Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of John A. Gronouski as Postmaster General.

February 19, 1965

General and Mrs. Gronouski, members of their family, members of the Cabinet, ladies and gentlemen:

I delayed coming because I didn't want to compete for the press with the distinguished Foreign Minister of France. But I am informed now that he has gone his way, and even though I am a little late I am happy to be here with you.

The Office of Postmaster General is a very old and a very honored establishment of our executive branch of the Government. Presidents since George Washington have all shown an uncommon interest in their Postmasters General, and so have their Congresses.

I think it was back in 1827 when a Member of Congress explained why the Postmaster General is so important, and I will quote him, General Gronouski. He said, "His functions are as delicate and important as those of any other office of the government, and his patronage probably greater."

Times have changed considerably since then. Our Post Office Department is in the hands today of very dedicated, devoted, and efficient career employees, who handle more mail each year than all of the rest of the postal systems in all the rest of the world. The annual volume of mail has reached 72 billion pieces. In other words, our Post Office delivers the equivalent of one letter every day, 365 days a year, to every man, woman, and child in all the United States.

Managing and directing this vast operation is one of the most important challenges in the Federal Government. I believe, and I think the Congress concurs, that this demanding job is being filled now by one of the outstanding Postmasters General of the modern era.

Other Cabinet officers continue to serve at the pleasure of the President without reappointment being made. But Congress, in its wisdom, has specified that the Postmaster General must serve somewhat at their pleasure too, for a very specified term. I don't know whether the interest of Congress attaches to the "delicacy and importance" of the job, as mentioned in the debates of 1827, or to the "patronage" of the office.

At any rate, I called John Gronouski in the other day and I mentioned to him that the Attorney General had informed me, just after he was confirmed, that the Postmaster General's term had run out.

Well, John took it very calmly. That pipe of his filled my office with a big burst of smoke, and in the spirit of the first Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin, John said: "I shall never seek, never refuse, nor ever resign an office."

But he added: "Mr. President, I would be honored and quite pleased to keep getting my mail at the same old address."

So, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and with the hearty approval on my part, neither appointment nor confirmation shall stay John Gronouski from the continued accomplishment of his appointed rounds.

I am very pleased that General Gronouski, his entire very fine management team, and his outstanding career servants are all dedicated in the tradition of Benjamin Franklin to thrift and frugality, and to improved service for the American people. I think before I ask him to exercise too much of it though, we will have a little seminar, where he can pick up pointers from the Secretary of Agriculture on how to dose research stations; the head of the Veterans Administration on how to close antiquated hospitals; the Secretary of Defense on what to do with obsolete military bases. Perhaps John can find out what to do with some fourth-class post offices.

We do want to continue to improve the efficiency of our mail service for all the patrons of our postal system, and we do want to operate it with 20th century methods. Over the years I think that we have made very great progress.

It was called to my attention recently that in 1861 a speed record was set in delivering the Inaugural Address of President Lincoln to the west coast. Using pony express, copies of Lincoln's address were delivered from Washington to California in 7 days and 17 hours, by 75 ponies, at a cost of $5 per one-half ounce.

Today, for only 5 cents we can send 3 ounces of Presidential addresses across the country--at about the same rate of speed.

Yesterday, on the eve of the new term, the Postmaster General stated his promise that during his new administration his goal would be to provide overnight mail service to all points in the continental United States.

Well, that is his goal. I am for it. I would only point out that until that promise is fulfilled, I want the press to duly record that it is John Gronouski's promise, not mine. But if it does come to pass, it will be the record of the Johnson administration.

I am so pleased that all of you could come here for this event. I am particularly happy that Mrs. Gronouski, who has done so much to help the Postmaster General arrive where he is today, and their lovely children could be here and witness this ceremony. And I am very grateful to the Members of Congress for indulging me.

Note: The President spoke at 12:45 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Postmaster General and Mrs. John A. Gronouski. The reference in the second paragraph was to French Foreign Minister Couve de Murville who had met with the President just prior to the swearing-in ceremony.

The text of the remarks by Mr. Gronouski in response to the President was also released.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of John A. Gronouski as Postmaster General. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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