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Remarks at a Dinner for the Board of Directors of the Boys' Clubs of America

December 01, 1969

Chairman Al, President John, and all of my fellow members of the Board o)e the Boys' Clubs of America:

I am most grateful to all of you for presenting me my first Christmas present. I don't think they will all come from Tiffany's. I am glad to have one.

This obviously got by the Secret Service. It is empty.

But, nevertheless, I do want you to know that I am very proud to be the host tonight.

And I think that all of you are aware of the fact that this is an evening that is a first. You might be interested to know this is the first evening dinner that has been held in this room since I have been President of the United States. I am honored that it is for the Boys' Clubs Board.

This is the first time, at least in this administration, that the board of a national organization like the Boys' Clubs has met in the White House for dinner. And I am honored it is this board.

There is, of course, a reason for this. And I am sure that, as you sit in this room, you will realize the historical moment in which we are participating. I do not believe there is any other organization in the United States which has had as its chairmen two men who have served as President of the United States.

President Hoover, of course, became chairman of the Boys' Clubs in 1936 after having served as President of the United States.

I did it the other way around. I became chairman first of the Boys' Clubs before becoming President.

And that allows me to answer a question that is often asked. I was talking to John Burns a few moments ago. He was asking me how it was, after I had suffered a couple of political defeats, that I had the nerve or whatever it is, or the rashness to go into the political arena again and to run for office again.

I will tell you how it came about. When I moved to New York, I became the chairman of the Boys' Clubs on the recommendation of Mr. Hoover. And at the first meeting as chairman of the Boys' Clubs of America, I found that I was the first chairman of the Boys' Clubs of America that had never served as president of the Boys' Clubs before. As a matter of fact, I was the first chairman of the Boys' Clubs of America that had never been president of anything before.

And so, I decided that I would have to correct that deficiency. And I looked first at the Boys' Clubs. I couldn't run for president of the Boys' Clubs because Al Cole was president of the Boys' Clubs.

So, consequently, I picked what was most natural--I ran for the President of the United States. That is why I am here.

It is indeed, therefore, a very great honor to remind all of us on this occasion that two Presidents of the Nation now have been associated with this great organization and are proud to have been associated with it.

I am going to speak to you very briefly tonight, as the evening is late. But before I speak, I think you should have the opportunity to hear very briefly from two others, who are here at the head table, who I know will, perhaps, appear before meetings of this board or at national conferences in the future, and at least one has appeared in the past.

But I know you would not want to come to Washington without hearing briefly from each of them.

First--and it is very appropriate that he is the youngest member of the Cabinet, and it is also very appropriate that he is the head of the largest domestic Cabinet office, the office of Health, Education, and Welfare--Robert Finch from California.

[Following Secretary Finch's remarks (5 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 1683), the President resumed speaking.]

And now a man who has received the highest award of the Boys' Clubs of America, one who had the deep affection and respect of President Hoover and one who is respected by everyone in this room and by millions of Americans, one who is known for his effectiveness in dealing with the problems of juvenile delinquency, but one who is also highly known in another field of knowing the importance of and emphasizing juvenile decency as representative of the Boys' Clubs of America, J. Edgar Hoover.

[Following remarks by J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (5 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 1683), the President resumed speaking.]

My fellow board members:

The last official state visitor that we had in the White House was the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Sato. And before we made our toasts for the evening, he was telling me at the table about a Japanese proverb, which is very brief, but I think very pertinent at this hour in the evening.

It said, "Many words, little sense." I am going to take that hint tonight. My words will be brief: And I hope they make some sense.

I want to say that in terms of the Boys' Clubs and its contributions, that I look around this room and see people from all over the United States, from California and Florida, and from the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, the South, and I realize that virtually everybody in this room is very busy in either his business or professional career.

And I know how much time you contribute, not only to this organization but to other organizations that depend upon volunteer activity.

