Dr. Perkins, Dr. Gardner, most distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
I know that all of you share with me the feeling that we are all deeply in the debt of Dr. Perkins for his leadership and this memorable Conference which you have launched here. I think in the years to come it will be remembered as one of our most necessary and desirable movements of this period.
It was in this town almost two centuries ago that a revolution began which swept around the world. And it was here that Thomas Jefferson submitted to the Virginia Legislature a "plan for the diffusion of knowledge."
The men who founded this country were very passionate believers in the revolutionary power of ideas.
They knew that when a people commit themselves to learning, a revolution begins which will never stop.
Now, here once again, the winds of change seem to be blowing. And once again, we have come here together to consider plans for spreading knowledge.
I am no historian. And certainly I am no prophet.
But for a good many years I have been an observer and a participant in some of the affairs of the world. I have watched man at work; I have seen his creative power--and I have seen his awesome talent for destruction.
In this century, during nay lifetime, man has spent literally trillions of dollars on the machinery of death and war. The cost of World War II alone has been estimated at $1 trillion 154 billion--taking no account whatever of any property damage.
In those years, nearly 100 million people have died in the maiming and disease and starvation which came with war.
Yes, we can take no pride in the fact that we have fought each other like animals. And that is really an insult to the animals who live together in more harmony than human beings seem to be able to do.
There are other facts that trouble me, too, tonight.
In the world in which we live today, 4 adults in 10 cannot read and write. That is one of the reasons you are here.
There are whole regions in this world in which we live where 8 out of 10 people are illiterate.
Even now, most people end their lives unable to write "cat" or "dog."
These are most disturbing facts in the 20th century, in this the richest age that man has ever known.
They are facts which I think cry out "Shame on the world, and shame on its leaders."
A sarcastic writer once gave this definition of history: "the account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which were brought about by rulers, mostly knaves."
Naturally, I do not agree with all of that statement.
If future historians, as I said the other day, should seek a name for this period in America, I hope that they will give consideration to calling it the Age of Education.
If our children's children want to measure what we tried to achieve, I hope they will remember one thing:
The American Government in only 3 years multiplied its commitment to education and to health four times over. Congress passed more laws and committed more funds to education and health in the last 3 years than in all previous history.
The Federal commitment for education and training alone has risen from $4 billion 700 million in the United States in 1964 to $122 billion 300 million in the United States in 1967.
We plan to emulate this commitment in the American program to help others fight these age-old enemies of ignorance and disease.
In 1966, about one-third of our entire economic aid program was directed toward agriculture, health, and education. This amounted to more than $800 million in 1 year.
This year our budget calls for St billion 300 million for these three objectives. That is about half of the entire United States aid program for agriculture, for health, and for education.
We may be wrong, but as a former schoolteacher of a small rural school, I have had the feeling that if we could help the people of the world to maintain a good, sound body, and if we could provide them with appropriate, proper education, with a good mind and a good body, they could build their own steel mills.
We have been trying to concentrate our energies in that direction--in the direction of educating the mind, improving the body, and providing food for their sustenance.
When other forms of United States assistance are added to America's program for foreign aid to agriculture, education, and health, namely, our food program, that exceeds some $3 billion this year. But when it comes to education, every nation--including this one, I think--is still very much a developing country.
We have so much to learn from others. That is one of the primary reasons you are here--to help us assort what there is to do and to make an agenda for it. We firmly believe that the knowledge of our citizens is one treasure which grows only when that treasure is shared. So we must find ways to extend the treasure to lands where learning is still the luxury of the few.
One lesson of our experience in economic and social development is quite clear: Education is the greatest single bottleneck. Development means that men and women can put to use in their own societies, in their own lives, in their own time, what modern science and technology can provide to help them. But that requires education.
At the level of basic education the truth of the matter is that we may be falling far behind. It takes so long these days to train a teacher, and yet it is so relatively easy to produce a student that we are not even holding our own in basic literacy.
At higher levels of education we are making progress. This year there will be 1 million young American boys and girls in the colleges of this country who will be there because of the legislation that we have passed providing for scholarships, grants, and loans during the last few years.
But we have only just begun to exploit fully the possibilities that modern technology opens to us.
I can see no reason in the world why modern technology cannot, for example, permit the best professor in the world to teach students all over the world in a field where the vocabulary and the concepts and the standards are uniform; and this is true of many fields, I think--science, natural and social.
Moreover, our capacity to produce microfilm and to distribute information should make it possible for a young scholar or researcher at any place in the world to have the same basic library facilities that are available in the British Museum, or the Library of Congress, or at one of the great university libraries.
Therefore, I would like to suggest to you this evening some consideration be given to some of these challenges: How can we use what we already know about educational television to accelerate the pace of basic education for all the children of the world? How can we use modern technology to economize on that most essential and that most needed educational resource: the good teacher?
How can we make the good teacher available to the maximum number of students in the world through television?
How can we make the best scholars and teachers in the world available to all universities-wherever they may be--through satellite communications?
So often have I thought of the wonders that could have been brought to those young, struggling minds with warped bodies that l taught back when I was in that little rural school on the United States-Mexican border if we had had satellite communications, and the best scholars and the best teachers had been able to invade those classrooms and expose those Mexican children to the English language?
How can we use, too, the latest methods of communication and microfilming to provide those who are doing scholarship and research everywhere the best library facilities that are anywhere?
We seem to need more facts. We seem to need to put a program together.
I was quite impressed with a statement in your conference document which said: "If the world's financial systems were forced to function with no better facts than those which educational systems live by, a financial panic would swiftly seize all capitals of the world ."
We could have that in the offing anyway. That is one of the reasons I thought it would be very desirable that we have this conference this year. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction, as Dr. Perkins observed, to know that you have come here upon our invitation, and that you have come here to chart an education strategy for the future.
I should not be presumptuous enough to try to outline that strategy. I content myself with observing a contribution here and there.
If I may suggest another idea, you might consider calling on the United Nations to set a target time for reviewing our goals and planning new progress, and make an international education year for the world.
Don't limit your efforts. Here, and when you leave this place, I hope that you will take these plans and really face up to the tough questions.
The real tough question of all is, how can we persuade the governments of 131 other nations to make it their primary objective to give every boy and girl born in the world--anywhere--all the education he or she can take?
How can we get the world's leaders to convert man's tragic will to destroy into a determination to build?
How can we shape a world in which men employ their minds in projects of peace-instead of sacrificing their all, their bodies, their lives, on a field of battle?
Can we train a young man's eyes to absorb learning--as eagerly as we train his finger to pull a trigger?
No gathering that has ever assembled has a subject that I think is more urgent than yours--more compelling, more necessary, and more productive.
Here tonight you leaders of educational thought from more than 50 nations--almost half of all the nations of the world--must realize that you are dealing with the dynamite of our times.
Thomas Jefferson said that we should spread the disease of liberty around the world when this Nation was very young. The men of Jefferson's day associated this place where you are meeting tonight with liberty, and also with learning.
Tonight in Williamsburg, I am pleased to observe that you apparently have the same concern. I hope our commitment will be as great as theirs--and I hope that your achievements will be as worthy of remembering. One more word, if I may be personal.
A President must call upon many persons--some to man the ramparts and to watch the faraway, distant posts; others to lead us in science, medicine, education, and social progress here at home.
I especially want to commend this great educational leader--Dr. Perkins--for having answered every call that his country has made, and having apparently done it quite well here.