Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to Members of the National Recreation and Park Association.

October 13, 1966

Mr. Rockefeller, Mrs. Rockefeller, Mr. Conrad Wirth, members of the Cabinet, members of the National Recreation and Park Association, ladies and gentlemen, my friends:

I was not sure that I could be with you tonight. It was only after I learned that I was not wanted in other parts of the country, from most reliable, objective sources, that I was able to muster the courage to come to the National Recreation and Park Association meeting, in company with Mrs. Johnson.

Mrs. Johnson not only talks about conservation and recreation, but she occasionally has some observations to make about beautification.

I want to welcome the members of the National Recreation and Park Association tonight to your Capital City. And I want to particularly welcome your great president, the most distinguished conservationist of them all, Mr. Laurance S. Rockefeller.

The goals of the Great Society, the America of tomorrow that we are building, seem to be quite simple.

Those goals are education for the mind, food and health for the body, recreation and beauty for the spirit. Mind, body, and spirit are the sum of man.

You have come here to discuss the last of these: How can we enrich the spirit of America?

I see the America of tomorrow through the eyes of the song, "America the Beautiful."

I think we are going to banish ugliness. I think we will clear our skies and clean our waters.

I firmly believe, and I predict here tonight, that we are going to get rid of our dirty air and our dirty water. Our children will have air that will be fit to breathe and water that will be pure to drink.

Tomorrow we should take the first great forward step in this rich land of ours to restore and to revitalize our cities. Our streets, I think, will be lined with trees and gardens, and the city and the countryside will bloom with parks.

Once upon a time America was beautiful. All America, city and country, can be beautiful again. We must reclaim our birthright. We must restore beauty to our land and beauty to our life.

There are three ways to do it. At least I know of three ways to do it. Mr. Rockefeller and Lady Bird may have some amendments. They frequently change things that I start out with.

We can put a fence around a piece of wilderness. We can say to the bulldozer, "Hold on. This is breathing room that we are going to save. America needs it."

The Wilderness Act of 1964--and I think that act is really a milestone in conservation-set aside 9 million acres of America--9 big million acres of America to be kept as God made it.

Now that is scarcely 2 percent of our land, so we will add more. We will save more of our vanishing wilderness.

A second kind of conservation gave America the TVA. It keeps our soil from washing and blowing away. It builds a dam to stop a flood; to bring water to wasteland; and to bring light to darkness.

I was reading the other night of that great innovator, Franklin Roosevelt; that great conservator, Harold Ickes; and that great dreamer, George Norris.

A lot of great minds got together and the TVA was kind of the byproduct. They ventured forth and produced $11 million to create the TVA. A hundred nations have come to inspect it, to copy it, to emulate it.

The other day I sent a message to Congress concerning it. I didn't recommend $11 million for the TVA, because the idea had already taken hold. I recommended $750 million for the TVA. In 30 years, from $11 million to $750 million was no longer news. I went home to read about what I had done that day. I searched the paper from cover to cover. Finally, over on the want-ad page I saw a little item. But that is how far you have led us in a little over 30 years.

The third kind of conservation is of more real, direct concern to you. It protects and it creates. It opens up more of America to more people. It says, "Here is beauty and recreation to refresh your spirit."

This is the new conservation--enlightened and progressive conservation for recreation. That is your conservation policy, and that is mine.

This administration, your Government, is dedicated to putting recreation areas where they will do the greatest good for the greatest number. We are putting parks and seashores where a man and his family can get to them.

The mechanic that gets Saturday off, who wants to pack his six children, his wife, and mother-in-law into a station wagon to relax a little bit, to free himself from some of the 20th century frustrations, can't get his boss to go along with him on a trip out to Wyoming or Montana. So the new Assateague Seashore on the Maryland-Virginia coast is just one day's drive from one-fifth of the people in this country.

The Fire Island Seashore, in New York, is within easy reach of one out of every four Americans in this country.

