We are approaching the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy coming to the San Joaquin Valley and breaking ground on the San Luis Dam project. On Aug. 18, 1962, Kennedy helicoptered to the dam site west of Los Banos, gave a speech about the importance of investing in water projects and then hit a plunger setting off a dynamite charge.
"It is a pleasure for me to come out here and help blow up this Valley," Kennedy told the cheering audience.
Water projects don't just happen, Kennedy said prior to the groundbreaking. "They are made to happen." The president also praised the entire state for working together to make California more productive by building the water project. That statement would be instructional for today's California, which is at odds over sharing water.
During his speech, Kennedy pointed out that Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown and Rep. B.F. Sisk, D-Fresno, were instrumental in making the San Luis project a reality. The San Luis Dam will make the Valley better, Kennedy said. That will make California and the United States better.
"And what this project also symbolizes the state government working with the federal goverment, the local community working with the state," Kennedy told the crowd. "This program is unique in this area. There is no other project in the history of the United States where a state has put in such a large contribution to the development of its own resources and where the national government has joined with the state."
The benefits that will come from this water project are "unique and special," Kennedy said.
You can view Kennedy's San Luis speech by clicking here for a YouTube video.