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Address to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on Receiving the First Hoover Gold Medal

April 08, 1930

I am glad to join with my fellow members in this celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It would be a difficult task to measure the blessings brought by this association through the stimulation to invention, the improvement of methods, the adequate training of engineers, and the advancement of knowledge in a large sense. During its span of life it has contributed a great part in the development of an art into a mighty profession upon whose capacity and fidelity rest so much of human progress.

I feel especially honored that the association should, through the beneficence of Mr. Lauer, have established a new distinction among engineers, and should have designated me as its first recipient. The purpose of this medal is to mark the public service of men who have gone outside their strictly professional work to interest themselves in civic and humanitarian affairs. And the engineers have something to contribute to public service.

With the development of our great national tools--our engines, our railways, our automobiles, our airplanes, our steamships, our electric power, and a score of other great implements, together with the supplies of material upon which they depend--the engineer has added vastly to the problems of government, for government must see that the control of these tools and these materials are not misused to limit liberty and freedom, that they advance and do not retard equality of opportunity amongst all our citizens.

These great discoveries and inventions have brought great blessings to humanity but they have multiplied the problems of government and the complexity of these problems progresses with the increase of our population. Every county government, every municipal government, every State government, and the Federal Government itself, is engaged in constant attempt to solve a multitude of public relationships to these tools which the engineers by their genius and industry constantly force to the very doorstep of government. And in solving these problems we have need for a large leavening of the engineering knowledge and engineering attitude of mind and engineering method. These problems of public relation are unsolvable without the technical knowledge of the engineer. They are unsolvable without the fundamental engineers' approach to truth. That is, first to determine the facts, arrange these facts in proper perspective, and then distill truth from them in the retort of experience.

Engineers do not undertake to build these gigantic tools, whether bridges, power plants, or railroads, without knowing the service they are to perform, without infinite patience in discovery of economic and scientific fact, without the adaptation of experience, without giving consideration to capacity in the human material available to conduct them, and without the final crystallization into positive constructive action. No emotion enters into these determinations. Emotion is permissible only in contemplation of their service to humanity.

But when the problems which these great tools create come to the door of government they are at once emotional problems, for the resolution of our people for equality of opportunity, for freedom from domination, for maintenance of initiative, and liberty of action, arise from the deepest of human emotions. Yet if we would find solution for these problems, if we would deal with them constructively, we must traverse the same hard road in determining the service we wish to perform and with infinite patience discovering the economic and scientific facts with careful adaptation of experience, with high regard for the human material available to conduct our administration, and with positive action in administration.

Our greatest difficulty in dealing with these problems of government is when the emotion comes first. Facts and the technical knowledge come but slowly or are often lost in a sea of embittered controversy. It is for all these reasons that the engineers with their training, their attitude of mind, and their method, can contribute to the solution of the problems which arise from their own creations.

I am not advocating that all public services be turned over to engineers. I have a high appreciation of the contribution of the other professions but the engineers, I insist, have a contribution to make to public service and they have an obligation to give that contribution. This distinction which has been established by your association should mark this necessity and should stimulate activities of our engineers in such service.

Note: The President spoke at the anniversary dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Hoover Gold Medal was instituted to commemorate the civic and humanitarian achievements of Herbert Hoover and to him the first award was made. From time to time the medal was awarded by engineers to a fellow engineer for distinguished public service.

The trust fund creating the award was the gift of Conrad N. Lauer, of Philadelphia, Pa., a vice president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Herbert Hoover, Address to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on Receiving the First Hoover Gold Medal Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/210061

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