1962 Oahe Dam Dedication
On August 17, 1962 President John F. Kennedy addressed a huge, excited crowd at the Oahe Dam dedication. The dam was built 242 feet high. A request by ranchers and farmers owning land along the river that the federal government build a smaller dam and flood less land was ignored. At the time Oahe was the largest earthen dam in the world.
President Kennedy's speech at the Oahe Dam dedication reflected the popular thinking of the day. He said, "This dam provides a striking illustration of how a free society can make the most of its God-given resources...Too often we see no connection between this dam and our nation's prosperity...But the facts of the matter are that this dam, and many more like it, are as essential to the ...growth of the American economy as any measure the Congress is considering on taxes or unemployment..." This attitude -as reflected in the president's remarks- would be slowly eroded as the national environmental movement gained a foothold within American society and achieved political successes. Within 20 years a sitting president would actually question the value of many dams on many of America's rivers, a reversal of the philosophy expressed by President Kennedy.