Remarks on Signing the Postal Reorganization Act
Mr. Vice President, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Congress, former Postmasters General, Mr. Postmaster General, all of our distinguished guests on this occasion:
As the Postmaster General has very eloquently pointed out, this is an historic occasion, because this particular Department is one that goes back earlier than the Constitution itself.
As I was reading some of the history of Postmasters General I have found there have been 63, 63 including the three who held this office before the Constitution. I also found that there have been some rather vivid struggles by Postmasters General to stay in President's Cabinets. Perhaps the most dramatic was Montgomery Blair, Lincoln's Postmaster General, who for 3 years was under attack and finally was removed from Lincoln's Cabinet.
I think what distinguishes the present Postmaster General is that he is probably the first who holds this office who instead of fighting to stay in the President's Cabinet has fought to get out. And now he is getting out of the President's Cabinet.
I know that you are aware of the fact that when he assumed this office that the chances of this postal reform being approved, and now being signed today, were considered to be very, very small. I told him that, because he said, "I will not take the office unless the Kappel Commission's report1 can eventually be in whole or in part approved by the Congress and enacted into law."
1The report, dated June 1968, is entitled "Towards Postal Excellence: The Report of the President's Commission on Postal Organization" (Government Printing Office, 212 pp.). The Commission was chaired by Frederick R. Kappel.
But he continued to work. And when the odds seemed most difficult, he became stronger and stronger. And finally', this day has come, a day that many thought could not come when he assumed this office over 18 months ago.
I think perhaps the best way to describe the present Postmaster General, Mr. Blount, "Red" Blount as he is called, is to go back into our history to one of America's famous humorists, Josh Billings. He was referring to the postage stamp. He said, "Observe the postage stamp. Its usefulness depends on its ability to stick to something until it gets there."
Postmaster General Blount has shown that ability, the ability of the postage stamp, to stick to something until it gets there.
I know that he would be the first to say that he could not have done this without a great deal of support.
First, the support of the Kappel Commission, the Kappel Commission appointed by President Johnson, supported by him, a bipartisan commission. And I am glad that so many members of that Commission are here today for this occasion.
Second, the support of the Congress of the United States, and I use the word Congress in terms that are not partisan. We could not have this measure had it not been for the bipartisan support, Democrats and Republicans, working together for this reform legislation. And I am very happy that so many members of both the Post Office and the Civil Service Committees of the House and Senate and of the House and Senate leadership are here today, because both parties and both Houses deserve credit for what has happened here today.
Third, the support of management in the Post Office Department, a fine team that the Postmaster General has assembled, who worked for the accomplishment of this reform.
Fourth, the support of the postal unions, the postal unions who represent hundreds of thousands of postal workers. Without their support and also the personal support of Mr. George Meany and his organization, this reform could not have been accomplished. We are glad that they are all represented here today.
Now, as a result of all of these groups working together, Republicans and Democrats, management and labor, public citizens and private citizens, we have accomplished something that very few thought could be accomplished even 18 months ago. This is the American system at its best. This is the American system working in a way that we all like to see it work, where we put the country above the party and where we put service to the people above any other interest.
I perhaps could say on this occasion that as we stand here we recognize that as a result of what is being done today three things generally are going to be accomplished:
First, there is going to be better operation of this department, something that every Postmaster General, the many represented here and all those in our history, have always wanted, more efficiency.
Second, there is going to be better service to those that receive the mail. I wrote the Postmaster General 3 days ago telling him some of the things that I have said here today. I don't think he has received the letter yet.
We also are going to see as a result of this better working conditions and better pay over the years for the hundreds of thousands of people who work very proudly for the Post Office Department here in Washington and across the country.
All of this has been accomplished because men and women worked together for a common purpose that we agree was in the interest of the whole Nation.
So I say on this occasion that it is historic, historic because the Postmaster General leaves the President's Cabinet and this new organization is set up.
I think it would only be proper on this occasion if we were to introduce those who are present who are former Postmasters General, because some of the great men in America's political history are here and two men who served for 8 years as Postmasters General. I think there were only four in our history who served 8 years or longer.
Mr. Jim Farley, would you please stand up?
Mr. Arthur Summerfield, who served under President Eisenhower for 8 years;
Mr. Edward Day from Los Angeles, who served under President Kennedy ;
Mr. Gronouski, who served not only in this position but as our Ambassador to Poland;
Mr. Larry, O'Brien. I understand, incidentally, that among the many things that Mr. Larry O'Brien and Mr. Rogers Morton discuss, there are very few that they agree upon, but there is one thing that they do agree upon: There is no Republican way or Democratic way to deliver the mail. There is only the right way and that is what this occasion is all about.
And Mr. Marvin Watson.
Now, finally, ladies and gentlemen, as we move from one era to another, let me, in indicating the promise of the future, pay proper respect to the past. The Post Office Department has been a political department and as each administration changes the offices have changed.
That does not mean, however, that within the postal service for over 195 years there have not been some of the most dedicated Americans.
I am very, proud, as all of us are very proud, of the record of this department. We are proud of the men and women who have served in it, some of them I am sure under working conditions and for pay that was less than they perhaps could have received in other positions.
As we look to that past, a very proud past, I think what we all feel today is that hundreds of thousands of people in the Post Office Department can look to a better future, a better future for them, and as the future is better for them it means better service for all of the American people.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. in the Great Hall at the Post Office Department. As enacted, the bill (H.R. 17070) is Public Law 91-375 (84 Stat. 719).
Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing the Postal Reorganization Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240310