Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Commencement Address at Holy Cross College.

June 10, 1964

Governor Peabody, Bishop Flannagan, Father Swords, Congressman Donohue, Mayor Mullaney, members of the graduating class, distinguished guests on the platform, ladies and gentlemen:

I feel at home here this morning, and there is certainly good reason. The other day I called a White House staff meeting of my top advisers and there I was surrounded by O'Donnell and O'Brien, McNally' and Maguire. I felt like a one-man ecumenical council. I decided if you just can't beat them, join them. So here I am today. I am so proud to be here where Ken O'Donnell's father won so many victories every fall. I just hope his son keeps up that tradition this fall.

Last year, within 6 months of each other, two of the great men of this century passed from this earth: President John F. Kennedy and Pope John XXIII. They both left a world transformed by their triumphs and lessened by their leaving. They both handed on a heritage of hope, a vision of the future which will occupy the thoughts and labors of men for generations yet to come.

For a generation, Americans have struggled to keep the ambitions of nations from erupting into the annihilation of nuclear war. We have struggled to diminish hostility and to decrease tension, while battling aggression and building our power. The years will not dim, nor the burdens destroy, our resolve to seek and not to yield, to find a way to peace in a world where freedom grows.

But even if we achieve such a world, we will only have taken a first step toward final fulfillment of the hopes of Pope John and President Kennedy. For just as the cold war has consumed our energies, it has often limited our horizons. We have tended to place every challenge in the context of conflict, to regard every difficulty as part of a struggle for domination.

Even if we end terror and even if we eliminate tension, even if we reduce arms and restrict conflict, even if peace were to come to the nations, we would turn from this struggle only to find ourselves on a new battleground as filled with danger and as fraught with difficulty as any ever faced by man. For many of our most urgent problems do not spring from the cold war or even from the ambitions of our adversaries.

These are the problems which will persist beyond the cold war. They are the ominous obstacles to man's effort to build a great world society--a place where every man can find a life free from hunger and disease-a life offering the chance to seek spiritual fulfillment unhampered by the degradation of bodily misery.

These long years of conflict have given fresh content to the ancient prophecy that no man, and no community, and no nation, is an island.

This truth, borne in upon us by the necessities of our protection, is equally true for those problems which stretch beyond present differences. Those who live in the emerging community of nations will ignore the problems of their neighbors at the risk of their own prosperity.

It may seem difficult to accept the fact that even lasting peace will not bring respite from world responsibility. But we can bring to the challenges which surpass conflict the same qualities of resolution and compassion that we have brought to the protection of freedom, then your generation can shape the great world society which is the ultimate purpose of peace.

I would like briefly, today, to mention three problems which menace man's welfare and will threaten it even when armed destruction and war are things of the past. They are the problems of poverty, of disease, and of diminishing natural resources.

First is the problem of poverty--the growing division between the rich and poor nations. Today the per capita product of the developed countries is $1,730 a year. In the developing countries it is $143. And the gap is widening, not narrowing. Our own growth must continue. But we must find ways to step up the growth of others or we will be an increasingly isolated island of wealth in the midst of mounting misery.

Second is man's struggle against disease, the focal point in his war to control the destructive forces of nature. Each year 3 million people die from tuberculosis. Each year 5 million die from dysentery, 500,000 from measles. In some countries one-sixth of the entire population suffer from leprosy. Yet, we have the knowledge to reduce the toll of these diseases, and to avert millions of separate tragedies of needless death and suffering.

Third is the need to develop new resources, and new ways to use existing resources. It has been estimated that if everyone in the world were to rise to the level of living of the United States we would then have to extract about 20 billion tons of iron, 300 million tons of copper, 300 million tons of lead, and 200 million tons of zinc. These totals are well over 100 times the world's present annual rate of production.

There is no simple solution to these problems. In the past there would have been no solution at all. Today, the constantly unfolding conquests of science give man the power over his world and nature which brings the prospect of success within the purview of hope.

To commemorate the United Nations 20th birthday, 1965 has been designated International Cooperation Year. I propose to dedicate this year to finding new techniques for making man's knowledge serve man's welfare. Let this be the year of science. Let it be a turning point in the struggle-not of man against man, but of man against nature. In the midst of tension let us begin to chart a course toward the possibilities of conquest which bypass the politics of the cold war.

For our own part, we intend to call upon all the resources of this great Nation--both public and private--to work with other nations to find new methods of improving the life of man.

First, by September I will report to the Third International Conference in Geneva on the peaceful uses of atomic energy on our new capability to use the power of the atom to meet human needs. It appears that the long promised day of economical nuclear power is close at hand.

In the past several months we have achieved an economic breakthrough in the use of larger-scale reactors for commercial power. And as a result of this rapid progress we are years ahead of our planned progress. This new technology, now being applied in the United States, will be available to the world.

Moreover, the development of the large-scale reactor offers a dramatic prospect of transforming sea water into water suitable for human consumption and industrial use. Large-scale nuclear reactors and desalting plants offer, in combination, economical electric power and useable water in areas of need. We are engaged in research and development to transform this scientists' concept into reality.

Second, I intend to expand our efforts to provide protection against disease. In the last few years we have conducted pilot projects in West Africa on methods of immunizing young Africans against measles--the single biggest killer of children in that area. The success of that project has enabled us to proceed, this year, with a program to immunize one-fourth of the susceptible population in seven countries of West Africa.

During International Cooperation Year we will expand our efforts to prevent and to control disease in every continent, cooperating with other nations which seek to elevate the well-being of mankind.

No nation can stand idly by while millions suffer and die from afflictions which we have the power to prevent.

Third, we will move ahead with plans to devise a worldwide weather system--using the satellites and the facilities of all industrialized countries. The space age has given us unparalleled capacity to predict the course of the weather. By working together, on a global basis, we can take new strides toward coping with the historic enemies of storm and drought and flood.

These are only a few examples of the many fronts on which science can serve the society of man. These are some of the possibilities which unfold as reduced tension opens the way to larger cooperation.

We are going ahead with our determined effort to bring peace to this world.

We are going ahead in our country to bring an end to poverty and to racial injustice.

In the last 10 minutes we have made considerable progress when we voted cloture in the Senate today by a vote of 71 to 29.

The message of Pope John and John Kennedy flowed from the message that burst upon the world 2,000 years ago--a message of hope and redemption not for a people or for a nation, but hope and redemption for all people of all nations.

We now can join knowledge to faith and science to belief to realize in our time the ancient hope of a world which is a fit home for mail.

The New Testament enjoins us to "Go ye therefore and teach all nations." Go forth then--in that spirit--to put your hands in the service of man and to put your hearts in the service of God.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:32 a.m. in the football stadium on the campus at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Mass., after being awarded an honorary degree of doctor of civil law. His opening words referred to Governor Endicott Peabody of Massachusetts, the Most Reverend Bernard J. Flannagan, Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester, the Very Reverend Raymond J. Swords, rector of the College of the Holy Cross, Representative Harold D. Donohue of Massachusetts, and Mayor Paul Mullaney of Worcester. During his remarks the President referred to P. Kenneth O'Donnell and Lawrence F. O'Brien, Special Assistants to the President, John J. McNally, Jr., White House Staff Assistant, and Richard Maguire, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee.

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

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