Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Address at the Dedication the New Chemistry Building, Howard University, Washington, D. C.

October 26, 1936

Mr. Secretary, President Johnson, ladies and gentlemen:

I am proud and happy on behalf of the United States of America to dedicate this building. And I have been greatly interested in learning a moment ago from the Chairman of the Executive Committee that the origin of Howard University was in a house of prayer.

I have a special interest in Howard University, because the Government of the United States has long had a special relationship to this institution.

Since 1879 Congress has made continuous and increasing appropriations, year by year, to help meet the general expenses of the University and its various departments and to provide new buildings. And in part at least the Department of the Interior shares in the responsibility for the administration of the University. In a very real sense, therefore, Howard is one of the Nation's institutions.

But I would be interested in this University even though the Government had no such relationship to it.

Its founding, many years ago, as an institution for the American Negro was a significant occasion. It typified America's faith in the ability of man to respond to opportunity regardless of race or creed or color.

The American Negro's response to this opportunity in the field of higher learning has been prompt and eager as in other fields. In 1867 at the first term of Howard University ninety-four students enrolled. Today there are nearly two thousand students on the lists.

Howard University has grown not only in numbers, but it has grown also in the range of its courses. To provide equal opportunities for Negro men and women, the University offers instruction in its colleges of liberal arts, medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy and in the schools of law, engineering, architecture and·music. A graduate school, recently organized, attracts graduates of other colleges and universities and has helped to make Howard University a real center of Negro culture in America.

With justification Howard may take pride in its high standards of scholarship among other American universities. Its schools of law and medicine, for instance, are rated, I am told, among the Class-A schools in the Nation.

Despite the constant raising of the scholastic standards of the University, as the years went by, the demand for higher training and higher education among our Negro citizens has increased to an extent which has created a strain upon its facilities.

And so the Federal Government has provided three new structures for it at this time, and there are more to come. These structures, as a part of our building program, represent the happy conjunction of two important Federal Government programs to meet the difficulties of the depression. They are a part of our nationwide projects to reduce unemployment by building useful public works. They are also a part of our nationwide program to ensure the normal maintenance and necessary expansion of educational facilities for youth even in a time of depression.

Our purpose was not only to provide work in all sections for all parts of the population, but to enable them all to share in the benefits to be obtained from these works so long as bricks and mortar shall endure. As far as it was humanly possible, the Government has followed the policy that among 'American citizens there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races. It is a wise and truly American policy. We shall continue faithfully to observe it.

Howard University has shared as of right in our public works program. These Government-financed improvements in the facilities of this great center of Negro education should enable it to continue to provide for its students cultural opportunities comparable to those offered by other first-class institutions of higher learning in the country.

At its last commencement Howard sent forth two hundred and forty-five graduates to join nearly ten thousand alumni in all parts of the world. Here is a record of which the Negro race may well be proud. It is a record of which America is proud. It is a further fulfillment of our dream of providing better and better educational facilities for all our people.

Today, we dedicate this new chemistry building, this temple of science, to industrious and ambitious youth. May they come here, to learn the lessons of science and to carry the benefits of science to their fellow men.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at the Dedication the New Chemistry Building, Howard University, Washington, D. C. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208355

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