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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks at the Dedication of the J. Percy Priest Project, Nashville, Tennessee.
Lyndon B. Johnson
345 - Remarks at the Dedication of the J. Percy Priest Project, Nashville, Tennessee.
June 29, 1968
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1968-69: Book I
Lyndon B. Johnson
1968-69: Book I

United States
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Governor Ellington, Senator Gore, Congressman Fulton, Congressman Anderson, Congressman Blanton, Mayor Briley, my dear friend Mrs. Priest, her daughter, ladies and gentlemen:

To my old and dear friend, Governor Ellington, may I say that you have been one of the most able, loyal, and dedicated public servants that I have ever known.

On the platform is my longtime colleague in the United States Senate, Albert Gore. We have been through a great deal together, and he has always represented his State, his Nation, and served his country with a great ability, honor, and distinction.

Mayor Briley, the first mayor of the Greater Nashville Metropolitan Government, is nationally recognized amongst the city governments throughout this land.

Congressman Richard Fulton has so well represented this district since 1963, and has been a wonderful and fine successor to the congressional seat once held by beloved Percy Priest.

In Washington, we have some arm twisters, and Dick Fulton did a little arm twisting of his own to get us down here today.

He said, "Mr. President, I know that you have a heavy schedule, but I want you to see for yourself a living example of the new conservation that we have been working so hard for in the Nation. I want you to come to Tennessee to see it."

Congressman Bill Anderson is with us today. He has served his country as warrior and statesman in the fine tradition of Tennessee.

In Congressman Blanton, Tennessee has sent to the 90th Congress a young man who has rapidly gained the respect and admiration of his colleagues. We know he has a fine future before him.

To Mrs. Priest, I want to say how much the country has missed the solid wisdom of her late and her great husband.

I wanted to be here today because this dam was named for him. I served with him for many years, and I had great respect and affection for Percy Priest.

I want also to pay tribute to three outstanding former Governors of Tennessee who honor us with their presence.

TVA could not have become a reality without the dedicated efforts of Governor Browning, Governor Cooper, and Governor Clement.

Also here on the platform is my dear, old friend Hub Walters, with whom I served in the United States Senate when he represented Tennessee.

Though this is not a political affair, I trust no one will demand equal time if I happen to mention that Hub is presently doing a fine job as a Democratic National Committeeman from Tennessee.

Though our friend Joe Evins could not be here today--we are so sorry he is ill--he has sent his lovely daughter Mary to represent him.

His State and his country are proud of Congressman Evins' service as Chairman of the House Select Committee on Small Business.

Finally, I would like to introduce another Tennessean. All of you should be very proud of him. All Tennessee should be proud of him. I brought him with me from Washington today. He doesn't know what I am about to say.

I am right now naming a native son of Tennessee, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Haywood Smith, of Memphis, as the Armed Forces Aide to the President of the United States.

Colonel Smith will succeed Colonel James U. Cross, recently promoted to general and assigned to a fighter squadron.

Colonel Smith has been a Marine Aide since 1964. He has served with the United States Marines since 1953, and he has distinguished himself as a fighter pilot and as a most able administrator during his military career.

He is a graduate of Memphis State University.

His President and his country are very proud of him.

The project we are dedicating has many purposes. It will protect your homes and your families against the ravages of flood. It will provide the additional electric power that the growing, historic city of Nashville needs in order to prosper and to attract new industries. It will store water for periods of drought.

But most important--to me, at least--it will create a beautiful new recreation area within 10 miles of the very center of this historic city of Nashville. It is a perfect example of the new conservation: 18,000 acres of unspoiled nature, within easy driving distance of a half-a-million people, for boating, camping, hiking, and swimming.

Natural beauty is a priceless asset--and it has become harder and more costly to preserve with each passing year.

The great conservationists of another generation did preserve for us some of the scenic wonders of the American West. President Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot fought with all of their strength to save just a small portion of those open spaces and those untouched forests.

But today, most Americans do not live near those great western parks out yonder. Not everyone can afford to travel across half a continent to visit Wyoming, Montana, and other Western States.

The new conservation, therefore, must concern itself with all the people of all America. We can no longer go in search of far horizons while we neglect the land that is under our feet.

We can no longer accept the unsightly and destructive scars of modern civilization.

This is not a question of coming to terms with civilization. It is a question of controlling and directing its spread, so that ultimate values are not lost in satisfying immediate needs for land.

We can have a new conservation in our land--a conservation which preserves the pleasures but avoids the pitfalls and pollutions of modern society.

Our new conservation must build on a new principle: bringing nature closer to the people.

That has been my goal since I became President. Along with peace in the world and progress at home, there is no legacy that I would rather leave than a permanent program of real conservation for this Nation.

That is not just my dream. It is happening. It is happening right here today in Tennessee. It is coming true all over this Nation. In my time as President, we have had three of the most conservation-minded Congresses of any time in our history.

The Tennessee delegation, led by your senior Senator, Albert Gore, has been in the forefront of all conservation legislation.

We have already passed 138 bills to restore and preserve the beauty of America. That is an average of more than 2 1/2 conservation bills for every month of my Presidency. And we have 42 more conservation bills awaiting action in the Congress right now.

