John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks Upon Accepting a Painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

September 25, 1962

GENERAL, I want to express my great appreciation to the Guard for this very generous gift to the White House and to congratulate Mr. Riley. I think this is a first-class painting which will add materially to the White House. We'll put it out in the Fish Room because I think it should be seen by our visitors.

I also want to take this opportunity to commend the Guard. They have played a very significant role in all the wars of our country's history. In World War I, I think they provided over 300,000 men in a number of divisions; they did the same in World War II. They played an important role in the Korean War. They were both in the air and on the ground. They played a role during the Berlin crisis of last year, and they stand ready again today.

Now there are those who argue that we really don't have so much need for a Guard, that war has changed so materially that we should have an Army continuously large enough to meet any conceivable crisis, and that the role of the Guard is somewhat secondary. I don't agree with that.

Crises come and, we hope, go, and we find ourselves materially stronger. And the power of the Executive and the Congress is strengthened considerably when we have this large pool of trained manpower who have, by their signing up in the Guard, announced their willingness to serve and be called. So that the Guard is undefeated; whether it's on the field of battle or in the halls of Congress, still, and will, I'm sure, continue to maintain that proud tradition.

I can just assure you that in these very difficult days, that the existence of the Guard, these trained divisions, the Air units as well as the Reserves, who also comprise an important segment of our national strength, that they are very valuable and play a very significant role. And this battle scene is symbolic, I think, of the civilian preparedness to serve. Today our civilians are, because of the Guard, better prepared even than those men were, but the same spirit is there.

So I'm glad to have this picture, and it's a good reminder. I appreciate those who came over from the Department of the Army and the Air Force who participated in this ceremony, General, because I think it has importance, particularly this month, this fall.

Note: The President spoke in his office at the White House. The painting, entitled "The Whites of Their Eyes," is the work of Kenneth Riley. The picture was presented by Maj. Gen. D. W. McGowan, Chief, National Guard Bureau, on behalf of the more than 470,000 Army and Air National Guardsmen.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks Upon Accepting a Painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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