THANK YOU, Mr. Fitzhugh. You and your colleagues here today have made a historic contribution to your country. So on behalf of all the people, I extend my thanks to you.
In my opinion, there is no more urgent domestic problem in America--and no more promising opportunity--than the American city. The history of our era will be, in large part, the history of our cities. Certainly every man here is deeply concerned about their problems. But there is something unique about this particular group: Every man here has the power to back his concern with action. And action is what we need most.
This administration is already deeply committed to a program of action for the cities. Right now, we have programs pending totaling nearly $7 billion to help America's cities. The first priority for all of us who are concerned is to support those programs; to see that they are enacted and funded and properly administered. Beyond that, there is much to do. But if we are ever going to travel the whole distance, we must take these first legislative steps.
But what the Government does, really, is only the beginning. Private efforts are not just essential to success--they are central to success. Last March, in a message to Congress on city problems, I said that the city presents a "tremendous market" for American business-if business is ready to do its part. In the last a weeks, we have launched:
--a project to use surplus Federal lands for city housing--and I said that the efforts of private developers would be its "most important single element," and
--a project to encourage private industry not only to develop and build, but also to manage public housing projects.
The rent supplement program is really an effort to involve private enterprise in solving urban problems.
Because I feel so strongly about private involvement, I applaud this new billion dollar investment by the insurance industry. And you will get more than just applause; I am asking Secretary Weaver and other Cabinet members to cooperate fully with you in the days to come. I hope we can start to announce the first projects under this plan-not within months or weeks, but within a few days.
This initiative is more than a vote of confidence in the rent supplement program: It is a major investment in improving American life. I want it to succeed--so I urge you to do tour things:
One: Put your money and your efforts where the needs and problems are greatest, where the people are poorest. It is the sick, not the healthy, who need the doctor the most.
Two: Don't sit back and wait for a response from developers. Go out and recruit; make this effort a crusade.
Three: Make yourselves missionaries to other business leaders. Urge them to make their commitments--follow your example.
Four: Keep up the dialogue you've started with your Government--and with State and local officials. More than ever, this country needs the energy and commitment of businessmen.Note: The President spoke at 11:40 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Gilbert W. Fitzhugh, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Urban Problems of the American Life Convention and the Life Insurance Association of America and Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
Following the President's remarks Mr. Fitzhugh read a statement, then held a news briefing on the insurance industry's new investment program. Robert C. Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Special Assistant to the President, participated in the briefing. The text of Mr. Fitzhugh's statement, a list of Government officials and insurance executives who attended the meeting, and the text of the news briefing are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 3, PP. 1283, 1284).
As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.