THE PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED STATES
JOHN F. KENNEDY
Pierre, South Dakota
11 A. M. Friday, August 17, 1962
F UR RELEASE AT 10: 30 A. M••
(CST) AND 12.:30 P. M., (EDT) August 17, 1962.
Office of the White House Pre S8 Secretary
(Pie r re, South Dakota)
THE WHITE HOUSE
EXCERPTS OF THE PRESIDENT'S REMARKS
MADE AT THE OARE PROJECT AND MISSOURI
RIVER BASIN POWER TRANSMISSION SYSTEM,
PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA
I want to tell you, first of all, how much I am enjoying this opportunity to
get away from Washington -- to talk with local farmers and ranchers and
merchants and find out what they are thinking. Those of us who serve in
Washington spend too much time talking to each other, repeating the same
views or listening to the same pleaders for special interests. That is why
it is good to get away from Washington f rom time to time - - and to get a
better and fresher perspective of what most of our ci.tiaens are thinking
In this same vein, I would hope that those who visit our country from abroad.
if they want ·
to learn the truth about Arne rica, would not confine thei r visits to Washington
and to the great metropolitan areas of the east - - but would visit thi s state
and others like it. With all of the current crop failures behind the Iron Curta.
in, I think visitors from abroad should see the abundance of our fields.
I think they should see our smaller towns, which show the democratic system
at its best - - for we started as a nation of small towns.
I think they should see this dam -- the largest rolled-earth dam in the
world. For this dam alone will produce enough electrical energy every year
to meet all of the power needs of a city the size of Edinburgh, Scotland.
This dam alone will supply enough irrigation to serve an area larger than
the entire nation of Luxembourg. This dam alone will provide a magnificent
reservoir lake -- enriching the beauty and the recreational opportunities of
this area -- as long as Africa's famous Lake Victoria.
Above all, this dam provides a striking illustration of how a free society can
make the most of its God-given resources. Water is our most precious
asset - - and its potential uses are so many and so vital that they are
sometimes in conflict: power versus irrigation. irrigation versus navigation,
navigation versus industrial, industrial versus recreational. Here in the
Missouri Basin, the supply of water cannot meet all of these needs all of
the time. Accommodations are essential -- and in 1944, under the Administration
of Franklin Roosevelt, a comprehensive Missouri Basin plan was
authorized to fulfill all of these objectives.
This is the fifth of six great dams to control the mainstream of the Missouri
River -- and I can assure those of you at the upper end of the Missouri and
our good friends at the lower end that it will continue to be our policy to
regulate the storage and flow of water in these reservoirs in the most advantageous
manner for all concerned that the most creative engineers ill the
world can possibly devise.
In an earlier day, visitors from other lands would have seen the tremendous ;.'~'
energy of the Missouri River flowing unharnessed to the Mississippi -- now
they can see a series of great hydroelectric plants, of which this is the
largest, transmitting billions of kilowatt hours every year to a Bureau of
Reclamation System that services nince states. In that earlier day. tourists
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coming to the Missouri Basin from afar would be visiting a major flood
area, with eight tragic disasters in a period of ten years causing more than
half a billion dollars of damage. Now, they will see five great dams and
shortly a sixth, providing a combined storage of 110 million acre feet of
water -- about four times the entire annual flow of this river -- preventing
major floods, while at the same time providing the sustained river flow
needed by large down-stream cities to supply their domestic and industrial
water needs and carry away their waste.
Too often we take for granted these miracles of engineering and milestones
in river development. Too often we see no connection between this darn
and our nation's prosperity, our national security and our leadership of th on e
nations who cherish their freedom. But the facts of the matter are that this
dam, and many more like it, are as essential to the expansion and growth
')f the American economy as any measure the Congress is considering on
taxes or unemployment -- and this dam and the others like it are as essential
te, our national strength and security as any military alliance or missile comphx.
Whs n we are inclined to take the se wonders for granted, let us remember
that only a generation or two ago all the great rivers of America -- the Missouri,
the Columbia, the Mississippi and the Tennessee -- ran to the sea
unharnessed and unchecked. Their power potential was wasted -- their
economic benefits were sparse -- and their perennial flooding caused appalling
destruction of life and property.
Then the vision of Theodore Roosevelt was fulfilled by FrankJ,in Roosevelt
and this nation began to develop its river resources more systematically,
to conserve its soil and water more fully and to channel the destructive
forces .of torrential rivers into constructive ends of power and light.
Today, as a result, the face of this nation has been changed -- forests and
fields are growing where once there was nothing but parched earth -- and
prosperity thrives where once there was only despair.
If there is one outstanding story among all those which illustrate the progress
we have made, it is the story of REA -- the story of Franklin Roosevelt,
Sam Rayburn and George Norris of nearby Nebraska.
