Remarks at a Dinner
Honoring Senator John C. Stennis of
you, Sam, and thank you all. And I want to thank you especially for extending
your gracious southern hospitality to this fellow who happened to be raised up
has to do with a Yankee who was driving through the deep
while we're all sorry to see Senator Stennis leave
Senator Stennis, honored guests, and ladies and
gentlemen, this gathering tonight truly is a celebration. And the man we honor
is no ordinary individual. The life and career of John Stennis
are legendary in his home State of
half of the people in this room tonight had not even been born when John Stennis came to Washington, and I suppose there are plenty
in the other half who would hardly care to admit it -- [laughter] -- over four
decades of service in the United States Senate, a period during which this
great country has undergone tremendous challenge and change. The humble man who
Tangible evidence of the difference Senator Stennis has made abounds. Our strong and able military, represented so splendidly here tonight, owes much of its strength to this man who has always been an unwavering advocate of peace through strength. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the seventies, Senator Stennis led some of the most crucial legislative battles in history on behalf of our national defense.
yet perhaps John Stennis' greatest contribution to
American Government has been his abiding example of integrity in public
service. From the time he was elected to represent the people of
now, if I might, I'd like to add a personal note. Life has not always been easy
for Senator Stennis. We all recall his remarkable
recovery from gunshot wounds in 1973. His sense of purpose, his commitment to
duty, would not allow him to stop or even to slow down. Then there was heart
surgery in 1983. And then in 1984 there was more surgery, radical surgery. I
remember visiting Senator Stennis at
I went to Walter Reed to encourage Senator Stennis, but when I left, it was I who had been strengthened. For even then, from his hospital bed, John Stennis talked of the future of this nation. Determination to return to his post was evident in everything he said. It was December 4th when I made that visit to Walter Reed. And just over a month later, I stood inside the Capitol to take the oath of office for the second term as President, and, yes, there was John Stennis in the front row.
Senator, when I consider your career, there's a certain comparison that comes to my mind. In troubled places, you've brought calm resolve, like one of the many great fighting ships you've done so much to obtain for the Navy. Serene, self-possessed, but like a ship of the line possessed of a high sense of purpose -- that is John Stennis.
And, Senator, if you think I'm leading up to something, I am. Senator Stennis, and ladies and gentlemen, it's my honor to announce tonight that, as an expression of the Nation's gratitude for the public service of the man we honor tonight, the Navy's next nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, CVN - 74, will be christened the U.S.S. John C. Stennis.
Senator, you have devoted your life to the service of our nation. I can do no more tonight than say, on behalf of the American people: Thank you for your dedicated service. Godspeed in your further endeavors, and God bless you.
Note: The President
spoke at in the Sheraton Ballroom at the Sheraton-Washington Hotel.
He was introduced by Senator Sam Nunn of