Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks on Conservation at a Breakfast in Portland Saluting the Northwest-Southwest Power Transmission Intertie

September 17, 1964

Senator Morse--when you are traveling with Wayne, you are always in for a surprise--I wish he had made speeches that short in the Senate--and I might say that good--thank you very much.

Senator Morse, Senator Neuberger, Congresswoman Green, distinguished Members of the Congress, Mayor, Governor, friends in Portland:

This is a very nice thing for you to do so early in the morning--on a rainy morning. I know it took a lot of arranging and a great deal of trouble, and very unusual hospitality. I realize that it is your way of showing your respect for the great office I hold, and for the President of this country.

I would like for all the people in the Northwest Public Power Association and the Northwest Electric Light and Power Association to know that I feel a very special debt of gratitude to you for the time you spent, the money you invested, the wonderful public event that you have helped to bring about.

This is a rather discouraging occasion, however. I think of all the effort it took to turn off a few lights in the White House in Washington, and here you all finally settled your differences and you are turning on millions all over the country every day.

In 1844 a fiery young orator warned, "Make way for the young American buffalo. We will give him Oregon for his summer shade and the region of Texas for his winter pasture." Well, it is wonderful to be here in Oregon with you this morning. But I want it distinctly understood I am not ready for any Texas pasture.

Yesterday in a few hours I swept across a continent that it took decades of daring to conquer. It took brave men and strong men to make that crossing. But, most of all, it took men of faith--men of great faith in themselves, in their country, in the future of this land.

So today we inhabit a continent that is made fertile by that act of faith. Napoleon truly said when he sold Louisiana, "This accession of territory consolidates the power of the United States forever."

But it was not territory that made us great. It was men. Our West is not just a place. The West is an idea. The Bible says, "Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee." And here, in the West, we learned man's possibilities were as spacious as the sky that covered him. We learned that free men could build a civilization as majestic as the mountains and the rivers that nourished him. We learned that with our hands we could create a life that was worthy of the land that was ours.

And that lesson has illuminated the life of all America--east, west, north, and south.

This gathering this morning I think is further proof of that. Your work is a more powerful instrument of freedom than a thousand shouted threats and warnings. In far-off countries, men will look here and learn again that the path of free men is the surest path to progress.

Here, in the Northwest, America is moving again. And all the world knows it. This intertie which is the result of so many brains and so much work, and such great efforts, is the most exciting transmission system in history. It will make us world leaders in direct current transmission. It will carry from the Peace River to the Mexican border enough power for five San Franciscos.

So I come here to tell you, and to tell each of you, that all America is proud of all of you.

I am glad to see this cooperation of private power with public power. The public power yardstick is essential. Private power will always play a substantial and a vital role in the future of this great land. This system is also proof of the power of cooperation and unity. You have proved that if we turn away from division, if we just ignore dissension and distrust, there is no limit to our achievements.

I am going to interpolate for a moment here to tell you of an experience I had as a young man trying to reconcile the views of the leaders of public and private power in my State.

We had the great man who happened to be a spokesman for Electric Bond and Share, who was president of one of our great power companies, and he looked just like a Methodist deacon. He sat back and was dignified, a very attractive man, a very pure individual, very cautious in what he said.

I negotiated with him for 3 days and I never made a dent in his armor. He was looking after those stockholders and he almost looked at me with what I thought was contempt.

Finally I got up in my youthful enthusiasm and some impulsiveness that I am very much against these days, and I said, "So far as I am concerned, you can take a running jump and go straight you know where." The old gentleman didn't get the slightest bit rattled. He just looked back and smiled and said, "I am sorry you feel that way, young man. We have to do these things as we see them. We are men of convictions and we have to carry out our views and the views of our stockholders as we think we ought to." All of my REA and public power people applauded me and said it was a great speech. I started out of the room and they all stood.

As I walked out the door, I saw an old man there that was the general counsel for the water district. He was an ex-Senator. I ;aid, "Senator, how did you like my speech?" He said, "Come by the office and I would like to talk to you about it." I said, "Oh, oh." So I went by and he said, "You are in public life. You are a young man just starting out and I want to see you move along and do well. But," he said, "the first thing you have to learn, son, is to tell a man to go to hell and to make him go are two different propositions."