I know, too, that when you come to Washington, and you think of a country with what is approaching a $200 billion budget, you must wonder whether the efforts of the Boys' Clubs of America, with a very substantial budget--I noted these three $1 million contributions that At Cole referred to; we could use him in helping to balance our budget, I can assure you-but when you think of that effort, it must seem very small compared with the budget that we have in the Federal Government, even if you compare it with Bob Finch's budget of around $40 billion. I haven't cut it yet. But, nevertheless, we are just working that out at the present time. [Laughter]

But I want to return to a favorite theme of mine in speaking not only to the Boys' Clubs but to similar organizations across this country. You are doing something that government cannot do.

Since almost a year ago, those of us in this administration have been working toward what we believe are some very important government goals. We have offered a very bold program in the field of family assistance, one which we hope, when adopted by the Congress, will mean that every family in America will have a minimum income, either through work or, if they are unable to work, through government assistance.

We have advocated a revenue-sharing program in which revenues now collected by the Federal Government will be shared with the States so that our cities and States will have a better opportunity to meet their responsibilities.

And then we have programs which you may have heard about in a number of other fields, which will be coming along, programs for cleaning up the air, cleaning the water, programs in the field of what is generally called the environment. We could go on.

Whether we are talking, however, about revenue-sharing or family assistance, or clean air or clean water, we finally come to a conclusion, and that is that government efforts can only contribute so much to the solution of a problem.

There is another ingredient that is needed, an ingredient which comes from an organization like this, either from an organization like this or from the home, from the church, or from some similar organization outside of government.

Let me put it another way quite graphically. J. Edgar Hoover has referred to the problems of juvenile delinquency with some statistics from 1960 to 1968.

On Wednesday of this week, in this very room, we will be meeting with the Governors of the 50 States, in which we will hear a report with regard to narcotics, particularly among young people in the United States.

It will be significant to note that that report on narcotics and the crime that develops from narcotics, among that group of young people in the United States, primarily covers not the deprived, not those from the poor families, but those from the middle income or, more often, the upper middle income families of the United States.

Now the purpose of my making this point is a very simple one. A few moments ago we saw the Bunker Hillbillies, and we saw a young boy from Tampa, Florida.1 They come from relatively poor families.

They are, we hope, well fed. They were well clothed. They certainly seemed to be well trained in the field of music, which they exhibited so very well before this audience.

But what is even more important is this: Those boys had character. Where did that character come from? It may have come from the home. It may have come from the church. But I think as members of the Boys' Clubs Board, we can say that it very likely got a big assist from their association with the Boys' Clubs of America.

Yes, government can do a lot of things. We can provide food stamps for those who do not have an adequate diet. We can provide family assistance for those who are unable to earn a living. We can provide programs that will clean up the air and clean up the water and clean up our cities and make them more livable places in which to live.

But, then there comes that critical break point when the future of the society is really involved. And that is: What will be the character of the people of this country? And here it is that we need the efforts of organizations like the Boys' Clubs across this Nation, organizations which will refer, as your president and your chairman tonight have referred to them, refer to such things as patriotism and character without being ashamed of it, being proud of the fact that in this country we can produce fine young men, and that this Nation does have a mission--a mission which sometimes we do not fulfill as well as we would like--but a mission which can only be fulfilled, not simply by seeing that we are the best-fed, best-housed, best-clothed people in the world, with the best transportation system in the world, but it will only be fulfilled if our young people at some time at a very early age have instilled in them the character that we saw in those young Boys' Clubs members tonight.

That is the message I would like to leave with you. Yes, this trip to Washington was worthwhile. It was worthwhile to me, to Edgar Hoover, to Bob Finch, to see so many men who will devote their time and their energy to this cause, time and energy to a cause and to a purpose that government, with all of its immense resources, simply cannot meet.

We commend you for what you are doing and we hope that you will spend just as much of your time, your efforts, and your money in meeting this responsibility in the years ahead.

Thank you.

1 The Bunker Hillbillies, a musical group formed by the Boys' Club of Boston, Mass., and Gregory Torres, an accordionist from the Boys' Club of Tampa, Fla., entertained at the dinner.

Note: The President spoke at 10:55 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Albert L. Cole was chairman, and John L. Bums, president of the Boys' Clubs of America. Mr. Cole had presented the President with a gold and silver apple on behalf of the Boys' Clubs of America.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Dinner for the Board of Directors of the Boys' Clubs of America Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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