Of the 53,000 acres that we helped the States and the communities acquire for recreation, 28 percent are less than an hour from a big city. Fifty-five percent of these are less than 2 hours from a big city. Three-fourths of our new national parkland is within a an-hour drive from a city. And 96 percent of the new national forestland is that dose.

In addition, thanks to the 89th Congress-I want to make a point here. We are going to hear a lot about the 89th Congress between now and November 8th. That means there were 88 Congresses before this one. You are going to hear a lot about the 89th Congress after November 8th, November 8th 50 years from now, because the 89th Congress is the great Congress and it is not made up exclusively of Democrats. But it is made of men and women who I think constitute the greatest Congress ever assembled in this land from the standpoint of vision, imagination, production, and representing the interests of all the people of this country--putting their country ahead of their party and ahead of themselves.

I had intended to tell Senator Mansfield and Senator Dirksen that at a luncheon I am attending tomorrow in the Senate. But I thought it was just too good to keep from you.

The 89th Congress, the great Congress, has already, in 2 years, passed 20 major conservation measures, and they are not yet satisfied. We have just begun to tap the treasure. We have just begun--I am authorized to say--to preserve and to expand beautification in America.

Lady Bird won't approve of this joke, but it makes a point, and I like to make points with jokes because I can even not get bored with myself then.

A fellow came home one night and he had been drinking something maybe a little stronger than 3.2. And the next morning, early in the morning, 3 or 4 o'clock, he waked up his wife and said, "Honey, please get me a drink of water." And she brought him a drink of water. He drank it and said, "Give me another drink of water." She gave him another drink of water. All of you won't understand this story. He took another drink of water and he said, "Honey, this is so wonderful. Let's wake the kids up and give them some of it."

So we not only want to preserve and expand the beauty of America; we want to wake up all the children and all the people and bring that beauty to all of them. And we want to make that treasure part of their daily lives so that their lives will be enlarged and their lives will be enriched. Their lives will be larger and richer after next Saturday.

On Saturday, the President will sign six additional bills into law that will give all Americans a greater share in the national treasure of America.

The President will sign an act he recommended, establishing a new national park-there is nothing pork barrel about this--in the great State of Michigan. It is strictly a bipartisan park, too--the Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore.

The President will sign an act establishing the new Guadalupe Mountain National Park. Somewhat removed from Michigan, it is located in a little State called Texas. And it includes the back pasture, which consists of 71,000 acres.

I will sign an act establishing the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana. It is an enormous area and it will be used to bring an enormous variety of natural riches to our people.

On Saturday, just before we leave for a 30,000-mile trip to the Pacific, I will sign legislation of different but of no less deep purpose. I will sign an act to protect our endangered wildlife, our vanishing animals and vanishing birds.

I will sign an act enabling the Federal Government to acquire beautiful Wolf Trap Farm Park, a few miles from here in Fairfax County.

One of our greatest hopes is that it will soon house a musical center.

I will sign the National Historical Preservation Act. That will allow us, for the first time, to take stock of the buildings and the properties that are part of our rich history and to adequately preserve these treasures properly.

Yes, Saturday will be a beautiful day.

I want to get all of these projects behind me. I read a little news release way down after all of my itinerary had been announced, saying Mrs. Johnson was going to seven countries in Asia to observe historic sites and to get new ideas for beautification planning.

There will be other days of beauty and achievements. I will shortly sign the landmark clean rivers bill which the Congress, I might tell you, passed this afternoon.

So we have reached a turning point in conservation history. Tonight we save more land than we lose. And we will continue to transform more land into park and recreation areas, rather than let them disappear beneath housing, highways, airports, and shopping centers.

Next year alone, about 1,700,000 more acres will be conserved in this country for the people.

Too much of our lost land should never have been touched. I applaud the recent decision of a California lumber company-which I observed with great interest--to suspend the cutting of the redwood trees. If I made any contribution to that suspension whatever, it wasn't accidental.

Now Congress will consider whether we should shelter these trees in a great national park. And I believe if God is willing, and with your help, Congress will say yes.

