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Senator Young Pays Tributes to Lawrence Welk

Speech of Honorable Milton R. Young of North Dakota
In the Senate of the United States

"Senator Young Pays Tributes to Lawrence Welk." Congressional Record, 16 September 1968.


Mr. Young of North Dakota. Mr. President, the people of North Dakota have always been proud when one of our native sons succeeded in any line of endeavor. For our population, North Dakotans have had their full share.

Lawrence Welk, known and admired throughout the United States by all music-loving people, is one North Dakotan we are all most proud of. No one had a more humble beginning than Lawrence Welk. As a young, man he worked on his father’s farm doing the toughest of jobs all day-and then played for dances at night. His early years were during the time of the great depression in the late twenties and early thirties. Somehow, through hard work, determination, and love of music, Lawrence Welk persevered. He is probably known by more people throughout the United States than any other entertainer.

No one in his line of music has reached such popularity and retained it for so many years on television as Lawrence Welk.

Recently Mr. Welk visited North Dakota and addressed the students at his hometown of Strasburg. In his always earnest and sincere way, I believe he best expressed the reasons for his great success. His speech is typical of his life as a devout Christian, a lover of music, and one who always knew hard work as a way of life.

Mr. President, I believe this speech by Lawrence Welk is an inspiration to all young Americans who have a desire to make good. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the speech was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Lawrence Welk Addresses Students at Strasburg

The students of both Strasburg school systems, plus faculty members, some of Lawrence’s relatives and a few guests, gathered in the public school gym Thursday afternoon to hear a talk by Strasburg’s most famous son, Lawrence Welk.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Welk pointed out that for the first 15 years that he directed a band, he never said a word to people who had come to hear the band. A master of ceremonies did all the talking for him.

Jokingly he said, “Now that I talk, nobody has asked me to make a speech, so it is appropriate that I should make my first ‘speech’ in my hometown.”

After concluding his talk, he borrowed an accordion from Strasburg’s other well-known musician, Mike Dosch, and played several selections. Then Mike took the accordion and played some well-known polkas, while Lawrence danced with several of the grade school girls and several adults.

His talk dealt primarily with and how, through hard work, he was able to realize his earliest dreams.

In the audience were his three sisters, Mrs. Mary Mattern, Mrs. Agatha Ternes, and Eva Welk, and his brothers, John and Mike.

Following is the complete text of his talk:

My Earliest Dreams

My earliest dreams were all about music–and it all took a dream to start with–but in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have envisioned our wonderful musical family of today.

I consider myself fortunate, indeed, to have been born to parents who were able to impart a Christian philosophy to their children. I am amazed I was able to make it, and it only shows how great the opportunities are in this good land–the land of the free enterprise.

I believe our orchestra traveled more miles, played more “one-niters,” endured more hardships, and it took us more years to gain recognition than any band in history. For 27 years we struggled, with very little success, and then along came a miraculous new medium, TV. After 27 years, we finally struck it rich–and the press called us an “overnight success.”

Today we play for more people every Saturday night than we did in all those years of traveling from coast to coast, but it certainly didn’t happen “overnight,” and it didn’t come about without lots of hard work.

Work has always been a very important part of my life, even from my early boyhood days back on the farm. I’m aware that this is a word that has declined in popularity in recent years, but I still feel it is one of the basic, most vital ingredients, of a good life.

There are so many good things which come about as a result of work. Even when one works in the dark, as I have done at times. Something worthwhile is almost sure to develop as a result.

I had the good fortune and privilege of getting into the habit of working at an early age. Life was rough on our North Dakota farm, were I was born and spent the first 21 years of my life. Huge rocks had to be dug from the ground and moved before the land was fit for plowing–then there was the plowing itself and, the pitching of hay, threshing, tending of animals, and all the other back-breaking work that every farmer knows so well. This hard work gave me a tremendous advantage in life. The music business always seemed easy in comparison, and when things didn’t go too well for me, I always had the fear of going back to the plow, the pitchfork, and the rocks.

In our travels around the country, we are usually met at the airport by a group of newspaper, TV, and radio reporters for interviews. The first question asked is almost always the same: “Mr. Welk, how do you account for the long-standing success of your orchestra?”

Of course, there is no single reason for our long life on TV, but I think I have narrowed it down to a few vital factors: First: I am most fortunate to have so many wonderful and talented people in my musical family, and have the help of so many very able right-handed people. I have also been blessed with a devoted wife and family and have enjoyed an exceptionally happy home life. Finally, I believe my personal philosophy has been partly responsible for some of the good fortune which has come our way. This philosophy has actually been the guiding force in the operation of our orchestra. It’s quite simple and is based largely on the principal of “earning your keep–giving value for value received.” Well, why beat around the bush–the secret is “work.”

The earth gives its fruits only to those who labor for them. To earn your bread by the sweat of your brow is a cold, hard reality. It applies to all, and without it, man loses his vision, his confidence, and his enthusiasm. His life becomes largely meaningless. On the other hand, there is no preventative or cure so effective for boredom and emotional ills as an honest day’s work every working day of the year. There is no limit to the rich things that we may have – material, mental, spiritual–if we work hard enough to obtain them.

Know what you want, work for it, and the earth will yield its treasures to you.

This is still the land of opportunity, perhaps more so now than ever before. Individual initiative is still the guiding force that makes our nation strong. Let us encourage it in every way possible. God’s world is a beautiful world, rich beyond measure.

The terms for helping ourselves to this abundance are simple but iron-clad. They are simple ways of life and among the most important of them are sincerity of purpose, honest effort, the desire to be useful, devotion to duty, just and compassionate relationship with our fellow man, faith in ourselves and in God–these are the coins to be placed in the till as prepayment.

Many sincere men are alarmed today about the increasing number of people who are looking for free buggy rides through life. I’m speaking of the free riders who live off the labors of others. They are the men and women who take the benefits of group activities, but who accept little or no responsibility for doing their share in creating the benefits they consume. In the world of nature, we call them parasites. It is difficult to understand how these people can delude themselves into adopting as a way of life such a concept of social irresponsibility. If man realizes the lack of justice of living off the efforts of others there would probably be much less of it. Free buggy rides drain away the benefits earned for the group by its productive workers.

The fundamental law of life is that man must earn what he receives if he wishes to live with dignity, independence, and security.

Man, of course, can live off the labors of others, but when he does, his personality disintegrates and decays, and he becomes a parasite, a whining frustrated weakling.

Let man, however, feel the challenge of creating his own life and of getting what he needs through his own labors and he becomes strong, virile, and confident. He has found the way to dignity, independence, and security–his life is his own.

I have tried to instill this type of philosophy in all members of our musical family. The fact that they have responded generously, indeed, accounts for much of our success. This is why I am such a firm believer in the concept of “hard work” as a remedy for many of today’s ills.

Our freedom did not come cheaply, and should not be taken lightly. American citizenship is a precious privilege and it carries with it certain responsibilities: To give a day’s work for a day’s wages, to make an honest effort to be self-supporting, to respect and obey the laws of the land.

I am in favor of greater emphasis on these great–free enterprises, self-determination, personal initiative, individual responsibility.

I am convinced that work–hard work–is the answer if we are to return to these ideals and keep our country strong. I feel that when people work with a happy and contented mind, they become immune to the diseases of hatred and discord.

I know that with God’s blessing on our labors, we can accomplish miracles in the field of human relationships and in our fight for a better America and a better world. This, I believe.

Reprinted with permission of the Congressional Record.

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