Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Commencement Address in New London at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

June 03, 1964

Admiral Roland, Admiral Smith, Secretary and Mrs. Dillon, Governor Dempsey, Connecticut's great and able Senators, my good friends, Tom Dodd and Abe Ribicoff, Senator Magnuson, Senator Thurmond, Senator Pell, Members of Connecticut's fine delegation to the Congress, and other Congressmen who work so hard in behalf of our Coast Guard, my fellow Americans:

In 1790 the nation which had fought a revolution against taxation without representation discovered that some of its citizens weren't much happier about taxation with representation. And so, in what was probably the country's first economy drive, the Coast Guard was founded at a cost of $10,000 for 10 cutters.

In tribute to your traditions, and in anticipation of your achievements, as Commander in Chief I hereby grant a general amnesty, and do excuse all Coast Guard cadets from any penalties which you may now carry with you.

The official mission of the Coast Guard, which hangs in each room of this Academy, places you "in the service of (your) country and humanity."

That mission, your mission, is also the mission of your Nation.

For today we Americans share responsibility not only for our own security but for the security of all free nations, not only for our own society but for an entire civilization, not only for our own liberty but for the hopes of all humanity.

In pursuit of such responsibilities national security requires more than national strength.

It requires, first of all, a nation dedicated to justice and to the improvement of life for its own people. It requires a nation determined to help others eliminate the despair and the human degradation on which the enemies of freedom feed. It requires a nation devoted, through speech and deed, to showing those who may grow weary of will, or fearful of the future, that the cause of human dignity is on the march, its shadow is lengthening, and victory is moving nearer.

But our hope for success in the aims of peace rests also on the strength of our arms.

As Winston Churchill once said: "Civilization will not last, freedom will not survive, peace will not be kept, unless mankind unites together to defend them and show themselves possessed of a power before which barbaric forces will stand in awe."

We, as well as our adversaries, must stand in awe before the power our craft has created and our wisdom must labor to control. In every area of national strength America today is stronger than it has ever been before. It is stronger than any adversary or combination of adversaries. It is stronger than the combined might of all the nations in the history of the world.

And I confidently predict that strength will continue to grow more rapidly than the might of all others.

The first area of this increasing strength is our ability to deter atomic destruction.

In the past 3 years we have increased our nuclear power on alert 2½ times, and our nuclear superiority will continue to grow until we reach agreement on arms control.

We have now more than 1,000 fully armed ICBM's and Polaris missiles ready for retaliation. The Soviet Union has far fewer, and none ready to be launched beneath the seas. We have more than 1,100 strategic bombers, many of which are equipped with air-to-surface and decoy missiles to help them reach almost any target. The Soviet Union, we estimate, could with difficulty send less than one-third of this number over targets in the United States.

Against such force the combined destructive power of every battle ever fought by man is like a firecracker thrown against the sun.

The second area of increasing strength is our ability to fight less than all-out war.

In the past 3 years we have raised the number of combat ready divisions 45 percent. They can he moved swiftly around the world by an airlift capacity which has increased 75 percent. Supporting tactical aircraft have been increased over 30 percent and the number of tactical nuclear warheads in Europe has been raised 60 percent. We, and our NATO allies, now have 5 million men under arms.

In addition, we are now ready to mobilize large reserves in the event of conflict. Six divisions, with all supporting units, can be moved into action in a few weeks.

And we are continuing to build our forces. In a few years our airlift capacity will be five times what it was in 1961. Advanced weapons and equipment are flowing to our armies. Our fleet is being modernized through a decade-long shipbuilding program. And new tactical aircraft are being built.

A third area of increasing strength is the struggle against subversion.

Our adversaries, convinced that direct attack would be aimless, today resort to terror, subversion, and guerrilla warfare.

To meet this threat we began a large effort to train special forces to fight internal subversion. Since January 1961 we have increased these specialized forces eight times. We have trained more than 100,000 officers in these techniques. We have given special emphasis to this form of warfare in the training of all military units.

Our army now has six special action forces on call around the world to assist our friendly nations. They are skilled in the languages and problems of the area in which they are stationed. The Navy and the Air Force have several thousand men whose abilities, training, equipment, and mission are designed to combat clandestine attack. And behind these groups are five brigade-size backup forces ready to move into instant action.

But just as subversion has many faces, our responses must take many forms. We have worked to increase and integrate all the resources, political and social as well as military and economic, needed to meet a threat which tears at the entire fabric of a society.

