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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks at Southwest Texas State College, San Marcos
Lyndon
Lyndon B. Johnson
778 - Remarks at Southwest Texas State College, San Marcos
November 20, 1964
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1963-64: Book II
Lyndon B. Johnson
1963-64: Book II
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Dr. Flowers, Dr. McCrocklin, my fellow Americans:

If I were to get sentimental, you would miss your dinner this evening, so I hope you will forgive me for not reminiscing this morning, and understand that you are the winner. I am so happy to be back home and to see so many friends, some of whom I knew when I first came here 40 years ago, and some whom I welcome as the new leaders of this great institution.

I was just telling Dr. McCrocklin that shortly after I became President, the Prime Minister of one of our neighboring countries paid his first visit to Washington and the scholarly Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Rusk, had him to a very small dinner party that evening.

After they had all toasted each other at some length, I had to give the toast of the evening. I looked around just to see what kind of company I was keeping. I saw the distinguished former dean of faculty of Harvard there, I saw one of the leading members of the faculty of Princeton there, I saw three of Harvard's outstanding graduates there, and there was Senator Fulbright, Secretary of State Rusk, and at least two more Rhodes scholars.

So I concluded my toast by welcoming to the dining room that evening four Rhodes scholars, three Harvard graduates, two from Yale, one from Princeton, and one from San Marcos State College !

So I am truly glad to be back home again. I am very happy to be at the inauguration of your new president. In fact, I think I like it so much I believe I will very soon just have one of my own.

I have taken great pride in the leadership of Dr. Flowers, Dr. Evans, and many memorable faculty members of this institution. I having been a former janitor and worked out on the rocks on the campus, and part-time secretary with Tom Nichols in the president's office, I am very deeply impressed with the importance of the head of this institution.

When we thought we might be able to come today, I asked my assistant, Jack Valenti, to call Dr. McCrocklin's office and ask him does the President speak first or last. The answer came back, "The president speaks last and Mr. Johnson speaks first."

I have traveled a long way from this college to the office that I now occupy. In few times, yes, in very few nations, in man's journey has it been possible for any man to travel such a road.

In Washington I am surrounded by men who have come from every walk of life to the most responsible posts of government. For that is what your government really is. It is not a strange and alien power in a remote and menacing city. It is a banker from New York and a druggist from Minnesota, the son of a tenant farmer from Texas. Some day it may very well be some of you.

America has succeeded more than any other nation in the world in making it possible for a man to achieve whatever his ability would allow. The idea that man's only limitation would be his talent and intelligence, and his willingness to work, has been at the heart of the American dream, and for some of us it has come true.

Yet this pursuit is never a finished task. Each generation is charged anew with extending opportunity to more of our people and elevating the horizons of all of our people.

Today we are at the edge of a new era of progress toward the American dream. It is an opportunity as large and as exciting as that granted to those who settled this continent.

Our basic goal has not been changed, but the growth of our Nation, the progress of science and knowledge, the change in our way of life, makes it necessary to shape new tools to reach old goals. And by moving ahead only can we hope to preserve the values of the past.

First, we must strike down the barriers which limit the hopes and the achievements of some of our people. No person should be stifled and restricted because of his race, or the circumstances of his birth, or the lack of an adequate education, or because he comes from a poor home. Through our pursuit of equal opportunity, the war against poverty, we are going to change things in this country.

Your own very able and popular Congressman is leading the way in that effort. The people of this area of Texas know the taste of poverty. For generations the adobe-caliche soil has yielded forth a harsh living to those who worked it in this area.

We have come a long way since those days when I lived in the school garage here on the campus. Incidentally, I lived there 3 years before the business manager knew about it. And I don't think he ever would have if the coach hadn't told him that I was bathing in the gymnasium. But in that period, want and hunger were no strangers to San Marcos.

The energy and the will of the people of this area have created a city of hope and fulfillment for many. But now we have an opportunity to unite in will and heart and spirit to bring a final end to poverty.

Along with Congressman Pickle, Senator Yarborough, and your distinguished Governor Connally, we propose that San Marcos be the first city in the entire Southwest to organize and to begin to fight the war against poverty.

I would like to establish here where Dr. Evans and Dr. Flowers served so long, this institution that graduated Jesse Kellam, Bill Deason, and a good many others that I see here this morning, and sent them forth to lead their fellow men--I would like to establish a job corps camp to train between 1,000 and 2,000 young men in the skills which will make it possible for them to find rewarding work and to contribute to the prosperity of this community and to ultimately become leaders of their fallow men.

If this idea is to become a reality, then your officials and civic leaders and educational leaders must meet and organize and prepare this community to share in a cooperative effort with your Government. I have asked the very able, talented, and attractive director of the war against poverty, who sits with me in my Cabinet, Mr. Sargent Shriver, to come to Texas next Wednesday. And if you are ready, and if you have done your work by then, he will come to San Marcos and he will meet you here, and we will begin. So you are privileged to be among the first in this Nation to attack and to end the curse of poverty. Because so much of it began here.

There is the challenge. We are ready. The rest is up to you.