The national recreation areas are a very bold, new concept. They help to uplift the spirit. They help to upgrade the quality of life in America. Now a family can go to a national seashore and, like Thoreau, stand with all America at his back.

Today we have national parks, forests, recreation areas, and seashores. But we are not satisfied with today. We want to do more for tomorrow. We want a system of national wild and scenic rivers. Or do you?

Some of us--I really don't have any help from the polls on this--want to save unspoiled waterways for camping, for fishing, and for canoeing. We want a nationwide system of trails, away from highways and traffic, free and safe for us and our bicycles, horses, and travel for fun.

The Department of the Interior, under the very able and gallant leadership of Mr. Udall, will very soon propose the first of these national trails for some of our metropolitan areas.

We are determined to save more land for more parks by cleaning up our dirty rivers. A clean Potomac will give us 250,000 new acres. A clean Hudson will add several hundred miles of choice recreation waters. A clean Connecticut River will call new millions outdoors.

But recreation policy cannot end where the pavement begins. The cities where seven out of every ten Americans live challenge all who care about tomorrow. They offer unlimited opportunity to enrich our national life, to make our cities fit for living and not just fit for business.

That lady I kissed was Mrs. Bobble Dickson, from Austin, who is making our city fit for living, not just fit for business.

In the past 2 years, we have given our communities more than $6.5 million just for local beautification programs. And that doesn't say anything about all the ladies that planted the trees, or the daughters either (Lynda Bird spent a good part of the year planting trees; I did listening to her projects).

But this is just the beginning. We are pledged to try to make our cities lovely and to make them livable. I need the help of every American. And your expert help I need especially.

Because you men and women who have come here this evening can lead the Nation-can lead the Nation in restoring the beauty and the usefulness to public lands within the city. You can lead in seeing that imaginative playgrounds and play programs are matched to the needs of the individual neighborhoods.

You can inspire other leaders to a broader attack on the problems of the American city.

You can renew and restore--and, yes, recapture--the beauty and the purpose of the American dream.

I want to ask Mr. Conrad Wirth to get together the most imaginative park and recreation experts in this meeting tonight. I am going to ask Mr. Rockefeller to cooperate with him. I want to apply their talents to a little project that we call the Lyndon Johnson Park that is across from where I live. I want them to take every new-fangled idea that they have ever dreamed up. I am in the market for it.

That area may not be beautiful to anyone in the world but me, but I like it. It is located 14 miles west of Johnson City, Texas. I think if Mr. Wirth can get a task force-I don't know how I will get him to Texas, but maybe I will appoint Mr. Rockefeller on the finance committee.

This park's had a lot more publicity than it has acres, I will tell you that. But if I can get them to Texas and get their plans out of the dream stage, onto the drawing board and then get them executed, I hereby extend to each and every one of you--not to stay all night--to come down and see this new park that is being really born and planned here tonight. I hope someday you will be able to do that, because you can see what we are thinking about and what we are dreaming of.

I heard President Franklin Roosevelt say one time, "One day a generation may possess this land, blessed beyond anything that we now know; blessed with those things that are material and spiritual; blessed with those things that make a man's life abundant."

If that is the fashion of your dreaming, then I say hold fast to your dream because America needs it.

Thirty-three years, the span of one generation, have passed since President Roosevelt spoke of his dream. But it is my dream, too. I want it to be yours, and I believe it is.

Just a word of admonition: Neither of us can really afford to wait another 33 years to see that dream come true. The generation that will realize the dream must be--it has to be--will be--our children's generation. It can be--it shall be--if together we hold fast to that dream.

As President Roosevelt said 33 years ago, all America needs it. And as your President says tonight, America needs it more now.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his opening words he referred to Laurance S. Rockefeller, president of the National Recreation and Park Association, and his wife, and to Conrad L. Wirth, executive president of the Association and former Director of the National Park Service. Later he referred to, among others, Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, George W. Norris, Representative from Nebraska 1903-1913 and Senator from Nebraska 1913-1943, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate, Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, minority leader of the Senate, and Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to Members of the National Recreation and Park Association. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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