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Remarks at the Swearing In of Dr. Arthur F. Burns as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

January 31, 1970

DR. BURNS, I want to bring you with me more often. I never heard so much applause in this room for some time.

This is an historic occasion and if you will permit a personal reference, I would like to relate my own life to the situation which we presently will be commemorating in swearing in Dr. Bums as the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

I was born in the year 1913; the Federal Reserve Board was born in the year 1913. And from 1913 until the present time we have had a total of 10 Presidents of the United States. From 1913 until the present time we have had nine men who have served as head of the Federal Reserve Board. I say "as head of" it because seven of those nine were simply the top Governor among equals--or six--and three of them will have been Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

So, today Arthur Burns' appointment as Chairman of the Federal Reserve evens it up. We will have had as many Chairmen of the Federal Reserve as we will have had Presidents over this period of time of 57 years.

He is an economist and this is really a very happy day for what Carlyle called the gloomy science, to have Arthur Burns elevated to this very high post as head of the Federal Reserve.

I was thinking of what the future might hold for him, and I recall that just a few days ago our guest in this house was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. He also was an economist. He is now the head of his government. I don't know whether the country could afford an economist as president or not, but at least if the Dow-Jones goes up maybe, Arthur, you can look toward 1976.

Now, a word, if I could, about the position that he presently assumes. The Federal Reserve Board is known to all the sophisticates in this room for the enormous impact it has on the economy of this country. It is not known generally to the public because its activities are in areas which are not susceptible even to understanding by a Cabinet, let alone the general public.

For example, at the present time we are confronted with the problem of inflation, and the Federal Reserve Board plays a very great role in determining whether that inflation will be checked and how it will be checked. And I think, perhaps, it could be said that it requires a very wise man to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve or to be a member of the Board, with all of that responsibility.

I think Arthur Burns would put it this way: that it is a great hardship on some people to do those things that control inflation, but it is a greater hardship on all people to allow inflation to go on.

Now, of course I am not suggesting by that that the Federal Reserve Board should stop inflation at the cost of recession. That is where the wisdom comes in. I am suggesting only that I am glad we have in Arthur Burns a man who has demonstrated through the years I have known him to be a very wise man and also something else, and I say this in a personal sense and all of you who know him would agree: This man who has such a brilliant academic background, who shows such wisdom and understanding in the discussion of great issues, is a man of very great heart and because I think that in this position, this position that deals with money, those impersonal factors, economic factors, that have such an enormous effect on people throughout the country, that having a man who knows all about the money, but also has great heart, that he is the right man in the right job at the fight time.

We are very happy to have him and we are also very happy to have you, Mr. Justice Brennan, one of Arthur Burns' old and dear friends, to conduct the swearing-in ceremony.

[At this point, Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., administered the oath of office. The President then resumed speaking.]

You see, Dr. Burns, that is a standing vote of appreciation in advance for lower interest rates and more money.

Ladies and gentlemen, as all of you know, the Federal Reserve is independent, certainly independent of the President, although the Congress would suggest that it is not independent of the Congress.

I respect that independence. On the other hand, I do have the opportunity as President to convey my views to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve in meetings with the Quadriad,1 along with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

1An informal group comprised of the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System, who meet periodically with the President to discuss economic policy.

I have some very strong views on some of these economic matters and I can assure you that I will convey them privately and strongly to Dr. Burns in the meetings of the Quadfiad. I respect his independence. However, I hope that independently he will conclude that my views are the ones that should be followed.

[At this point Dr, Burns addressed the group. His remarks are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 6, p. 98). The President then resumed speaking.]

Now, ladies and gentlemen, we would like to invite you all to congratulate the new Chairman in the State Dining Room. I understand they have something to drink there---coffee. We are trying to help the balance of payments for Brazil, I think.

But in any event, I am very sorry that Mrs. Nixon could not be here today, but our daughter Tricia, as you may have read, because these things do get out where the First Family is concerned, has been ill. She had the flu first and yesterday she contracted the measles. Having gone through that agony myself when I was 40 years of age, I called her on the phone last night. She is in Florida. I told her that she is going to feel terrible for 3 days, but after she got over it, that she would feel much better because you never appreciate how nice it is not to have the measles until you have had the measles.

Thank you very much. And we hope you enjoy meeting Arthur Burns and the coffee.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Swearing In of Dr. Arthur F. Burns as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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