Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Dedication Ceremony at the Cedars of Lebanon Health Care Center, Miami, Florida.

February 14, 1974

Mr. Bronstein, all of the members of the board of directors, and the distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:

When I noted that on my schedule I had been invited to participate in the dedication of a health care center of the Cedars of Lebanon, I said to one of my aides, "Well, I would be glad to do it, but I haven't got time to fly to California," because in the years that I was growing up, perhaps the most well-known health care or hospital center in the Los Angeles area was the Cedars of Lebanon. And I had not realized, even though I had come to Miami on many occasions, that there was also here, although a younger institution, one by the same name, Cedars of Lebanon.

I am glad to discover the Cedars of Lebanon in Miami. I congratulate you who have made it possible.

On this occasion I would like to pay tribute to all of those who made possible this new health care center and those who have contributed to the Cedars of Lebanon Health Care Center over the past 12 years in which it has been in existence.

In doing so, I would like to put in perspective the work of this center insofar as it affects the health not only of the people of south Florida but of America and even of the world.

And I would like to refer briefly to the fact that this year, 1974, will be one when we can expect possibly a great step forward in better health care for all Americans. This is something we can all be thankful for.

There has been introduced in the Congress a new Administration measure, as you know, called the comprehensive health insurance program. It is one which will provide for health care for all Americans-those who can afford to pay will pay; those who cannot afford to pay will be taken care of. It means that no American will ever be denied health care because of lack of ability to pay, and that is a great goal for Americans that we are all working for.

It has some new items that perhaps would not sound particularly important on such an occasion as this. For example-I see some young people here in front--it even provides for dental care for very young people. It provides for catastrophic illnesses---illnesses which present insurance programs, whether private or public, do not cover adequately--so that we do not have a situation where a catastrophic illness means catastrophic debt for a family. And also it provides for those who are on Medicare over the age of 65. As you know, so many of them, if you have visited these homes and other centers where they stay, or their own homes, the problem they Confront so often is not only the loneliness which comes if their children and others and friends forget them, which is perhaps the greatest disservice we can do to them, but also the fact that when they develop an illness, their program, Government program does not take care of it, and our program is one that will.

I will not go further in describing it. The doctors, the technical assistants, the experts will be arguing about it and debating about it as they should in the months ahead. But I would like to refer to this complex, this health care center, how it came into being, those who made it possible, and how it will operate in terms of this approach that we have to the problem of health insurance in the United States, because there is another way.

There is another way in which people suggest that--why do we have to go out and ask individuals to contribute $10, $100, $1,000 in order to build a center like this? Why not turn it all over to the Government? And there are several reasons why, of course, we would oppose that program.

One is that most of us would not want an $80 billion increase in taxes. But let me suggest this: The difficulty with an all-Government program rather than one that builds on the great private medical profession and the private health care that we have in the United States, the difficulty with it is not its cost so much in money, because good health is worth whatever it costs, but the difficulty would be the cost in terms of reducing the quality of medical care.

I simply want to say, when I go to a hospital or when I have to call a doctor, I want that doctor to be working for the patient and not for the Federal Government, and that is what this is all about.

Now, our health care system has some weaknesses, but on the other hand, we can be proud of the fact that the health care system in the United States, in terms of quality, is the best in the world.

What we want to do is to be sure that that quality is available to all, but in making it available to all, don't reduce the quality. Because if medical care is free and it is poor that isn't the right approach, and that isn't the American way of doing things.

The American way is to build on the present system, which is a great system.

And so, I saw this name, Cedars of Lebanon, and I wondered, why. And reading the Psalms, I found out what a cedar of Lebanon was. It is a remarkable tree, apparently. It is always green. It is very sturdy. It can go through great storms, and also it is a tree that has long life, and finally, it is a beautiful tree.

And so here as we dedicate the Cedars of Lebanon Health Care complex, this section of it, it will produce long life or help long life, I am sure, from having very briefly seen the various facilities that are so modern that we inspected. It is a beautiful building, but when I speak of the beauty of this Cedars of Lebanon, let me tell you where the real beauty is.

It isn't in the buildings, but it is in the people that made it possible. It is in the doctors and the nurses and all the rest who worked on it.

Now, the doctors don't need to be told how very important they are; they know. But let me say that this is an occasion to pay a tribute to the nurses, the technicians, hundreds of thousands of them in America, who work for good health.

I can only say from the very brief experience-and they have been very brief, fortunately, because I have been blessed with good health--but the very few times I have been in the hospital, let me say it is always much more pleasant to see a nurse come in than the doctor come in.

And I do know this: As I told one of the lovely young ladies who works in this complex, who is going to go back to nursing after she completes this technical work, I said the most important thing you can do for a patient is to raise his spirit; the most important thing you can do is to make him or her, no matter how ill he is, feel that he has a will to live, that he wants to live, that he is going to get well.

And that is something that can come not simply from highly technical operations and examinations but is something that all of those in the health care profession must be dedicated to with their hearts and their minds and their souls, and that brings me back to my original theme.

