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Remarks on Presenting the Special Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society to Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

June 20, 1930

I AM glad to welcome Admiral Byrd back to Washington. I speak not merely for myself but for the Nation as a whole and for every individual citizen. His contribution to exploration and scientific research has done honor to his country, and his country takes a just pride in them and in him. More than that, his daring and courage have thrilled each one of us individually, because he has proved anew the worth and power and glory of qualities which we believe are latent in our people. For men of our race to master extraordinary difficulty, to carry through great adventure, thrills us with pride, with hope, and with confidence. I sometimes think that this is the greatest value of modern explorers.

I do not minimize the scientific gains of such expeditions, but the human values are so immediate and so universal in their effect that it may well be that they transcend the scientific service. Every hidden spot of the Earth's surface remains a challenge to man's will and ingenuity until it has been conquered. Every conquest of such a difficult goal adds permanently to mankind's sense of power and security. Great explorers, therefore, do not merely add to the sum of human knowledge, but also they add immensely to the sum of human inspiration.

Knowledge, too, has been enriched by Admiral Byrd's expedition. New coasts of the Antarctic Continent have been mapped and new regions have been explored. Geological data have been increased, which contribute to our knowledge of the history of the Earth. New knowledge of magnetic currents and of weather changes has been gained. The store of the world's knowledge may not be priced in money, for money we make and spend, but knowledge remains always with the race.

All these achievements are the capstone of a career whose progress Americans have watched with interest and pride. Admiral Byrd has been first to conquer the difficulties of reaching the poles by heavier-than-air flying. He has flown the Atlantic Ocean. Success has followed upon success in his life, and this is the greatest of all.

As with all consistently successful issues, his accomplishments have been built upon painstaking preparation, foreknowledge of the special problems to be solved, thoughtful plans to meet them, and infinite patience in preparations, and infinite patience in execution. He has demonstrated the traits of the born commander--boldness at the right time, comradeship, those heroic qualities that endear the captain to his men. And he is beloved by the American people.

I congratulate you, Admiral Byrd, upon your success, upon your safe return to your country and home and friends, upon your services and the lift you have given to the spirit of your countrymen. I am happy to present to you this Special Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society, awarded to you for "the first attainment of the geographical South Pole by Air . . . and for distinguished contributions to world knowledge of Antarctica." And I take great pleasure in again introducing you formally to this audience, seen and unseen, to whom you need no introduction, and to whose hands I now commit the rendering of those further honors which you so highly deserve.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 8:30 p.m. in the Washington Auditorium. The presentation of the medal came at the end of a day of official ovations to Rear Admiral Byrd and the 42 men who had lived with him in Antarctica and participated in his expedition to the South Pole.

A reading copy of this item with holograph changes by the President is available for examination at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa.

Herbert Hoover, Remarks on Presenting the Special Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society to Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/210758

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