Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Clark Clifford as Secretary of Defense.

March 01, 1968

Mr. and Mrs. Clifford and members of the Clifford family, Chief Justice Warren and Mrs. Warren, distinguished Governors, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate your indulgence. I hope all of you understand that the tardiness was prompted not by my usual delays, but the fact that we were unsuccessful in getting the Senate to stop talking.

We tried. We even had a cloture vote that failed. But it is over now and all the Members but four are here. We will go ahead and begin.

This is a great day for us here in the White House. We were finally successful in persuading Clark Clifford--prevailing upon him--to move from the "kitchen cabinet" to the East Room.

Some people have compared this appointment to a wedding. After a very long and sometimes secret courtship, we are finally making an honest man out of him.

I have never mentioned this before, but I had some serious reservations about naming Clark to any particular Cabinet job---I think he had some reservations, too-because there is really one serious flaw that he has. He owns or is paying on a summer house on Nantucket Island.

I have worked with such people before. If I try to reach them, the White House operator usually says, "I am sorry, Mr. President, but the fog is in."

But then I heard about Clark's devotion, and I observed it. Twenty years ago he was up there when President Truman called him back to Washington. The fog was in. It took 48 hours to get Clark back to the Capital. But he finally made it. And ever since then he has suffered Washington summers rather than make himself unavailable to his President.

So, I figured that if we can get that kind of loyalty when he is a private citizen, what can we expect when we are paying him $35,000 a year?

Clark Clifford has served his country and three different Presidents for more than 25 years--in time of peace and in time of war.

He served as President Truman's Special Counsel in the difficult days when America was trying to forge a durable peace from the fires of a world war.

A farsighted man might have predicted even then that Mr. Clifford would become the Secretary of Defense, for he had a very important hand in creating this modern Defense Department.

The legislation that he prepared, that he drafted, and which he struggled on for months for a unified military system, to bring it under strong civilian control, finally became a fact.

He was the architect of the very smooth and efficient transition between the administrations of President Eisenhower and President Kennedy.

At the request of President Kennedy, he became Chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board following the Bay of Pigs situation. At my request, he has continued in that position through the years.

In looking through some of the statements of yesteryear, I observed that on November 23, 1963, I received a very short note from Mr. Clifford. It said, "Mr. President, let me know if there is anything I can do to be helpful."

Well, he has been helpful in a thousand different ways since that day--to me, to the First Lady, to the members of our family, the Cabinet, and others who needed his wise and sage counsel.

Mr. Clifford did more than draft the legislation, though, that created this Department of Defense. He helped shape the character of that whole Department. That character is grounded in a principle that is as old as America itself. And we want to reiterate it upon every appropriate occasion.

That is that control of the military will reside firmly and forever in the hands of men who are directly responsible to the people of the United States.

It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote that he knew of "no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves .... "

That principle is the core of the National Security Act of 1947, and its amendments in 1949.

It has been strengthened by Secretary McNamara in his brilliant service of 7 years in the Cabinet.

It will be upheld by Secretary Clifford. He, like Secretary McNamara, will always have the support of the President in doing so.

Mr. Clifford is wise in the ways of strength. He knows that might alone cannot bring peace. Military strength cannot correct the conditions which breed violence, the awakening of hope, and the frustration of accomplishment among the world's poor.

The danger comes not from those who have something to lose, but from those who feel that they have nothing to lose.

So I believe, and I think Clark Clifford believes, in a certain formula for the future.

Each time a nation develops enough to give the people of that nation a life worth living, then the world moves one step back from chaos.

Yesterday, with sadness, most of you in this room said farewell to a good and great Secretary of Defense. This morning we gain a worthy and a wise successor in Clark Clifford. He has the confidence of the President and of the President's Cabinet. He has worked with them just as if he were a member.

He has the confidence of the Congress which confirmed him in record time. And he has the confidence of the press.

I can assure all of you that is no small achievement.

So, Mr. Secretary, on behalf of your new and really biggest client, the American people welcome you aboard.

The Chief Justice honors us by his willingness to be present this morning to administer the oath.

Note: The President spoke at 12 noon in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to, among others, Chief Justice Earl Warren, who administered the oath of office, and Mrs. Warren. Following the administration of the oath of office, Mr. Clifford spoke briefly. The text of his remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 396).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Clark Clifford as Secretary of Defense. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives