Remarks of Representative John F. Kennedy at the Massachusetts Postmasters’ Convention, West Harwich, Massachusetts. June 18, 1949

Ladies and Gentleman, I appreciate very much the opportunity of being here with you this evening at the Massachusetts Postmasters’ Convention.

To you Postmasters, I say - yours is a singular heritage.

Only nineteen years after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the commonwealth of Massachusetts legalized the first postal system in this country. More than a century later, in the year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, of the total twenty-eight post offices in operation in the country, exactly half were located in our great state. And it was a Massachusetts man, Samuel Osgood, which in 1789 was appointed the first Postmaster General under our present system of government by George Washington.

Certainly no other group of men and women in governmental agency life today can match this tradition of service to the people.

But, today, you are more than mere holders of tradition. The United States Post Office Department in the Fiscal Year of 1948 took in revenues totaling $1,410,971,284 and handled more than 100,000,000 pieces of mail every day. This staggering volume of business indisputably stamps your department as the world’s largest public utility.

You, then, are the executives and branch managers of this gigantic enterprise. And, as such, you have special responsibilities to both your employer, The United States Government, and to your customers, your communities where, in many instances, you are the sole representative of The Federal Government.

In your hands lies the task of continually improving the vital service which your department performs, the service which makes your department, more than any other agency of the Federal Government, personal and close to every citizen. At the same time, as executives, you must be alert to the ever-present need for economical and efficient operation demanded by all sound business management.

In reference to this matter of economical and efficient operation, you may be interested to know that last February I introduced in the House of Representatives, a bill providing for the separation of subsidies from air mail payments to the airlines. Having been preparing this legislation for some time, I was naturally pleased at the recommendation of the Hoover Commission to separate these subsidies from actual payments to airlines for services rendered in carrying the air mails. Since the combined expenditures total about 100 million dollars a year, it is, I think, high time to set up a good system of accounting so we will all know how much is subsidy and how much is air mail payment.

The Postmaster General, in commenting on this subsidy separation (At present before the Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce), has stated that “such a separation would relieve the Post Office Department of a substantial annual expenditure for the implementation of objectives of the Civil Aeronautics ct not directly related to the transportation of United States mail – and thus enable the Post Office Department to determine and recommend to Congress postage rates on air mail which would more nearly represent an actual and fair charge.”

I do hope that all of you will endorse and support this subsidy separation bill.

You bear the responsibility, too, of maintaining a just system of personnel relations. Back in November 1947, I’m sure that postmasters and all Post Office career men and women throughout the country were heartened by President Truman’s appointment, for the first time in history, of a career man, Jesse Donaldson, as Postmaster General; For this appointment could not have failed in intensity the incentive of each of them. It was evidence that at last service and meritorious achievement could enable a man to reach the top.

In like manner, the men and women who work under your direction want and hope for a promotion system based on these same elements of service and merit. A strict adherence to such a system cannot but result in a heightened organizational pride, morale and performance.

In meeting these responsibilities, problems do now and will in the future confront you. I would like to say to each of you – that if at any time I can ever be of help to you in solving these problems, I will be more than happy to do so.

As I stated at the outset – yours is a singular heritage.

I am sure that all of you can and will live up to that heritage.

Speech source: David F. Powers Personal Papers. Series 9. John F. Kennedy Speeches File. Box 29, Folder: "Massachusetts Postmasters Convention, West Harwich, MA 6/18/49".