offers a glimpse of his overall economic philosophy. Question: What was LBJ's ideal vision of economic policy, at least based on this call? (Note: Moyers originally had considered becoming a Baptist minister; this will explain a few of the President's jokes in this conversation.)

President Johnson and Sargent Shriver, 1:02 PM, February 1, 1964

President Johnson: Sarge?

Shriver: Good morning, Mr. President. How are you?

President Johnson: Iím going to announce your appointment at the press conference.

Shriver: [taken aback] What press conference?

President Johnson: This afternoon.

Shriver: Oh God, I think it would be advisable, if you donít mind, if I could have this weekend. I wanted to sit down with a couple of people and see what we could get in the way of some sort of plan. Because what happens, at least what my thought is, [that] you announce somebody like me or somebody else, and they donít know what the hell they are doing or what this program is going to be specifically, and who is going to carry it, then youíre in a hell of a hole, because they are going to call you up and say, "Well now, what are you going to do?"

President Johnson: Welló

Shriver: And you donít know what youíre talking about.

President Johnson: Well, just donít talk to themójust go away to Camp David and figure it out. We need something to say to the press. Iíve got to tell them what I talked to you about yesterday. You can just take off and work out your Peace Corps any way you want to. You can be head of the committee and have some acting operator, and if you want Bill [Moyers] to help you, Iíll let him do that. Iíll do anythingóbut I want to announce this and get it behind me, so Iíll quit getting all these other pressures.

Youíve got to do it. You just canít let me down, so the quicker we get it behind us, the better. You can talk to them as special assistant to the President a hell of a lot easier than you can talk to them just as Peace Corps administrator. If they want to talk to you, just tell them to speak to me.

Shriver: Yes. Welló

President Johnson: But donít make me wait until next week, because I want to satisfy them with something. I told them we were going to have a press meeting.

Shriver: Let me say this. Can I make just one pointó

President Johnson: Theyíre going to have all these damn questions and I donít want to be indecisive about them.

Shriver: I understand. But I think that there is one point thatís worthy of your consideration. Itís this. Number one: Iím not going to let anybody down, last of all you. Youíve been terrific to me.

Second: this appointment, if itís announced without the proper preparation with our people abroad around the world, as I tried to indicate to you yesterdayóand I think Bill will confirm this to you, Mr. Presidentówould cause an awful lot of internal [searches for word] apprehension.

President Johnson: Well, Ió

Shriver: [continuing] In the sense that I would like to have a chance to prepare the Corps, not only my top people here in Washington, which I can do, but Iíve got four or five guys coming back here from abroad right now.

President Johnson: But that will leak out over 40 places. Why donít I tell them you are not severing your connection with the Corps, that you are still going to be identified with the Corps, and the details of what you will do there can be worked out later, and youíll announce them. Generally speaking, Iímó

Shriver: Could you say this: that you have asked me to study how this thing should be carried out? Thatís the way that I did it for President Kennedy when he asked me to look at the Peace Corps, and to study how it should be organized and carried out. And that I will do that for you, and that, based on what I have proposed then, you will make your move. What I will propose, of course, is what you want to have done, but at least, it doesnít look as if I have left the Peace Corps.

President Johnson: Let me make it clear: let me say that I have asked you to study this, and Iím going to ask you to direct it, but that does not mean that you are going to lose identification with the Peace Corps, and what responsibilities you will have with the Peace Corps you will announce at a later date.

Shriver: Could you just say that you have asked me to study this?

President Johnson: No. Hell, no. Theyíve studied and studied and studied. They want to know who in the hell is going to do this, and itís leaked all over the papers for two weeks that youíre going to do it. Theyíll be shooting me with questionsótheyíre already doing it. And . . .

Shriver: Yes, yes, Iím all set on that. That Shriver is going to be the person that is going to organize this thing. Heís going to study it, come in with a report to me on what he wants to do with it within two or three weeks, whatever it was, that we spent a monthó

President Johnson: Iím going to say that youíre going to be Special Assistant to the President, and executive in charge of the poverty program. And how that affects your Peace Corps relationshipóyouíll still maintain it, but youíll be glad to go into that with them at a later date. At the present, youíre working up the organization of this. Whatís wrong with that?

Shriver: Well, the problem with it is that, you know, it will knock the crap out of the Peace Corps.

