Franklin D. Roosevelt

Remarks to the State Emergency Council of New Jersey.

January 18, 1936

Governor Hoffman, Mr. Mayor:

I suppose. the most correct term for all of you people is to say, "My fellow workers."

I have been wanting to come to one of these meetings for a long time, to see how they are conducted; and when I heard of the first meeting you attended under the chairmanship of Charley Edison, I wanted to see how New Jersey works. And I am very proud of New Jersey.

You have been one of the first States in the Union to carry through the coordination, the tying together of all of our Government activities. You have pointed a lesson that is being followed out in every other State in the Union, with the objective within a very short time of having an excellent organization similar to this one operating in all of the other States.

It is tremendously important, of course, especially in view of the fact that a lot of this work is comparatively new, that we step on each other's toes as little as possible. That can be avoided principally through information, through knowledge of what people are doing in other branches of this big, broad program.

That is why I think that all of you, in addition to your own individual work within your own offices and agencies, have still another duty, and that is to become walking encyclopedias.

Somebody in the Housing Administration is going to be asked about the operation of the C.C.C. camps. Of course, he cannot become letter-perfect on it, but it is very distinctly up to him to know something about the general purpose and the general operation, not only of C.C.C. camps, but of all other governmental agencies.

In that connection we have two duties or obligations. The first is to seek, through this information about what everybody else is doing, every reasonable means for a greater efficiency of the whole. That was the primary objective of the National Emergency Council—to see that we were not duplicating work, to see how in an administrative way we could improve the administrative machinery. The National Emergency Council, through its directors in all the States of the Union, is working with extraordinary efficiency toward this end.

Your other duty, along the same line, is your relationship with the public. I do not suppose that I am any exception to the rule. The number of fool questions and the number of fool stories that come to me in Washington are duplicated in the experience of every. one of you here today.

Of course, let us be charitable, those statements and those questions result from a lack of information. It is our duty to correct that lack of information on the part of the public.

People who come around saying all sorts of things that you and I know are not true indicate in most cases just plain lack of information. And so each and every one of you has that further duty to explain what it is all about to the public as a whole. I have been interested in several of the questions asked today. One of them, for example, was as to how the employment service was working out, whether the employers knew of the operations of the employment service, not only the Federal Employment Service but its sister that works hand and hand with it, the State Employment Service. There are a great many cases in almost every branch of your work and mine, where we have an opportunity to make our work more useful by giving greater information about it. That is true of housing; it is true of Home Owners Loan; it is true of W.P.A.; it is true of Public Works; it is true of all the relationships in which you stand to the public as a whole.

I want to say just one word about the usefulness of what we are doing. There is a grand word that is going around, "boondoggle." It is a pretty good word. If we can "boondoggle" ourselves out of this depression, that word is going to be enshrined in the hearts of the American people for many years to come.

The point, of course, is that all of these projects, all of this work that we are doing, spring from a necessity, a definite human need, a need of this generation, a need of the year in which we live and of last year, and the year before. In carrying out this work, we are filling a current need, but, in addition to that, we are trying to do it in such a way that it is going to be useful in some way to the community next year and the year after and for generations to come.

Speaking of projects, where do they originate? Does anybody have an idea that there is sitting in Washington some individual locked in a room, tapping his forehead and saying, "Let me think up something new for Newark, New Jersey?" Or Hackettstown or any other place? Why, of course not.

The projects arise in the first instance, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, from the local authorities, the officers who have been duly chosen, the Governors of States, the departments of State Governments, the mayors of cities, the supervisors of counties. We have gone to them and asked, "What is the most useful thing on which the Federal Government can help out in this locality?" And in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the origin is in the local governing authorities of every State and every community throughout the land.

And I believe that people appreciate the fact that the overwhelming majority of the things that we are doing are useful; and that, strangely enough, in doing them, the liberties of self-government have remained unimpaired. I have not heard Mayor Ellenstein or any other mayor in this great country of ours say, "Don't do that; we don't want to do that; your projects are mad; your projects are useless." No, they are cooperating with the Federal Government, and in the process no mayor in this country has been shorn of any of the responsibilities of his office. In other words, as we all know, we are still carrying out the principles of home rule.

I am particularly happy to see the exhibits around these walls. A great many citizens do not know of the many ramifications of this work. The new agencies and many of the old agencies that are almost as old as the Government of the United States, tied in together, are working in a harmonious whole. It is a very heartening thing to realize that the older departments of the Government, the ones that go back fifty, one hundred, and one hundred fifty years, have taken in the younger brethren and sisters in the Federal work.

To you I want to say just one personal word. I have always had faith that when a job had to be done there would be a great many public-spirited men and women who would come forward and offer their services.

That has been true not only among the experts, not only in the professions—and they have been magnificent—but also among men and women in general who have stepped forward, and at great personal sacrifice in many, many cases have helped their Government to carry on this work in an efficient and very admirable way.

To you who are representing in the State of New Jersey all of these great agencies, working cooperatively with the State of New Jersey, with the counties, and with the cities, I want to extend to you my thanks for what you are doing. I am very, very proud of you.

I am glad to have had this opportunity. I wish I could have been with you through all the meetings, this morning's session and the whole of this afternoon's session. I have learned a good deal by just 'looking at the program, and I wish that everybody who is a visitor here today would read that program. It might give them a broader and a more American point of view.

I have something like this meeting every day; not everybody together, but in the course of the average day in Washington I suppose I come in contact with the representatives of about half of all the Federal agencies that there are, personally, or by telephone, or by correspondence. I try to keep in touch with the coordinating of all of our work as much as is humanly possible. So, though I may seem to be a long way off down there in Washington, you have no idea of the many details of all your work that actually come across my own personal desk. I have a fellow feeling for your work. I not only want you to work with me, but I am going to do the best I can to work with you.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks to the State Emergency Council of New Jersey. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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