Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Robert C. Weaver and Robert C. Wood as Secretary and Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

January 18, 1966

Dr. and Mrs. Weaver, Dr. and Mrs. Wood, Mr. Vice President, distinguished Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Congress, my friends who are guests here at this memorable moment in American history:

I am sure this is a very proud moment for all of us and for all of America.

It is the beginning of a very exciting adventure. We are setting out to make our cities places where the good life is possible.

There are voices saying the problems of this age have so outstripped our common resources that the city can no longer effectively serve its citizens.

Some say that the city has become unmanageable, unworkable, and unlivable. Some point to our crowded schools and to our shortage of decent houses, to our growing welfare burden, to our diminishing tax base, to our shapeless growth, the tension between its peoples, the crime in its streets, the breakdown in its services, and the pollution of its air and its water.

I do not deny the existence or the gravity of these problems, nor do I pretend that they are going to yield to easy solutions.

But I do not believe for a moment that the cause of the American city is yet lost. A powerful and a prosperous Nation, blessed with the human and natural resources at our command, just must not fail in its most vital quest: to improve the quality of life for 135 million people who presently inhabit these cities.

Yet I know we are going to fail if we are timid for a moment.

We will fail, if we pursue the old paths merely because they have been venerated by custom.

To make our cities liveable will require the commitment of our best minds, our selfless determination, our willingness to explore new ways of building, and new dimensions of planning, and new methods of coordinating what we know about man and what we know about man's environment.

The great new Department that must meet this challenge was built upon the foundation of the Housing and Home Finance Agency. That Agency provided shelter for millions of American citizens.

But it will no longer be enough merely to provide housing for people. For the challenge of the city is so complex and so intricate a fabric of interwoven problems--social and psychological, physical and financial, and racial, that any arm of public policy charged with responding to this challenge must be competent to deal with its human needs, as well as with its brick and its mortar.

And because I believe this so deeply, and because the Congress shares this belief, I have selected, as the first principal officers of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, two men who have spent lifetimes in the service of the city. They are scholars of the city--of its practical affairs as well as its human needs.

As Secretary, I have selected--I am so proud to say that the Senate yesterday unanimously approved the man that I believe best fitted by experience and skill to take control of his Department from the start, and to provide it with the leadership, and the understanding, and the commonsense, and the drive, and the determination that it must have to serve urban America--Robert Weaver.

Bob Weaver now has his charge. It is to build our cities anew. Maybe that is too much to put on the shoulders of one single man. But we shall never know, Bob, until we try it.

I thought that he should have some help, and the Congress agreed. I thought he should have as his principal deputy someone who knows almost as much about cities as Bob does. And lastly, I thought that we should prove that Harvard is not the only institution of higher learning in the Boston area, so I went to MIT for the Under Secretary. I may say that I had a hard time locating my man because he seemed to be in Washington more often than he was in Boston. But I finally found him, and he is here by Bob Weaver's side this morning. His name is Robert Wood.

And in the presence of these witnesses, let me repeat the charge that I give you as you accept this public trust:

Take the authorities vested in you, and so manage the responsibility that is yours, that years from now those four Americans out of five who will live in cities will honor your names.

No one has ever borne such a charge before. No one could receive it more endowed with the confidence of his President and his fellow Americans.

Thank you.

[At this point, the oaths of office were administered to Dr. Weaver and Dr. Wood by Judge E. Barrett Prettyman, Senior Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals tot the District of Columbia. The President then resumed speaking.]

The problems of our cities and the problems of people are not confined to our country alone. We have many in the world and many particularly in this hemisphere. For the last hour and a half the Vice President and I, along with the distinguished Acting Secretary of State, have been discussing the problems of this hemisphere, and I am proud to announce this morning that I have succeeded in prevailing upon the distinguished Ambassador to Brazil, the Honorable Lincoln Gordon, to accept the assignment to succeed Mr. Jack Vaughn, who has moved to the Peace Corps, as Assistant Secretary of State.

I'd like to present Mr. Gordon, the present Ambassador to Brazil.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Dr. and Mrs. Robert C. Weaver, Dr. and Mrs. Robert C. Wood, and the Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Robert C. Weaver and Robert C. Wood as Secretary and Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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