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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  194. Address in Arkansas at the Dedication of the Norfork and Bull Shoals Dams  
July 2, 1952

Mr. Chairman, Congressman Trimble, Governor McMath, and distinguished guests:

I am of course delighted to be here today. You know, this part of the country is very familiar to me. When I was a boy, my family lived on a farm over in western Missouri. When I was a young man, I traveled a great deal in these parts with my father. I have since been over nearly every county in south Missouri and north Arkansas.

I am glad to be here among so many friends. I am sure that you are all as impressed as I am by this huge dam here at Bull Shoals. And the one I saw over at Norfork this morning is almost as big as this one.

These dams belong to the people. We are here to dedicate them to the service of the people.

Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams will hold back millions of gallons of flood water. The engineers call it acre-feet, but you and I know how much a gallon is. We don't know very much about an acre. Foot of water. This water would otherwise go on a rampage down the river, tearing up farmland, and carrying away homes, and filling towns with mud and trash.

The electric generators at these dams will have a capacity of more than 230,000 kilowatts. These dams will have capacity enough to supply four cities the size of Little Rock, Arkansas, or seven cities the size of Springfield, Missouri. When you contemplate that, you can understand just exactly what you have in these two dams.

The reservoirs behind these dams are creating wonderful opportunities for fishing and camping and recreation. I am told that more than 700,000 people visited Norfork Lake last year. And they told me over there that they caught 750,000 pounds of fish out of it, and I guess they will do just as well here when this one gets properly stocked.

These are marvelous projects, indeed. They are examples of how men have learned to put the resources of nature to work for human good. But they are examples of something else, too. They are examples of how people have to fight to overcome not only the forces of nature, but also the forces of reaction and selfishness.

You people in Arkansas and Missouri know how hard you have had to fight to get these dams built. Bull Shoals and Norfork were opposed-bitterly opposed. And why were they opposed? Because in addition to stopping floods they were to produce hydroelectric power.

And right here the public interest ran head-on into private selfishness. For there were some private power companies in this area who thought that nobody should be allowed to produce power but themselves. These private power companies had been given State charters to produce and sell power, and they seemed to think that gave them some sort of divine right to prevent anyone else from producing electricity for the public good.

They fought against these dams for years. They made speeches, they put ads in the papers, they appeared before congressional committees, trying by every means--fair and foul alike--to prevent these dams from being started. And I was in the Senate at the time, and I know exactly the program they put on.

You may remember that the Arkansas Power and Light Company built an expensive working model of a dam. This model was supposed to prove that you could not have flood control and power in the same project. The company carted that thing all over the State of Arkansas, trying to fool people. They didn't fool anybody but themselves.

I hope the gentlemen who built that model will come up here and take a look at Bull Shoals and Norfork. They will see how foolish they were. These great dams are stopping floods and they are producing power--at the same time and in the same projects. It's pretty hard to argue against a fact when it is right before you.

But it isn't enough simply to produce power at dams like these. That power is no good unless it gets to the people who need it, and at a cost they can afford to pay. Power can make a tremendous difference in people's lives, as many of you here know from your own experience. Electricity can replace the coal oil lamp, the hand-operated pump. It can replace hand milking and the old fashioned washboard. I have a couple of nephews on the farm up home. They milk a lot of cows--and only two of them. And if they didn't have electric milking machinery they couldn't do it. Farm families and town families need electric refrigerators, and freezers, and hay dryers, and food grinders, and they can put electricity to a hundred other uses.

That's where this power ought to go--to lighten the burdens of farmers and workers and housewives. And as long as I have anything to do with it, that's where the power will go.

But the private power companies have a contrary idea. Right now, they are trying to stop farmers of this area from getting the benefit of low-cost hydroelectric power through electric cooperatives. The power companies have been bringing lawsuits, and running advertisements, and appearing before Congress. Why are they doing that? I'll tell you why. It is to try and make the farmers pay more for their electricity. It's just as simple--and as shocking--as that.

The private power companies around here made a great hullabaloo about these dams being what they called socialism. The president of the Southwestern Gas and Electric Company went up to Washington and told a congressional committee that these dams would be a "method toward the socialization of the electric industry."

I really brought you good luck. It looks like it is going to rain.

That's what they say about a lot of things the Government is doing these days. Take the American Medical Association--it uses the same slogan in its fight against better health and hospital services for the common man. The real estate lobby uses the same lying slogan in its fight against housing programs. In other words, every time we try to do something for the people, some special interest pops up and yells "socialism." And that's what has happened here. And you know there is just as much truth in the other things as there was in this, and so guide yourselves accordingly.

