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50 Years Ago:
Kennedy at the Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam,
October 3, 1963

October 2013

John F. Kennedy gives address at Dedication Ceremonies for the Whiskeytown Dam in California, Sept. 28, 1963.

Excerpt from the Remarks of John F. Kennedy in Heber Springs, Arkansas,  at the Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam.

Listen to Audio Here: 

...This is a great country that was given to us and a great land. It is our job, it seems to me, to make the most of it, to make sure that we in our time plant our forests, use our water, develop our power, provide recreation for our people, do in our time to the extent that we can what Franklin Roosevelt did in his time and, before him, what Theodore Roosevelt did in his time—to use this great country which in the short space of 30 years ago had only 130 million people within its borders and by the year 2000 will have 350 million people, to make sure that we take those steps now which will make it possible for those who come after us to have a better life. 

This dam represents not merely the time of construction; it represents almost 30 years of effort. It was first authorized in part way back during the New Deal and then it was talked about again afterwards, and then finally the money was appropriated in the mid-fifties. And now the dam is built in 1963 and next spring will begin to get power. And the full impact of it will be felt by the sense of recreation and industry and all the rest in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. That is a long view. It is a man's lifetime, and I would like to see us in this decade preparing as we must for all of the people who will come after us.... 

Photo provided by: Millermz at en.wikipedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
The Greers Ferry Dam, located on the Little Red River in north-central Arkansas..

...No State in the Union is going faster than the State of Arkansas. If you realize what this State and other States like it went through in the 20 years from 1919 to 1939—the depression of the early twenties, the depression of 11 years, of the thirties, the stagnation on the farms and in the cities—and then realize how this State has boomed relative to the rest of the Nation in the last 5 or 10 years, we realize a good deal of this was due to the wise decisions taken in the thirties when the framework was laid with great opposition to those who objected to what was being done in Washington, great opposition to the efforts which Franklin Roosevelt and the Congress made in those days. And yet, when we look from 1945 to now, almost 20 years, we have had a gradual rising tide of prosperity throughout our entire country. 

Those two records—that contrast between what we saw then between the wars and what it meant to this State, and others like it, and what we have seen since 1945 should make, it seems to me, a deep impression upon those who seek to end a partnership between the National Government and this State and others which develop the resources of the State and improve the life of the people. 

This State is one great country and it seems to me incumbent, north and south, east and west, that we take those decisions now which will provide for a gradually increasing tide of life for the people of this State over the next 20 and 25 years. And those who think it can be left to chance are wrong. It was left to chance for 20 years between the two wars and as a result of the deliberate decisions made since then, it seems to me, this State is a fine product and example of what can be done by the people here, working together, working hard, and working with the support of intelligent national policies. And those people who say it is "pork barrel"—which is more wasteful: the waste of life and property and hope or a multi-purpose project which can be used by all of our people? Which is more wasteful: to fail to tap the energies of that river, to let that water flood, to deny this chance for the development of recreation and power, or to use it and to use it wisely? Which is more wasteful: to let the land wash away, to let it lie arid, or to use it and use it wisely and to make those investments which will make this a richer State and country in the years to come? 

These projects produce wealth, they bring industry, they bring jobs, and the wealth they bring brings wealth to other sections of the United States. This State had about 200,000 cars in 1929. It has a million cars now. They weren't built in this State. They were built in Detroit. As this State's income rises, so does the income of Michigan. As the income of Michigan rises, so does the income of the United States. A rising tide lifts all the boats and as Arkansas becomes more prosperous so does the United States and as this section declines so does the United States. So I regard this as an investment by the people of the United States in the United States. 

Therefore, I take pride in coming here today. I know that 10 years from now, if we come back again, flying as we did over the land, that we will see an even richer State, and I think you can take pride and satisfaction in what you have done. 

I appreciate the fact that we have had this opportunity to join together in dedicating this project, in committing it to the service of the people of Arkansas and to the service of the people of the United States. This project, and others like it, I think, must be developed in this decade, so that the United States will continue to be the most beautiful and best country in the world. Thank you.