State of the Union (January 12, 1966)
Lyndon B. Johnson on Vietnam
Many men who listen to me tonight have served their nation in other wars? How very many are not here to listen?
The war in Vietnam is not like these other wars. Yet, finally, war is always the same. It is young men dying in the fullness of their promise. It is trying to kill a man that you do not even know well enough to hate.
Therefore, to know war is to know that there is still madness in this world.
Many of you share the burden of this knowledge tonight with me. But there is a difference. For finally I must be the one to order our guns to fire, against all the most inward pulls of my desire. For we have children to teach, and we have sick to be cured, and we have men to be freed. There are poor to be lifted up, and there are cities to be built, and there is a world to be helped.
Yet we do what we must.
I am hopeful, and I will try as best I can, with everything I have got, to end this battle and to return our sons to their desires.
Yet as long as others will challenge America’s security and test the clearness of our beliefs with fire and steel, then we must stand or see the promise of two centuries tremble. I believe tonight that you do not want me to try that risk. And from that belief your President summons his strength for the trials that lie ahead in the days to come.
The work must be our work now. Scarred by the weaknesses of man, with whatever guidance God may offer us, we must nevertheless and alone with our mortality, strive to ennoble the life of man on earth.
Thank you, and goodnight