Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Commencement Address at Glassboro State College.

June 04, 1968

Dr. Robinson, Governor Hughes, members of the faculty, members of the graduating class, student body, ladies and gentlemen:

I am glad to return to Glassboro. I shall always remember this town as a place of warm friendship and hospitable people. The world will remember Glassboro, I hope, as a place where understanding between nations was advanced by the United States and the Soviet Union.

It was last June--about a year ago--that Chairman Kosygin and I sat down in President Robinson's living room for 2 days of discussions. Our talks ranged over the whole globe, but we talked mainly about four urgent matters:

First, we discussed the steps toward peace in the Middle East.

Second, we discussed ways to move the conflict in Vietnam from the battlefield to the conference table.

Third, we tried to move forward a treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons.

Fourth, we stressed the need for broad talks at high levels between our two countries to halt the arms race in strategic weapons.

The year since then has been eventful and uncertain--like the age that we live in. We have lived through a year of achievement-and frustration. Too often, the frustration seemed to obscure hope. Too often, angry recriminations seemed to dominate the public dialogue in America.

But hope and achievement are certainly there to see. Our relations with the Soviet Union offer an example. This has been a time of unusual strain and difficulty. But what period in our history has been more productive in promoting cooperation between our two countries?

Many feared that the war in Vietnam would prevent any progress. Many predictions were made to this effect. But despite the predictions and despite the difficulties, we have agreed upon a treaty outlawing armaments in outer space. We have negotiated a treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons, and it has now been tabled. We have achieved a civil air agreement that permits Soviet Union planes to land in the United States and United States planes to land in the Soviet Union. And we are moving toward other agreements.

So I think my return visit to Glassboro is a good time to reflect upon that progress-although in this day and time to talk about progress sometimes is taboo. It is a good time, I think, also to talk about some principles which underlie our search for peace--principles which I hope that each of you and that all Americans would do well to remember. They are principles which are underscored by the events of this tumultuous year since the Glassboro meeting.

The first one, often stated but often overlooked, is this: Making peace is a tough, difficult, slow business--often much tougher and often much slower than making war.

Certainly these months have taught us that peace cannot be bought by the cheap currency of wishful thinking, or by slogans. It cannot be won by withdrawal, or isolation, or indifference, or wishing that we could have peace or by desiring peace. Nor can it be achieved by the expensive currency of nuclear weaponry.

Peace must be earned, and that requires a continuous process of building--building brick by brick, agreement by agreement. That requires patience. That requires sturdiness. That requires judgment.

The cause of peace demands responsibility and demands restraint from all of us--from the young and from the old, from the political leaders and the candidates, and from the plain citizens, from the officeholders and from the officeseekers.

Today in two areas of danger and conflict-the Middle East and Vietnam--events drive home the difficulty of making peace.

In the Middle East, it has been almost a year since the Six Day War--a year in which millions have been denied peace and progress.

The people of that region deserve a peace that is based upon a true and a lasting settlement--a settlement which respects the integrity of every nation, which frees every nation from the threat of attack, a settlement which the nations of the region themselves should reach. So far, progress has not been very satisfying. But we shall continue, and we must continue, to try.

The United States has been working every day, in world capitals and in the United Nations, trying to promote a fair and a stable peace.

Ambassador Jarring, acting with the authority of the United Nations Security Council, is in contact with the parties. The United States strongly supports the Security Council Resolution of November 22, 1967, and Ambassador Jarring's peacemaking efforts. And we are urging that neither side pass up any reasonable path to negotiations.

In Vietnam, the agonizing difficulties of building peace are made clear every day-just as they are in the Middle East.

Two months ago, with a major act of deescalation, taken upon our initiative, we brought about the talks in Paris. We have moved at least a step closer, I hope, toward peace in Southeast Asia. But as yet, the other side has had nothing of substance to say to those of us who seek a just peace in Asia.

First, in response to our concrete proposals, the other side has offered only propaganda.

Second, their representatives in Paris continue to deny a fact which all the world knows to be true: the massive presence of their North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam.

Finally, the North Vietnamese in Paris will say to us only, "Stop the rest of your bombing"--at a time when North Vietnamese supplies and materiel, more North Vietnamese supplies and materiel than ever before, are flooding into South Vietnam.

