John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks to Delegates to the 18th Annual American Legion "Boys Nation."

July 24, 1963


I want to introduce to you members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are visiting here this morning. I knew that you would want to say hello to then and they would want to say hello to you: General LeMay, who is head of the Air Force; Admiral Anderson, who is head of the Navy, General Wheeler, who is head of the Army; and General Shoup, who is head of the Marine Corps.

I want to welcome all of you to the White House. I read about your meeting last night. It seemed to me that you showed more initiative in some ways than the Governor's Conference down in Miami and we are impressed by it. And I want to congratulate Mr. Stratton on his overwhelming majority. Those of us who just skim by are properly admiring.

We want to welcome you to the White House particularly because this belongs to all of you and because it is so intimately connected with the best in American history. These trees which are just behind you were planted by Andrew Jackson when he was here in the White House. The tallest tree over there was planted by the first President who came to the White House, John Adams. So all around you is the story of the United States and I think all of us have a pride in our country.

I recently took a trip to Europe and I was impressed once again by the strong feeling that most people have, even though they may on occasions be critical of our policies; a strong feeling that the United States stands for freedom, that the promises in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence while they may not be fully achieved we are attempting to move to the best of our ability in that direction, that without the United States they would not be free and with the United States they are free, and it is the United States which stands on guard all the way from Berlin to Saigon.

So I think as citizens of this country you can take pride in it. I want to congratulate the American Legion. This is only one of the many good things the American Legion does--ball, athletics, working with youth. I think the fact is the American Legion looks to the future as well as the past. So we want to express our thanks to them and I want to welcome all of you to the White House. No group could be more appropriately visiting here now. We want you to feel very much at home.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. in the Flower Garden at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Richard J. Stratton of Leland, Ill., who had been elected President of Boys Nation the previous evening.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks to Delegates to the 18th Annual American Legion "Boys Nation." Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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