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John F. Kennedy: Remarks at the Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
John F. Kennedy
390 - Remarks at the Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
September 28, 1963
Public Papers of the Presidents
John F. Kennedy<br>1963
John F. Kennedy

United States
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Senator Cannon, Governor Sawyer, Secretary Udall, Senator Bible, Mr. Mayor, members of the clergy, Commander, Commissioner, members of the band, ladies and gentlemen:

I want to express my appreciation to you for this welcome at the middle of the day. This is the end of a 50-day trip which has taken us to Pennsylvania--to dedicate the home of Gifford Pinchot to the cause of conservation-to northern Wisconsin, to Duluth, Minnesota, to North Dakota, to Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, and now we complete that swing here in Nevada.

The purpose of that trip, though, was simple, and that is to see for myself and also, I hope, through my eyes, some of my fellow citizens, to see how essential it is that we conserve our natural resources and that we make the best use of them. And I can assure you that from my experience of the last days, however useful it may be to sit at a desk in Washington and read statistics about increasing population and about the need for water, there is no better education for a President, a Senator, a Congressman or a citizen than to fly over the West and see where it is green where water has done its work, and see where it is arid where there is no water, and then you come to understand the truth of what the Governor and the Senator just said: that water is the key of growth, and its wise use essential to the development of the Western United States.

We live in a very dangerous time in the world, and our policies are quite simple, even though they are difficult to execute. Our object abroad is to protect the security of the United States, the vital interests of the United States, and to maintain the peace. Now, we do that by strengthening the United States. We have in recent years increased, for example, the number of divisions by nearly 60 percent, the number of Polaris missiles by more than that, the number of aircraft on standby by a higher percentage than that, the number of ships on the sea, all the rest--we have attempted to increase the strength of the United States.

One of your distinguished Senators, Senator Cannon, has served on the Armed Services Committee, and we have made a concentrated effort, believing that the United States is the keystone of the arch of freedom, it is essential to the success of freedom that a strong United States must maintain its strength in this difficult and changing and troubled world. But behind this shield, behind this increased strength, behind the assurances we have given to dozens of countries through our alliances in Latin America and Western Europe and SEATO and CENTO and our commitments to the United Nations--behind those evidences of our desire to be strong in a free world, we have also attempted to work for peace, and we see nothing inconsistent with being strong and trying to live in peace. In these less than
3 years since I have been President of the United States, on three separate occasions the United States and the Soviet Union approached each other on a collision course, in Laos and Berlin in 1961, and in Cuba in the fall of '62.

I am quite aware that if, through miscalculation or madness or design, the United States and the Soviet Union should finally clash, in what would be the last war of the human race, in a war in which in less than one day over 300 million people would be killed, and if other sections of the world were brought into it those casualty lists could double, it is quite obvious that with that ominous prospect on the horizon, these efforts which we make to live at peace in a strong and free world are well worth while. That is why I am glad that your two United States Senators who supported our effort to strengthen this country also voted this week for the test ban treaty in the atmosphere as one step of what may be a long journey, but at least a beginning toward attempting to prevent the ultimate calamity to the human race.

Behind this shield, behind these guarantees, behind this strength, is the United States itself, and all of these guarantees, all of these alliances, all of these military buildups, all of these improvements in our defensive strength, all of those are of no use unless the United States, itself, is a prosperous, vital, and growing society. To do that, it seems to me, requires attention to our problems here in the United States.

I read in this morning's paper that our population today is 190 million. At the time of Franklin Roosevelt it was 130 million. By the year 2000 it will be 350 million people, living where 130 million lived, where 80 million lived 60 or 70 years ago. This is a tremendous increase in the population of the United States. We devour, as a result, the resources of our country. And therefore we have to pay attention to two basic resources.

One is our children, to make sure that they are the best educated citizens in the world, not only so that they can develop their own resources, but so that they can develop their own talents to the extent that they have those talents, so that they can make something of themselves.

Nothing distresses me more as a citizen of this country than to realize that before this decade is out there will be 8 or 9 million American children who will drop out of school before they have graduated, who will go out looking for work with almost no skills to offer, at a very time when machines are taking the place of men. What chance does a boy or girl with a sixth, seventh, or eighth, or ninth grade education have? What do they have to offer? Therefore, they will live on the marginal edge of hardship and distress and poverty. They will bring up their children in that atmosphere and their children will be penalized.

So we ought to keep our children in school and we ought to make them work. And we ought to have the best teachers. And we ought to try to develop in this country the kind of educational system with hard-working children who will be responsible and constructive adults in this great free society which ornaments the cause of freedom. That is our most important job of conservation and development.

And the second is to use what nature has given us and wherever we can to improve it. There is no State in the Union where these two twin concepts of conservation, to conserve and to develop, can be more clearly seen than here in the State of Nevada. First, by using the water which has been given to you by nature, using it wisely, making sure that no water goes to the ocean unused; and also through the tremendous developments of science which are being developed here in this State which will permit us to go beyond the moon in the 1970's as well as to unlock secrets of the atom which we can only guess at.

Here in Nevada we have seen joined together the old concept of conservation, of protecting our basic resources, and also the new concept of using science to unlock nature to provide us with greater wealth. So this State, lead by your Governor and your Senators and the citizens of this State, is, no wonder, the fastest growing State, because it symbolizes the old and the new in the best way possible. I want to assure you that the United States Government wishes to associate itself, not because a citizen may come from Nevada, but because this and other great natural advantages are resources for all of our people.