We need to pass all of these 42 bills. Six of them are in the balance. The Congress is today considering six major legislative measures that can bring new beauty and new pleasure to our people--as well as bring new riches to our Nation.

The Congress should pass these six bills now, without delay:
--the Redwood National Park bill,
--the Scenic Rivers bill,
--the Lower Colorado River Basin bill,
--the amendments to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act,
--the Northern Cascades National Park bill, and, finally,
--the bill to establish a real National Water Commission.

The Congress has already recognized the importance and urgency of these bills. Each of them is in a stage of final action now.

So I ask the Congress today--in the name of you, and in the name of our people--to proceed to final passage of this legislation without delay.

When I took office, we were losing hundreds of thousands of acres every year to the bulldozers.

Today, we are actually reclaiming more land than we are losing.
--1.1 million acres were reclaimed in 1965.
--1.2 million acres in 1966. 1.7 million acres in 1967.

That is a little over 4 million acres. That is more than the combined areas of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier National Parks.

Those 4 million acres will all be within an easy day's drive of tens of millions of our people.

But providing seashores, lakeshores, and parks is not enough. The land that we use for living and working is in danger, too.
--Rivers that were once carriers of commerce are now carriers of disease.
--Lakes that have served every generation of Americans are now being destroyed in a lifetime.
--The air that gives life to us all now threatens our health and it chokes our cities with pollution.
--Our search for minerals continues to scar and ravage the surface of the earth.

These are the sordid byproducts of civilization that we must correct.

You know the problem better than most people know it, here in Tennessee. Flying down here this morning I saw the ravages of progress--in the midst of the most beautiful scenery that any nation could ever boast. I saw the strip mines--the slag and the rusted cars in the streams--the naked and the ugly hillsides.

But I have seen something else that gives me great hope. I have seen what the people of Tennessee have done, what they are doing, and what they can do in the future.

It was just 4 years ago last month that I first came to Tennessee at the suggestion of your great Governor--Buford Ellington--as President of the United States. I saw for myself the plight of a proud and a productive people.

In 1964, Eastern Tennessee--an area just a stone's throw from here--was the symbol of the Appalachian problem. Today, it is the symbol of Appalachian progress.

Since I signed the Appalachian Act in 1965, employment in Eastern Tennessee has gone up nearly 7 percent--6.8 percent. Compare that to the national rate. In the national rate as a whole, employment has gone up not 7 percent, but up about 5 percent--5.1. You have gone up 7 percent and the rest of the Nation has gone up only 5 percent.

But the important part of this story is not told by statistics or by laws passed in Washington. It is measured by the energy and the hope of the people who live here.

So I appeal to all of you today to help us save what is best and most beautiful in our lives--our own country. I ask you to set an example for the entire Nation. And I have faith that you will do this because you understand so well that, as President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It is not what we have that will make us a great nation, but the way in which we use what we have."

Years of stubborn, dedicated effort lie behind our great achievements in conservation. This is the case, for example, in education, in health, in housing, in race relations.

The same is true of foreign policy. The nonproliferation treaty,1 which will be signed in the White House on Monday and sent to the Senate, is such an achievement. We have been working towards that treaty for more than 4 years. Along with the test ban treaty, it stands as a monument to the proposition that men are determined to control the dangers of the nuclear age--instead of being destroyed by them.

1 See Item 349.

But more is required. We must now turn to a task at least equally complex and difficult: to bring under control in this world the nuclear arms race--offensive and defensive weapons--in ways which do not endanger the security of the United States, our allies, or others.

It would be easy for the United States and the Soviet Union to continue on the present course of piling weapon system on weapon system, diverting billions upon billions of dollars, while adding nothing to the security of either country.

But the time is now at hand to find security in a more rational way.

I hope to have you join me when I say more to the Nation and to the world on this important subject Monday morning next.

You and I, my friends, live in a time of peril as well as a time of hope. But that has always been true of this land--this land which was really conceived in hope and peril.

We have never been satisfied and we have never rested.

More than a century ago, Emerson said of our young land: "This time, like every other time, is a good one if we but know how to use it."

So, my friends, of Tennessee, I would close by saying let us use our time--use it to build a nation; use it to heal the wounds; use it to help establish a world of peace, beauty, pleasure, order, and opportunity for every boy and girl in the world.
Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:21 a.m. at the dedication of the J. Percy Priest Dam in Nashville, Tenn. The dam, named in honor of the man who served as Representative from the Fifth District of Tennessee 1941--1956, is part of a coordinated plan for the development of water resources in the Cumberland River Basin in Tennessee and Kentucky.

In his opening words the President referred to Governor Buford Ellington, Senator Albert Gore, and Representatives Richard H. Fulton, William R. Anderson, and Ray Blanton, all of Tennessee, Mayor C. Beverly Briley of Nashville, Mrs. J. Percy Priest, widow of the former Representative, and her daughter Harriet Frances Priest.

During his remarks the President referred, among others, to former Governors Gordon Browning, Prentice Cooper, and Frank G. Clement, Herbert S. Waiters, Democratic National Committeeman, Representative Joe L. Evins, and his daughter Mary Evins, all of Tennessee.

Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks at the Dedication of the J. Percy Priest Project, Nashville, Tennessee.," June 29, 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28966.
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