But success in fighting subversion ultimately rests on the skill of the soldiers of the threatened country. We now have 344 teams at work in 49 countries to train the local military in the most advanced techniques of internal defense.

Subversive warfare is often difficult, dirty, and deadly. Victory comes only to those with the desire to protect their own freedom. But such conflict requires weapons as well as will, ability as well as aspiration. And we will continue to increase this strength until our adversaries are convinced that this course too will not lead to conquest.

The fourth area of increasing strength is in the development of new weapons for deterrence and defense.

In the past several years we have begun many important new weapons systems. Minuteman II will have twice the accuracy of the first Minuteman. The new Nike-X, when its development is completed, will give us the option to deploy, if national security requires it, the best anti-ballistics missile available to any nation. We are developing a new aircraft, the F-111, with much greater range, payload, and ability at air combat than present tactical bombers or fighters.

The Lance missile, the EX-10 torpedo, the A7A attack aircraft, a new main battle tank, new anti-tank missile system, are the emerging products of development that we are carrying on. And that effort is without parallel in all the world. We will continue to carry forward new projects which offer hope of adding substantially to our strength. I can assure the American people that the United States is, and will remain, first in the use of science and technology for the protection of the people.

The fifth area and the most important of increasing strength is the ability of the American fighting man.

However impressive or ingenious, our weapons can be no better than the men who man them. The complexities of modern weapons require men of high skill. The complexities of modern warfare require men of great knowledge. The complexities of the modern world require men of broad outlook.

Today 52 percent of our enlisted men are under 25 and are high school graduates, compared with 39 percent in the country as a whole who are high school graduates. Sixty-five percent of our commissioned officers are college graduates today, compared with 7 percent in the Nation. Twenty-five thousand officers hold graduate degrees and thousands more are studying for such degrees.

In encampments across the world millions of men and women have chosen to serve with low pay and high hazard, with deep devotion and silent sacrifice, so that their fellow Americans might enjoy the rich legacy of liberty. They stand the hard vigil that we may pursue the high vision of flourishing freedom in a world at peace. These are the sources of the strength we build, knowing, in the words of the Bible, "When the strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace."

The necessities of our strength are as varied as the nature of our dangers. The response must suit the threat. Those who would answer every problem with nuclear weapons display not bravery but bravado, not wisdom but a wanton disregard for the survival of the world and the future of the race.

No one can live daily, as I must do, with the dark realities of nuclear ruin, without seeking the guidance of God to find the path of peace. We have built this staggering strength that I have told you about not to destroy but to save, not to put an end to civilization but rather to try to put an end to conflict.

Thus, in the past 3 years, as our strength rose--and, in large part, as a consequence of that rising strength--we have been able to take more tangible steps toward peace than at any time since the cold war began. We established an Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. We agreed with the Soviet Union on a statement of disarmament principles. We signed a test ban treaty. We established the "hot line." We supported a U.N. resolution prohibiting the orbiting of nuclear weapons. We cut back on nuclear production while the Soviet Union did the same. And we have just completed the negotiation of a new consular agreement.

And, as the Geneva conference reconvenes, we have before it a series of proposals that I submitted, designed to freeze strategic nuclear delivery systems, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to prohibit the use of force to solve disputes. And we will welcome any other proposal by any nation which promises realistic progress toward peace.

In far-flung corners of this strife-girdled globe ambitious adversaries continually test our tenacity and seek to erode our endurance. American strength is engaged and American blood is being shed.

It requires patience and understanding to continue the search for peace while our adversaries so beset us. But this is what we must do. It is what, God willing, I intend to do.

If we are successful in that search it will be because you, and men like you, gave their lives to duty that our children might live their lives in freedom.

So let us hope that this Nation can someday, not too distant, lay aside its awesome power, and direct all its genius to the betterment of man. Let us hope that we may soon be able to say "The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light."

[Remarks after being presented a desk piece and a certificate of honorary class membership and matching class rings for himself and Mrs. Johnson.]

I know Mrs. Johnson will appreciate your thoughtfulness of her. She is attending another graduation exercise today or she would have been here with me.

I have enjoyed very much my work with the Class of 1964. I hope that '64 will be as good for me as it is for you.

Note: The President spoke shortly after 11 a.m. in Jones Field at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. His opening words referred to Adm. Edward J. Roland, Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Willard J. Smith, superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon and Mrs. Dillon, Governor John N. Dempsey and Senators Thomas J. Dodd and Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Commencement Address in New London at the United States Coast Guard Academy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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