John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks in Heber Springs, Arkansas, at the Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam.

October 03, 1963

Senator McClellan, Governor Faubus, Chairman Mills, Senator Fulbright, Chairman Harris, Congressman Trimble, Congressman Gathings, members of the military, ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate this opportunity to come here and join you in dedicating this great resource of our country, as well as this district, as well as this State, and I am particularly glad to come here with my colleagues, former colleagues, in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. I suppose pound for pound, the Arkansas delegation in the Congress of the United States wields more influence than any other delegation of any of the other 49 States. That could be either good or bad for the country, but in this case it happens to be good. And I don't know whether the people of Arkansas, who may feel that Washington is far away and not every face may be friendly--I don't know whether they realize that your delegation holds within its hands, in a very real sense, not only a good many important measures which affect this State, but measures which also affect this country.

The seniority system of the Congress provides that if a district elects a Congressman or a Senator long enough and they stay in the same party long enough that they will become the Democratic chairman of their committee in the House and Senate. This has, on occasion, in all frankness, produced very dubious results, but it has also on many other occasions produced rather extraordinary results. Here in this State, the legislation which was recently passed through the United States Senate which gave us some hope of preventing a nuclear war with the Soviet Union--and this State I realize, as you do, is as much a front line with the Titan missile bases which you have so close to you as any part of the world--that legislation was handled with great distinction by your Senator, Senator Bill Fulbright, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. And the investigation, which is now undergoing in the Congress of the United States, in crime or corruption is handled by your senior Senator, John McClellan; and legislation dealing with mental health and mental retardation, and the building of medical schools, and scholarships for those who cannot afford to go to become doctors, is handled by your Congressman Oren Harris, Chairman of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee; and the Rules Committee, through which all bills must go before they go to the floor of the House of Representatives must go through the very fine and distinguished hands of Congressman Trimble; and agriculture legislation, before we can make a determination of what programs will support this State and other States, must be decided in part by your Congressman, Congressman Gathings.

So those are some of the reasons why I am here today. But the most significant reason is, of course, because of your distinguished Congressman who is chairman of the most influential committee, the Ways and Means Committee of the House, which just 10 days ago passed through by an overwhelming vote a tax reform and reduction bill which I think can do much for this State and other States in maintaining its steadily expanding economy. It said in the New York Times this morning that if Congressman Mills suggested it, that the President would be glad to come down here and dedicate this dam and sing "Down By the Old Mill Stream," or any other request that was made--and I would be delighted.

It is a fact that in the last 3 years legislation dealing with tax reform, legislation dealing with the most far-reaching reform of our tariffs, which permit us to trade abroad-and there is no State in the Union which depends more on foreign trade for its prosperity than this State--I think it is important that you in Arkansas realize that the decision that you make in electing your Congressmen and Senators has an influence not only on the lives of the people of this State, but also on the lives of the people of the entire country. And I think this State can take the greatest pride and satisfaction in the way it has met this great responsibility in the people it sent to deal with the Nation's business.

I appreciate the welcome of the Governor and his references to what we are attempting to do in the field of conservation. This is a great country that was given to us and a great land. It is our job, it seems to me, to make the most of it, to make sure that we in our time plant our forests, use our water, develop our power, provide recreation for our people, do in our time to the extent that we can what Franklin Roosevelt did in his time and, before him, what Theodore Roosevelt did in his time--to use this great country which in the short space of 30 years ago had only 130 million people within its borders and by the year 2000 will have 350 million people, to make sure that we take those steps now which will make it possible for those who come after us to have a better life.

This dam represents not merely the time of construction; it represents almost 30 years of effort. It was first authorized in part way back during the New Deal and then it was talked about again afterwards, and then finally the money was appropriated in the mid-fifties. And now the dam is built in 1963 and next spring will begin to get power. And the full impact of it will be felt by the sense of recreation and industry and all the rest in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. That is a long view. It is a man's lifetime, and I would like to see us in this decade preparing as we must for all of the people who will come after us. I would like to see us do what we are doing here, do it in the Northwest, do it in the Midwest, do it in the East--set aside land for people so that as we get to become a more urban population, we will still have some place where people can drive and see what their country looks like. That is why this is an important work. And all of those who attack these projects as "pork barrel" and waste and all the rest should realize the effect these decisions have had on this State. No State in the Union is going faster than the State of Arkansas.

If you realize what this State and other States like it went through in the 20 years from 1919 to 1939--the depression of the early twenties, the depression of 11 years, of the thirties, the stagnation on the farms and in the cities--and then realize how this State has boomed relative to the rest of the Nation in the last 5 or 10 years, we realize a good deal of this was due to the wise decisions taken in the thirties when the framework was laid with great opposition to those who objected to what was being done in Washington, great opposition to the efforts which Franklin Roosevelt and the Congress made in those days. And yet, when we look from 1945 to now, almost 20 years, we have had a gradual rising tide of prosperity throughout our entire country.

Those two records--that contrast between what we saw then between the wars and what it meant to this State, and others like it, and what we have seen since 1945 should make, it seems to me, a deep impression upon those who seek to end a partnership between the National Government and this State and others which develop the resources of the State and improve the life of the people.

This State is one great country and it seems to me incumbent, north and south, east and west, that we take those decisions now which will provide for a gradually increasing tide of life for the people of this State over the next 20 and 25 years. And those who think it can be left to chance are wrong. It was left to chance for 20 years between the two wars and as a result of the deliberate decisions made since then, it seems to me, this State is a fine product and example of what can be done by the people here, working together, working hard, and working with the support of intelligent national policies. And those people who say it is "pork barrel"--which is more wasteful: the waste of life and property and hope or a multi-purpose project which can be used by all of our people? Which is more wasteful: to fail to tap the energies of that river, to let that water flood, to deny this chance for the development of recreation and power, or to use it and to use it wisely? Which is more wasteful: to let the land wash away, to let it lie arid, or to use it and use it wisely and to make those investments which will make this a richer State and country in the years to come?

These projects produce wealth, they bring industry, they bring jobs, and the wealth they bring brings wealth to other sections of the United States. This State had about 200,000 cars in 1929. It has a million cars now. They weren't built in this State. They were built in Detroit. As this State's income rises, so does the income of Michigan. As the income of Michigan rises, so does the income of the United States. A rising tide lifts all the boats and as Arkansas becomes more prosperous so does the United States and as this section declines so does the United States. So I regard this as an investment by the people of the United States in the United States.

Therefore, I take pride in coming here today. I know that 10 years from now, if we come back again, flying as we did over the land, that we will see an even richer State, and I think you can take pride and satisfaction in what you have done.

I appreciate the fact that we have had this opportunity to join together in dedicating this project, in committing it to the service of the people of Arkansas and to the service of the people of the United States. This project, and others like it, I think, must be developed in this decade, so that the United States will continue to be the most beautiful and best country in the world.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. In his opening words and again in the course of his remarks he referred to U.S. Senator John L. McClellan, Governor Orval Faubus, U.S. Representative Wilbur D. Mills, U.S. Senator J. W. Fulbright, and U.S. Representatives Oren Harris, James W. Trimble, and E. C. Gathings--all of Arkansas.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks in Heber Springs, Arkansas, at the Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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