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picture of president eisenhower at podium with people applauding
H. Arnold Karo and President Dwight David Eisenhower at
150th Anniversary Dinner of the Coast and Geodetic Survey

The following address was delivered by President Dwight David Eisenhower on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the United States Survey of the Coast, the original name of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.


Mr. Secretary, Distinguished Guests, and My Friends: This morning, early, someone visited my office with a long memorandum. It was a suggested speech for me to make to you this evening, and it was filled with facts about the long and glorious history of the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Well, the thought crossed my mind: if you don't know more about the history, the traditions, and the operations of the Coast and Geodetic Survey than I do, then we have come to a pretty pass. And certainly I saw no reason for taking your time to tell you things that you knew so much better than I did.

So, in searching my mind for a thought that I might leave with you tonight, I thought back over the years since 1910 when I took the examinations for West Point.

Now I want to talk to you a second about public service. Often in the military services and in the civil services, I have heard people say: "Well, look what I am giving up here. I have been offered thirty-four thousand dollars a year to go with so and so."

My reaction has always been one of sadness. I feel that the individual who says that has lost all comprehension of what public service really is. Because in the end I am quite certain that no one can have any greater reward in this life than the consciousness, or the belief - the feeling - that the society of which he is a part approves of what he has done. And I doubt that they worry too much about the number of dollars that are in your estate. But they do say: "That man did his duty."

So I think what I am trying to talk about this evening is: duty. One of the greatest of all Americans, Robert E. Lee, said, "We would not wish to do less than our duty. We cannot do more." Others have described it as the most sublime word in the English language.

So, when a whole group - the Coast and Geodetic Survey, can look back over 150 years and have this feeling - and the conviction: we have done our duty, I submit to you there are no words that anyone can bring to you - the most brilliant adjectives ever invented by man - that can say to you more. We shall feel, as I am sure America feels - and as I know I do - that the Coast and Geodetic Survey has done its duty for 150 years to the United States of America. In my mind, that is far more important than, on the basis of your charts and your surveys - the figure they gave me this morning, which I still remember - one hundred billion tons of American freight has come safely into our harbors and along our coasts in a year.

That means nothing, compared to the fact that this great body can proudly say: We have done our duty.

The Navy has a fine word, a fine way, of commending someone who has done something that all of us would think unusual. They merely say: Well done. And in the words of Lee, I don't think - I don't believe - that anyone could wish for more. And so, as I congratulate you on your birthday, and wish you many more Happy Returns, I want to say that I salute you as a body that to America has done its duty, and individually, as members of a very proud organization.

Thank you very much.


Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.
Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:27 AM

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