An honorable peace requires some gestures on the other side toward peace. Thus far, we have met with little more than bellicose statements and evasions.

So--until the men in Hanoi face the real problems of ending the war--we must stand firm and fast. We must stand patiently and hopefully, but with determination, too.

A second principle in the search for peace is this: The road there is far less rocky when the world's two greatest powers--the United States and the Soviet Union--are willing to travel part of the way together.

Our progress toward a nuclear nonproliferation treaty in the past year gives evidence of this.

The control of nuclear weapons is a matter which goes far beyond the interest of the United States and the Soviet Union. It touches the life of every nation--and every human being--on this earth.

One of my first acts, upon becoming President of the United States, was to immediately instruct our negotiators to seek actively a nonproliferation treaty. Now, after more than 4 long years of discussion, a treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons has been laid before the United Nations General Assembly.

I do not want to anticipate the vote of the United Nations on this treaty. But I do hope--and I do believe--that an overwhelming majority of the nations will support it. If they do--and if we build upon this treaty in the years to come--then we can all remember the year 1968 as a year of victory in the world, a year in which mankind took its most creative step since the dawn of the atomic age.

But beyond the treaty, there is much more to be done. The nations which we are asking to forgo nuclear weapons are now, in turn, urging the two great powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, to scale down the nuclear arms race--and these nations deserve an answer from us. The answer can only be found in disarmament.

For our part, the United States is ready now to move immediately in the direction of disarmament--if our two nations can reach binding agreements which Preserve the security of each nation. The United States is ready now to begin such agreements.

A third principle underscored in the last year is this: Peace will be achieved not only by resolving the bitter conflicts of today. Even after we end these conflicts, there remains another task: to build a pattern of cooperation in the world.

The Middle East, Vietnam, the nuclear arms race--these are all conflicts, and as we all know, conflicts are the stuff of headlines. Conflicts are the life-or-death issues of foreign policy. They are our daily fare--the breakfast, the lunch, the dinner--of those who are responsible for America's security today.

But during the past year, the work of peace has been going on in many ways that rarely make headlines---on some issues Which are less than life-or-death matters. But as these issues touch on our relations with another great power, the Soviet Union, which you good people here at Glassboro, at the college and in the community did so much to try to help us promote, they are important nonetheless.

During the last year we completed work with the Soviet Union on a treaty forbidding weapons in outer space.

During the last year we completed work with the Soviet Union on an agreement to assist astronauts downed in either country.

We completed work during the last year on a new consular treaty.

We completed work during the last year on an agreement permitting the Soviet Union's planes to land in the United States, and the planes of the United States of America to land in the Soviet Union.

Only yesterday your Government began talks with the Soviet Union about a renewal of our cultural exchange agreement with the Soviet Union.

Now we believe genuinely that every one of those steps is a step toward peace.

The disagreements between the Soviet Union and the United States, of course, have not been removed--not by any means.

We believe that there should be a realistic enforcement of the 1962 Geneva Accords on Laos. We believe that agreements solemnly made should be solemnly honored.

We have been unable to cooperate on steps toward a successful peace in the Middle East.

We have yet to win an agreement which would avoid a costly anti-ballistic missile race between the United States and the Soviets. We are ready to make such an agreement; and we urge the Soviets to join us, as we urged them to set a date for such a meeting when we met here at your college campus.

But in the last year, we have made some progress. We have proved that we can agree, can agree in part, on some occasions at least on some issues. We have proved that our two countries can behave as responsible members of the family of nations. And that is a hopeful sign, indeed.

To those of you who helped us to that end, again I say, "Thank you."

There are many other fields in which we should begin to build new programs of cooperation. Today in response to the invitation of your great Governor--Governor Hughes--and your President--President Robinson--to come back to Glassboro, I want to make some additional suggestions in the form of proposals.

Scientists from this country and the Soviet Union--and from 50 other countries--have already begun an international biological program to enrich our understanding of man and his environment.

I propose that we make this effort a permanent concern of our nations. I propose that the United States scientists join with the scientists of the Soviet Union and other nations to form an international council on the human environment.

Second, I propose that we step up our efforts to develop a global satellite communications system. The United States believes that better communications are essential to mutual understanding between nations. That is why we proposed such a system in 1963. Now, more than 60 nations, large and small, have joined. We look forward to the day when the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe will join the system.

