Richard Nixon photo

Remarks on Signing the General Revenue Sharing Bill

October 20, 1972

Mr. Vice President, Mayor Rizzo, and all of our distinguished guests:

We stand today on ground in which more history has been made than any place in America. As we stand here we all realize that the American system of government was born here. We realize, too, that as we stand here that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights--those three great documents created the federal system. And now by the bill I will soon sign, we have the privilege to renew the federal system that was created 190 years ago.

The Constitution of the United States begins with the words, "We the People," and the bill I shall sign is a demonstration of a principle that we have faith in people, we believe in people, and we believe that government closest to the people should have the greatest support.

And on behalf of the people, all of the American people, I express appreciation today to the Members of the House and the Senate, the members of the various organizations, civic organizations, that have worked for this cause, to the Governors of the States, to the mayors, to the county officials, and all others who have supported this cause.

You will note from the program today it is a bipartisan group. Reference has already been made to the fact that when this proposal was made at the Federal level, 3 1/2 years ago, there were some who were quite pessimistic that it would ever come into being. And at the first of this year, an election year, there were some who thought it had very little chance for success.

But as I sign this bill, we will all be reminded of another great truth, and that is: When a great national purpose is to be solved, we act--not as Republicans, not as Democrats, not as partisans, but as Americans.

And now as I sign the bill, there will be, of course, a tendency to say it is done. But it will not be done.

Perhaps the most famous painting, at least my favorite painting of the signing of the Constitution, hangs just outside the Oval Office in Washington. It is an unfinished painting. As you look at it, you will note that the faces of some are not painted in, and that painting tells us the genius of the American system.

The Constitution was a great document, but a constitution made to govern 3 million people in 13 States, 190 years ago, would have been inadequate unless it had within it what is really the genius of the American system: a process by which, through peaceful change, we can take new initiatives to meet the new needs of the country. And so, today, where there are 200 million Americans, there are 50 States, there are great cities and counties and other governments that the Founding Fathers could not possibly have visualized as coming into being, and we have acted. The American Revolution, in other words, is never finished; it must always be renewed, and we are helping to renew it today.

If, as we sign this bill, we proceed on the assumption that it is finished, we will not have met the challenge which is ours. Because, if the 30 or so billion dollars which will be distributed over the years to the States and the cities and the counties will simply mean that more money will go for the same old programs and the same governments and that the people will not benefit, then we will have failed in our task.

What America wants today, at the State level and at the city level and at the county level, and, I believe, at the Federal level, is not bigger government, but better government--and that is what this is about.

And so I would hope that each mayor, each Governor, each county official, would go back to his community or his State or hers, with this dedication in mind: that these funds will be used for the needs of people; that they will mean better schools and better hospitals and better police forces; that they will mean, I would certainly hope, that we will stop the alarming escalation in local and State property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes.

You will recall those famous words of Winston Churchill before the United States entered World War II, when Britain was holding the fort almost alone against the Nazi aggressors. He said: Give us the tools and we will do the job.

Today, through this revenue sharing bill, we are giving to the distinguished people here--the mayors, the Governors, the county officials, and your colleagues all across this country--we are giving you the tools, now you do the job.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will sign this historic bill with one of the Presidential signing pens. It is the custom when we sign bills in the White House to give souvenir pens to all of the sponsors of the bill.

In this case, because the Congress is out of session, the sponsors of course are not here, and the suggestion has been made that we might provide souvenir pens for all of the Governors and the mayors, the county officials, and the other distinguished guests, including the members of the press that are here.

When that suggestion was made, I found that it would be about 800 pens. [Laughter] I thought that was a little much, but in the spirit of revenue sharing, we have 800 pens for everybody who is here.

Note: The President spoke at 1 :06 p.m. in Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa. He spoke without referring to notes.
Frank L. Rizzo was mayor of Philadelphia.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 14370) is Public Law 92-512 (86 Stat. 919).

On the same day, the White House released a fact sheet on general revenue sharing and a fact sheet on Independence Hall.

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing the General Revenue Sharing Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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