Great institutions, private institutions like Cedars of Lebanon, the great medical profession that we have in the United States is one that is personal, that is individual, that relates to the person himself, and that will have just as much effect in making people well as the professional or the technical aspects that money can buy as far as the Federal Government or any other government is concerned.

So, I congratulate today the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, all who are working in this complex. And may I also now pay tribute to another group, those, the board of trustees, have been introduced, but the hundreds of people--and there are perhaps thousands here in this audience and listening to me--who in the Miami area contributed the money to make this possible.

You know there was an easier way, and that gets back to whether it should be all-Government or whether it should build on the great private health care system that we have in this country. The easier way is just increase the taxes, throw the private health care system out, and let the Government do it all.

But let me tell you, in addition to reducing the quality of medical care, it does something else to the spirit of America that is very important.

It is good for us, all of us, to contribute to the well-being of other people and to do it personally and not simply through our taxes to an impersonal government. All of us in the various religious faiths that we represent know certain words that are used. There are some of those in the Protestant and Catholic faith who, when they make contributions to a hospital and so forth, use the word charity. That is a good word. It means you are trying 'to help somebody who is less fortunate. The Quakers to whom I belong--my Quaker grandmother, who always used the plain speech in talking to her grandchildren, said they must always have a concern for other people. The word "concern" is a good word.

There is another word, however, that many in this audience would not know, but that I am familiar with, that perhaps describes this hospital better than anything else. It is the Hebrew word tsdakah. You know what it means. It does not mean charity in the sense of doing something for somebody because it is your duty, because there are less fortunate, not the condescension that charity might mean to some, but tsdakah means do it because it is right, it is just, do justly in your relations with your fellow human beings. That is what Cedars of Lebanon is all about.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we think of this center, therefore, we thank those who contributed to make it possible. We express our appreciation to the medical profession, not only the doctors and the nurses but the technicians who with their personal devotion and dedication will make it something more than a beautiful building, but will create that spirit that is so important to the recovery of an individual who may be plagued with illness.

And finally, there is one other thought that occurs to me which, I think, relates our whole program of health care to a goal that we all share today, and that is the goal of peace in the world. We are very fortunate that for the first time in 12 years, the United States is at peace with every nation in the world today.

Now, that peace was hard to gain, and it is not easy to keep. And we must not assume that it can be kept without strength, without firmness, without diplomacy, and without leadership by the United States, because the hope of any small nation in the world to survive rests right here in the United States of America, and we must be worthy of those hopes.

But let's move away from security, the peacekeeping things that we are all so concerned about. Let's move to other initiatives that are tremendously important and that can come in the years ahead if we can keep. the peace.

Just 2 years ago, Mrs. Nixon and I visited the People's Republic of China. They have a system of government that I disagree with and that you disagree with, and they disagree with ours. But one-fourth of all the people of the world live there. And so, therefore, we should have relations with them for the purpose of avoiding a conflict in war. But there is another reason.

Just a few months ago, as a result of that visit, there came into my office 15 doctors from the People's Republic of China. That is the first time in 25 years that doctors from the country in which one-fourth of all the people of the world live had ever visited the United States of America. And as I met them and talked to them through an interpreter, I realized that if we are really going to do everything that we should and can to find a cure or a number of cures to the various types of cancer, which is one of the great goals we have, if we are going to do everything we can to develop better medical facilities and also the answers to other diseases that today are mysteries even to the great technical medical profession that we have, the answer is not necessarily only going to be found in America.

Oh, we have the best laboratories, I am sure. We have the best equipment in America. I think perhaps we have more qualified medical doctors and scientists in America in this field than any place in the world. But there are only 200 million Americans, and there are 3 billion that live in this world, and where is the genius, the genius that may find an answer to the problem of cancer or arthritis or any of these other diseases that we all know are being studied and that you are contributing to?

It may not be an American. It may not be a white man, or a woman, for that matter. It may be somebody from Africa, from Asia, or even from China.

And so, one of the great objectives that I see, looking ahead, is not only to keep the peace but to see to it that whatever the differences we have between governments, let's see that those who are working for good health for their people work together with our people so that, as far as health is concerned, we work for good health, not only for America but for 3 billion people on this earth.

The question then is not simply peace in the sense of the absence of war; the question is, what do you do with peace? And one of the things you do with it is build a better health care system, not only for America but for the whole world.

One of the things you do is to build a communication between people even when governments disagree. Gandhi said many, many years ago that health is the true wealth, more important than gold and silver.

And as we dedicate this hospital, this health care center and its facilities today, let us say it is a dedication to better health, but also we are dedicating an institution which serves the true wealth, the true wealth of America and of the whole world, better health for all of us.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:47 p.m. on the lawn of the Cedars of Lebanon Health Care Center. Prior to making his remarks, President Nixon toured the center's new South Building, an automated health testing laboratory.

In his opening words, the President referred to Sanford K. Bronstein who was president of the Cedars of Lebanon Health Care Center.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Dedication Ceremony at the Cedars of Lebanon Health Care Center, Miami, Florida. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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