Postmaster General Watson, members of your staff, representatives of the postal organization, and employees:
I don't suppose there is really any gracious way to respond to such a thoughtful thing, other than to just say that I am very grateful, and I thank all of you very much.
I know that in the years ahead I will treasure this wonderful album. Those stamps will reflect the history of that period. This has been a period forward, just as the future is going to be.
I am not the stamp collector that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, but each one of these stamps during this period of 31 years is going to have a very special meaning for me, just as each of you employees has a special meaning for me.
I know that some 5 million men and women--not quite that many, but 4 1/2 to 5 million--that are associated with our Government in civilian and military capacities fail to recognize sometimes just how much they mean to the President and how much they mean to the country.
I was talking to my two daughters, one yesterday, who has just spent 5 wonderful days with her Marine husband in Southeast Asia, and the other one, who came back a couple of weeks ago from spending 5 days with her airman, first class husband, who was on R&R in Honolulu.
They talked about the brilliant leadership that our Government had given them in the form of General Abrams and subordinate officers. They talked about the fine implements that they had been furnished to do their job, whether it was a helicopter or a plane or a weapon, and so forth.
They talked about the excellent food that they had and how important that was to their morale, particularly when they were out away from home.
One of them said that he had gone for a 26 day period with a third of a meal a day. But that third was good enough that it kept him going. What a tribute that was to the civilian and military men that support our flag wherever it is.
But both of them said to me that the thing that meant more than anything else was their mail. They can't eat the letters, but they sure can survive on them, and they can't survive without them.
The fact that those letters come through in 3 and 4 and 5 days from the remotest rice paddy or jungle--in South Vietnam back home, and from here out there--is a tribute to each of you.
I am so proud that your leader, the Postmaster General, has brought very special gifts of talent and devotion to the management of this Department. I have a peculiar and special affection for him and great appreciation of his abilities.
But for the remarkable job that each employee does from the youngest to the oldest, I have special thanks.
What you are doing is being felt in many areas--in mechanization, in modernization, and in construction. But I think the thing that has happened that I appreciate more in the last few months than anything I have observed, and which I wish I could do more about--that is why I am here--is to come over and look the postal people straight in the eye and say, "Your country cares. We appreciate you. And we thank you."
General Watson has gone to 48 of the 50 States. He has gone into those post offices that haven't been visited and those people who haven't been noticed and those individuals who haven't been rewarded, and he has told them that we do care.
When 750,000 people realize the service they are performing, it does make a difference in the morale and it does make a difference in their work.
So, what I wanted to do this morning is not to take an album home. I didn't know about it. I accepted sometime ago to come and tell you, three-quarters of a million people--just as I have told the assistants who work with me, the telephone operators, and the people who make up the White House Police--how wonderful you have been.
You read about all the problems of the Presidency and about the delicate decisions that he has had to make. Well, I will tell you, the Presidency is the most wonderful institution in the world, and it is an assignment like which there is no other in the world.
Every President we have had, I am convinced, came to that office not on a platform of doing what is wrong, but on a platform of doing the best he could, and most of them have done well. All you have to do is to look at our country and our Government and compare it with the progress made in other governments.
The reason they have done well, though, is the career, the dedicated, the loyal public servant, who without fanfare or acclaim, came to work each morning on time, and stayed there through the day until his or her job was done.
I know that this is a very special time of year for you. You have so many problems trying to get our packages and trying to get our letters to our loved ones. I know there are a lot of irritants and frustrations.
But from one person who came to Washington 38 years ago, and who for many years has studied and legislated on your problems, I wanted to say that the Nation thanks you, is grateful to you, and your President is very, very proud of the postal service and is, for that matter, proud of all the employees of this wonderful Federal Government.
Thank you very much.
Marvin said that on this award are listed some of the things that we have done through the years for the postal servants. And knowing Marvin as I do, and knowing some of the representatives of your unions as I do, I didn't take time to read them. I am going to do that in the quiet calmness of the Pedernales River a little later.
I am going to get out of here right quick before you present me with a list of things yet to do.