We hear a good deal about the rights of States, and they are important. But we should remember how easily and quickly our people move from one State to another. How many people in this audience were born in the State of Nevada? Could they hold up their hands? And how many were not? Well, there you are! I don't know why no one goes to Massachusetts, but--

So you pioneers are going to be followed by others. Everybody seems to move from East to West, for some mysterious reason. But they do come out here, and many more are going to follow you, and we want to be able to provide for them.

Therefore, the Lake Mead-Hoover Dam outdoor recreational complex, the most visited area administered by the National Park Service in all of the 50 States--I wish that everyone in the United States, and I hope perhaps next year we can do this, can all concentrate on visiting this country, can come and see Jackson Hole, and Nevada, Las Vegas and all the rest, and then travel to some other places in the world (but, see the United States first). But this must be given permanent national park status as proposed by your two Senators.

And, secondly, supplementary water from Lake Mead--this is what is going to govern the growth of Las Vegas, it's needed to guarantee the future growth of this .city and community--must be provided as proposed in the Interior Department's Pacific Southwest Water Plan;

And, third, the remaining unspoiled shoreline of Lake Tahoe, the gem of the Sierras, must be preserved for future generations, along with the Great Basin National Park, as proposed by your Senators.

Do you know how much of the Atlantic coast is available for public use purposes? About 8 percent! Ninety-two percent of the whole Atlantic coast, and the figures are the same for the Pacific, are held in the most part by a comparatively few people, and unless we now, before it is too late, take these areas of the country which offer the maximum for recreation for all of our people, unless we set them aside now, it will be too late.

And, fourth, the damaged range lands of this State must be restored to productivity, and the mineral uses of this State, which first brought this State into the Union, must be explored and developed. Much of the future of this State, in other words, rests on conservation, and this work must go forward in the 1960's.

This is still a beautiful continent, but we want "America the Beautiful" to be left for those who come after us. Robert Frost, the late poet, once remarked, "What makes a nation in the beginning is a good piece of geography." Our greatness today rests in part on this good piece of geography that is the United States, but what is important is what the people of America do with it.

At the turn of the century two great easterners, both Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, looked across the horizon and realized how essential it was that here in the West that we save what we have before it is too late. And in the 1960's, in another time of change, I hope we will still make the wise decisions for the future of this country. Franklin Roosevelt made the same wise decision, in all of the agencies, which have meant so much to the development of Arizona and California. However, it was Pinchot, himself, in the early 1900's, who emphasized that the conservation cause would ultimately fail unless every generation of Americans made the commitment to the future.

There isn't very much that you can do today that will materially alter your life in the next 3 or 4 years, in the field of conservation, but you can build for the future. You can build for the seventies, as those who went ahead of us built for us in this great dam and lake that I flew over today. Our task, the task of propelling a third wave of conservation in the United States, following that of Theodore Roosevelt and of Franklin Roosevelt, is to make science the servant of conservation, and to devise new programs of land stewardship that will enable us to preserve this green environment, which means so much to all of us.

And therefore I reach, after 5 days on this trip, three major conclusions:

That we mount a new campaign to preserve our natural environment in order that those who come after us will find a green and rich country.
Secondly, that we educate our children. And third, that we use every chance we have to promote the peaceful relations between countries so that we can enjoy what God has given us.

This is a great country, and I can tell you that there are no 5 days that I have spent that have been more useful, than in looking at the United States once again and seeing something of the vitality of the country and the vitality of the people. You, as citizens of the United States, can take pride in the fact that for the last 18 years it has been the United States almost alone that has preserved the freedom of so much of the world. Without the United States today, Europe would be enslaved. Without the United States today, Asia would be overrun. Without the United States today, much of this hemisphere, which is still free, would have fallen.

This is a tremendous burden and responsibility that we bear. We have been fortunate in the country given to us. We have been fortunate in the people who came here. We have been fortunate that we made in the years after the Second World War the proper decision that this country could not be free and secure unless there was a free and secure world. And so we have devoted our energies, our talents.

We have 1 million of your sons and brothers who are serving outside of the United States today. No country in history has had so large a proportion of its citizenry serving its country in the cause of peace outside of its own borders. They have had them for war, they have had them for conquest; but we seek a world of diversity, a world of freedom, a world where people can make their own choice, a world in which no group of powers can threaten our security. And to do that, with all of its complexities and all of its difficulties, we have done it, and we have done it for 18 years, and we have done it almost singlehanded. And during the same period, here in the United States we have almost tripled the growth of this great country. So this generation of Americans can take satisfaction in what they have done. And I urge them in the future to meet the same high standards, to make sure that this remains not only the land of the free, but also the home of the brave.
Thank you.

Note: In his opening words the President referred to U.S. Senator Howard W. Cannon and Governor Grant Sawyer of Nevada; Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall; U.S. Senator Alan Bible of Nevada; Mayor Oran Gragson of Las Vegas; Rev. Tally H. Jarrett and Rt. Rev. Thomas Collins, who gave the invocation and benediction; Commander Carl Beauvais of American Legion Post No. 8, who led in the Pledge of Allegiance; Assistant Commissioner of Reclamation William I. Palmer; and members of the Rancho and Las Vegas high school bands which played prior to the invocation.
Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks at the Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.," September 28, 1963. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9443.
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