Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Commencement Address at Baylor University.

May 28, 1965

Mr. President, members of the board of trustees, the faculty and student body, my fellow Americans:

This is a moment that I deeply wish my parents could have lived to share. In the first place, my father would have enjoyed what you have so generously said of me--and my mother would have believed it.

More than that, the honor you pay me is, in a real sense, honor that is due my mother. All of her life she spoke often of Baylor-a trait I have found not uncommon among all of your alumni. Her pride in Baylor-and in being the granddaughter of a president of Baylor--passed on to me early and influenced the course of my own life more constructively than I could ever describe.

So, I am most grateful to you for this moment, and for its meaning to me.

Woodrow Wilson once told the men of Princeton that: "It is not learning--but the spirit of service--that will give a college place in the public annals of the Nation."

For 120 years, Baylor University has touched the lives of many generations with an unusual spirit of selfless service. That spirit--expressed in the works of ministers and missionaries, of public servants and public school teachers, of devout parents and dedicated citizens--has not only won for Baylor a place of esteem in this State and this Nation, it has served the betterment of the condition of man to the remote ends of this earth.

On this occasion, we meet here today at an historic hour in the life of the American nations.

In Washington, leaders of this hemisphere are meeting to work together to open a road to durable peace in the Dominican Republic.

Their efforts will have our full support. For at stake is the future not only of one of our sister Republics but the principles and the values of all the American Republics.

We are members of an inter-American system in which large and small nations are partners in the defense of freedom and in the progress of economic welfare and social justice.

That partnership must be constantly strengthened. Our common aim and our combined ability must increase in crisis as well as in calm. The tragedy of the past 4 weeks in the Dominican Republic renews our common resolution to accept common responsibility in dealing with common dangers.

In that unfortunate nation, 4 weeks ago, the legacy of dictatorship exploded in fury and anarchy. Hundreds of Dominicans died, leaving thousands of widows and orphans of war. Nineteen of our own American boys lost their lives. The capital dry, birthplace of the Western Hemisphere, was split asunder. Blood and hate drowned ideals. And for days freedom itself stood on the edge of disaster.

In those early terrible hours, we did what we had to do. Remembering Simon Bolivar's admonition that "to hesitate is destruction," as your President I did what I had to do.

Since then, working with the Organization of American States and its distinguished Secretary General, Jose Mora, the forces of democracy have acted. The results are clear.

More than 6,500 men and women and children from 46 different countries have been evacuated. Not a single life was lost.

A cease-fire was achieved, bringing an end to the threat of wholesale bloodshed.

An international zone of refuge was opened as a haven for all men of peace, and a safe corridor 17 miles long was established by American men.

More than 8 million pounds of food have been distributed to the Dominican people.

A well-trained, disciplined band of Communists was prevented from destroying the hopes of Dominican democracy.

Political avenues were opened to help the Dominican people find a Dominican solution to their problems.

Today those achievements are guaranteed-guaranteed by the troops of five nations representing this hemisphere. They are under the command of the able Brazilian general, General Alvim.

For the first time in history the Organization of American States has created and sent to the soil of an American nation an international peace-keeping military force.

That may be the greatest achievement of all.

The United States made its forces a part of that Inter-American Force. And, as the contributions of the Latin American nations have been incorporated into the OAS force, in the last 2 days the United States has removed 1,600 troops from the island.

I am issuing orders this morning to remove an additional 1,700 men on Saturday. I have also instructed our commander, General Palmer, to discuss possible further withdrawals with General Alvim. Such action will be taken when the military commanders believe it is safe and warranted by the arrival of further Latin American forces or by the continued stabilization of the military situation.

Now we ask ourselves this morning: What is next ?

The answer to that question rests partly with the people of the Dominican Republic and partly with their neighbors throughout this hemisphere.

Already, under the distinguished leadership of Secretary General Mora, the broad outlines of a reasonable settlement are beginning to emerge--outlines which meet the needs and respond to the desires first of the Dominican people themselves and then of all the people of this hemisphere.

First, the Dominican people, and the people of their sister Republics, do not want government by extremists of either the left or fight. That is clear. They want to be ruled neither by an old conspiracy of reaction and tyranny nor by a new conspiracy of Communist violence.

Second, they want, as we do, an end to slaughter in the streets and to brutality in the barrios.

Third, they want, as we do, food and work and quiet in the night.

Fourth, they want, as we do, a constitutional government that will represent them all and work for all their hopes.

Fifth, the Dominican people know they need the help of sympathetic neighbors in healing their wounds and in negotiating their divisions--but what they want ultimately is the chance to shape their own course.

Those are the hopes of the Dominican people. But they are our hopes, too. And they are shared by responsible people in every nation of this hemisphere.

Out of the Dominican crucible the 20 American nations must now forge a stronger shield against disaster.