Finally, I can suggest other opportunities for cooperation between the United States, the Soviet Union, and other nations--cooperation to extend our knowledge, cooperation to develop our resources which man has scarcely touched.

There is the problem of exploring the deep-ocean floor.

There is the American proposal for an international decade of undersea exploration. There is the continuing exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctic. In the Antarctic, we are already working with the Soviet Union--and the area has been freed from military tension by our treaty of 1962.

Finally, there is the great task of turning to productive uses the great, rain-rich forests of the tropics.

While great conflicts persist, we tend to overlook these opportunities. But it is by small threads, too, that we will weave a strong fabric of peace in the world.

A great scientist was once asked what moved him to seek out the great principles of physics. He replied, "I hope that I leave this world a little more orderly than I found it."

It was with this aim that I came here last year to meet with Chairman Kosygin. And it is with this aim that I come here again today.

I hope that those of you in this year's graduating class will recognize the sacrifices, the investment, the hopes that have gone into bringing you to this day.

I hope that you will realize that we will now look to you to give back to society not only the great investment that society has made in you, but will produce for it, not only a return of that investment, but rich dividends that will flow from it.

I believe that the old antagonisms which we call the "cold war" must fade--and I believe they will fade under stable, under enlightened leadership.

I believe that all of the nations of the world will try to develop and provide that leadership, as I believe we have developed it and are providing it here at Glassboro this morning.

I believe that the nations of the world that are now haunted by the ancient hatreds, still fearful of new steps toward accommodation, will in time, someday, come to use their talents and their resources to enrich the whole human family. After all, that is our excuse and that is our justification for being here-to better humanity.

I believe that the two great powers who met here in your hospitable surroundings last year have begun--have begun however haltingly--to bridge the gulf that has separated them for a quarter of a century. And in this day when some are not too hopeful, I am optimistic and I believe that--with the leadership that you and the leaders of your nation and the leadership of people like you in other nations through their leaders--we can bridge the gulf that has separated us for more than a quarter of a century.

I believe that other nations that are now locked in bitterness and strife will someday come to understand their own responsibilities for world peace and for world progress. And thus--the threat of disaster for us all will subside.

We must recognize that there is another world and that we are a part of that world. We must recognize that we cannot long exist as a lone fortress.

Now, the threats that I spoke of will not subside overnight. We will continue to face grave and serious difficulties. We will face reverses and setbacks. The right answers will often seem unclear.

There will be much frustration and abuse. But I hope that you--and all our fellow citizens--will try in the days ahead to display the fortitude, and display the forbearance, and display the understanding that has symbolized the Glassboro that I know--the Glassboro that extended the friendly hand last year, the Glassboro that said to two leaders, "Yes, we will be ready in an hour to provide an atmosphere and the accommodations necessary in the hope that something fruitful will eventually develop." This forbearance and this fortitude are going to be essential in this age.

Our calling, your calling, and my calling is to seek the answers, not the slogans--to strive to tip the balance in the right direction: from war to peace, from hostility to reconciliation, from stalemate to progress.

Our calling, yours and mine, in the words that I repeated only a moment ago, is to leave this world a little more orderly than we found it.

When we look at the headlines and we review the map of Asia or the map of Europe or the map of our own States, when we undertake the assignment of leaving this world a little more orderly than we found it, we have plenty of objectives. We have an agenda that is full.

But the town of Glassboro--and this wonderful college campus--will always be associated with the goal of leaving this world a little more orderly than we found it.

I want to thank the President and the faculty and every member of this college graduating class for giving me this pleasant assignment and giving me something to remember always.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:30 a.m. at Glassboro State College in Glassboro, N.J., to more than 5,000 persons attending a commencement ceremony. In his opening words he referred to Dr. Thomas E. Robinson, President of Glassboro State College, and Richard J. Hughes, Governor of New Jersey. During his remarks he referred to Gunnar Jarring, Swedish Ambassador to the Soviet Union and United Nations mediator in the Middle East dispute.

For remarks of the President following his meetings in June 1967 with Premier Aleksei N. Kosygin of the Soviet Union, see 1967 volume, this series, Book I, Items 280, 282, 283.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution of November 22, 1967, is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 57, p. 843). The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was signed on July 1, 1968, by representatives of 56 nations (see Item 349).

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

Filed Under




New Jersey

Simple Search of Our Archives