Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Eight Journalists.
WE ARE here tonight for a very special occasion, the award of the Medal of Freedom to eight very distinguished people who are known to everybody in this room and to millions of Americans.
I know that many wonder how these names were selected. I do not want to indicate anything with regard to the age factor, except simply to say this: That tonight you will see, as these medals are presented, a total of almost half a millennium in the reporting on the American political scene; 447 years of reporting are represented in the eight people who are here tonight. All the Nation is covered--the West Coast, the East Coast--and all of the news media in terms of the writing press, we believe, are covered.
I realize that there have been occasions in this administration when the situation seems to be reversed. Usually it is expected during any administration that the press is to be the critic of the Government. In this administration sometimes it seems to be the other way around. Now, some would say that is man biting dog. But I don't want to suggest that the press are dogs, so I will not say that. [Laughter]
I will simply say tonight that we thought the most effective way to honor these distinguished recipients is to tell the story in song, which we have been trying to do at the "Evenings at the White House" that we have had during this year. And the Army Chorus, on special request, has gone back over 50 years and they will start in the period beginning about 1910 and bring us up to 1970, all in song.
It, of course, will not be, Mr. Steele,1 up to the standard of the Gridiron, but they will try.
1Jack Steele, Managing Editor, Washington Bureau, Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance, and President of the Gridiron Club, an organization of 50 Washington newspapermen that presents an evening of satire in song each year.
[At this point, the Army Chorus presented a program of songs popular in various periods since World War I.]
We now come to the part of the evening which we have been looking forward to for some time. Before making these awards--they will be made in alphabetical order, incidentally, to be sure that there is no indication of one having precedence over the other--as I was sitting in this room and recalling the fact that many of you who think of the history of this room, of this house, will, of course, remember that the only President who did not live in this house was President Washington and Martha Washington, whose pictures are in the room. John Adams was the first President who lived here in this house and Thomas Jefferson was the second.
It was Jefferson, I think, who perhaps made the most cogent comment about the relationship between press and the Government. Those comments have been made through the years by various people. I understand I made one at one time. But whatever the case might be, Jefferson once said, as I recall, that if he had to make a choice between Government without newspapers and newspapers without Government, he would take the latter.
As we make these awards tonight, as we see these--and I use this term quite advisedly--these giants of the profession of which so many in this room are proud members, of the newspaper reporting profession, those who have told millions of Americans who will never be in this room or in this house, never have the opportunity that we have, but who tell the picture of what goes on here and throughout this Nation--as we think of those, we do realize that America has been very fortunate to have people of varying views writing all over the country, of very great capability, telling the story of America-oh, the story in many areas, in music and sports and the rest. But tonight particularly we honor those who tell the story of politics.
It happens, because the alphabetical order comes that way, that the first award goes to a Californian. Before having him step up here I would like to say something briefly about him.
I, of course, knew Squire Behrens when I was in California, although I was from Southern California. I met him when I ran for the Senate in 1950 when I visited San Francisco. I did not realize until I came to Washington as a Senator, and began to know then the National Press Corps, what enormous national influence he had and national respect he had.
When, for example, the national reporters in 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, and 1960 would travel with me as I traveled around the country in various political chores, and whenever they got to California and tried to find out what was going on, they would go out and say, "What does Squire think?" And what Squire thought, they usually wrote and usually he was right--at least in his predictions.
But, in any event, I think perhaps the best way that I could describe Squire Behrens is by something I was reading a few nights ago about Theodore Roosevelt--Squire does not go back quite that far. But, nevertheless, the comment about Theodore Roosevelt was made by a distinguished British journalist and one who observed the American scene very closely in that exciting period between 1900 and 1908. At the conclusion of Theodore Roosevelt's term, he said, "You know, Roosevelt is not an American, he is America."
I think of those of us who know California and the national press who know California would say that Squire Behrens is not a Californian, he is California.
We honor him tonight. He is here from San Francisco.
Squire, would you please step up?
I said a moment ago something that Squire, I am sure, will reprimand me for, because he speaks very candidly to me because we are old friends. I made mention of age, the fact that 447 years of reporting was represented among these eight recipients. I think you should know that in the California Legislature, a short time ago, a resolution was introduced by one of the legislators to honor Squire Behrens for 40 years of reporting events in the California Legislature. Squire got the bill killed.
When someone asked me tonight why we did not honor Walter Trohan,2 I said he was not old enough. I don't want to indicate that Squire is older than Walter Trohan, but I do say that anybody in California is ageless.
I read now the citation:
2Retired Chief of the Washington Bureau of the Chicago Tribune.
