Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Demonstration Cities Bill and the Clean Water Restoration Bill

November 03, 1966

Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

Since the dawn of civilization, man has been the unwilling pawn of the forces of his environment. Even when he has come to terms with those forces, the terms have never really been his own.

But we now possess the tools to reach out into our environment and to shape it to our will. Today Congress has put some of those tools in our hands.

With them we are going to meet, head on two of the central challenges of our day and generation--the slow decay of our cities and the relentless poisoning of our waters.

The first of these two measures, the model cities program, recognizes that our cities are made of people, not just bricks and mortar.

It does us no good to clean out our slums if the people there have no place to go.

It does us no good to build modern schools if there are no children to attend them.

It does us no good to give workers new skills if they are unable to find any jobs.

These are the hard lessons of the past. With the model cities program:

--Poor children can have a rain-free roof over their heads and a rat-proof bedroom to sleep in.

--Our unemployed citizens can come off the welfare roles and get onto the payrolls.

--Our families can live in decent communities where green parks and open spaces will inspire their pride and enrich their lives.

--All of our citizens can have the schools and the transportation, the medical care and the recreation that spell the difference between despair and the good life.

Let me be clear about one point: This is not a measure just for big cities or just for small cities. It is a measure for all of our cities.

Making it work will not be easy. It will take all of our talents and the energies and support of State and local governments, of public and private groups, and of the individual citizens.

No one knows this better than the two men whose task it is to make this program work. They are Secretary Robert Weaver and his deputy, Robert Wood. They are exceptional men who relish the strength of ideas, but they are also doers who know that those ideas have to be translated into action.

The second bill we will sign today will enhance the quality of life for every American-the Clean Water Restoration Act will give us the power to rescue the once clear waters of our streams and our rivers and our lakes from the growing menace of pollution.

Like the problem of the cities, water pollution can no longer be attacked piecemeal. Our attack must be comprehensive if it is to be total. Pollution is not a problem of the individual cities or even the individual States. It is a problem of the entire riversheds and water basins. And there is where the problem must be fought.

The new measure will allow us to do that. It enlarges and it strengthens the comprehensive approach that is already begun. It creates new incentives for our States and for our cities. It strengthens their partnership with industry and with the Federal Government. It enables us to work together on sound and practical plans for controlling pollution once and for all.

Clean streets and dear rivers--could anything really be more basic to a Great Society? Could anything really be more vital to our children?

I have signed many bills in the 3 years that I have been President. I will sign perhaps a thousand this year. But none has given me greater pleasure than the ones that we are about to sign this afternoon. For they are proud additions to the legacy of a greater America.

I welcome each of you to the East Room this afternoon as participants at this historic occasion.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:06 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

As enacted, the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966 is Public Law 89-754 (80 Stat. 1255), and the Clean Water Restoration Act of 1966 is Public Law 89-753 (80 Stat. 1246).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the Demonstration Cities Bill and the Clean Water Restoration Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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