Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks in San Diego Before the Inter- American Congress of Municipalities

October 21, 1960

Mayor Dail, Mayor McAllister, Senator Kuchel, and Congressmen Wilson and Utt, President Brewer Casey and Rotarians, and members of the Inter-American Municipal Congress, guests and my friends:

I am honored by this opportunity to address a few words to the Eighth Inter-American Congress of Municipalities, and to add my own welcome to that of Mayor Dail and the other United States delegates who have been your hosts these past 5 days. I have been told that you have been hard at work since the sessions began. I hope, however, that your duties have permitted you at least some time to relax and enjoy yourselves, to use this golf course, and to have a good look at the City of San Diego, its people, and the surrounding countryside.

Now this Congress is an immediate people-to-people approach to the furthering of good hemispheric relations. Our respective national governments are not involved in your special effort. It has been planned and carried out entirely by private citizens and municipal governmental officials. I give my enthusiastic support to the unique form of person-to-person understanding which these important meetings make possible. Indeed, I look forward a few days hence to the pleasure of another person-to-person contact when I meet my good friend, President Lopez Mateos of Mexico in Ciudad Acuna next Monday. And through him, I shall have the opportunity to send once more my friendly greetings to all Mexico and the Mexican people.

For over 20 years the Inter-American municipal organization has helped strengthen the ties of international cooperation and promoted better municipal government throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Perhaps no area attracts our common concern more than that of municipal administration. Sweeping changes are remaking and enlarging our old cities and building new ones--and so rapidly that we are hard put to keep pace with their demands. New industries spring up overnight in the most unlikely places; villages become cities whose bulging borders merge with other cities; there is an insatiable demand for more roads, surface transportation facilities, more airports, more water resources, better methods of cleaning the air, more schools, hospitals, churches, homes--the list is endless.

These conditions in turn create an endless series of problems for the cities and towns in which they occur. Providing the basic administrative services to a stabilized community is a real challenge itself. But meeting the needs of one literally exploding in all directions demands the finest qualities of imagination, dedication, and leadership, not to mention a healthy sense of humor. Yet the challenge must be met and the problems surmounted, and it must largely be done by the municipal administration working in its own field--often, it alone can effectively handle these basic relationships between the citizen and his government.

No other body has the intimate knowledge of the needs and desires of the community. None but the local official can develop the machinery and civic support needed to solve effectively the manifold problems of a busy, complex metropolis. The central and provincial governments have their own vital responsibilities to meet. They cannot and should not be burdened with tasks which can better be performed by the municipalities themselves. To require them to do so results not only in cumbersome and inefficient administration, but it immeasurably lessens the control of the municipalities over their own affairs.

Nevertheless, situations arising out of national disasters or even merely out of the dimensions of rapid municipal growth can call for cooperation among the several levels of government. In my own country, for example, a hurricane may call for the immediate and effective intervention into a city's affairs by both State and national Governments. The spreading out of a metropolitan center over the boundaries of two or more of our States produces a necessity for cooperation among the States affected. Indeed to meet such a situation we have devised operative organizations called "authorities," never contemplated by our Constitution.

Solutions to other urban problems beyond the capacity of localities to meet themselves call for credits and grants provided by State and Federal Governments which, if denied, would bring hardship to thousands of human beings. And the very nature of these problems creates another, that of determining when State or Federal help should be asked and accepted or should be rejected. I feel that in any case of doubt the help should be refused, but when the necessity becomes clear the higher governments should act promptly and effectively. Help that is accepted for a need that is not real, can damage self-reliance and self-confidence. And I assure you of my conviction that the two greatest qualities that have made this country great are self-reliance and self-confidence.

So all of you know that by and large, free, effective local government is in the common tradition of all our American Republics. It is the cornerstone of our whole structure of representative government which ranges from the town council to the national assembly. It must be strengthened by intelligent understanding of a field which grows yearly in size and complexity.

This is why meetings such as this are of such great value. By sharing our knowledge and experience on these problems which are common to us all, we strengthen the important cause of local self-government in every city in the hemisphere. There is not one of our countries which cannot profit from this example of mutual cooperation; none which cannot help the others; none which cannot be helped by the others.

By providing for this exchange of needed information and encouraging the spirit of cooperation, this Congress and its parent organization are making a real contribution to good government and good will in the Western Hemisphere. And I can think of nothing in this whole vast region that is of more importance to all our nations, large and small, than is the increasing of good will among us.

I congratulate you all on what you are doing, not only on your work in improving city government in our respective nations, but on the increasing growth of mutual understanding among our peoples thereby brought about.

I salute you and your nations, and extend to you every good wish for a pleasant and profitable session. It has been a real personal pleasure to be with you. So I thank you and say vaya con Dios--goodbye.

Note: The President spoke at 1:23 p.m. at the San Diego Country Club. His opening words referred to Charles C. Dail, Mayor of San Diego, Robert R. McAllister, Mayor of Chula Vista, U.S. Senator Thomas H. Kuchel and U.S. Representatives Bob Wilson and James B. Utt of California, and Dr. C. Brewer Casey, President of the Chula Vista Rotary Club. The Chula Vista Rotary Club was host to the Inter-American Congress of Municipalities.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks in San Diego Before the Inter- American Congress of Municipalities Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234216

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