President Johnson: Not if they tell them that youíre not severing your identification with the Peace Corps.

Shriver: Then youíll say that Iím going to continue as the director?

President Johnson: Well, Iíll just say that youíre going to continue your identification with the Peace Corps, whatever identification you want, whatever you want to do with it.

Shriver: I think it would be better if you would say, if you have to, that Iím going to continue as director.

President Johnson: Theyíre going to say then, "Are you going to have him directing two jobs?" Iím going to say, "I donít know." Thatís the next question, you see. Iíd say heís going to continue his identification with the Peace Corps, in what capacity heíll explain to you in great detail. But heís going to see that it functions, and heís also on the poverty assignment.

Shriver: [disspirited] Mm-hmm. Of course, youíve got the sense of the situation. I must say that I would prefer, Mr. President, if I had 48 hours even to work with our staff around the world, so they wonít hear this over the worldwide Voice of America, or something like that.

President Johnson: Itís not going to be anything but a compliment to you. Theyíre going to be proud of you. Theyíre going to be applauding you. Everybody is.

Shriver: Would you ask Bill? He would confirm to you on the point that Iím trying to make, namely, that within the Peace Corps right now, there is a very great sort of a personal problem about me, with a whole lot of people that are in it.

President Johnson: Iím not taking you away from them. Iím just giving you a billion dollars to work with. And you figure out how you want to work.

Shriver: I was thinking about this last night, and I talked with a couple of fellows this morning: the returning Peace Corps volunteers could be tremendous assistants.

President Johnson: Of course they could. They could be out there. You could build your organization out of a good many of them.

Shriver: Thatís right. What I would like to do is to get that,the way this thing is going to be integrated, so that when we announce something weíre really ready to talk about it really intelligently.

President Johnson: I donít think you could do that until you make this whole study and come up with a message. Iím talking about the man who is evolving the organization, and in charge of perfecting it right now, and his name is Sargent Shriver. He still has his identification with the Peace Corps, and he will keep it to such extent as he deems desirable. And if you canít run a $100 million program in your left hand and a $1 billion with your right hand, youíre not as smart as I think you are.

Shriver: [laughing] Besides, the money has no problem at all. Itís the people that Iím interested in. I want to keep all these people for the government that are in the Peace Corps and bring them into any other program.

President Johnson: Well, thatís good. Iím not going to sever you from the Peace Corps at all. Iím just saying that youíre going to maintain your identification with the Peace Corps. And how much of the details youíre going to do, whether you hire them or sweep out the room, is going to be a matter for you to determine. I am going to make that clear. But I am [also] going to make it clear that youíre Mr. Povertyóat home and abroad, if you want to be. I donít care who you have running the Peace Corps. If you can run it, wonderful; if you canít, get Oshkosh from Chicago and Iíll name him.

Shriver: I canít get anybody. The only guy that could possibly do it, Mr. President, is Bill.

President Johnson: You can write your ticket on anything you want to do there. I want to get rid of poverty, though.

Shriver: Yes.

President Johnson: And you can organize poverty right from the beginning. Youíll have to get on the message Monday. But the Sunday papers are going to say that youíre Mr. Poverty unless youíve got real compelling reasons, which I havenít heard. And Iím going to say that youíre going to maintain your identification with the Peace Corps and operate it to such an extent as you may think desirable.

Shriver: I thought, as I looked over the papers, it seems to me that this is a thing that really ought to operate out of HEW. I donít mean right at this momentó

President Johnson: It canít operate out of HEW.

Shriver: Well, I mean, it seems to me this is aó

President Johnson: Well, you wait till we get by an election before we go to operating out of HEW. Weíve got to get by this election. Iíve thought of all those things. Got some good ideas on them, which you would approve of. But Iíve got an election ahead of me now.

September 5, 1964, President Johnson and Bill Moyers, 4:20 PM

Operator: We find that Robert Weaver is in New York. Do you want me to reach him?

President Johnson: No, I donít want him. Get Bernie Boudin for me, and see if you canít also get Gene Fougin, before I forget what I want to talk about. Heís the small business administrator. [They then discuss Fouginís schedule, and Moyers comes to the line.]

President Johnson: Walter Reutherís going to say that heís there for Johnson because heís for the poverty program, and heís for education, and heís for taking care of the sick. He wants a real strong sentence on medical care. I assume there is a sentence on medical care in here, and on education in here.

