President John F. Kennedy’s remarks Sept. 27, 1963, at Cheney Stadium:
Senator Magnuson, Governor Rosellini, Secretary Udall, Senator Jackson, Senator Morse, Senator Neuberger, Congressman Tollefson, Mayor Tollefson – I am glad to come here and see the Tollefson brothers; it makes the Kennedys feel a little better when they see what is happening out here – Mr. Presidents of our two distinguished universities, which are our hosts today, and ladies and gentlemen:
Whatever gave Senator Magnuson the impression that we in Massachusetts do not have comparable wonders to Mount Rainier! If you see sometimes the blue hills of Boston stretching 300 feet straight up, covered by snow in the middle of the winter, you can know what nature can really do to produce a vigorous race.
We are glad to be here today and see what you have. But in looking at nature, I have been impressed really more by man in my last three days, because everything that I have seen, Jackson Hole and all the rest, was given to us by nature, but man did something about it. Whether it is what you have done with these parks here in this state, whether what we saw yesterday where the atom is being harnessed for peaceful use in the most impressive and advanced scientific effort in the world, or whether we go as we did last night to the Mormon Temple and Tabernacle and see built in the most arid part, perhaps, not only of the United States, but of the world, a great civilization, a great temple, a great tabernacle – I am impressed by nature and more impressed by man. And I am glad to be here with the students from these two schools.
This country has placed particular emphasis from its beginning, from the time of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, on educating our children, not merely to help them, but most importantly because we realized that the free, democratic system of government which places more burdens on the individual than any other system, must depend in its final analysis upon an informed citizenry. And here in these schools and colleges of this state, and the others stretching across the United States, we are trying to build and develop men and women who can maintain in a difficult and hazardous and dangerous and changing world a free system of government.
Winston Churchill once said democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other systems that have been tried. It is the most difficult. It demands more from us.
And here in these schools and colleges, we hope that we are developing those qualities which in other days of change and challenge will permit this country to be guided through. The problems we face today have never been so complex. They cannot possibly be solved in Washington, D.C., unless we have supporting us in our two political parties an informed citizenry. And it is well to remember that this nation’s first great leaders, our founders – Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jay, Mason, Bryan, and all the rest – were not only the political leaders of this country, but they were also among the most educated citizens that this country had ever produced. The two outstanding men in the 18th century, outstanding not only in the United States but in the whole Western World, were both Americans, both politicians, and both philosophers and scientists – Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
So the assignment, it seems to me, in the 1960’s, is to produce all of the educated talent that we have, not merely to help them along, not merely to produce outstanding businessmen, though we need them, and lawyers, though we need them, and doctors, though we need them, but also to produce men and women with a sense of the public responsibility, the public duty. This has been an important element in the American life since our beginning. In 1856 the Republican Party sent three great orators around the campaign circuit, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and on occasions, even Thoreau.
I want to see in 1963, and in 1970, and 1980 the best brains we have meeting the most difficult problems that this country has ever faced. The fact of the matter is that the experts disagree. I remember during the test ban debate when Senator Kuchel said to a scientist, “One scientist comes here and tells us one thing, another scientist with comparable experience, comparable knowledge, comes and tells us something else. Who are we to believe?” The experts disagree.
And in the final analysis this country, for its movement forward, on its balance of payments, on its assistance abroad, on its mix of monetary and fiscal policy, on its resource development, on its space effort, and all the rest where we will find the most intense disagreement among those who know the most – in the final analysis the people themselves have to make a judgment, and I think the basic judgment always must be a sense of motion forward.
The great movements in this country’s history, the great periods of intellectual and social activity, took place in those periods when we looked long range to the future – whether it was in the days of Theodore Roosevelt, when the whole national conservation movement began – and all of the decisions, in a much easier period when we had far fewer people, were made which makes it possible for us to travel throughout the United States and still see green grass and still have some hope for the future.
