Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Fourth American Forest Congress.

October 29, 1953

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

It is my very happy, a very distinguished, privilege this morning to extend to each of you a welcome on behalf of the administration to your Nation's Capital.

The very character of your organization confers distinction upon anyone who may be invited before it. But you will realize that due to the number of conventions that meet in this city, there are at times staff discussions over in the White House as to whether or not they should send the President forth this morning to attend a little meeting of this kind.

Now, in this particular case, entirely aside from my own desires and determinations, I assure you there was no question. It happens that my principal staff officer is a forester. And there are two subjects of which I hear most, I think, when I am with him: New Hampshire and forestry.

I, of course, am not going to trespass upon your time to attempt a discussion of those professional and technical elements of your calling, of which you know so much more than I that it would be sheer presumption for me even to mention them.

I should like, though, to speak of just one or two points in which I think our interests are so clearly identical. The interest of this administration is to create a balanced but advancing economy and prosperity in this country.

Now, for any group of people who are engaged in the conservation of our resources, all of them, on the one hand, and at the same time in the production of a product which may range anywhere from 15 to 80 or 90 years, certainly you are concerned directly and by reason of your profession with a steady rather than an intermittent and hysterical-like action in the advancing forces-the advancing trends--of our economy. You deal more directly than most, I think, in futures--not merely a future of the day after tomorrow or who are we going to have in such an office, or what kind of activity will be going on in that place. You deal in decades, decades in the growth of your product, of the forests and the trees, and in the conservation of all those elements of our continent that make that possible.

Then again, when I think of the basic resource that is used so widely--you think of it--in clothespins and matchsticks, in shipbuilding and in construction, in the dissemination of news through the pulp industry--your interests again are not those that are confined merely to the forest. But when you go into the uses of your product, you are concerned with everything that touches the United States.

So is your Government. Its purpose is to understand, if possible, the problems of every special group in this country, but never to use the resources of this country to favor any group at the expense of others--to attempt to get that kind of balanced progress that can be sustained, that will not create upsets in our economy.

So you can understand, of course, the kind of interest we have in soil and water conservation.

When I first led an invading force onto another continent during the war, we went into northern Africa. It was difficult to believe that that area had once been the granary of the ancient world, that it provided the timber and almost all of the agricultural resources that were used in Italy and Greece and Sicily and through those more heavily populated countries.

Today, in such vast areas, there is just a stretch of sand and desert. The civilization that it supported, the cities that flourished, are gone--Timgad, probably one of the most famous destroyed cities on the earth, not far from the great city of Constantine.

That is the kind of thing that must never happen here. It is through the wisdom, the efforts, the dedication, and the devotion of such people as yourselves, that it will not happen. Too many of us are blind, or indifferent, or just completely ignorant of the facts that make that work so important.

So I think I can conclude with just this one word: I cannot tell you how much satisfaction it gives to me to know that intelligent Americans are meeting together, whose interests are as broad as this land, whose vision must be projected forward not merely till tomorrow--or possibly an election--but for a century.

What is going to be the character of this country? Is it going to favor the individual as it favored us? Is it going to give him an opportunity? Is it going to have the resources to give him that opportunity or would we have to degenerate into some kind of controlled economy, some kind of regimentation of all of the heritage? Of all the phases of our heritage that we have received-all of these God-given resources and privileges we enjoy--the one that I believe every true American wants to pass on without any destruction, is that right of the individual to his own determination of what he shall think, of how he shall worship, of what he shall earn, of how he can save, and what he can do with his savings--subject to taxes [laughter]. I should remark here that even in such a crown of roses as we know has always been the portion and the share of our beloved America, there still are some thorns--taxes is one of them.

So again, as I bid you welcome, I also express this tremendous gratification that you are here for your Congress, this assembly. I wish you the greatest of success, and to each individual--God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at the Statler Hotel in Washington. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to Don P. Johnston, President of the American Forestry Association and Chairman of the Congress.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Fourth American Forest Congress. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232317

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