Now, I should like to give the private power companies a little warning. You can't fool the people of this country. No matter how much of the consumers' money you spend on false and misleading advertising, you just can't beat the commonsense of the American people. I call your attention to something that Mr. Doyle Pope, a farmer over here in Norman, Oklahoma, told the Senate Appropriations Committee in May of this year. Mr. Pope was speaking on behalf of his neighbors in the rural electric cooperatives of this area. Now Mr. Pope said, and I quote him verbatim from the record of the Congressional Appropriations Committee:

"We are getting more than a little bit fed up with utility companies who talk out of both sides of their face, who smear us farmers as socialists and who have the gall to come before Congress and say that they are actually here to protect us against a Communist-inspired plot to take over the entire utility industry ...." This is Mr. Pope talking, now.

"For 17 years we have been the objects of an unparalleled campaign of smear and vilification on the part of certain power companies. They come before this committee each year and attack us. When we want protection, we know by this time that we are not going to get it from the power companies. The only kind of protection they have to offer is the kind of protection that Stalin gave Poland."

That is what Mr. Pope said. That's not me talking at all, although I think he said a pretty good mouthful.

I say to the private power companies, take notice. Mr. Pope is not a Government employee, he is a farmer. He is not speaking for a Government agency, he is speaking for himself and his neighbors.

Sooner or later the private power companies are going to find out that they cannot stand in the way of what the people need in this country. And the sooner they find that out, the better it will be for everybody concerned, including themselves. We don't want to pulverize the private power companies. We want to help them, but we want to be darned sure that they don't "help" us out of business in things like that.

But no matter what the private power companies do or say, if I have my way about it we are going right ahead to develop our water resources all over this country for the benefit of all the people.

Right here in this area, we need at least half a dozen more dams like Bull Shoals and Norfork before we will begin to have the rivers harnessed for the welfare of the people. I have just asked the Congress to appropriate money for Table Rock Dam, on this same river up in Missouri. I hope they will approve those funds, because Table Rock should be started this year.

But we need something more than big dams on the rivers. We have to go up the tributaries, and up the small creeks, and do something about flood waters up there, where the rain hits the ground.

We need to plant trees and sow grass to hold water that now runs off bare land. We need more contour plowing, more terracing, more cover crops. We need a lot of small dams up on the little creeks--many of them the sort of dams you could build with a couple of draglines and a bulldozer.

There have been some wonderful experiments made in this sort of work. Over on the Washita River, where it crosses from Texas into Oklahoma, the farmers and the Government have taken one little watershed--the Sandstone Creek watershed--and have shown in practice what ought to be done everywhere. As a result, the flood damage in that little watershed has been reduced an estimated 98 percent.

Now General Pick and I have been working for 30 years trying to get a general flood program in this whole Mississippi Valley, and we have been stymied at every point. When the flood comes they say to General Pick and they say to me, "Well, stop this flood right now."

Flood control is a continuing and a lasting proposition, and the program that General Pick and I want will take 20 years to consummate. Sometime or other we are going to get this done, in spite of all the opposition.

Now this project over here in Washita Valley undoubtedly will be called by the special interest fellows "socialism at the grassroots." As a matter of fact, it is just one example of what can be done all over our great country.

We need to treat the lands on which the rain falls, to build small dams on the little creeks, and to build big dams and levees on the main rivers. In this way, we can do more than stop floods. We can get more farm production, more electric power, more reclamation, navigation, recreation, and other benefits.

The money put into these projects will prove bread cast upon the waters--really cast upon the waters. It will return the cost many times over in benefits to the people of this region. We have been doing the same sort of thing for people all over the country and we are going to keep right on doing it, no matter what the opposition may have to say. And I want to say to you if it had not been for the New Deal and the fair Deal over the last an years, you wouldn't have these dams and these improvements on these other rivers like it. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I'd like to see the day when every major river in our country is under control from its source to its mouth, when they are all wealth-givers instead of wealth-destroyers, when every one is running clean and pure and doing the work it ought to do for the people of this country. And that wouldn't take too long. It could be done in my lifetime. I have an expectancy of about 20 years.

I had a fine commission look into this matter to help us find the best way to do the job. Mr. Lewis Jones, who was then president of the University of Arkansas, was a member of it. I have been studying the report of that commission. It is probably the best and most comprehensive report ever made on the development of water resources. Before I leave office, I expect to have some important recommendations stemming from that report to be presented to the Congress.

We can develop our country in the way we would like to see it done. We can provide more jobs and more homes and more food for our growing population. We can provide a rising standard of living for our people.

But if we do that, we must use all our natural resources to the best possible advantage. We must use them for the benefit of all the people.

By 1975 we are going to need two and a half times as much electric power as we produce today. That means we must develop hydroelectric power at every site where it is feasible. We cannot let our development programs be stopped by the private power lobby or any other selfish interest.