He said, "Mr. Carpenter doesn't want to go. This is a free country and he is going to stay around here, and he thinks it is pretty hot down there, and he doesn't elect to take your choice." He said, "It took me 2 months to get this group together and you bust it up in 2 minutes. I will have to work now until we can get together again and follow the advice of the prophet Isaiah, 'Come now, let us reason together.'"

Many, many times in the Senate and in the other places of responsibility where I have served I have harkened back to that day in that little courtroom when I expressed my views on the president of the power company. A lot of times I wanted to get up and tell Bob Taft what I thought about his viewpoint and where he ought to go, or Bill Knowland, or Everett Dirksen, or even some of my Democratic friends, from time to time.

But I never could forget what that old, wise general counsel said to me, "Tell them to go and make them go are two different propositions."

I do want you to know, though, that by your reasoning together, by your cooperating together for the benefit of all, I think that is true conservation. This is the kind of conservation action that your Government is going to continue to provide the leadership for.

I grew up on the land. The life of my parents depended entirely upon the bounty of the soil. I devoted much of my public life to protecting for our children the great legacy of our natural abundance.

So I come to report to you that we have not just talked about progress in this field. We have made progress, and we are at the close of the greatest conservation Congress in the history of the United States of America.

The 88th Congress has passed more than 30 important conservation bills.

A new Land and Water Conservation Fund will help the States and the cities set aside spots of beauty for recreation and pleasure.

A Wilderness Act will guarantee all Americans the natural magnificence which has been your heritage.

Water Research and Water Planning bills will speed the development for the soaring water needs of this great, growing Nation.

We established continental America's first new national park in 17 years, 23 new national park areas, 4 new national seashores, and a national riverway.

We began a new Bureau of Outdoor Recreation so that our children will have a place to hunt and to fish, and to glory in nature.

We began the construction of over 200 water resource projects with 70 more scheduled for 1965.

We built or we began more than 5,500 miles of transmission lines in this great land.

Flood control funds were increased by more than 50 percent.

All this we have done, and more. And I pledge you that my administration is going to continue with this progress.

But we must do more than continue. Our problems are changing every day and we must change to meet them.

Three changing forces are bringing a new era to conservation.

The first is growing population. By the year 2000, more than 300 million Americans will need 10 times the power and 2 1/2 times the water that we now consume. Increasing pressures will take our resources, and increasing leisure will tax our recreation.

The second is the triumph of technology. The bright success of science also has had a darker side. The waste products of our progress, from exhaust fumes to radiation, may be one of the deadliest threats to the destruction of nature that we have ever known.

The third force is urbanization. More of our people are crowding into cities and cutting themselves off from nature. Access to beauty is denied and ancient values are destroyed. Conservation must move from nature's wilderness to the manmade wilderness of our cities. All of this requires a new conservation.

We must not only protect from destruction, but we have the job of restoring what has already been destroyed--not only develop old resources, but create new ones-not only save the countryside but, yes, finally salvage the cities.

It is not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but it is a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man's welfare, but the dignity of his spirit.

Above all, we must maintain the chance for contact with beauty. When that chance dies, a light dies in all of us. Thoreau said, "A town is saved not more by the righteous men in it than by the woods--that surround it." And Emerson taught, "There is no police so effective as a good hill and wide pasture." We are the creation of our environment. If it becomes filthy and sordid, then the dignity of the spirit and the deepest of our values immediately are in danger.

In the development of a new conservation I intend to press ahead on five fronts:

First, we seek to guarantee our children a place to walk and play and commune with nature. The demand on our recreational facilities is doubling each decade. We must act boldly or our future will be barren.

We will move vigorously under our recent laws to acquire and to develop new areas for recreation in this country--emphasizing areas of concentrated population. And we will be ready to expand our programs to meet the developing needs.

A national program of scenic parkways and scenic riverways is on the horizon. I hope, for instance, to make the Potomac a conservation model for our metropolitan areas.

In our cities, open space must be reserved where possible, and created where preservation comes too late.

Second, we must control the waste products of technology. The air we breathe, the water we drink, our soil, our wildlife are all being blighted by the poisons and the chemicals, and all the inevitable waste products of modern life.