Less than 30 years ago, fewer than 10 percent of all rural homes had electric
power. Our farmers had no opportunity to use modern labor-saving equipment
-- their wives had no opportunity to use every-day household appliances
- - their children had no radio to listen to and no ele ctj-ic lights to read by.
Today more than 95 percent of our rural homes have electric power. The
lives of our farm and ranch families have thereby been enriched in a hundred
different ways -- with a higher standard of living, with increased output,
and with new economic and social and educational opportunities.
The REA cooperatives and power districts which have marketed this power
have proven to be a successful middle ground between private corporations
and public ownership, serving as a constant bulwark against political and
e60nomi c extremes, and making the most of Theodore Roosevelt's principle
that marketing agencies which represent all of the people should be
given a preference in the development of waters which belong to all the people.
The role of the REA is not finished, as some would believe. To be sure,
most farms now have electric light. Most REA cooperatives and pcw e r
districts are well established. But we are rapidly approaching the time
when this nation will boast a three hundred million population, a two trillion
dollar national income, and a grave responsibility as the breadbasket: and
food market for a world whose population will have doubled. That is the
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prospect for the end of this century - - and the key to this century is pOWCl' -power
on the farm as well as the factory -- power in the country as well as
As the need for power on the farm and in the countryside continues to increase,
electricity rates must remain low -- more generating capacity must
develop -- and soon the vast resources of nuclear energy must be tapped.
This is not a choice between spending and saving - - for REA is a form of
saving: savings hours and lives on the farm -- saving t:arms for our
nation's needs -- and saving and returning to our nation's government evel"!
dollar loaned, with interest. In taxes on new appliances, new equipment
and new farm income, the miracle of REA has returned to the public treasuries
many times the entire cost of the program.
But Sam Rayburn and George Norris did not initiate this program with either
spending or saving as the primary objective. They were interested in having
the farms of America serviced with electricity -- in making first-class
twentieth century American citizens out of our r-ur-al population. Their only
question was -- what kind of program is necessary to accomplish this result?
It is this same que stion which confronts us now in all the areas of natural
resource development required for the 1960's. Our electric power needs
will double during this decade -- our economic, military and international
posture will require a continuing ability to find new sources of energy.
Surely a continent so rich in minerals, a Nation so blessed with water power
and a society so replete with scientists and technicians can meet this
challenge by making the best possible use of all our energy resources and
all who are engaged in transmitting it -- public and p» ~vate, federal and
local, cooperative and corporate.
We cannot afford inefficiency and waste. We cannot afford endless debate
and delay. We look forward to the day when energy will flow whenever and
wherever the demand requires through physically integrated supply systems
owned and operated by both private and public institutions within our traditional
framework of competition. If the railroads prevent coal slurry pipelines
from conveying the resources of our mines -- if the mining interests prevent
the use of nuclear energy for public and private transmission - - if public
and private power interests veto each other's progress, or if one region
refuses to permit another to share in its abundance -- then we shall be
entering a decade of challenge and crisis with an inexcusable, vulnerable
attitude of waste. And the American people will be the losers.
But if we can apply to this challenge the same principle of efficiency, co-ope
ration and foresight which made this great dam possible - - the same
principles which cause American technicians to be sought out the world over,
to assist in developing the Nile, the Volta, the Mekong, and the Indus --
then all of us here and in every state of the fifty states may look to the future
That the energy of powerful rivers is a national asset capable of ready translation
into productive capacity has been fully appreciated by the Soviet Union.
Although its power production is less than 400/0 of that of the United States
at present, the harnessing of Russian rivers enjoys a high priority and
Soviet engineers are making significant advances in the technology of transmitting
ene rgy generated in the giant rivers of the east to their industrialized
population centers. It continues to be our earnest hope that the day is not
distant when all the electrical energy gene rated by Russian rive r s - - and
indeed by all the rivers, steamplants, nuclear reactors and all other energy
sources throughout the world - - will be devoted to peaceful purposes and the
general elevation of the standard of living of all peoples.
While this dam has great significance in South Dakota, it has a meaning and
a message for all the world. I salute you for the tasks that have here been
performed -- but I challenge you. as I challenge all Americans, to the .
great tasks which still lie ahead. If we are to make certain that our energy
developments will always compare favorably with anything Secretary Udall
will see on his trip to the Soviet Union this month - - if we are to make
c e rtain that this heartland of America will always have the soil and water
t o feed the world's hung ry and homeless, as George McGovern has demon-st
rated so ably for these last eighteen months -- if we are to fulfill our own
promise as a nation and our pledge to the world. -- we must dedicate ourselves
to the greater challenge which will not let us rest.
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