Now I want to remind you--this sprinkle may make you a little damp, but you won't be a bit damper than if you sat out there in the hot sun and sweated it out. So just sit still, and take the shower. Those of you who are Methodists can appreciate it. Of course, being a Baptist, I like to be dunked.

You know, all these special interest lobbies are ganged up together to work against the public interest.

The special interests that have fought against flood control and power development are teamed up with the special interests that have fought against price supports for farm products. These same special interest lobbies have fought against minimum wages for the working people. They have fought against advances in housing and health and education.

They keep yapping about "socialism" and a lot of other silly slogans to try and stop every measure for the good of the people.

Well, we have been fighting them, and we have been licking them, that kind of opposition--for 20 years we have been doing that. And I don't think we're going to stop now. Because the progressive policies we have been following have brought more prosperity and more happiness and more real freedom to the people of the United States than any people ever had, anywhere on earth--in the history of the world. Think of that.

My friends, I say to you that the progressive policies of the last 20 years have been the salvation of this country. They have brought us out of the depression. They have enabled us to fight and win the Second World War. They are making us able now to be strong leaders of the fight for freedom against communism in the world.

You people here in Arkansas, and here in the South, can see better than almost anyone else in our country what amazing changes have been brought about in 20 years. Look around you. Look at your own farms and businesses, look at your homes and your children.

You know what it was like in the South in the 1930's. You saw the backward farms, and the struggling businesses, and the bank failures. You saw the raw materials from your farms and forests going to other regions.

What a difference today! I say to you, what a difference today!

The New Deal and the fair Deal have done a lot for the whole country, but I believe they have done more for the South than any other part of it. I know the New Deal and the fair Deal have done more for the South than any other national administration in this country's history--than all the administrations in the history of the United States put together. Give that some thought, if you like.

New businesses and industries have sprung up all over the South. Arkansas, together with her neighbors in Louisiana and Texas, will soon be turning out more aluminum than the whole Nation did in 1940. Chemicals, and paper, and fertilizer, and textiles, and hundreds of other things are being turned out in new factories built in the South.
Look at the farms. They are producing more and better crops. Livestock and dairy products are coming up fast alongside the old staples of cotton and tobacco. Farm income in the South is four or five times what it was. 20 years ago. Machines and electricity have done away with backbreaking labor in the fields and drudgery in the home.

Here in Arkansas, in the early 1930's, only one farm--listen to this, now--only one farm in every 100 was connected for electricity. Just one out of 100. Today, nearly 80 out of 100--or 140,000 Arkansas farms-are connected to the highlines. This came about mainly through the good work of the Rural Electrification Administration co-ops.

There are about a million people in Arkansas and Missouri getting power from REA co-ops. There's a lot of people would like to put them out of business, but I am not going to let them.

The changes that have come about in the South are not just matters of new businesses and more productive farms. The whole way of living has become better. You live in better homes. You travel more. Your children are healthier and better educated. Your whole economic and social pattern has changed--rapidly and permanently--for the better.

These things did not come about by accident, my friends. They came about because you and your Government fought and overcame the selfish interests, the standpatters, and the reactionary lobbies. Progress in the South has come about because of TVA and other public works programs such as these we are dedicating today. It has come about because you had a Government that was interested in good roads, good schools, and good health.

Progress in the South has come about because the national policies of these 20 years have been directed to meet human needs, and not just to meet private greed.
The progressive programs of these 20 years were not programs on paper, they were action programs. Things were done. We took action to lift wages, and put a floor under farm prices, and create new businesses.

We took action to bring about fair incomes and equality of opportunity for everyone. We took action to put natural resources to work for the good of all the people.

It is good to remember these things, and I think about them a great deal. These two great dams that we are dedicating today are symbols of the progress that has come to the South. And they are symbols of the struggle and the effort that has to take place to achieve that progress.

Remember these things this year, when you see and hear the storm of political propaganda that will be put out to try and turn back the clock. Well, we can't turn the clock back. It just won't run that way.

We don't want to turn back the clock. We want to keep moving forward. That means we have to keep on fighting the pullbacks and the reactionaries.

The progressive growth of the South--and of the whole Nation--is what we want to continue.

That is the way for our Nation to gain in strength and prosperity in the years ahead.

That is the way toward peace and happiness for all the people of this great land. That is the way to attain peace in the world and, with God's help, peace will come to us and to the world, if we continue this program of progress instead of accepting one of reaction.
Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11 a.m. In his opening words, he referred to Representative James W. Trimble, and Governor Sidney S. McMath, both of Arkansas. Later he referred to Lt. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, Chief of Engineers, United States Army.

For the President's statement upon making public the report by the Water Resources Policy Commission, see 1950 volume, this series, Item 306.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.