Franklin D. Roosevelt

Message for American Education Week.

September 27, 1938

To the teachers and patrons of American schools:

AS AMERICAN EDUCATION WEEK is once more observed throughout the schools of the United States opportunity again is afforded to evaluate the part which our schools play in the preservation and promotion of democratic life.

The conflict is still sharpening throughout the world between two political systems. The one system represents government by freedom of choice exercised by the individual citizens. In the other, and opposing system, individual freedom and initiative are all made subordinate to the totalitarian state. In this conflict the part which education plays in each ideology is crucial.

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. It has been well said that no system of government gives so much to the individual or exacts so much as a democracy. Upon our educational system must largely depend the perpetuity of those institutions upon which our freedom and our security rest. To prepare each citizen to choose wisely and to enable him to choose freely are paramount functions of the schools in a democracy.

So I think it is of happy significance that one of the topics selected for emphasis in this year's observance of Education Week is: "Holding fast to our ideals of freedom." Upon the maintenance of those ideals depends all of our happiness.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message for American Education Week. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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