Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Promotion Ceremony for Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.

December 03, 1973

Ladies and gentlemen:

As you all know, we are gathered here for the purpose of conferring the four-star rank on Admiral Rickover.

There are so many things that have been said and written about him that there is little that I can add except that from a personal sense, I value my getting to know him well during my trip to the Soviet Union in 1959 and, on our return, our visit to Poland, which he remembers, as I do, as a very special occasion.

He, of course, will be remembered not just for this ceremony--we have lots of four-star Admirals, haven't we, Admiral [Thomas H.] Moorer, Admiral [Elmo R.] Zumwalt--but he will be remembered because he leaves as a monument not only the fact that there are now more ships and a stronger Navy, but that superb breakthrough in technology--Polaris, Poseidon, Trident. No one can ever speak of these breakthroughs without thinking of Admiral Rickover.

I don't mean to suggest by that that he is a man who is without controversy. He speaks his mind. Sometimes he has rivals who disagree with him; sometimes they are right, and he is the first to admit that sometimes he might be wrong. But the greatness of the American military service, and particularly the greatness of the Navy, is symbolized in this ceremony today, because this man, who is controversial, this man, who comes up with unorthodox ideas, did not become submerged by the bureaucracy, because once genius is submerged by bureaucracy, a nation is doomed to mediocrity.

Thanks to Admiral Rickover, as far as our Navy is concerned, apart from the number of ships, but from the standpoint of technology, it is the first in the world and will continue to be, because his genius was not submerged by the huge bureaucracy that could so often have exactly that effect.

So, I congratulate you, Admiral, and now we will have 'the ceremony.

[At this point, Secretary of the Navy John W. Warner read the commission of appointment. The President then resumed speaking.]

Now I have to sign it.

Here is the certificate for the wall, and there is the pen. It is not a very good pen, but you will probably develop a better one.

The Admiral has something he would like to say.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Admiral Rickover's remarks, released with the President's remarks, are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 9, P. 1385).

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Promotion Ceremony for Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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