Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at the Dedication of Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park in California

August 27, 1969

President and Mrs. Johnson, Governor Reagan, Secretary Hickel, Congressman Clausen, .Dr. Graham, all of the distinguished guests here on the platform and in the audience:

My participation in this program will be brief, but it is very necessary because the time now comes for the signing of a proclamation, the proclamation that Don Clausen referred to earlier whereby in one instance through the stroke of a pen we can accomplish something we want to accomplish.

I do want to say, however, before signing the proclamation which is here on this redwood table appropriately beside me-I do want to say that I think that Congressman Clausen deserves a great deal of credit for not only his support of this great redwood forest, the support that he gave to it, that Tom Kuchel as Senator, gave to it, and others who are present here, but also for his idea; and it was his idea that this grove be appropriately named for the First Lady, Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson, who has done more in the field of beautification than any First Lady in history.

Now there is very little that I can add to what her record already says to all of us. That record is well known: 5 years of traveling this country, going into the parks all over the country, and also to other areas which are not parks, but for the purpose of seeing what could be done to make the country, a more beautiful country, one that we could all be proud of.

I simply want to say, as I stand here in this magnificent grove of redwoods, that President Johnson and I happen to share a number of things in common. I mentioned them briefly at the airport at Arcata. We both served in the House, in the Senate. We both served as Vice President, and we both served as President of the United States.

And there is one other thing I find that we have in common. We both have a great admiration for Theodore Roosevelt who was the President of the United States who first showed an immense interest in the whole field of conservation.

I am on vacation now, if a President ever takes a vacation. I am on vacation down in San Clemente, California. Sometimes in the evenings I have a chance to read, and President Johnson noted, as he was looking over the library, that the book I currently was reading was one of the biographies of Theodore Roosevelt that happened to be there at this time.

In reading that biography, one point came through to me very clearly: that he, as President of the United States, found that he always received renewed strength from going to the great outdoors. He, of course, was known as the President that believed in the strenuous life.

I am not sure that I can go as far as he went in that respect--I won't even ride a surfboard. On the other hand, he was one who liked to come to great groves like this. He came always to the West. He was renewed by going to the West and then going back to the awesome duties that he had in the White House.

The duties that he had at the turn of the century from 1900 to 1908 were very, very heavy. The duties that a President of the United States today has perhaps would have to be described as even heavier.

But certainly to stand here in this grove of redwoods, to realize what a few moments of solitude in this magnificent place can mean, what it can mean to a man who is President, what it can mean to any man or any woman who needs time to get away from whatever may be the burdens of all of our tasks, and then that renewal that comes from it--to stand here makes us realize the great service that a President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, rendered when he put so much emphasis on conservation; that these Congressmen and Senators and Governors have rendered by their support of conservation and that our very honored guest, Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, has rendered in her work for beautification, and particularly her work with regard to this very grove in which we stand.

So today I sign this proclamation as President of the United States, but I sign it for all of the people of California, for all the people of the United States, in admiration and respect for a great First Lady: Lady Bird Johnson.

[At this point, the President signed Proclamation 3925. He resumed speaking, as follows:]

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to present to you Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, for whom this magnificent grove of redwoods has now been named.

Mrs. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. President. You have given me a day to treasure always, and I am grateful. I am grateful, too, to another President who in his time, along with many, many people, did what he could to insure that these trees would be here for all the tomorrows.

Conservation is indeed a bipartisan business because all of us have the same stake in this magnificent continent. All of us have the same love for it and the same feeling that it is going to belong to our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren--I am coming to understand that a lot better these days--the same opportunity to work in our time to see that it stays as glorious.

So, President Nixon, I am very grateful to you for associating me with this part of it for all the tomorrows, and I thank you very much, as all my family does, and thank you, Congressman Clausen, too.

PRESIDENT NIXON. We are now going to unveil the plaque on this site.

Incidentally, our musical group is the Humboldt County A Cappella Choir. We are very happy to have them here today.

If I could be permitted one personal local reference. This occasion has been particularly memorable for all of us to have a chance to come to this beautiful redwood forest, but it is also appreciated in this respect: This is the first time I have had a chance to be in Humboldt County for 7 years, and I am glad to be back here today for this occasion.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, while this is not on the official program, I know that all of you would like to hear a word from--I don't know whether you say the first person in the family or the second on such a day as this---but I will simply say this: that as you do know, this happens to be President Johnson's birthday. I have been trying to think of how we could wish him a happy birthday, and I was studying some of the background with regard to the age of these trees.

I find that the average age of the trees in this grove is 500 years, and I find that the oldest trees are 2,500 years--as [Rev. William F.] Billy Graham pointed out in his eloquent invocation--before Christ.

So I suppose that what we could best say to President Johnson on this, his birthday, may he live as long as these trees, and, of course, in some countries they say: "May you live 1,000 years." But at least in expressing it that way--may he live as long as these trees--that means we are giving him every benefit of every chance to live as long as he possibly can.

