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John F. Kennedy: Interview With Dave Garroway Recorded for the 150th Anniversary of the Founding of Massachusetts General Hospital.
John F. Kennedy
14 - Interview With Dave Garroway Recorded for the 150th Anniversary of the Founding of Massachusetts General Hospital.
January 31, 1961
Public Papers of the Presidents
John F. Kennedy<br>1961
John F. Kennedy

District of Columbia
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THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Garroway: Good morning, Mr. President. I suppose those scenes of Mass. General look pretty familiar to you? You have been on the board of overseers since 1947, I believe?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that's right. I must say that I think the work that Massachusetts General does and other similar hospitals around the country, they perform a great public function. And to think that this hospital is celebrating its 150th anniversary. It was begun the year before the war of 1812, and yet there are two other American hospitals that are even older. When we think of the tremendous progress that has been made in medicine, yet even way back then, fellow citizens were concerned about caring for their neighbors--and the Massachusetts General does more than care for the people of that area. There are over a thousand students studying in various parts of the hospital from all over the world, and the influence of Massachusetts General stretches really around the globe through the work of these graduates.

Mr. Garroway: They have put out, I think, $4 million a year, in this one hospital, into research. Is this enough, I wonder? Are we doing enough generally for research in this country?

THE PRESIDENT. I think we can always do better. My family has been particularly interested in one kind of research, and we now have at the hospital a center for research into the causes of mental retardation of children. This center is going to begin building as soon as the snow is off the ground.

I think this is one area where there has been inadequate research. We are fortunate in this case to have a close connection with Harvard University. Dr. Adams from Harvard University is heading the research center. But I do believe that nearly every American family either has some member of its family or some friend who goes through the very harrowing experience of having a child in the family who suffers from mental retardation--the difficulties that the child has and the difficulty that it causes in the family.

I think that rather than caring for these children, which we are attempting to do, though not always adequately, I think it is most important that we try to examine why they are retarded and what could be done about it--whether through surgery or other treatment we could begin to cure them, not merely care for them.

Mr. Garroway: Will eventually we cure everybody, do you think? Will the health of the Nation approach perfection some day, by care and research?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I suppose we are all-we may stretch out our period on this earth but sooner or later we will all begin to--but at least what I think we are all concerned about is that children have a happy childhood, and a fruitful one; and that adults be permitted to work and that older people find their later years to be easier, free from pain and discomfort; and then I think everybody will await their end, but I think there's an awful lot we can do. And the cooperation between medicine, between private individuals who supported Massachusetts General, and between the National Government in providing funds for research, it is a happy relationship, though one that can always be improved.

Mr. Garroway: Do we recognize the importance--I read your article recently, on the subject of physical fitness in this country-for the young and middle aged too?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is a serious problem. Our society is quite sophisticated and we are in a very dangerous period in our world history. We have unrelenting foes who are determined to destroy us.

Physical fitness goes with mental fitness. It goes with energy--and I am concerned that recent tests have shown a steady decline in the standards of American fitness as compared with European and people around the world. In reading a recent article on guerrilla warfare, I noticed the great emphasis put on physical fitness.

We are in a dangerous period, and I think that we have to be fit. Now it's harder, because our life is easier--we have cars, buses, and all the rest. I think we ought to concern ourselves with making sure that our children are fit, that they are concerned with being energetic--that they use their young years not merely as spectators but as participants in life.

Mr. Garroway: Will you help us to wake up?

THE. PRESIDENT. Well, we are trying. I think that this is a great country, and I think it deserves the best of all of us. I think that physical fitness is a part of our survival, and I am hopeful that we can, through the White House--but really it's a private decision--but at least from this area we are going to try to do our best to emphasize this.

It's really up to every parent. Do your children go every week and watch a basketball game, or do they do something to make themselves fit? I think we are inclined to think that if we watch a football game or a baseball game, that we have taken part in it. That's not what we want.

Mr. Garroway: Well, you don't usually get into this posture of sitting down very much, I understand. You are more than busy

THE PRESIDENT. I must say that this hospital is a--I am delighted to have this rather long-distance connection with this hospital. It emphasizes not only what this hospital does, but all the hospitals in your community. They all deserve our support.

And I am delighted to have this chance, through Dave Garroway, to emphasize our great national interest in developing our hospitals, developing research, training doctors, training nurses--and spreading the benefits of modern medicine through this country and around the world.

Mr. Garroway: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, Dave.

Note: The interview was video-taped in the broadcast room at the White House on January 28 for use on the television program "Today" on January 31.

During his remarks the President referred to Dr. Raymond Adams, Professor of Neuropathology at the School of Medicine, Harvard University.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Interview With Dave Garroway Recorded for the 150th Anniversary of the Founding of Massachusetts General Hospital.," January 31, 1961. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8078.
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