I want us in 1963 to make the same decisions here in the United States for the use of our manpower, for the use of our natural resources, for the strengthening of the United States, so that the United States can bear the burdens which go with being the most powerful country in the free world. And one of those decisions involves the wise use of what nature gave us and also putting science and technology to work to develop new uses. We see it in the mountain nearby, we see the old concept of conserving our resources. And yesterday afternoon in seeing what use science had done with the atom we see the new kind of conservation which can mean so much to the people who come after us.
The population of the United States a few years ago was 130 million. Today it is 185 million. By the year 2000 it will be 350 million. What is going to happen to those people? What green grass will they see? What will be the resource position of the United States? We will know that in the year 2000 by what we do today, and what we do the rest of this decade. In the last two years we set aside, for example, about 200 miles of oceanfront. If we had not seized, by national decision, the Cape Cod National Park, or the park near San Francisco, or on the Gulfstream, they would have been gone forever. And the whole Atlantic and Pacific Coast and the Gulfstream would have been controlled by a few people, and the chance for all of the people of our country to look to the ocean on a beach would have been gone, and what happens on our oceanfront happens here.
I urge, therefore, that the talented and able people of this state make the judgments on recreation and conservation and wise use of our resources now with a long look forward, not for this decade, but for the next generation. And your two senators, Senator Jackson, the head of the Interior Committee, which must make these decisions on how these lands shall be used, and Senator Magnuson and, indeed, the congressional delegations of the entire Northwest, have understood that nature was very good to the Northwest, but the Northwest itself must use nature wisely.
So I come on a trip of conservation not to repeat an old doctrine, but to say that we need an opportunity now to recommit ourselves to maintaining the natural advantages that this country has given us. This is a difficult time in the life of the United States, and people look all around the world and wonder whether we are moving forward or backward. Whether the world is more dangerous or easier, I don’t think anyone can say. But I think they can say that there is every reason to hope, and there is every reason for us to concentrate our energy in making those decisions here in the United States which will maintain the strength of the United States so that we can in turn meet our responsibilities around the globe.
If this country falls back, if we do not take those steps both in Washington and here in this state and in the other states to find employment for our people, to educate our children, to use our resources both human and material to the maximum, then these great burdens which the United States has carried for 18 years will become too much. I think we can do it. I think our strength has grown, and I think it is up to all of us, not only to look to our private interest, but also look to our obligations to the United States. All of us feel that love of country, but I think we must put it to practical use. I think we must decide what it is that this country must do in 1963 to find jobs for our people and to educate our young.
I said yesterday that there are 9 million children in the United States in high school or in elementary school who live in families which have incomes of less than $3,000 a year, $58 a week, to bring up a family. How many of them will drop out of school and never have a chance again? How many of our children who have talent will not have a chance to use it, will not get to a college or a university? How many of them will graduate, or fall out of school and be unable to find work or will live in slums in our large cities?
This rich country of ours must fulfill its promise to all of our citizens, and that can only be done by a national commitment to use all of our energy and all of our talents so that we can produce all of the things that we are capable of doing in order to meet our responsibility to ourselves and to those who look to us for leadership.
So I express my thanks to you for the chance to visit today. I do not think that these trips may do very much for people who come and listen to those of us who are traveling, but I can tell you they are the best educational three or four days for anyone who holds high office in the United States, to get out of beautiful Washington and see the rest of this country, to see what it is capable of, to see what it has, to see what it must be. All through our history, on occasions, these journeys have been taken, and I believe they are of benefit.
I ask particularly that those of you who are now in school will prepare yourselves to bear the burden of leadership over the next 40 years here in the United States, and make sure that the United States – which I believe almost alone has maintained watch and ward for freedom – that the United States meet its responsibility. That is a wonderful challenge for us as a people. No other generation in history has borne the burdens that the United States has borne in the last 18 years. I want to see us continue to use our talents to the maximum and maintain the reputation of the United States as a citadel of freedom.