The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• John F. Kennedy
Rear Platform Remarks Delivered by Senator John F. Kennedy In Redding, CA - (Advance Release Text)
September 8, 1960

The conservation and wise development of our natural resources - our water, land, and air - is not a California problem. It is not a Western problem. It is a national, indeed, a worldwide problem.

I have seen the arid lands of the Middle East. Water is the key there to riches and poverty, to peace and war. Men and women spend a third of their working days fetching water from distant wells.

Even in the United States, some areas are desperately short of water - and at the same time other areas are ravaged by floods. And our forests are vanishing, our wildlife is vanishing, our streams are polluted, and so is the very air we breathe.

Yet America is rich in natural resources. Our impending resource crisis is not due to scarcity. It is due to underdevelopment, despoilment, and neglect.

Water is the key to the American future. In 1900 we Americans used 40 billion gallons of water daily. This year we will use 312 billion, enough to cover Rhode Island a foot deep. By 1975, the Commerce Department estimates, we will use 453 billion gallons a day. For we are in the midst of a population explosion. By 1975 there will be over 230 million Americans. And their needs for electric power in all-electric homes, all-electric factories, all-electric farms, will be three times as great as it is today. We consumed 144 million kilowatts of power in 1958. By 1975 we will need nearly 500 million. We must expand our generating capacity to meet the need. We have the potential - an estimated potential of 117 million kilowatts. But we have developed only 26.5 million kilowatt only a fraction of our most powerful resource.

Great leaders of the past understood these facts of national life. It was a great Republican leader, Gifford Pinchot, who said:

A nation deprived of liberty may win it, a nation divided may reunite, but a nation whose natural resources are destroyed must inevitably pay the penalty of poverty, degradation, and decay.
Under Franklin Roosevelt the Federal Government launched a grand endeavor to develop our river basins - TVA, Bonneville, the Central Valley project of California - models for all the world to admire - proof that a free people, acting through their own freely chosen government, can put the people's rivers to the service of the people.

Today, in a close-knit tumultuous world, the development of our natural resources is not only vital to the survival of our Western States and the survival of our Nation. It is vital to the survival of the entire free world. But that survival has been endangered by shortsighted Republican policies at Hells Canyon, at TVA, here at the Trinity Dam project, and across the Nation - by a policy of "no new starts," a policy of do-nothing, stand-still status quo.

It is time to start.

First, we must reverse the defeatist policy of "no new starts" and move ahead with full development of our natural resources, including the extension of the Central Valley project.

Second, we must reassert the public's rights in the public domain which the so-called partnership policy has undermined; maintain the public preference clause against monopoly; defend the integrity of TVA, the Columbia Basin, and the Central Valley; and recommence the forestry, reclamation, antipollution, recreation, and public lands programs begun by the New Deal.

Third, we must get on with reclamation and basinwide river development across the Nation.

Fourth, we must appoint a Federal Power Commission that will uphold the public interest, and not serve private interests alone.

Fifth, we need a whole new concept of resource development. So vast, so complex, and so neglected are our resources that their wise development cannot be parceled out piecemeal. Nothing less than comprehensive basin-by-basin, valley-by-valley planning on a nationwide scale can do the job. And nothing less than leadership, Presidential leadership, can do the job. We must establish a Council of Resource and Conservation Advisers in the Office of the President himself - a council which will engage in overall resource planning - which will assess the national needs of an expanding population - and recommend national programs to meet them.

Sixth, we must bring to bear on our natural resource problems the best scientific brains, the best ideas, and the best modern technologies that are available. New methods of retaining snowpacks, of preventing surface evaporation of stored waters, of controlling floods and managing watersheds, of cloud seeding and long-range weather forecasting and weather control - above all a crash program of research how to convert salt water to fresh water - all these and many more tools must be summoned to the task. We have the technological know-how. What we need to do now is remove the bureaucratic and political roadblocks - and forge ahead.

In the long-ago dim past around the world, other great nations have wasted and devoured their priceless heritage of land and water - and their temples and palaces lie buried in the jungle and desert sand.

Mr. Khrushchev has said:

Electrification of the national economy has always been regarded by our party as the cardinal task.
Measured by installed capacity, the Communists were 28 years behind us in 1950 - but unless we speed up or they slow down, in less than 28 years from now they will have passed us by.

I don't want a second-rate America.

This is no time for retreat and defeat. This is a time for strength, for development, for greatness - a time for bold ideas and brave new programs. And as we face the awesome challenges of the future, we would do well to remember the words of faith that Franklin Roosevelt wrote down on the day before he died:

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Rear Platform Remarks Delivered by Senator John F. Kennedy In Redding, CA - (Advance Release Text)", September 8, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25706.
 
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