The skeleton of discarded cars, old junk yards, litter our countryside--and are driving my wife mad. She thinks that one of the advantages of getting defeated is to give her some time to get out and do something about cleaning up the countryside and these old junkyards along our beautiful driveways.

I intend to work with local government and industry to develop a national policy for the control and disposal of technological and industrial waste. I will work with them to carry out that kind of a policy. Only in this way, I think, can we rescue the oldest of our treasures from the newest of our enemies.

Third, we must increase mastery over our environment through the marvels of new technology. This means rapidly increasing emphasis on comprehensive river basin development. So we plan to cooperate at every level to develop the resources and to preserve the values of entire regions of this land.

It means drawing fresh water from the oceans. Within a few years economic desalinization will be a reality for a large number of Americans.

It means learning to understand the weather and to do something about it. The advance notice that we got on Hurricane Carla saved us thousands of lives and millions of dollars.

It means the use in every field of the newest knowledge to meet the oldest needs. It means encouraging the development of the genius of man in order to unlock the secrets of the earth.

Fourth, we must prevent urbanization and growth from ravaging the land. I will suggest, in cooperation with local government and private industry, policies for such prevention. Their goal will be to insure that suburban building, highway construction, industrial spread, are conducted with reverence and with the proper regard for the values of nature.

Fifth, we must conduct conservation on a global scale. The Antarctic Treaty, weather and fishery agreements, the treaty with Canada that we celebrated yesterday, are all examples of what can be done if nations will devote common effort to common interest.

These are some of the fronts of the new conservation which I will work to carry forward. And I tell you now that this hope will always be among the closest to my heart.

From the beginning we have been a people of open spaces. We have lifted our eyes to the deserts and to the mountains, and now we are lifting them to the stars. But on this earth the ring draws closer around us.

So let us not leave our task with the reproach of our children already ringing in our ears. Far, far too much is at stake. There are the resources on which our future rests.

But there is a good deal more than that. In a thousand unseen ways we have drawn shape and strength from the land. Respect for man and reverence for God have taken root in our spacious soil. In isolation from nature lies the danger of man's isolation from his fellow and from his Creator.

All my life I have drawn sustenance from the rivers and from the hills of my native State. I do not see them so often any more these days, and I am lonesome for them almost constantly. But their message of love and challenge is written in my spirit. I want no less for all the children of America than what I was privileged to have as a boy.

In the book of Matthew, it says "The floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock."

The house of America is founded upon our land and if we keep that whole, then the storm can rage, but the house will stand forever.

This morning you have an unusual assemblage in this room. I was escorted to the dais by a progressive young Republican Governor. I was met by a cordial, hospitable mayor. I flew across the continent with a number of outstanding leaders of the Congress, of the House and of the Senate.

You have an unusual quality of leadership in this great Northwest. We celebrated some of the fruits of that planning yesterday in Canada, fruits of the work of men like the two great Senators from Washington, and this wise, veteran legislator from Vermont, George Aiken, who sits on the front row and does me great honor by coming to this area of the Nation with me.

Oregon, Washington, California, and Montana, all the great West, is here this morning, not to just talk about the glories of the past, but to try to pull all the talent of this great region together to undertake an adventure of tomorrow.

I first came to Portland as a youngster fresh out of uniform in the early days of the war to scrap the battleship Oregon. I saw then all of the hope and the daring, and the idealism, and the spirit of conservation that I have observed reflected by your spokesmen in the halls of the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

We have come a long way in those 20 odd years, but we have not gone nearly far enough. The eyes of the Nation are looking to you to provide the leadership that will not just make this the best conservation Congress we have ever had, but that will help us to bring our dreams of a more beautiful America, a safer America, a healthier America available to our children as it has been available to us.

Thank you very much for your wonderful hospitality.

Note: The President spoke in the ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in Portland, Oreg. In his opening remarks he referred to Senators Wayne Morse and Maurine B. Neuberger and Representative Edith Green, all of Oregon, Acting Mayor Wayne Bowes of Portland, and Governor Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon.

The cooperation of the Federal Government in the Northwest-Southwest Power Transmission Intertie was announced by the President at his news conference of July 30 (see Item 486 [7]).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks on Conservation at a Breakfast in Portland Saluting the Northwest-Southwest Power Transmission Intertie Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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