YOUR VISIT reminds me of something a great American once said to the youth of his generation: "There is nothing so fine as to be 21 and an American. One is for a fleeting instant--and the other is forever."
Some of you look younger than 21. I hope you all make the most of every fleeting instant of your youth, by giving all your energy, your imagination, and your strength to America.
Never in our history have the young had so many opportunities to serve. I spoke in my State of the Union address of the restlessness that stirs our country today. I welcome that. It is healthy--it is valuable--it is the stream that fires our dream--so long as it is a constructive restlessness--so long as you and your peers are builders, and not destroyers-so long as you tackle our problems with reason, intelligence and the knowledge that they are your problems--the future belongs to you and it will be as good or as bad as you make it.
Whatever else America is today, whatever it will be tomorrow, you can be dead sure of one thing: America is and will always be the land of opportunity. And, for the young American seeking opportunity to grow-opportunity for excitement, and meaning in his life--the Democratic Party gives you the greatest opportunity and the largest reward.
I cannot exaggerate how much your party needs you. I am not like the football star who was being interviewed by a professional coach. "I'm pretty great, coach," he said. "I run the hundred in under 10 seconds--on a muddy field. I'm a ferocious blocker. I punt 70 yards. And I pass for 60 yards--against the wind."
The coach was very impressed. "That's wonderful," he said, "but every player has some weakness--what's yours?"
"Well," said the hero, "I have been known to exaggerate a little."
But there is no exaggerating the size of the role you can play in your party--or the good it can mean for America. We need your ideas--new ideas. We want your leadership--fresh leadership. We depend on you to recharge our purpose and put new life and muscle in our programs. Your advisory committee can be a keystone in that new effort. You can carry my message and the encouragement of the Democratic Party to every campus, community and home in our country. Tell them you found a big sign hanging on the White House gate. It says: "Jobs Open--Youth Wanted--Youth Welcome."
Young people don't have a monopoly on virtue--but they do have a monopoly on energy, and we'd all like to see that energy put to work creatively in the precincts and not destructively in the picket lines.
Sometimes I am disturbed, just as you are, by the righteous anger which some of our younger people show--anger which isn't based on information. The best cure for that, I think, is a brush with reality. And that is part of your job: to give young Americans a chance to touch not only the surface of the problems and challenges we face, but to learn the difficulty and complexity of those problems.
Your biggest opportunity, I think, is to destroy---once and for all--the old myth that politics is a profession for old men in baggy suits. You know it isn't true.
I know it isn't true. Now you have a great opportunity to introduce to America the young men and women who are helping to lead this country: people like--Sandy Trowbridge--Joe Califano--Ramsey Clark--Cliff Alexander. You have an opportunity to point out that the average age of the President's close personal staff is close to under 35.
They are young men like you. If you haven't heard the names, you and every American have felt their influence. If any of you have a good idea, or a problem, or something itching you that you think I should know about--call up one of your own kind. Call some of the young men who make the White House tick.
Call Tom Johnson, Larry Levinson, Matt Nimetz, Dick Moose, Ervin Duggan, Charles Maguire, Ed Hamilton, Fred Bohen, Matt Coffey, Bill Blackburn, Sherwin Markman, Peter Rosenblatt, Ben Wattenberg, Start Ross, Larry Temple, Jim Jones.
You may not have heard of any of them. But you can bet that they have heard of you. You can be certain that they are with you--in all that you want to do for your party and your country.
I will always be with you. I want you to succeed--and to inspire others by your success. I want the youth of America to combine in the greatest work of America--the work of public service, the noble work of the political profession. I will always be proud to share that profession and that work with you,
Your job, really, goes more deeply into our national life than politics. For you will be offering hundreds of thousands of young Americans a chance to answer some serious questions about our Nation's purpose, our Nation's goals, our Nation's future. I suppose there is no more difficult job than dealing with those questions. But I know there is no challenge that is more satisfying or more rewarding.
It has always been so for the young American. Let me read you a page from our past:
"We must not let ourselves be engulfed in the passing waves which obscure the current of progress. The sinfulness and weakness of man are evident to anyone who lives in the active world. But men are also good and great, kind and wise. Honor begets honor; trust begets trust; faith begets faith; and hope is the mainspring of life. I have lived with the reality of war, and I have praised soldiers; but the hope of honorable faithful peace is a greater thing and I have lived with that, too. That a man must live with both together is inherent in the nature of our present stormy stage of human progress, but it has also many times been the nature of progress in the past, and it is not reason for despair.
"Those who read this book will mostly be younger than I, men of the generations who must bear the active part in the work ahead. Let them learn from our adventures what they can. Let them charge us with our failures and do better in their turn. But let them not turn aside from what they have to do, nor think that criticism excuses inaction. Let them have hope, and virtue, and let them believe in mankind and its future, for there is good as well as evil, and the man who tries to work for the good, believing in its eventual victory, while he may suffer setback and even disaster, will never know defeat. The only deadly sin I know is cynicism."