John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks of Welcome to the Second International Congress on Medical Librarianship

June 19, 1963

Ladies and gentlemen:

I want to express a very warm welcome to you to the United States, to Washington, and to the White House. And I am particularly glad that all of you have gathered together to pool and certainly to arrange to pool more effectively all of the knowledge we have gathered together.

For almost 2,000 years, very little progress was made in medicine and, suddenly, in the last 100 years, and particularly in the last 25 or 30 years, there has been this revolution in medicine and in science. Most of the scientists who've ever lived are now living. So what we have in the 20th century is this tremendous increase in knowledge which expands almost faster than the universe, and our task is to attempt to make that knowledge widely available.

In research laboratories all over the world men are making advances which can mean a happier and more secure, more fruitful life for all of our people. It is important that that knowledge be developed and be made available. We have case after case--and I have seen it very recently in mental retardation-where knowledge which is available does not go out to all of our doctors, and the result in many cases has been failures by doctors to perceive those signs at early birth which could have made a difference to a whole lifetime. When you see cases such as that, and you live with them all of the time, you realize how important your work is.

I was, as a Member of the Senate, the cosponsor with Senator Hill of the bill which set up our National Library of Medicine here which you are going to visit today. We are proud of those who work in it and of the other libraries across the country.

Professor Kittredge of Harvard once said that all of Harvard could be destroyed if her library stood. What, of course, he meant was that if all of the memory, all of the knowledge could be maintained, could be retained, which was in the library, all the rest could disappear. The same is almost true of medicine. So what you do is vitally important.

Librarians--I think it is a proud title. It contributes and supports the work of every doctor, every nurse, it works in every field. So I think you should take the greatest pride in what you are doing, and we are very proud to have you.

All this knowledge in the field of health does not know national lines; it is international. We have a good deal to learn. Some of our most important discoveries in the last 25 years have come from our friends abroad. We want to share all we have, and the people who can arrange that sharing can be most effective and therefore those who play a major role in making this globe of ours more peaceful and happier are you ladies and gentlemen. So we are glad to welcome you.

When you visit the White House, you can recall that one of our earliest Presidents occupied himself with vaccinating Indian chiefs--so therefore you will feel a sense of kinship.

We are very glad to have you here.

Note: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. Following his remarks Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, spoke briefly to the delegates. The text of Mr. Stevenson's remarks was also released.

The Second International Congress on Medical Librarianship met in Washington June 16-22, 1963.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks of Welcome to the Second International Congress on Medical Librarianship Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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