Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Dr. John W. Gardner as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

August 18, 1965

Mr. Vice President, Dr. and Mrs. Gardner, Secretary Wirtz, Secretary Rusk, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Congress, friends:

I want to observe this morning that the 89th Congress has constructed more beneficial measures for the good of our land and has placed more legislation on the statute books to improve the lot of all of our citizens, than any other of the previous 88 Congresses. All this has been done during the last 6 months, and all of it, both in design and purpose, aims to lift the level of living for 200 million Americans.

Nothing that we have done excels in durability of its benefits the far-reaching vocational, elementary, secondary and higher education bills that this Congress has acted on, or the monumental health legislation, including the long-sought, too long denied, health care for older Americans that helps to pay hospital bills, and doctors' bills, and nurses' bills, and extended care facilities, and drug bills, and other expenses.

I am very happy that Members of the House and Senate could be here this morning, particularly the architect of so many of these measures, that legislative craftsman, Lister Hill, the Chairman of the Labor Committee and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee that implements all of these fine measures.

Also the man who is largely responsible for the passage of all of this legislation is today off the payroll as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, but the Nation owes a great debt of gratitude to Tony Celebrezze and his very helpful wife, Ann.

So we come here today to mark ceremonies and to herald a new beginning. We have come this morning to the Rose Garden to welcome into the family of the Cabinet and to the stewardship of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare a most eminent American, an extremely talented, a superbly qualified man to take over this leadership.

Dr. John Gardner was told by the President that the cause of public welfare in this country, the health care, and the education of the young minds needed the excellence of leadership that he could provide. He was told that, and he is here. He is a Republican, but that doesn't make much difference. He really provides a desirable balance of the four Cabinet members that I have appointed. Two were Democrats--Secretary Fowler and Attorney General Katzenbach; one was Republican--Secretary Connor; and now Dr. Gardner evens the score and makes it two and two.

I hope that these men get along as well working together as my Democratic Secretary of State, from Cherokee County, Georgia, and my Republican Secretary of Defense from California.

The job that Dr. Gardner has to do doesn't have much to do with party politics-and it just mustn't have. It does have to do with American people and American ideas and the greatness of the American Nation and of our American children. That kind of work involves all of us.

Dr. Gardner is a man of action. He knows how to achieve. He knows how to get things done. But he is also a philosopher and an educator, and this country and this Government needs those assets.

"We shall renew neither ourselves, nor society, nor a troubled world," Dr. Gardner once wrote, "unless we share a vision of something worth saving." Well, this administration, Dr. Gardner, intends to share that vision and to have it chart the course of this administration that will mark the 20th century as the century that fought the war and won the victory over mankind's ancient enemies--poverty, and ignorance, and bigotry, and disease.

This week we hope the Congress will act upon the administration's bill that will permit us to launch an all-out assault against the three major killers of human life in our country today--heart disease, and cancer, and stroke--to track them down, to isolate them, and to destroy them. And we are not going to stop there.

This administration intends to bring the healing miracle of modern medicine to everyone in this country, no matter how remotely they live from the city. If we could just reduce the sick leave of every American worker by one day a year we would be adding $10 billion annually to our gross national product. The savings in human suffering are beyond measure, and if we could have saved the lives of those who died last year alone from heart disease, in that year from cancer and from stroke, they would have earned $5 billion, and the Government would have gotten almost half of it. Now, from that income your Government, as you can see, would have received in excess of $2 billion.

So think of the advances that we could have made on problems that plague us if we had saved that money instead of letting it go down the drain, but both lives and incomes were lost--and they are gone now forever--last year.

We are trying to look ahead to next year. This administration is seeking new ideas and it is certainly not going to discourage any new solutions to the problems of population growth and distribution.

This administration hopes to provide the leadership for an environment that is free of the contamination which pollutes the water that we drink and the air that we breathe.

So I am glad this morning to see one of the most effective and inspirational former leaders of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare--Abe Ribicoff--working at his post to help us continue in the Congress the work that he so ably started when he was in President Kennedy's Cabinet. I know that he would echo what I have said today if he could be out of that committee meeting, for he knows what there is to do and how urgently we need to do it, and I expect the Ribicoff-Gardner team to be heard from more in the days ahead.

So I just want to observe finally, in dosing, that we will, as long as I am President, Dr. Gardner, try to provide an educational opportunity for every youngster in this country, regardless of the condition of his birth, the section he comes from, the poverty of his family, the color of his skin, or his religion.

These are our goals. They are the goals of John Gardner. John Gardner has made excellence his goal and the search for excellence his life. Now, the philosopher, the teacher, and the writer today becomes the active leader in the greatest Government in the world in a great march toward national excellence.

Today, Mr. Secretary, I want to assure you that I will reenlist in your army of excellence, and we all stand ready to march with you under your guidance.

Note: The President spoke at 11 :47 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Dr. and Mrs. John W. Gardner, Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who administered the oath of office.

During his remarks he referred to Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, Anthony J. Celebrezze, outgoing Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Secretary of the Treasury Henry H. Fowler, Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, Secretary of Commerce John T. Connor, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Following the administration of the oath of office, Secretary Gardner spoke briefly. The text of his remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 1, p. 105).

See also Item 385.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Dr. John W. Gardner as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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