Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Farris Bryant as Director, Office of Emergency Planning.

March 23, 1966

Governor Bryant, Mrs. Bryant, daughter, Congressman Sikes, ladies and gentlemen:

They tell a story down in Louisiana about the time Hurricane Betsy passed through there and picked up everything that was in its path. One farmer was wiped out. The wind took his house, his barn, his livestock, his car, and a great deal of his topsoil. Finally the farmer looked over at his wife and family and laughingly said, "Well, honey, we have lost everything, but we do still have the mortgage !"

Each year natural disasters hit thousands of American families and American businesses, destroying their property and leaving them with nothing but debts. It is the task of the Director of the Office of Emergency Planning to work with the States and the local communities to help these people back on their feet. This great responsibility alone would, in my opinion, make the Director of the Office of Emergency Planning one of the most important men in the entire Federal Government.

But his responsibilities go far beyond disaster relief.

--He sits with the President as a member of the National Security Council of this Nation.

--He coordinates all the civil defense activities of this country.

--In a national emergency he directs the use of this Nation's manpower, industry, transportation, and communications.

--He is responsible for our stockpiles of critical materials.

--He coordinates the telecommunications activities of the entire Federal Government.

This job calls for a very extraordinary man. He must be the President's ambassador to the Governors. He must enjoy the confidence of the American industrial community. He must be a man with the ability to foresee any eventuality and to plan for every eventuality.

Since I came back from New York today I have thrown four or five things out of my basket and said, "Send that over to Farris Bryant." But most of all he must understand the complexities of this great industrial society that we have in America.

We had such a Director in Buford Ellington.

We are fortunate now to have found a worthy successor--Farris Bryant. As a former Governor, a distinguished lawyer, and an outstanding businessman, Governor Bryant is the ideal man for this most difficult assignment. We looked long and hard for such a man. We are delighted, once we found him, that he could be persuaded to come and accept this post and render this service for his country. He understands the problems of business. He understands the problems of State and local government. And he will be able to work effectively, I believe, with both.

Governor Bryant comes to Washington not to dictate, but to cooperate; not to force, but to assist. He will represent what I believe to be the very best of our system of creative federalism.

Our entire National Government is made up of men like Farris Bryant. They represent every State and they speak for every community in America.

They didn't come to Washington to be rulers. They came here to be servants and hopefully to be doers. Each of them believes in our system of local governments. Each believes in our great free enterprise system.

I just left a meeting in the Fish Room where we presented the "E" awards to the outstanding firms in this Nation who have established an all-time record in exports shipped to foreign countries.

Each believes, of course, in the dignity and rights of every American citizen.

Together they are working for a better, richer, freer, and a stronger country.

Farris Bryant has come to Washington-at great personal sacrifice--to help us try to achieve those goals. As my ambassador to all 50 Governors he will serve as a vital link of communication between the States and the Federal Government. He will help us achieve a new era of respect and understanding so that we can work together for the Great Society in America.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 6:10 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Farris Bryant, former Governor of Florida, his wife and daughter, and Representative Robert L. F. Sikes of Florida.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Farris Bryant as Director, Office of Emergency Planning. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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