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Remarks at the Swearing In of Walter E. Washington as Mayor of the District of Columbia.

February 13, 1969

Mr. Justice Marshall, ladies and gentlemen:

We are here today for the swearing in of Mayor Washington. I would like to have him step forward and Mrs. Washington step forward with him.

[At this point Thurgood Marshall, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, administered the oath of office. The President then resumed speaking.]

Mayor Washington, I congratulate you and I want to make one point that perhaps had not occurred to many people in this room. I am a resident of the city of Washington, and while all over the United States it would probably be recognized that the President is the top citizen, in this city, the Mayor is the top citizen. I am a resident of your city.

At this time, too, I would like to present to this distinguished gathering the three men whose names will be sent to the Senate for confirmation, I trust, as members of the City Council: Gilbert Hahn, as Chairman of the City Council; Sterling Tucker as Vice Chairman; and the Reverend Jerry Moore.

Now, in presenting these three members of the City Council, or members-to-be-we cannot have them sworn in at this time, Mr. Justice, because the Senate would not appreciate my moving before they gave their consent, but I do think it would be appropriate in the presence of the Mayor and the members of the Council to make just a few remarks with regard to the immense importance of the assignments they will be undertaking in the years ahead.

Every day when we pick up our papers or listen to the television and radio, we hear about the crisis of American cities. We would be less than honest if we were not to admit that our cities are in crisis for a variety of reasons that we don't need to go into now.

As we look at the cities and their crises, I can tell you from the brief experience I have already had in the Office of the Presidency that the eyes of the Nation are turned to Washington, first to the Federal Government, and the question that we often--week after week and hour after hour--struggle with in the Executive Office of the President is, "What kind of a Federal program can we develop to handle the problems of the cities?"

I want to make it very clear that the Federal Government will meet its responsibility to assist our cities. The Federal Government will do everything that is appropriate, everything that is possible to help the people of the cities and the governments of the cities meet this crisis.

But also I should emphasize that all of our studies to date and the studies of the previous administrations have led to this conclusion: that the Federal Government could do everything, and unless we have strong local government and unless we have strong home rule, unless we have the support of the people of the cities, it will be nothing--nothing in terms of progress.

That is why, as we look at the city of Washington, while the Federal Government has a greater responsibility here than toward any other city, that here, too, we must recognize that without a strong local government, without real home rule, and without the support of the citizens, the people of Washington, the Federal activities will come to naught.

That is why I am so very happy this morning that we have a strong team, headed by the Mayor and with the members of the City Council and the others who will be in the city organization.

As we move toward home rule in the District of Columbia, the stronger self-government, the stronger home rule we have here, the more progress we can make together toward solving the problems of this city.

As one who has lived in Washington during my adult life, perhaps more than in any other city in the country, I am proud of this city, as is every American who has ever visited here. It is a beautiful city. I think everyone here wants this city to be the model city for all America and a model city for the world.

That is our objective, and with this kind of leadership within the city in the area of home rule and with the assistance that we are going to continue to give on a greater scale than has been in the past at the Federal level, we think we can achieve the goal of making Washington, D.C., a model city for America and the world.

I think we would like to hear from the Mayor. You can speak for your colleagues because they are not confirmed yet and you are.

Note: The President spoke at 9:47 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. Following the President's remarks, Mayor Walter E. Washington spoke. His remarks are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 256).

The three nominees to the Council, introduced by the President, were sworn in on March 13, 1969.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Swearing In of Walter E. Washington as Mayor of the District of Columbia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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