The expansion of education is going to receive special emphasis in the budget that I am now preparing. We have one of our Cabinet officers, Secretary Udall, who wonders how much education is going to take from the resources that he is interested in, the conservation effort. But I am going to take him down here when we get through here this morning and do something that I had really never anticipated doing before: walk him from the campus to Riverside along the same route that I used to walk with a lovely blond, through the fish hatchery. I hope it will be as attractive to him as it was to me.

Next we must move to enlarge the horizons of all Americans, and this effort is what we will pursue in the Great Society. It is founded upon the idea that the ultimate test of any society is really the quality of the men and women that it produces, and the quality of the life that they are permitted to lead.

These goals can never be measured in guns or statistics. They do not flow automatically from wealth or power. They must be made a careful, conscious objective, and they must be pursued with dedication and labor.

And that we intend to do.

Even the greatest of past societies were founded upon the exploitation and the misery of many. So we in beautiful America can be the first to enrich the quality of the life of all of our people.

We do not make money just to build factories. Yes, we have the tools to do such a job. We make money to make it possible to enrich the lives of human beings. We are the richest and we are the most powerful nation on earth. Our knowledge and our insight into our own problems are growing daily. And now I believe today we can see our real goal.

That goal is not an idle dream. And it is not a vague Utopia. It has concrete goals and it requires specific programs.

Even as we meet here today, some of those programs are being prepared for my review. The one I just announced I reviewed on the helicopter coming down here this morning.

These programs will attack the problems of making our cities a decent place to live in. They will seek to preserve the beauty of our land. They will strive to make it possible for every child born in this country to receive an education of the highest quality, to the full limit of his ability, no matter how poor he is, no matter where he lives, no matter which side of the tracks he was born on.

It will do all these things and more, much more. It will not be a program for a hundred days or even a program for the next 4 years. It will point toward the year 2000. But it will provide the base on which America moves forward and builds.

Let there be no mistake. The objectives we seek will not be handed to you by a beneficent government. The work of a few men in Washington will not make life easier. No one man can lead this Nation, and you cannot sit idly by, quietly waiting for the day when someone else will make everything better for you.

These goals are going to demand your effort and your work and your sacrifice, and the best from every American. It will mean that each of you must participate in the affairs of your community and your State and your Nation. It will require the help of government at every level, of labor and of business, of farmers and consumers.

A President can lead and teach, and explore, and set goals. He can have his eyes in the stars, with a vision that will flow therefrom, and he can have his feet on the ground, with a solid foundation that we need.

But no leader can make a people more than they are, or make them more than they really want to be. My success and America's success will depend on you.

It was a hundred years ago, in 1864, that Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in this country. A hundred years later, here in the hills of home, we are inaugurating a movement to abolish poverty in this country.

I rode on the train to Washington from where I opened my campaign here in San Marcos in 1937. A great President, a fearless leader, a man who preserved our Republic in its most challenging period, talked to me about the third of our land that were ill fed, ill clad, and ill housed, and he sought to do something about it.

I had seen him stand in front of that Capitol only a few years before, when the banks were popping like firecrackers, when the farmers were burning their produce because they had no market to sell it in, and when soup lines were stretched around the corners of city blocks.

But I saw him bring hope to a great Nation. He said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

During his leadership and the leadership that followed under President Truman, President Eisenhower, and President Kennedy, we have reduced that one-third that were ill fed, ill clad, and ill housed, to one-fifth today. So we put on our robes and march forth to abolish that one-fifth who live on incomes of less than $3,000 a year.

I know that those of you who have enjoyed the fruits of your own labors, and have been the beneficiaries of the leadership and the planning of others, like Dr. Evans and Dr. Flowers, are willing to reciprocate by helping those less fortunate.

So I call upon every student of this institution and every graduate of this college, every faculty member, to pledge himself not to the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln signed a hundred years ago, or not to freeing the slaves, but, instead, to declaring a war and abolishing poverty in this land.

What a great example that would be for the rest of the world. They look to us. We are the one of 120 nations that sits there in a goldfish bowl for all to observe and for all to judge.

You can look around and see some of the boys that came to this school, and what you did for them in moving them out of that one-third group. You can look not far away to the University of Texas and see some of its products, like Mr. Pickle, who was a poor boy and came there, and he, too, worked for the NYA.

The great leadership that is being given this State now by your Governor, one of the ablest chief executives and one of the soundest leaders that we have known, was made possible because when he came from Floresville without a dollar in his pocket, he got an NYA job at 17 cents an hour--and he is now the chief executive of what was once the largest State in the Union.

So the opportunity is here if you have the will and the leadership and the determination. I could think of no better epithet, I could think of no greater sense of satisfaction or achievement that could come to anyone than to have it said of him that he led this way in this noble undertaking. I believe and I know that you and all of my fellow Americans will be equal to this task. So let's be on our way.


Note: The President spoke at 10:45 a.m. in the gymnasium at the Southwest Texas State College, San Marcos, at the inauguration of Dr. James H. McCrocklin, as president of the college. His opening words referred to Dr. J. G. Flowers, the college's outgoing president. During his remarks he referred to, among others, Dr. C. E. Evans, former president of the college, lack Valenti, Special Consultant to President Johnson, and Representative I. I. Pickle, Senator Ralph Yarborough, and Governor John B. Connally, all of Texas. He also referred to R. Sargent Shriver, Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior.
Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks at Southwest Texas State College, San Marcos," November 20, 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=26729.
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