EARL CHARLES BEHRENS
"Through almost fifty years as a reporter, he has shown that a great newspaperman is one who combines inexhaustible energy with insatiable curiosity and impeccable judgment. He has become a legend among political reporters not only for his great skill but also for fairness, unfailing good humor and consistent good sense. It has been written of him that his mind and heart have been close to politics and political people.' His sources and his readers have long recognized that his mind and his heart have also been devoted to truth, to integrity, and professionalism of the highest order."
MR. BEHRENS. Mr. President, I am very grateful to you for this honor.
You may have forgotten that in your younger days I followed you when you were running for Congress. Of course, I was a little bit younger then, too. We have traveled many, many miles together over campaign trails. I have tried always to have no malice in my heart when it came to politics, but a lot of charity for candidates.
THE PRESIDENT. Candidates need charity, and not just from the heart.
For the next recipient, we come over to the East Coast and to a native Washingtonian, one of the few who live in the city who was born in this city.
In checking on Eddie Folliard, I tried to do background as they do background on me--the reporters do--and I found that one of the first scoops that he had when he was writing was during prohibition when he found that a local bootlegger was storing his whiskey in the bushes on the South Lawn of the White House. I have been looking in those bushes ever since; there is nothing there.
However, on a more recent note, I knew that many were wondering how it came about that President Truman and I, who were known to be political opponents, had a reconciliation. And I will tell you the story, how it began and how it finally finished, very briefly, in introducing our next recipient.
It was a Gridiron Dinner, as I recall, Eddie, and on that occasion President Truman was in the distinguished guests' area, the speakers' room where people gather before going into the ballroom. I was there. I was to be the speaker for the Republicans in that year. They could not get anybody else.
But, anyway, I noticed that President Truman was standing a bit over in the corner and the room was crowded and he did not have a drink. So I was standing close to Eddie Folliard and I said, "What would the President like, do you think?" He said, "He likes bourbon." So I went over to the bar and I got a glass of bourbon on the rocks, and I carried it over to President Truman, Eddie walking with me. I handed it to President Truman and he looked at me with a rather skeptical eye. He looked at Eddie and he said, "Do you think it is all right?" Eddie said, "Yes, Mr. President." And President Truman said to me, "Sir, you are a gentleman." And he took the drink.
In any event, we then flew out to Independence last year to present the piano which was in the White House, that he had played on, and Margaret had played on, and Eddie was there for that occasion. Tonight we honor Eddie Folliard.
If he would step forward, I will read the citation:
EDWARD T. FOLLIARD
"Born in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital has been his working base throughout a long and distinguished professional career. His keen insights into the life and politics of the nation's capital have been matched by a perceptive understanding of the broader American scene, and of international affairs. Combining a determined curiosity with energy, integrity and skill, he has won the admiration of his colleagues and contributed greatly to the enlightenment of three generations of readers."
MR. FOLLIARD. Mr. President, at a recent christening party for my sister Mary's great-granddaughter, a niece of mine said, "Uncle Eddie, what is this medal President Nixon is going to give you?" I said, "Why, it is a medal President Nixon gives to young astronauts and old journalists." Then, later in the party, she looked hurt. So I tried again and I turned to my niece and I said, "Rosemary, this is a medal President Nixon gives to young astronauts and mature journalists."
It seems to me tonight, Mr. President, this ceremony is a triumph for maturity. I thank you, sir, for this great honor, for my part and for the newspaper for which I had the honor to work so many years. And I thank you and Mrs. Nixon for inviting my family here tonight for what has been a grand evening.
THE PRESIDENT. Only one of our recipients tonight cannot be with us. The award was made before his death and he was told about it. I talked to him by phone and the letter in which the award was made was read to him. He designated his grandson to receive it.
Before I ask Mr. Robert McHargue to come up here to receive the award, and before I read the citation, I would like to say a word about Mr. Bill Henry; a word that will date me, to an extent, but will bring memories to all of you.
In California, if you were born there as I was in Southern California and lived there, when anybody referred to the Times, you thought of the Los Angeles Times. Through the years that we grew up, until I came to Washington with Mrs. Nixon in 1947 as a freshman Congressman, I remembered the Times and I remembered the men who wrote for it, the reporters, the columnists, and the rest.
Of course, Bill Henry was known to all who read the Times. He was also known in other fields. He started as a sports reporter. And many here in this room, only the Californians will probably recall this, and the sports enthusiasts, that the 1932 Olympics which came to Los Angeles was for the then very young Bill Henry one of his major achievements. He was with the Times, but he worked on the Olympics. He was then the sports editor of the Times, and he, at the time of the Olympics, did some of the announcing at the Coliseum when the games took place. I was 19 years old in 1932. That was the only one of the days of the Olympics that I was able to attend.
