The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Lyndon B. Johnson
Remarks at the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Florida Cross-State Barge Canal.
February 27, 1964

Congressman Sikes, Governor Bryant, members of the State Cabinet, my beloved friends Senator Holland and Senator Smathers, Senator Magnuson, Congressman Kirtwan, and the outstanding members of the Florida delegation, Congressman Herlong, and my old friend Billy Matthews, in whose district we meet, Dante Fascell, Congressman Rogers, Claude Pepper, Congressmen Fuqua and Gibbons, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

God was good to this country. He endowed it with resources unsurpassed in their variety and their abundance. But in His wisdom the Creator left something for men to do for themselves.

He gave us great rivers, but He left them to run wild in the flood, and sometimes to go dry in the drought--and sometimes to rain when we have a celebration. But He left it to us to control these carriers of commerce.

He gave us great estuaries and natural locales for harbors. But He left it to us to dredge them out so we could use them with modern ships.

He gave us the shallow waters along most of our coastline, which form natural routes for protected coastal waterways. But He left it to us to carve out the channels to make them usable.

Today we accept another challenge. We make use of another resource. We will construct a canal across northern Florida to shorten navigation distances between our Atlantic and our Gulf coasts. When this canal is completed, it will spark new and permanent economic growth. It will accelerate business and industry to locate here on its banks. It will open up new recreation areas.

The challenge of a modern society is to make the resources of nature useful and beneficial to the community. So this is the passkey to economic growth, to sensible and to valid prosperity; to create a value where none existed before is to enlarge the hoard of Nature's bounty and to make it serve all of our citizens.

This new ribbon of water will enable barges to move across the Florida peninsula a few years from now, bearing commerce between the two seacoasts. In a sense, this new canal symbolizes the essential unity that makes a nation out of regions.

To your great Governor, Farris Bryant, to the Members of your great Florida delegation, of whom there is no better delegation in the Congress, must go the gratitude of all the citizens of Florida for the work that they did in making this barge canal possible, and, more importantly, for making the American apparatus of freedom go forward to new dimensions and to new boundaries.

I am relieved that we are finally going to press the button and push the switch that starts this great canal, because I remember every time I went to the House, Billy Matthews would catch me by the lapels of my coat, and George Smathers couldn't leave a leadership meeting without talking to me about it. I thought Spessard Holland was going to have a heart attack the last time he talked to me because he told me if this money was not in for the Florida Cross-State Canal, there was going to be trouble when my budget got to the Congress. So to these good and great men who make up this wise delegation, I want to say that I am proud to stand here by your side today, to be a part of this new undertaking.

Governor Bryant, as I throw this switch detonating an explosive charge to break ground for this canal, let me commend the Army Corps of Engineers who will build this canal, as they have built them so wisely and so many times before. I wish all of you and this new canal Godspeed.

[After the ground breaking the President resumed speaking.]

Now I want to tell you one story before-the rain is over--before we go.

You know, it was said of Abraham Lincoln that one time he sat distressed before his Cabinet, and he decided he would take a vote. He called the role of the Cabinet and as he came to the name of each man he answered in a loud and clear voice, "nay." finally, when all the members of the Cabinet had had their names called and all had voted nay, the President called his own name, the President, and he voted aye. And he said, "The ayes have it."

Well, I thought of that story when I was making up the budget for this canal, when Holland said "aye," and Smathers said "aye," and Matthews said "aye," and Governor Bryant said "aye." The entire delegation said "aye" and the President didn't dare to say "nay." He said, "The ayes have it."

Thank you.

Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks at the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Florida Cross-State Barge Canal.", February 27, 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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