Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Presentation of the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service.

June 02, 1965

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a very exceptional pleasure to welcome all of you this morning.

Mr. Ball, Mr. Secretary of State, Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

Public service being what it is, I am sure that the wives and children will welcome the opportunity to see their husbands and their fathers again this morning in daylight.

Considering the current situation to natural beauty, I regret that the most colorful sight in the Rose Garden this morning is my sunburn.

Several people have written to Mrs. Johnson suggesting that if she is serious about beautifying America she ought to start working on me. After she pondered that task for a while she left just a moment ago for the Virgin Islands.

We have come here this morning to bestow our high civilian honor upon these five men who have distinguished themselves and honored their country by their very good and faithful service in high positions of public trust.

Over the years, in both public and private organizations, it has been traditional to honor employees for records of attendance, and punctuality, and seniority, and other kindred virtues. Such qualities, of course, are commendable, but in these times much more is asked and far more is given, as the record of these men so amply attest.

Today, in public service especially, we ask and we expect and we receive the highest order of originality, and initiative, and even of independent thought and inquiry.

In this largest organization of its kind, the executive branch of the Government of the United States, the emphasis is no longer on the faceless mass, but the emphasis is on individual excellence. In fields as diverse as the collection of statistics and the exploration of space, these five men have quested after excellence and, in so doing, they have enriched and expanded the sum of human knowledge and human capability. The service each has rendered is far more than mere service to the state.

No command, or no order, or no edict of a party, no directive from dictatorial authorities could have ever evoked from any of them the genius and the greatness and the constructiveness and the compassion that has come from their own voluntary desire to serve freedom responsibly and to serve it well.

In this century of contest, it is well for us all to remember that the harder the contest is, it remains always whether the men shall serve the state or whether the state shall serve men.

Our Government, and indeed all of our institutions, will be stronger as we trust independence rather than relying upon suppression of the individual.

In a free society, skepticism toward Government is both healthy and imperative and we should welcome it, but private citizens should always guard against allowing such healthy skepticism to corrode or to destroy their respect for their fellow citizens who serve them. For it really is the loyalty, and the efficiency, and the effectiveness of our public servants which stand as the first line of defense for the stability and the ultimate success of our organized society.

Half a world away, in the land of South Viet-Nam, we are reminded of this anew each day. There, for years, the enemies of freedom have been on the attack in a very cruel and a very vicious war. All through this period, the point of that attack has been the public servants, who were leading the organizations, and the development of a free society. In the villages and the hamlets and the countryside, the guerrillas in the night have stricken down by knives and guns and hand grenades Government officials. The losses there have been equivalent to the loss in the United States of more than 30,000 of our public officials--our mayors, our city councilmen, and our Government servants.

So, the men we honor this morning, and many tens and hundreds of thousands more like them that serve our Government throughout the United States, are devoting their lives and their minds to making our freedom more secure, and our success more certain.

We honor them for their contributions, not to the greater power of Government, but to the greater glory of man. The trust they are keeping is really the most noble trust on earth.

And now the citations will be read and the awards will be presented. But prior to that time, I want, on behalf of the Vice President and myself, to express to them the entire gratitude of a grateful Nation.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11 :50 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words he referred to George W. Ball, Under Secretary of State and Chairman of the Distinguished Civilian Service Awards Board, and Dean Rusk, Secretary of State.

A White House release of the same date, listing the recipients of the awards, contained the following quotation from the President's memorandum informing the heads of executive departments and agencies of his selections for the award:

"Each of these men has demonstrated in his field that extra measure of professional excellence needed to effectively carry out our many action programs in the people's service. The work of each has been distinguished by courage, vision and ingenuity-qualities that make for greatness in men who serve the people. Collectively, they have made immense contributions to the Nation's well being and advancement.

"I know you share my great pride and satisfaction in the exemplary accomplishments of these public servants, which underscore for our fellow citizens how much excellence there is in the career ranks of the Federal service.

"Government programs are advanced as much through people and their efforts as through the language of laws and Federal regulations. We must make certain that we express our appreciation to the outstanding individuals in positions at all levels of Government who supply the special creative ability, the extra productive effort, or the unusually superlative skill that is vitally needed to carry out Federal programs to the topmost heights of excellence."

The recipients of the awards and the highlights of their citations as released by the White House are as follows:

Howard C. Grieves, Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Census, who "has contributed impressively to the effective functioning of the National economy by vastly improving the timeliness and reliability of the statistical products of our census system."

Homer E. Newell, Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, who "has been significantly responsible for this Nation's success in the unmanned satellite and space probe projects."

Frank B. Rowlett, Special Assistant to the Director, National Security Agency, Department of Defense, who "by his inventive genius and managerial skill has contributed profoundly to the security of the Nation."

Clyde A. Tolson, Associate Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, who "has been a vital force in raising the proficiency of law enforcement at all levels and in guiding the Federal Bureau of Investigation to new heights of accomplishment through periods of great National challenge."

Philip H. Trezise, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs, Department of State, who "has developed imaginative solutions to vital and complex economic problems arising in United States relations with foreign countries."

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Presentation of the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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