I recall driving in from Whittier to Los Angeles and going to the Coliseum, and I picked the day myself because of a particular race. In 1932, that year in Los Angeles, the big race was the 400 meters.
There were two very great runners. Billy Carr of the University of Pennsylvania, and big Ben Eastman of Stanford. Both had run the 440 in 47.6, which at that time was very good--not today, but very good on the paths of that time. They were matched for the first time in the 400 meters.
So, the Coliseum was filled that day. It was filled almost every day, even though that was the third year of the depression. But that day it was filled to overflowing, to see this great race.
I remember that race very well. Bill Carr, a rather small runner, but with magnificent timing and smoothness; big Ben Eastman, more the loping type.
Carr led all the way around. As they came into the home stretch, Ben Eastman started to pump up around Carr on the right side; and Carr floated away from him and won by a couple of yards in 46.6 seconds, which was a world record by over a half a second, better than anything else that ever happened before.
Incidentally, Billy Carr, if my memory serves me correctly, 2 years later was crippled in an automobile accident, and never ran again.
But the story about Bill Henry is something else, and this long introduction will show the point. Some of the crowd started to drift away because the next event and the last event of the day was the 5,000 meters. There, it was expected that the Finns would run away with it. They had one very great runner, Lauri Lehtinen, who had broken the record while he had been in Finland and was expected to break the Olympic record.
The United States had no one they thought could keep up with him, except a big gangling fellow from the University of Oregon, Ralph Hill. They thought he might stay with him for perhaps the first three-fourths of the race, but then that he could not last.
The 5,000 meter began and it was a classic duel for that long race, Lehtinen leading all the way and big Ralph Hill pounding along behind him, to the surprise of everybody in the stadium. The tension rose and rose and rose. As they came into the last lap, Hill was still only a step or two behind. As they turned into the home stretch, Hill started to pass Lehtinen on the right and Lehtinen swerved out. Hill broke his stride and started to turn in and Lehtinen swerved in.
I am not suggesting, and sports writers did not, that it was done deliberately. It was a close, tense race. But as a result of the swerving out and the swerving in, Lehtinen won the race by only perhaps a foot.
Then came that great time when in front of the Olympic flame the medals were presented, when Lauri Lehtinen stepped up to receive the first place medal. A ripple of boos swept through the Coliseum for the first time in the Olympics.
Then a voice came over the public address system and the voice said, "Ladies and gentlemen, remember, these men are our guests." The boos stopped. Lehtinen received the medal, Ralph Hill received the second place medal.
That voice was Bill Henry. I did not meet Bill Henry. I only read his column and heard about him, until 1947 when I came to the Congress. After that he was a friend and adviser, traveling with me around the world on one trip, and to Africa on another, as an unofficial press adviser.
Tonight, although he is not here, his grandson is, and I know that Bill would be perhaps the proudest person in this room to have Robert McHargue, his grandson, receive the Medal of Freedom for Bill Henry:
WILLIAM M. HENRY
"He proudly claimed but one title: Reporter. The many thousands who read his column, and listened to his broadcasts knew that he was one of the best of reporters, and more. A newspaperman since 1911, and a pioneer of broadcast journalism nearly half a century ago, he covered sports, politics and all the rich variety of human activity that is the news. His column 'By the Way' became an institution among Californians. He brought to his work a unique talent, a warm love of humanity, an unfailing fairness, and a devoted professional's respect for his craft."
Having referred to the Los Angeles Times, we now come to the New York Times. In reading many of the anecdotes about Arthur Krock, I think perhaps the favorite one as far as I am concerned, and whether it is apocryphal or not is immaterial, but at least it does describe Arthur Krock very, very well.
It is one where one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's associates was trying to calm President Roosevelt down, because the President was apparently objecting to something that appeared in one of Arthur Krock's columns.
He said, "You know Arthur Krock is with you 95 percent of the time." Franklin Roosevelt responded, "But, oh, that other 5 percent."
Those of us who have known Arthur Krock have respected him. I knew him, incidentally, in a very interesting capacity at the time that I made--and this is an evening when you can reveal some of those matters that have not been printed before--the ruling on Rule 22 with regard to debate in the Senate.
I talked to Arthur Krock on several occasions. He wrote such perceptive articles about it, I asked him when we were having lunch up in my small office in the Capitol whether he had studied law.
He said, "Never, of course, in a law school." But not having studied it, he knew more about it than most lawyers. He did not say that, but I did.
Mr. Krock, would you step up here please?
