Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Lee C. White as Chairman, Federal Power Commission.

March 02, 1966

Mr. White, Mr. Swidler, members of the Cabinet, Members of Congress, members of the White family, my friends:

We have come here today to swear in the chairman of one of the most important Federal agencies in our Federal Government. While there is much in the statute books that tell us what the job is, there is little to tell of the kind of man that ought to hold that job.

I have certain beliefs about the dimensions of the man that I would choose to place at the head of a great governmental agency. First, he must be a public servant. The phrase is precise. "Public" means that he is of the people and "servant" means that he toils in their behalf. There can be no soft spots in this demand, for a sense of duty is foremost in the specifications of this agency's leader.

Second, this man must have courage. The need to be and to do right is never filled, until the act of justice is committed. He must have enough steel in his spine so that the noisy dissent of the crowd doesn't sway him from what he truly believes to be the correct course to follow.

Third, he must have a sense of fair play. Each day he must disprove Lord Acton's theory about the corruption of power. He must at all times be insulated against arrogance, for the corrosion of power is both noticeable and noxious.

The chairman and the members of a commission must always remember that they are the judges for the public interest and not the advocates of a special interest. They should listen to both sides of a question, weigh all the facts and all the evidence available, then come to a decision--a decision that is objective and a decision that is fair.

If you will pardon my allusion to the history of the ancients, one of the best summations of duty, courage, and fair play was uttered by the mother of a great king of Athens a long, long time ago. She said: "Look to the things of God. Know that you are bound to help all who are wronged, bound to constrain all who destroy the law. What rise holds state to state, save this alone: that each one honors the great laws of right."

I take you on this little excursion this morning into the philosophy of government, because today we have come here to this historic East Room in the White House to swear in a man whose acceptance of duty, whose courage, whose appreciation of the rule of right behavior reside comfortably within his daily life.

He succeeds a great Chairman, a friend who has served his Government with ability and devotion for many years. But Lee White also leaves the White House after 5 years of service to two Presidents, as well as many years of service to devoted Members of the Senate of both parties.

Whenever there was a knotty problem here at the White House to be examined and to be solved, Lee, with a quiet and luminous skill, set about to do just what needed to be done. I have always found him a man of good spirit with a tolerance for the nagging details of every problem, as well as very sound judgment about where the facts could be found and where the solution would take US.

The management of the Federal Power Commission is one of the great jobs and one of the key jobs in the Government of the United States. I received a lot of advice, I did a lot of consulting, I pondered long and hard about the man that I would select to succeed Chairman Swidler, who had rendered outstanding and distinguished service.

I have told you this morning some of the qualities in mind and heart that I was looking for, and that I found such a man on the White House staff that I inherited from President Kennedy was a source of mingled emotion, because the White House lost an able and devoted Special Counsel, but the country gained a judicious, highly trained lawyer, with a degree in electrical engineering thrown in, and now the FPC has a good Chairman.

Lee White has served his country and two Presidents with fidelity both to conscience and to pride. Moreover, he goes to the FPC with his sense of humor undiminished. Any man who can survive 5 years in the White House, never stumble over an assigned task, and leave with his ability to laugh unimpaired, is a man that I would warn all of you is to be reckoned with.

I believe the future of the Federal Power Commission to be in sure and skillful and, above all, fair and just hands.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Lee C. White, new Chairman of the Federal Power Commission, and Joseph C. Swidler, outgoing Chairman. The oath of office was administered by Judge E. Barrett Prettyman, Senior Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Lee C. White as Chairman, Federal Power Commission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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