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Letter Accepting Resignation of Abraham Ribicoff as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

July 13, 1962

Dear Abe:

It is with deep regret that I accept your resignation as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

You were my first choice for the first Cabinet post I filled precisely because of the qualities you have demonstrated in it. I needed your help in blazing new trails in health, education and welfare--and your tireless, courageous efforts have laid the groundwork for at least a decade of significant progress in these fields. In one of the most difficult and challenging positions of government you have discharged your responsibilities with skill born of rich experience and insight born of deep compassion. The people of this Nation owe you their thanks for the distinguished services you have rendered in their behalf.

You are entitled to look back on your record of 18 months with great satisfaction. For the first time in our nation's history, the dependent children of unemployed workers have been receiving federal-State public assistance payments--older men have the right to retire under Social Security at the age of 62--juvenile delinquency is being effectively attacked by a major federal pro, gram--educational television is to be promoted with federal help--and rehabilitation instead of relief is being stressed for the recipients of public welfare, under administrative actions you initiated last fall. The Social Security Act has been improved. The nation's effort to combat water pollution has been doubled. More nursing homes and community health facilities and services have been made available to our older citizens. You have provided solid leadership to our efforts to help Cuban refugees, and to provide retraining for our nation's unemployed workers. And you have taken forthright and unprecedented steps to assure the citizens of all races an equal, non-segregated opportunity to participate in the programs offered or financed by your Department.

Still more of the proposals on which we have worked together will be accomplished, I am confident, at this session of the Congress: improving our public welfare program to end chronic dependency--eradicating the major diseases of childhood through an all-out immunization campaign--and relieving the financial plight of students and colleges at the increasingly crowded levels of higher education. I am also hopeful that the Congress will find time to enact measures to improve the quality and opportunities of the teaching profession--to eliminate illiteracy among American adults--to help our medical colleges produce more doctors and dentists--to provide increased employment opportunities for our youth--and to afford full protection to consumers of drugs and cosmetics.

But it is increasingly clear that all of this may not be done in as full a fashion as the nation's needs require--that a formula may not be found at this Congress to provide aid to education--and that we face an extremely close vote on our bill to provide health insurance for our older citizens under the Social Security system. Your persistent efforts for this bill since early 1961 have brought us close to success. The improvements you recently suggested have enlisted bipartisan support. But inasmuch as experience has taught us time and again that a handful of votes or even one vote in the legislative branch may decide whether our efforts succeed or fall back, and it is the legislative branch where action must now be taken in so many areas, I accept your request that you be free to seek the office from which you can next year cast that vote.

As much as I regret the loss of your services from my cabinet--as much as your leadership will be missed by the people of this country, old people, students, educators, consumers, the handicapped and the unemployed and the underprivileged--we need your voice and vote in the halls of Congress. And I congratulate the people of Connecticut for having the opportunity to send you there.

The experience you have gained in the Cabinet uniquely qualifies you for further service to the people of your State. You have my respect and admiration for your willingness to relinquish an appointive position for the challenges of a campaign for elective office. And I look forward to working closely with you in the future as I have in the past.



Note: Mr. Ribicoff served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from January 21, 1961, through July 12, 1962. His letter of resignation was released with the President's reply.

John F. Kennedy, Letter Accepting Resignation of Abraham Ribicoff as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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