"From the police beat in Louisville"-and incidentally he was once a deputy police chief in Jefferson County, Kentucky--"to a position of the highest eminence among the world's journalists, he built a reputation that made his name synonymous with excellence and integrity. His incisive reporting, perceptive analysis, sound judgment and subtle humor have made a unique contribution to the understanding of the American process both at home and abroad. In the all-time roster of great Washington correspondents--and in the history of political reporting--his colleagues, his competitors, his readers, and those whose deeds he has chronicled, all would place him in the very first rank."
MR. KROCK. Sir, the honor is a very great one, and, of course, I realize it. To receive it from you is particularly gratifying because of old associations.
When I came into the receiving line, I said to the President, "For what I am about to receive---"and he said, "Wait a minute." I assumed from that there was a danger that Mr. Ziegler was going to issue a clarification, but it turned out all right.
I am especially pleased with this because I belong to the silenced majority, and it has been a very long time since I have inflicted anything upon the reading public. But I regard that perhaps as fairly merciful on my part, and, sir, for this resurrection, I thank you, however temporary it may prove to be.
THE PRESIDENT. I will bet he was quite a police chief.
When I think of the men that I have known in Washington over these past 23 years, one that I know the best, one with whom I perhaps have had as many long discussions in depth about great issues is David Lawrence.
He is a man who, of course, is known for not only his columns in the newspapers, but for the magazine which he founded, U.S. News, and he is, however, not known for the fact that he is a very clever man despite his appearance of being always direct in asking a question.
My favorite story about David Lawrence occurred during the Wilson administration, when William Jennings Bryan was appointed by Wilson to be Secretary of State, and did not turn out quite as Wilson expected him to, and there were rumors that Bryan might resign.
David Lawrence, then a very young reporter, was trying to find out what the fact would be, whether Bryan would resign, was going to resign, or whether it was simply gossip. So David Lawrence talked to the Secretary of War, and instead of asking the Secretary of War, "Is it true that Bryan is going to resign?" he said, "What comment do you have on Bryan's resignation?" He got a scoop and from that he has come to the high eminence he holds today on the Washington scene.
We are proud to present the Medal of Freedom to David Lawrence:
"Writer of the first Washington dispatch to be syndicated nationally by wire, he has served his profession, his nation and his audiences for more than 60 years as reporter, correspondent, news commentator, columnist, editor and author. Since the days of Woodrow Wilson's Presidency, he has been recognized as a distinguished interpreter of the American political scene. He has won and held the respect of millions for his perception, his judgment, his fairness, and his devotion to the principles on which America was founded."
MR, LAWRENCE. Thank you very much for this medal.
May I say that I have a sentimental interest in the White House. I started writing about White House activities when I graduated from Princeton in 1910 when Mr. Taft was President and through the years. It so happened that in the early years I was sitting in the White House lobby when a beautiful girl went through that lobby to call on a member of the secretarial staff. Two and a half years later she became my wife. We were married for almost 51 years. The Lord sent me one of the most wonderful companions in the world, and He took her away last year. I know if she could have been here she would have appreciated this hour very, very much, and I do, too.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. I am sure she is here right now.
MR. LAWRENCE. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. We come again to Washington on this next award to Gould Lincoln. In checking his background, I found that in the field of sports he did not cover sports as far as the record shows--he may have but he was a track star, a runner. He demonstrated that very capably, I understand, on one occasion in the early days of the period that I was Vice President of the United States.
The day was the day that former Chief Justice Warren was confirmed by the United States Senate for Chief Justice of the United States. Gould Lincoln was in the Senate Gallery covering that event. That was a rather easy assignment. Those were the good old clays when the President advised and the Senate consented. But word flashed over from the House of Representatives that a radical group of Puerto Rican nationalists were shooting up the House.
Mr. Gould Lincoln, who was then 73 years old, beat all the reporters in the Senate Gallery over to the House Gallery in record time and held the fort until reinforcements arrived.
GEORGE GOULD LINCOLN
"A journalist since 1902,"--which makes him the dean of all political reporters in the United States--"he has been a perceptive professional witness to the events of the Twentieth Century almost from the day of its beginning. He has reported those events with great integrity, unfailing skill and uncompromising professionalism. His consistently excellent reporting of history-in-the-making from his native Washington, D.C. has been, through these years of sweeping change, one of the most admired achievements in all of American journalism."
MR. LINCOLN. Mr. President, I am deeply grateful. I am honored, I am proud, and somewhat amazed. But thank you very much for this honor.
I have been waiting for a long time to say what I am about to say. I have reached an age in which I should seldom be seen and never heard.