Moyers: Yes, sir. And on poverty.

President Johnson: I want one paragraph liftedóDick Goodwin can work on it till dark, or youóalong the lines of the other day that I took out of the [John] Steinbeck speech, I think it was, where we have a right to wish for what we want to, think what we want to, worship where we want to, sleep where we want to. Everything like the basic fundamentals thatóthe Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution thing, wrapped up in one paragraph.

Do you remember the paragraph Iím talking about?

Moyers: Yes. I sure do.

President Johnson: But I want it elaborated on a little bitó"Mind to be trained, childís mind to be trained. Church to pray in. A home to sleep in. A job to work in."

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: Letís get education, religion, free speech, free pressó"read what he pleases." Round him out as a well-balanced, tolerant, understanding individual, instead of one of these cooks. [Chuckles.]

Moyers: OK.

President Johnson: Do you follow me there, now?

Moyers: Gotcha.

President Johnson: I want that one paragraph so that I can have all the Johnson philosophy.

He said, "Well, youíve got to speak some on poverty. Youíve got to speak some one education. Youíve got to speak some on Medicare." Somebodyís told him itís got to be a high level speech. He wants it a party hack speech.

I said, "Iím going to refer to all of them." I want it in one paragraphómy philosophy. So that when you quote what I had in that Southwest Quarterlyó"Iím a free man, an American, and a senator, in that order." Do you remember?

Moyers: Right.

President Johnson: I want something that you can quote like this the rest of our lives. You can put it in the preface of your book. "I have a visionóa vision of a land where a child can [pauses] have a home to live in." And then repeat what I just said to you. "And read what he wants to, and can wish what he wants to, and can dream what he wants to."

And then the words, "I have a vision." Letís get a little bit of this holy-rolly populist stuff. [voice rising] "I have a vision of a land where every child [pauses] can have training to fit his abilities, a home to protect him from the elements, a church to kneel in." Throw at least two biblical quotations in, that are very simple, that every one of them have heardóthese working men, these auto mechanics.

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: Itís what you Baptists just report to them all the time.

Moyers: [chuckling] All right.

President Johnson: Make it simple; donít give me one of these long ones.

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: Go back and get me one of the commandments. These Baptists preachersódonít get on that adultery one. Get some of these, "Thou shalt not [pauses] lie on thy brother."

Moyers: [tartly] All right. OK.

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Story Source: LBJ Library

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; History of the Peace Corps; Peace Corps Directors - Shriver; President Johnson



By PCOL on Friday, August 01, 2003 - 2:49 pm: Edit Post

What is HEW?

By Jane Ujhazi ( - on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 9:04 pm: Edit Post

Can anyone provide information about a Colonel Samuel Gregory Trask and his role in the early years of the Peace Corps? Thank you!

By Rosey Owings ( - on Tuesday, January 22, 2008 - 10:22 am: Edit Post

This really and truly shows how that LBJ really wasn't in favor of doing anything for the "poor people" -- he was pushed into it kicking and screaming by the Blacks (never mind that there were more whites who were impoverished in 1963 than Blacks!!!) because he desperately wanted the Black vote. Kennedy didn't care about the poor either and had to be forced into looking at "Black issues" too!! Just goes to show that the young people are NOT really getting any history taught to them. Also, Shriver really wasn't the one who was the leader of the Peace Corps, Head Start, etc. He actually had to be told what all this involved by LBJ AND he was appointed to these positions as a "pay-back" for what he did in the Kennedy campaign. Jeez, doesn't anyone get it out there??? They're doing the exact same thing today -- on both sides of the aisle!!! No wonder people are so apathetic today!!! Also, Head Start is no longer what it was in the 60's -- its now just a "free-babysitting service" for the Blacks!! They actually bring their 1 year olds to the Head Start center and leave them all day long to be cared for by people who are not trained in anything educational!?!?! Sad -- yet another give-away program gone awry by the Democrats!!! Needs to be done away with!!

By LP Johnson ( on Tuesday, August 19, 2008 - 8:45 pm: Edit Post

Rosey sounds like a frustrated republican who has come to the realization that the Democrates are about to take back the White House after eight long years of corruption. No whinning Rosie.

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