Governor Ellington, Secretary Gardner, Dr. Clark, Reverend Allen, my dear friend Mrs. Albert Gore, Congressman and Mrs. Anderson, and my friends of Tennessee:
First of all, I learned that Mrs. Johnson was coming here to dedicate this community college in Tennessee, and I just could not resist coming along to congratulate all of you myself and to tell the people of Tennessee how proud I am of the great advancement that they are making: the great achievements that we see in this State every day, the fine quality of public servants, your Senators, your Governor, your Members of Congress.
Congressman Anderson here is doing a wonderful job; Governor Ellington has been there helping us all through the years; Senator Gore and your delegation that brought into existence the great TVA which is a model for all the world to emulate.
David Lilienthal is going with me to Guam Saturday night. We are flying for 18 straight hours to meet with the leaders of South Vietnam to put in a plan for South Vietnam that was first born here in the Tennessee Valley.
I know it is cold out there and you don't want to listen to a very long speech, but I do want to tell you that what you are doing here at Columbia is closer to my heart than any other thing I deal with in the whole range of America's national policy.
You are building a new school--and a school is about the most important public building in America. You are going to provide in an attractive, modern environment the education that early Americans like Andrew Jackson and James Polk here in Tennessee sought by firelight. You are becoming a part of the revolution in American education, a revolution of quality as well as quantity.
More Americans are receiving more education today than ever before in our history. About 3 out of every 10 Americans are now enrolled in our schools and our colleges. Twice as many young people are being graduated from our high schools and twice as many are in college as there were only 10 years ago.
This is not only because of our rising population but it is because America in the 1960's has made a historic commitment and that commitment is first to education.
This commitment is difficult to achieve, but it is very simple to state. We want every American boy and girl to have all the education that he or she can take. We want this so that each child may become all he is capable of becoming. Nothing more--nothing less.
Education cannot be only for a few, any more than health can be only for those who can afford it, or national parks only for those that can travel great distances to reach them.
Education, health, conservation--these are only magnificent abstractions, until we translate them into better, healthier, happier people. They are only possibilities until we turn them into opportunities.
Columbia offers a fine example of how your Federal Government and your State government can work with your local government to enlarge educational opportunities. This will be a school for all the people. It can be a place--such as Woodrow Wilson dreamed of--where the important issues of the day can be discussed, in what Wilson called "The Parliament of the People."
It can serve as a center of excellence in the arts, a home for voluntary service projects, and a meeting ground for the community and regional planners.
It is not hard for me to talk at length about education and what it means, for it meant everything to me at a time when my future hung in the balance. I hope some way, somehow, some day I can repay the debt that I owe in the time that is allotted me. I shall try. I am so happy that you good people of Tennessee are trying, too. I am so happy that you are providing for these young men and these young women because they will be the leaders of Tennessee today, and the leaders of this Nation tomorrow.