So I am very proud to present to my fellow Californians the man who served in the office that I now hold for a period of 5 years--served with distinction and with great courage over that period of time: President Lyndon B. Johnson.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON. Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, Mrs. Johnson, Secretary Hickel, Governor Reagan, Dr. Graham, Congressman Clausen, Senator Murphy, Congressman and Mrs. Boggs, my dear friends of California:

It is such a wonderful way to spend one's birthday and all the Johnson family feel deeply in the debt of President and Mrs. Nixon for bringing us here to this beautiful setting, away from the 105 degree temperature that we are having down in Texas, and showing us the beauties of nature that abound in this great, beautiful State.

President Nixon was talking to you about some of his political heroes, and I guess I might be pardoned if I also mentioned a Roosevelt. While Theodore Roosevelt was one of our great Presidents, one of our great progressive leaders, there was another Roosevelt who had something in common with Theodore, and that was most strikingly noted in the field of conservation.

Presidents have many things in common, as President Nixon pointed out. My father said to me one time when I was a little boy: "Son, you will never know what it is to be a father until you are a father." And one never knows what it is to be a President until you are a President.

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson and I are all the more grateful because we are so aware of the burdens that you and your gracious wife carry on behalf of this great Nation and that you would take the time to come here and pay this honor to this great lady is something that we will always cherish and always remember.

The last month I was in the White House I read a book about Theodore Roosevelt and the contributions that he made to this land. As I was telling the President coming up, I read a document published by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library on his contributions in the field of conservation.

I was amused in reading that document about letters that he wrote as a State Senator of the State of New York--long before he became its distinguished Governor or Assistant Secretary of the Navy of the Nation or the President of our country--in attempting to develop a State park policy and to preserve some of the playgrounds and parks for the people of the great State of New York.

So, if I could express a hope today--I know that the hope that President Nixon expressed that I might live to be as old as these trees, I will never realize that, but I might realize this one--I would hope that future generations might look down the history of our past and look at the great conservation leaders and that some of my children and my grandchildren and if I am fortunate, even myself, could read not only what both President Nixon and I read about the works of Theodore Roosevelt and his leadership in the field of conservation and Franklin D. Roosevelt and what he had done to conserve this Nation, but that soon we might have a book from the Richard M. Nixon Library that would join with the great names of Roosevelt, the great name of Richard Nixon; because if I am a prophet--one that can see the beauties that abound in this State where he grew up and where he enjoyed coming to the forests and building a fire and talking about the glories of this State--it could well be and should be extended to the rest of the Nation and the other States.

Since Presidents do have things in common, I remember that on President Truman's 61st birthday he was in the White House, and he sat down and wrote his mother a letter. Presidents are lonely people, and the only ones they are really sure of all the time are their womenfolk. President Nixon and I have something else in common. We can always depend on our womenfolk. Just as Mrs. Johnson has been by my side every step of the way, so has Mrs. Nixon.

President Truman wrote to his mother and sister Mary, and said: "I slept in the President's room and Churchill woke me at daylight and said he wanted to jump the gun on an announcement that we had agreed would be made in Washington at 9 o'clock and London at 3 o'clock and Moscow at 4 o'clock."

So, President Truman, on his 61 st birthday, had his timing problem, too. He said he had to tell Mr. Churchill that he could not do that, that they had agreed it ,would be simultaneous. It was great news for the world. It was the announcement of V-E Day.

I cannot make any announcement like that today, and President Nixon can't either. But I am sure if we both could announce what is in our hearts and what we want to announce more than anything else in the world it would be that there would be peace among men throughout this world.

So, President Truman concluded his letter by saying to his mother and his sister that he hoped that they could come and visit with him and they could come at a time when he did not have his timing problems.

Well, I didn't have Churchill call me at daylight and wake me up, but for some reason or other one of the few times in our 35 years of married life, Mrs. Johnson waked up first this morning and she must have had this occasion on her mind because she had our daughter, who lives in Washington, and our son-in-law come down and bring our granddaughter, and I don't know why they chose me, but they brought in my young granddaughter with two teeth, about 9 months old, and deposited her on my stomach and told me to play with her for a while while the ladies went to the hairdresser.

When they came back both of the ladies were rushing me to get dressed so that we could be on time with President Nixon. I said: "Well, you have asked me to keep the baby and I have had her on my lap for an hour. I have had no time to dress and now you want to walk out with me in my pajamas to get out to the redwoods." That shows how much she loves the beauty of this country and this Nation.

It also shows that while I did not have problems with Churchill, I did have problems with my wife. But if all my problems were as simple as those I have with her, what a wonderful life this would be.

President Nixon, I want to conclude by saying to you that we are most thankful to be Americans. We are very grateful that we can live in a country that is strong and vital and still has the spirit of adventure that this Nation has.

We are very proud to stand behind you and to support you in your earnest quest for peace in the world and for prosperity at home.

Of one thing I am absolutely sure, of the 37 Presidents that have come, and 36 have gone on, I feel sure from what I have read and studied about their lives that their greatest problem was never doing what was right; their greatest problem was knowing what was right.

No man occupied the place that you occupy who didn't want to do the best he could, and some have succeeded and some have had less success. But of this you can be sure: If all of your days are as successful as today in bringing happiness to your predecessor, you will have a most successful Presidency.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Note: The exchange of remarks took place at 4:05 p.m. at the dedication of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the Redwood National Park, Calif.

The text of the remarks was released at Arcata Airport, Eureka, Calif.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Dedication of Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park in California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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