Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter on Teaching English in Puerto Rico.

April 07, 1937

My dear Dr. Gallardo:

I have decided to appoint you Commissioner of Education for Puerto Rico and have sent your name to the Senate.

I desire at this time to make clear the attitude of my Administration on the extremely important matter of teaching English in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico came under the American flag thirty-eight years ago. Nearly twenty years ago Congress extended American citizenship to Puerto Ricans. It is regrettable that today hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have little and often virtually no knowledge of the English language. Moreover, even among those who have had the opportunity to study English in the public schools, mastery of the language is far from satisfactory. It is an indispensable part of American policy that the coming generation of American citizens in Puerto Rico grow up with complete facility in the English tongue. It is the language of our nation. Only through the acquisition of this language will Puerto Rican Americans secure a better understanding of American ideals and principles. Moreover, it is only through thorough familiarity with our language that the Puerto Ricans will be able to take full advantage of the economic opportunities which became available to them when they were made American citizens.

Puerto Rico is a densely populated island. Many of its sons and daughters 'will desire to seek economic opportunity on the mainland or perhaps in other countries of this hemisphere. They will be greatly handicapped if they have not mastered English. For it is obvious that they always will and should retain facility in the tongue of their inherited culture, Spanish. Clearly there is no desire or purpose to diminish the enjoyment of the usefulness of the rich Spanish cultural legacy of the people of Puerto Rico. What is necessary, however, is that the American citizens of Puerto Rico should profit from their unique geographical situation and the unique historical circumstance which has brought to them the blessings of American citizenship by becoming bi-lingual. But bi-lingualism will be achieved by the forthcoming generations of Puerto Ricans only if the teaching of English throughout the insular educational system is entered into at once with vigor, purposefulness and devotion, and with the understanding that English is the official language of our country.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jose M. Gallardo,

College of Charleston,

Charleston, South Carolina.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on Teaching English in Puerto Rico. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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