Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Cyrus R. Smith as Secretary of Commerce.

March 06, 1968

Mr. Smith and family, Justice Fortas, Members of the Cabinet, distinguished Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

This ceremony could well be the opening scene in a replay of one of my favorite late show dramas, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

As I recall, the hero of that movie caused quite a stir when he hit the Nation's Capital.

Now, Mr. C. R. Smith, you have come back to Washington again. We all recall pleasantly your last starring role--when you were stationed here during World War II. You were decorated then as an organizer of wartime air transport--and for solving the problem of flying The Hump.

The script, C. R., really hasn't changed very much. You will find--as Dean Rusk and I already know--that there are still plenty of humps to get over. Some of them are over here. But, since you were here the last time, we have added a few gaps.

We all know, though, that you are well equipped. And we hope that American Airlines has let you bring along one of your most valuable assets--that battered old Oliver typewriter that has long sat by your desk, a machine on which you hunt and peck out the personal directives that you need when you want fast action.

You are going to need that typewriter, C. R. Your new employers--the people of the United States--are going to be asking for action, and some of them want it fast The businessman, the workingman, the family man--all of these are your new board of directors. Your new business is the most urgent business of America--Congress will be reminding you of that from time to time-and that is the people's welfare.

You might begin, Mr. Smith, by putting that typewriter to work on a letter to Mr. Henry Ford and your friend, Mr. Paul Austin of Coca Cola Company, and the other 750 national leaders--the many members of the National Alliance of Businessmen. You can thank them for rolling up their sleeves, leaving their business--as you have left yours--and taking on leadership responsibilities in helping us to tackle one of the toughest problems that America faces--the crisis in our cities, the unemployment in our ghettos, the hard core who have no jobs, the training and hiring of these people whom we find that our system has been unable to fit into it.

These men are some of our best American businessmen, and they care about tomorrow. They are taking the very unusual step, I think, of investing their skill and their faith to earn the ultimate profit--not something that will show on their balance sheets this year, but will be a rich and full dividend for all of American life.

If you would move America forward, I think you must first move its private citizens forward--and chief among them is the American businessman.

Never--except possibly during World War II--have I seen such an effective exercise of business responsibility as I see in the making now. The promise for America is immense.

Mr. Ford, Mr. Austin, and others came across the land to see me last week and told me of their plans, and of the fact that various companies are assigning their best people to go out into the ghettos and the cities of America and demonstrate the social consciousness of the leaders of the free enterprise system.

In these last few months, these giant corporations, banks, insurance companies, hundreds of businesses--the economic muscle of America--are indicating that they are going to try to help.

I met with the bankers a few weeks ago; I met with the insurance industry a few weeks ago. I met with the savings and loan institutions from throughout the country this morning. All of them are developing programs to help us try to remake and rebuild these deteriorated areas of our land.

This remaking is going to demand the best of all of us--and the best of business and Government. I think you are going to be the connecting link in that partnership.

It is a historic venture. The American people will be the beneficiaries. So, they are going to look to you, C. R.--as a leader who pioneered again in the adventure of flight.

I think most of America--I know the Cabinet, certainly, the leaders in Congress who honor you with their presence here this morning--share my confidence that you are going to lead us forward in the greater adventure of reaching for the dream and finding the destiny of America.

We welcome you. We hope your stay here will be pleasant. Happy landing.

[At this point Justice Fortas administered the oath to Mr. Smith, who responded with brief remarks. The President then resumed speaking.]

I want to say on behalf of the Cabinet, and such Members of Congress as I may be able to speak for, that we join you, C. R., in your hope and your wish that we, too, can end even, at least.

Note: The President spoke at 1:13 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he also referred to Associate Justice Abe Fortas of the U.S. Supreme Court, who administered the oath of office. During his remarks he referred to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, Henry Ford II, Chairman of the National Alliance of Businessmen, and Paul Austin, Vice Chairman.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Cyrus R. Smith as Secretary of Commerce. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives