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Remarks Introducing Donald E. Johnson, Nominee for Administrator of Veterans Affairs

June 05, 1969

Ladies and gentlemen:

We first want to welcome the members of the press to California, those of you who are traveling with us. This is our first appearance here at what will be the summer White House in August.

We will have a rather full schedule, both today and tomorrow, and during the month of August we will have, for the press, a schedule which will be the same intensity of the kind you would have in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of this meeting today is to introduce to the members of the press the man whom I have nominated for the Director of the Veterans Administration.

This agency, as all of you know, is the largest of the independent agencies, with a budget of over $7 million a year. I suppose it could be said that of all the independent agencies--and frankly, you could include a number of Cabinet positions as well--there is none that has a greater impact on more Americans than does the Veterans Administration, because the veteran population from World War I, World War II, Korea, and now Vietnam, runs into the millions; and the Veterans Administration has the primary responsibility for dealing with the needs of all veterans.

In selecting Mr. Johnson, I wanted a man who, first, was a veteran, and therefore knew the problems of veterans; a man, second, who had the business experience which would qualify him to handle the immense administrative problems involved in the Veterans Administration; and third, a man who would administer this agency without regard to any partisan considerations.

Don Johnson meets the test in all respects. He has a distinguished record in World War II. He is a former Commander of the American Legion. He has the business background which qualifies him for administration, and he has a deep devotion to country, which goes completely beyond any partisan consideration, although he does happen to be a Republican.

Finally, as we have already indicated, one of his primary immediate responsibilities will be to develop a new program for our veterans from Vietnam. We believe that the programs of World War II are not adequate for the new generation of veterans coming out of Vietnam.

I was, frankly, not only surprised, but I would say shocked, to find that the number of veterans from Vietnam who were applying for benefits under the GI bill of rights to allow them to go to college was much lower than in either World War II or in Korea.

This means there is something wrong-something wrong that the veterans returning from Vietnam are not taking advantage of the opportunity to go on to college. We think we have to find a new answer. We have to find new ways to motivate these veterans so that they can come back and be competitive with their contemporaries who did not serve in the Armed Forces. And Don Johnson is going to take this responsibility on his broad shoulders right at the beginning and give it special priority, as well as the other responsibilities involved in managing this immensely important Administration.

Mrs. Johnson is here, too, and I present both the new director and Mrs. Johnson, and he will be glad to answer your questions. Thank you.

I won't congratulate you yet, because the Senate has to approve you--and that's premature. I'm sure you'll make it though.

Note: The President spoke at 11:58 a.m. at Newport Beach, Calif. On the same day the White House Press Office released the text of a news conference of Donald E. Johnson on his nomination.

The announcement of intention to nominate Mr. Johnson as Administrator is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 803).

Richard Nixon, Remarks Introducing Donald E. Johnson, Nominee for Administrator of Veterans Affairs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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