Bob Ball's Eulogy of Arthur Altmeyer
Presented at the memorial service for Arthur J. Altmeyer on
Friday, November 10, 1972, at the All Souls Unitarian Church, Washington, D.C.
There is a vast difference in the quality of our lives because Arthur Altmeyer lived.
The most vulnerable groups in our society--older people, the disabled, the unemployed, widows, and orphans--are now much less vulnerable because of the programs he did so much to bring about and to develop.
His insistence on the concepts of individual dignity and worth found expression both in the program concepts he sponsored and in the organizational and administrative values he insisted on.
Every day as I go to work as a program director or an administrator, I am aware of the legacy of this great and good man. As a program director, I know that lives will be more secure for all American families because of him. He fought all through his career for the idea that earned rights in social insurance should be the foundation of our economic security arrangements. At the same time he tried always to make assistance as humane as possible and strove to protect the freedom of the individual recipient of assistance to handle his own money and live his own life free from stigma and control.
As an administrator, I see daily that the tradition he established still dominates the administration of the program: his insistence on honest government, his insistence on concerned government, his insistence on government as a servant of the people, his insistence on the establishment of a career service based on merit, and his courage in resisting political pressures.
All this can be taken for granted now, but it might not have happened without him.
This great and modest man has inspired us all.
It was typical of him, when he no longer held office, to lean over backward to give his successors a free hand. He continued to correspond on program policy throughout the rest of his life. I have had several letters from him in the last year. His deep interest and insight into policy and program questions never failed, but it was typical of him to avoid public action. For example, I couldn't get him to serve on Advisory Councils. He was even reluctant to visit us at Social Security headquarters. But his presence was and always will be felt.
His influence lives in our hearts. His memorial will be the people who have been and will be helped by the great array of social programs to which he contributed so much. But to highlight the point--to make sure his memory will be kept alive--we are naming the Social Security headquarters building the Arthur J. Altmeyer Building. This was approved by Secretary Richardson, yesterday, and we will soon have a ceremony appropriate for the occasion.