Eisenhower recording gives voice to Boulder landmark

Boulder Daily Camera file photo

President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicates the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, science facilities in Boulder on Sept. 14, 1954.

By LAURA SNIDER
(Boulder) Daily Camera

BOULDER (AP) – On Sept. 14, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first sitting president to visit Boulder when he toured the sparkling new lab facilities that had just been constructed for the bureau now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He delivered a dedication speech to an estimated 10,000 – about half the size of Boulder’s total population at the time.

The content of Eisenhower’s speech is well known – a transcript was published in the newspaper at the time and it is easy to find online today – but until recently, an audio recording of the speech was not so easy to come by.

Now, Boulder’s Carnegie Branch Library for Local History has digitized a recording of the speech made by KBOL radio.

“What he said has been known for a long time,” said Laura Ost, director of media relations for the institute in Boulder. “Something about hearing him say it is very powerful.”

Ost’s research into the 1954 speech led to the uncovering of the recording. She was looking for historical material about the National Institute of Standards and Technology, originally called the National Bureau of Standards, for an exhibit that the lab is developing. That led her to the Carnegie library to sort through historic photos.

But she also found an entry in the library’s catalog for the KBOL radio collection. The entry noted that the collection was a box of reel-to-reel tapes, which mostly had not been listened to since the collection was donated. But many of the reel boxes had topics taped onto them, including one that read “1954 Bureau of Standards dedication.”

Library archivist Marti Anderson helped Ost get a first listen to the tape.

“Years and years ago, somebody had donated to the library a reel-to-reel tape player,” Anderson said. “I Googled how to put the tape in the tape player.”

And it worked.

“She set it up and we listened to it – just enough to hear what was on it – it was so old,” Ost said. “I got pretty excited.”

Until this past April, when President Barack Obama made the first of two trips to the University of Colorado this year, Eisenhower was the only sitting president to visit Boulder.

In his speech, which can be heard at dailycamera.com, Eisenhower calls science America’s next great frontier for discovery.

“... The frontier days when we could go out and discover new land – new wonders of geography and of nature – has seemed largely in the past. But here, inside this building, we have a frontier possibly of even greater romantic value as well as greater material value to us than were some of the discoveries of those days,” he said.

Eisenhower also spent a large part of his speech talking about how science can be used both for good and for evil and challenging the audience and the people who would work in the lab to leverage scientific discoveries to make America better.

“... Possibly each one of us is a laboratory to discover what we can contribute toward the growth of that kind of spirit among men that will make all of these discoveries of these dedicated scientists become assets to us,” Eisenhower said, “as we try to develop for ourselves and our children a better life, a richer life – one that gives us more opportunity to grow intellectually and spiritually.”

Anderson said helping Ost find the recording was fun – but it’s just part of the job of being an archivist.

“That’s what Carnegie is all about, is helping people on their quest,” she said. “It takes all sorts of different turns. It’s a fun experience to work at Carnegie, and it’s really fun to watch people find what they thought they never could find.”

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