Now I have gotten that out of the way, Mr. President, I would merely like to say that it was a great man, a great American who, like you, was President of the United States. He once said. "You can't fool all the people all the time." Well, a reporter, and I have had the good fortune to be a reporter for nearly 70 years, should have but one rule, or at least that rule, and that is not to fool any of the people any of the time.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. As you have noted, all of our recipients tonight have been ones who not only have covered activities in which I happened to have participated in the political scene but who have, from time to time, given me advice. Sometimes I have taken it and sometimes I have not.
One who has been a very close personal friend and very valued counselor has been the next recipient, Mr. Raymond Moley. Going back to 1947 when I was a Congressman and through these years, he has often not only written of my activities, sometimes, I would say more often than not, in an affirmative way, sometimes in critical ways, but he has always been willing, when I have asked, to give advice. Usually I have taken it. The only significant time that I did not take it was in 1962. I asked Raymond Moley before I left Washington whether I should run for Governor of California. He went through all the historical precedents and he said it would be a very great mistake. He said, "First, you would not win." I said, "Well, don't go on to the second reason; that is enough."
But now having credited him with that good advice which I did not take, I should point out the irony of history. Had I taken Mr. Moley's advice and not run for Governor of California, I probably would have been nominated for President in 1964 and I would be sitting now out on the beach in San Clemente instead of here in the White House. So history has a way of perhaps making all of the pundits sometimes have humility with regard to their counsel. It may be good in the short range and who knows what can happen in the long range.
Mr. Moley, would you please step up for the award:
"It has been said of him that he is 'a master of scientific analysis applied to politics.' His exceptional ability as a political analyst is matched by a deep love of his country, and of the principles of democratic government. His long career as a government official, scholar, lecturer, historian and political commentator has been as rich in distinction as it has in variety. A man of thought and a man of action, he has not only studied and analyzed the history of our times, but also helped to make it."
MR. MOLEY. Mr. President, are you really sure that this does not have to go to the Senate? Because I am sure that if it did, I don't know that any of us would pass the test.
This happens to be Earth Day. I don't know whether there is any connection between this occasion and the grants that are being made. Surely this has nothing to do with pollution. But I am not sure that I am older than anybody here, but at any rate I am new in journalism compared with some of my colleagues here, because they had an opportunity to criticize me in public office. In fact, there was a moment when I was almost as mad at Arthur Krock as was Franklin Roosevelt. But we became friends.
And as I got into this profession, which I entered at the age of 47, I found that it was much better to be on that side than on the other of the wall.
Mr. President, it is a lonely life writing for the public. You don't see the people, you don't get the reactions except through the mail, and through the mail you only get what is bad. You don't know what you are doing, you don't know what you are influencing and sometimes you wonder whether it is all worthwhile.
But, Mr. President, you have made it worthwhile tonight to me and to all my friends, and I thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. The last award today, and only last because it is alphabetically so, is to a very distinguished lady. My anecdotal reference to her happens to fit in quite well with what we just said about Mr. Moley.
After the elections of 1962 and I had determined to leave political life, I talked to Adela Rogers St. Johns, who had been a devoted and close friend of Mrs. Nixon and mine and our family for many years. Adela, who never gives up, told me what Jack Dempsey had once told her about a champion. She said that what makes a champion is the ability to get up off the floor when you have been knocked down and think you never want to get up again. Certainly Jack Dempsey proved that he had those qualities. I don't suggest who else may have them, but I know Adela Rogers St. Johns has those qualities.
ADELA ROGERS ST. JOHNS
"Reporter, feature writer, author,"--and incidentally while it is not here in the citation, she also was once a sports reporter, the first woman sports reporter--"she has enhanced every field she has entered. Beginning her career when women reporters were few, she has brought entertainment and information to millions with the energy, vigor and grace characteristic of both her style and her personality. Demonstrating an exceptional ability to reveal the human story behind the news, she has brought to her writing an excitement and warmth that for many years have earned her the high esteem of her profession and of her public."
MRS. ST. JOHNS. Out in St. Louis the other day, one of your good friends, Mr. Red Schoendienst 3 said the only thing in the world that you can give a pitcher is confidence.
3Albert Fred (Red) Schoendienst, Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Club.
Mr. Nixon has given to me tonight, and I think to the press all over the United States, great confidence. It has been a wonderful thing to think that we who have worked in it so long have earned such a reward. I think it is going to make all the press and the women of the press feel that they are going to survive.
I thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 10:11 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Before the ceremony, the award winners and others from the field of journalism were guests of the President at a dinner in the State Dining Room.
On the same day, the White House issued eight releases containing biographical information on the journalists.
Richard Nixon, Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Eight Journalists. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239681