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Remarks at Big Cedar, Oklahoma, on the Opening of the Ouachita National Forest Road.

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Remarks at Big Cedar, Oklahoma, on the Opening of the Ouachita National Forest Road.

President John F. Kennedy
October 29, 1961

Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Kerr, Governor, Members of the Congress:

I am proud to come to Oklahoma. During the campaign last year I met many citizens of this State, but not in this State. I met them in Alaska, where many Oklabomans had gone in the thirties to build a new life. I met them in the valleys of California, where many citizens of this State had gone in the thirties to build a better life. And they left Oklahoma, the State that they loved, because this country had not learned the lessons of land, wood, and water, because they had not recognized that these great national resources can only be maintained for ourselves and those who come after us by dedicated men--men, land, wood, and water.

Now the citizens of Oklahoma stay in Oklahoma. Now they recognize the opportunities that are to be found in this State-and Oklahomans instead of leaving are coming home.

I think in these years of great hazard for our country, where we are faced with many challenges, and also I believe many opportunities, that we take our lesson and our theme from the Bible and the story of Nehemias, which tells us that when the children of Israel returned from captivity they determined to rebuild the wails of Jerusalem, in spite of the threats of the enemy. The wall was built and the peace was preserved. But it was written, "Of them that built on the wall . . . with one of his hands he did the work, and with the other he held the sword."

We hold the sword, and we are determined to maintain our strength and our commitments. But we also hold in our hand the trowel. We are determined to build in our own country, so that those who come after us--as they surely will find available to them all of the great resources that we now have.

This forest was preserved for the people of this State and country by the efforts of a Congressman from far away Massachusetts, at the turn of the century, who recognized the importance of building for other generations.

But this forest and these rivers and all that has been done here in Oklahoma has been done by the dedicated men that have represented this State in the National Capital-by Senator Robert Kerr who has helped build this State, by his partner Senator Mike Monroney who speaks for Oklahoma and the country, by Carl Albert who in a relatively short period of time has become the Majority Whip of the House, one of the three leaders with Congressman McCormack and Speaker Rayburn of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, which shows their regard for him; and I must say, in fight after fight for the development of the interests of the people of this country this year, Congressman Albert was in front always leading, and always fighting for this country.

And he is associated with distinguished Members who are here today. Congressman Edmondson, and Congressman Jarman, and Congressman Steed, with whom I served once in the House on the Labor and Education Committee. This State has a distinguished Governor, Governor Edmondson, and I am proud that as an old and valued friend of mine he has come here today.

We open this north-south highway, but in a larger sense, this meeting contributes to the education and well-being, in a sense, of the President of the United States. There is nothing more valuable for any occupant of that high office than to leave that city once in a while and come and see this country, and to see what a great asset we have, in these difficult times.

This country will have, by the year two thousand, more than three hundred million people in it. We want them to have the same assets that we have. We want to build for ourselves and for them. And therefore I can assure you, in the 1960's, as the United States carries the standard of freedom everywhere in the world, we will also be carrying the standard of progress, here in Oklahoma, here in the United States, as this country moves ahead.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies. In his opening words he referred to Robert S. Kerr, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, and J. Howard Edmondson, Governor of Oklahoma.

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