Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Meeting With the Board of Trustees of the Urban Institute.

April 26, 1968

I AM HAPPY to welcome you to the Cabinet Room.

This is an exciting day for the Nation and for me.

You have launched something America has needed and wanted for a long time. It is a new Urban Institute. It will promise to give us the power through knowledge to help solve the problem that weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of all of us--the problem of the American city and its people.

You will not lay a single brick or build a single house. But the work the Institute will do--the studies and the evaluations and the free and searching inquiries--will build the strongest foundation upon which we can renew our cities and transform the lives of people.

We know today only how much we do not know about the cities:

--Data to inform our decisions is weak or missing.

--Urban research is splintered and fragmented.

--Relationships between jobs and housing and income and education are unclear.

The Urban Institute is an important response to this "knowledge gap." It will fill a real need by:

--Bridging the gulf between the lonely scholar in search of truth and the decision-maker in search of progress through effective programs.

--Bringing together all the disciplines needed--not only scientists and administrators, but economists, planners, and architects. And it will get them to work together--in cities, and on the problems of cities.

--Taking a comprehensive view of urban life and seeking to understand the forces that produce decay as well as growth.

You know better than most that there are no overnight remedies to the problems that formed and hardened decades ago.

But we are moving--and you will help dispel the darkness that remains. Some day the light will shine. Of that I am sure. The work of this Institute can help speed the coming of that day.

As you begin your venture, let me offer these suggestions:

--Your research must be of the highest quality but also of the greatest practicality.

--Your staff must not only think hard about the city, but work amidst the pressure and conflicting forces of life in the city.

--Your work must be to distinguish the long range from the temporary, the real from the illusory.

--Above all, the Institute must operate in a climate of intellectual freedom and organizational independence. The search for truth must be uncompromising, unhindered by partisan coloration or blocked by conventional wisdom.

I wish this Institute had been established a decade ago so that we could now be reaping its results. But now you have begun it, and it will serve us in the years ahead. It is a sound investment in the future of our land.

The Institute was shaped and molded by good men like Kermit Gordon, McGeorge Bundy, Irwin Miller, Arjay Miller, Richard Neustadt, Cyrus Vance, and Robert McNamara. They worked not as Democrats or Republicans--but as Americans.

I know the Institute will get off to a fast start because you have made a wise and excellent choice for its first President. Your selection of William Gotham, one of the ablest young men in public service during the last 8 years, pleases me.

The Institute is now launched and christened, and I wish you good luck and Godspeed in your journey ahead.

Note: The President spoke shortly before noon in the Cabinet Room at the White House. As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office, which also made public a prospectus for the Institute. The full text of the prospectus, which lists the 15 members of the Institute's Board of Trustees, is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 719).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Meeting With the Board of Trustees of the Urban Institute. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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