Harry S. Truman photo

Address and Remarks at the Dedication of the Kentucky Dam at Gilbertsville, Kentucky.

October 10, 1945

Ladies and gentlemen:

Nine years ago the first dam of the Tennessee Valley Authority-the Norris Dam on the Clinch River--was dedicated by my illustrious predecessor--Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the very start of his Presidency, he had the great vision and foresight to recommend and encourage the comprehensive development of this entire great Valley.

It is now a matter of great pride to me to dedicate the sixteenth great structure built by the TVA--the Kentucky Dam. The system of dams across the Tennessee now puts under the control of man a whole vast river--and harnesses it to do his work. This has not yet happened on any other river. The completion of this dam marks a new high point in modern pioneering in America.

Nine years ago TVA was a highly controversial subject. Today it is no longer an experiment, but a demonstration. By all except a small minority it is now regarded as a great American accomplishment, of which all of us are proud.

Here in this great valley American enterprise and courage and skill have come through again with a genuine achievement. The TVA does not belong to the people of the Tennessee Valley alone. It belongs to all the United States. And indeed, it has inspired regional resource development all over the world. Distinguished observers from more than fifty countries have come to this historic American Valley. They came here to study what has been done. They went away to try to adapt to their own regions the lessons that have been learned here from actual experience.

As a Senator I was always a strong supporter of the TVA. And I can say to you that I have never had occasion to regret my support of the TVA and of the idea it represents. Its record has fully justified the hopes and the confidence of its old friends.

But it is more than dams and locks and chemical plants and power lines. It is an important experiment in democracy. In it, administrative methods have been devised which bring the people and their Federal Government closer together--not in Washington, but right where the people live. Here in this Valley there has been firmly established the basic principle of development of resources on an autonomous regional basis.

Why has TVA succeeded so well ? Why does it have the esteem of the people of this Valley, and attract the attention of other regions of America, and of the entire world? To me the answer is clear--TVA is just plain commonsense. It is commonsense hitched up to modern science and good management. And that's about all there is to it.

Instead of going at the river piecemeal with a dam here and a dam there, the river was treated as a whole. The dams were all designed so that they would fit together as a unit and in that way get the most service out of the river for mankind.

Consider Kentucky Dam itself. This dam will hold back four million acre feet of flood water from the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The people behind the levees on those rivers know how much that will mean to them in protection from disaster. When the danger of flood is past, those flood waters are not to be wasted. They will be put through the water wheels here at the dam to produce great quantities of electricity. That electricity will rush to serve the people of the Valley, their homes and farms and industries.

Kentucky Dam also provides a deep-water, navigable channel 183 miles long. The other TVA dams carry that reliable deep water channel all the way to Knoxville in east Tennessee, 650 miles away. As a result, the South and the Middle West of this Nation are now connected by water transportation. The benefits of this dam go not only to the Tennessee Valley; they go to Saint Paul and Minneapolis, to New Orleans and Memphis, to Saint Louis and Kansas City, to Omaha and Sioux City--to all the communities in the great Mississippi Valley that are served by our inland waterways.

In addition to power and flood control and navigation, there is recreation. TVA has joined with the various States and local communities in the development of great lakes here in the South. Here we have boating, fishing, and hunting where thousands upon thousands of people in the Tennessee Valley and the Middle West may enjoy themselves.

As President Roosevelt said when he first recommended the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority in April of 1933:

"... The usefulness of the entire Tennessee River . . . transcends mere power development; it enters the wide fields of flood control, soil erosion, afforestation, elimination from agricultural use of marginal lands, and distribution and diversification of industry."

His prophecy has been fulfilled, for in the TVA the Congress has provided for a tying together of all the things that go to make up a well rounded economic development.

It is easy to see that most of these commonsense principles can be applied to other valleys, and I have already recommended to the Congress that a start be made in that direction. Careful planning and commonsense development can convert the idle and wasting resources of other valleys into jobs and better living.

No two valleys are exactly alike, of course. For that reason, the details of just how this region or that region should be developed are matters that require study and judgment in each particular case. The procedure in each valley may have to be a little different. The details of administration and control may have to be different. But the underlying commonsense principles of this development here in the Tennessee Valley can provide guidance and counsel to the people in other regions who likewise aspire to put their resources to the greatest use.