The opportunity is here now for a new thrust forward--to show the world the way to true international cooperation in the cause of peace and in the struggle to win a better life for all of us.

We believe that the new world may most wisely approach this task guided by new realities.

The first reality is that old concepts and old labels are largely obsolete. In today's world, with the enemies of freedom talking about "wars of national liberation," the old distinction between "civil war" and "international war" has already lost much of its meaning.

Second is the reality that when forces of freedom move slowly--whether on political, economic, or military fronts--the forces of slavery and subversion move rapidly, and they move decisively.

Third, we know that when a Communist group seeks to exploit misery, the entire free American system is put in deadly danger. We also know that these dangers can be found today in many of our lands. There is no trouble anywhere these evil forces will not try to turn to their advantage. We can expect more efforts at triumph by terror and conquest through chaos.

Fourth, we have learned in the Dominican Republic that we can act decisively and we can act together.

Fifth, it is clear that we need new international machinery geared to meet the fast-moving events. When hours can decide the fate of generations, the moment of decision must become the moment of action.

Just as these lessons of the past 4 weeks are clear, so are the basic principles which have guided the purpose of the United States of America.

We seek no territory. We do not seek to impose our will on anyone. We intend to work for the self-determination of the peoples of the Americas within the framework of freedom.

In times past large nations have used their power to impose their will on smaller nations. Today we have placed our forces at the disposition of the nations of this hemisphere to assure the peoples of those nations the right to exercise their own will in freedom,

In accordance with the resolution of the eighth meeting of the ministers at Punta del Este, we will join with other OAS nations in opposing a Communist takeover in this hemisphere.

And in accordance with the Charter of Punta del Este, we will join with other OAS nations in pressing for change among those who would maintain a feudal system-a feudal system that denies social justice and economic progress to the ordinary peoples of this hemisphere.

We want for the peoples of this hemisphere only what they want for themselves: liberty, justice, dignity, a better life for all.

More than "a few agitators" was necessary to bring on the tragic and the cruel bloodshed in the Dominican Republic. They needed additional help and a deeper cause. And they had both.

For the roots of the trouble are found wherever the landless and the despised, the poor and the oppressed, stand before the gates of opportunity seeking entry into a brighter land.

They can get there only if we narrow the gap between the rich nations and the poor-and between the rich and the poor within each nation. And this is the heart of the purpose of the United States.

Here on the campus of Baylor University we will reaffirm that purpose on June 26 when almost 50 Peace Corps volunteers will begin training for service in the Dominican Republic. These young men and women will go to the barrios of Santo Domingo and Santiago to work with and to work for the people of the Dominican Republic in attaining a new life and a new hope.

At home, with the strong cooperation of our Congress, we are waging war on poverty; we are opening new paths of learning for all our children; we are creating new jobs for our workers; we are providing health care for our older citizens; we are eliminating injustice and inequality; we are bringing new economic life to whole regions. These objectives we will continue to pursue with all of our strength and all of our determination.

As peace returns to the Dominican people and as a broad base is laid for a new Dominican government responsive to the people's will, the United States will be prepared to join in full measure in the massive task of reconstruction and in the hopeful work of lasting economic progress.

For in bold ink our signature is on the charter of the alliance. That charter commands a peaceful democratic social revolution across the hemisphere. It asks that unjust privilege be ended and that unfair power be curbed. It asks that we help throw open the gates of opportunity to these millions who stand there now knocking.

Just as we have joined in the Dominican Republic to bring peace to a troubled land, we have joined with these forces across the hemisphere who seek to advance their own independence and their own democratic progress.

We work with and for those men and women not because we have to. We work because morality commands it, justice requires it, and our own dignity as men depends upon it. We work not because' fear the unjust wrath of our enemy, but because we fear the just wrath of God.

In Santo Domingo the last month has been grim. The storm there is not yet over. But a new sense of hope is beginning. Across the angry arguments of the opposing forces, the voice of good sense is now beginning to be heard.

As the Organization of American States recommits itself to the hard efforts of peacemaking, the Government and the people of the United States proudly pledge full support to the peacemakers.

The path ahead is long, the way ahead is hard. So we must, in the words of the prophet, "Mount up on the wings of eagles, run and not grow weary."

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:50 a.m. in the Heart o' Texas Coliseum at Baylor University, Waco, Tex., after being presented an honorary doctor of laws degree. His opening words "Mr. President" referred to Abner V. McCall, president of the university. Early in his remarks he referred m his mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, who had attended Baylor College, and his maternal great-grandfather, George Washington Baines, who had served as the president of Baylor between 1861 and 1863. Later he referred to Jose A. Mora, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, to General of the Army Hugo Panasco Alvim of Brazil, Commander of the OAS Inter-American Force in the Dominican Republic, and to Lt. Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr., of the United States, Deputy Commander.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Commencement Address at Baylor University. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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