Let me emphasize that in the last analysis such development is a matter for the people themselves to decide. Here in this Valley, State and local agencies, public and private, have joined with TVA in a two-way partnership. This was a natural result of the policy of regional decentralization. That same policy ought to be followed in the other river valleys as regional agencies are created by the Congress and set to work.

We must continue all over the United States to wage war against flood and drought. Our vast store of natural resources can be made to serve us in peace with the same efficiency as they did in war. We should exercise our commonsense, go ahead, and continue to get the job done.

Much has already been done in the past 12 years on river development in other parts of the country--on the Columbia and Colorado, on the Missouri, on the rivers of the Central Valley of California. They are all designed to make the rivers and their generous bounty serve instead of injuring mankind.

Waters are now being harnessed and changed into electricity--electricity which has helped supply the weapons of victory in war--electricity which can be used to improve the standards of living and comfort and efficiency in the farms and homes of thousands of American families. Waters are now making crops grow on land where recently there was only desert dust.

The valleys of America await their full development. The time has come--now that materials and manpower are more plentiful--to press forward. The days of the pioneer are not dead. The development of our natural resources calls for men of courage, of vision, of endurance, just as in the pioneering days of old.

The Nation, I am sure, is determined to march forward. We will not listen to the whispers of the timid, that dreams like those of the Tennessee Valley are impossible to accomplish. In the great valleys of America there is a challenge to all that is best in our tradition. Ahead of us lies a great adventure in building even stronger the foundations of our beloved country. America will not hesitate to meet that challenge.

[Informal remarks at the conclusion of the address]

Now I want to say to you how very happy and how glad I am to be your guest here today. I am particularly glad because Senator Barkley and Congressman Gregory informed me that people always turn out like this for them when they come home. Barkley whispered to me coming over here that if people keep treating him like this, there is no possible way for him to retire from public life. I hope that time will never come, because Barkley is a good public servant.

As for Congressman Gregory, I had the pleasure of giving him his first plane ride the other day. He said he didn't like riding in a plane. A lot of people are averse to riding in a plane, even my wife hates to ride in a plane; but after I got Gregory aboard, he confessed that if he was going to get his neck broken, he would just as soon break his neck with Barkley and me as anybody he knew.

I hope that the development of this great Valley here will result in the development of our other river valleys along the same line. You know, our resources have barely been touched. Some of our natural resources--lumber, for instance--have been exhausted by senseless deforestation. We are trying to remedy that situation now by reforestation.

This great development has proven conclusively that a free people can do anything that is necessary for the welfare of the human race as a whole. We created the greatest production machine in the history of the world. We made that machine operate, to the disaster of the dictators. Now then, we want to keep that machine operating. We must keep that machine operating. We have just discovered the source of the sun's power--atomic energy; that is, we have found out how to turn it loose. We had to turn it loose in the beginning for destruction. We are not going to use it for destruction any more, I hope. But that tremendous source of energy can create for us the greatest age in the history of the world if we are sensible enough to put it to that use and to no other. I think we are going to do just that. I think our Allies are going to cooperate with us in peace, just as we cooperated with them in war.

I think we can look forward to the greatest age in history, and I have said that every time I have had an opportunity to address anybody. The greatest age in history is upon us. We must assume that responsibility. We are going to assume it, and every one of you, and all of us, are going to get in and work for the welfare of the world in peace, just as we worked for the welfare of the world in war. That is absolutely essential and necessary.

We are having our little troubles now--a few of them. They are not serious--just a blowup after the letdown from war. You remember what a terrible time we had the first two days after the Japanese folded up. Everybody had to blow off steam. Well, there is still some of that steam that wants to be blown off, and we still have a few selfish men who think more of their own personal interests than they do of the public welfare.

But they are not going to prevail. You are not going to let them prevail. You are going to force everybody to get into this harness, and push and pull until that great age I am prophesying comes about.

We can't do it tomorrow. We can't do it next month. We probably can't do it all next year. It is going to take some time for us to realize just exactly what we have and what we will do with it.

Now, let's all go home and go to work. Cut out the foolishness and make this country what it ought to be--the greatest nation the sun has ever shone upon.

Thank you very much.

Harry S Truman, Address and Remarks at the Dedication of the Kentucky Dam at Gilbertsville, Kentucky. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230480

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives