Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks in Boca Raton at the Dedication of Florida Atlantic University

October 25, 1964

President Williams:

There is something about this Florida air, clean and alive, that reminds me of Texas. There is much similarity between Texas and Florida that has nothing to do with oranges and grapefruit, but it has to do with people and climate. The sun is warm, the people are friendly, and the tomorrows are always bright with hope.

Thank you, President Williams, for your gracious welcome. Thank you, too, Dean Pilcher and Dean Miller. It is good for me to be with two of the great Senators of our time, your own senior Senator and my longtime friend Spessard Holland. Florida citizens have shown good sense and sound judgment in keeping this good man in the United States Senate where he can serve his State and his Nation. And I am so glad today to see my old colleague and my loyal friend for many years, your brilliant, young Senator George Smathers. He has distinguished Florida by his record and his ability in the United States Senate.

Thanks, Governor Bryant, for your being here with me, too. I am so proud to call you my friend, and I want to say here in Florida how much all the people of the Nation regard you as a good American.

There are few congressional delegations that have more competent representation than Florida's. My friends Paul Rogers and Dante Fascell, and Claude Pepper, are in the forefront of all that is valuable for your State and your country. I was happy to have welcome me outstanding citizens of this great State, like Warren Goodrich, Tom Fleming, and Mrs. Annette Baker.

I would like to pay tribute to the consistent leadership of the Florida State cabinet. I commend the people of Florida for men like Tom Adams, Ed Larson, Ray Green, Jim Kynes, Tom Bailey, and Doyle Conner.

This is a proud occasion, President Williams, for you and for your colleagues, for this community, and for Florida, and for me. It is always exciting to dedicate a new university.

The Good Book tells us that "one generation passeth away and another generation cometh," and if I speak with special feeling about this, it is partly because I was a teacher once. I like to think sometimes that I still am. This feeling also goes back 30 years to my work with the National Youth Administration. My job was to see that thousands of boys and girls were not denied an education because of the financial hardship of their families.

As a tenant farmer's son, I almost didn't get any college education, and I know how much difference a full education makes. For me, it was a passport out of poverty.

Not long after I became President, I was having dinner one night with the Canadian Prime Minister and Secretary Rusk, Dean Bundy and a number of other people. They were talking about their college days. Finally, I had to give the toast of the evening, and I said, "It is such a privilege to be here this evening, with three graduates of Harvard, two of Yale, four from Princeton, five Rhodes scholars, and one graduate of the San Marcos State Teachers College."

So it means a great deal to me, President Williams, that you would ask me to come here today, and give me this honor. Your plans for Florida Atlantic University are drawn from the experience of the past, and they meet the specifications of the future. You reflect in these plans what I see of the new future for education in America, and particularly in our part of America.

There are three elements in it.

First, it must be a new future of full equity in educational opportunity for all Americans.

Second, it must be a future of new learning to meet new demands.

Third, it must be a future of new methods which are necessary to teach much more to many more.

I wish that as we meet here on this Sabbath Day, in all the freedom, luxury, and prosperity that is ours, that we could count the blessings that are ours and somehow bring it home to each of us that we are no stronger than the weakest among us.

The great privilege and the responsibility of your next President of the United States, whoever he may be, will be to participate in two great new prospects, and I would hope that the modern, intelligent, imaginative, patriotic Floridian would furnish great leadership in these prospects.

The first prospect is the conquest of outer space. I would remind you that we cannot be first on earth and second in space.

The second prospect is the development of the inner man. I believe, I genuinely and sincerely believe, that every American boy and girl born under this flag has an unqualified right to all the education that he or she can make good use of, and a responsibility to get it. Now, if in our local communities we can make adequate provision for all the classrooms we need, and we can man all those classrooms with adequately trained and properly paid teachers, well and good, because the best government is the government that is closest to the people.

But if we find somehow in our economic operations that it is necessary to have some State support, then before we turn our back on realizing the ultimate potential of each individual, we must have the State join with us.

And rather than to sit idly by and do a mediocre job, or only do part of a job, and ultimately wind up, in the classification of 120 nations, way down that list, then it is necessary to draw upon the National Government to support and to supplement, and to do whatever may be required to see that every Florida, every Mississippi, every Alabama, every Texas, every New York boy and girl has all the training up here in this technological age that he can properly take, because the competition in this century is great and is dangerous.

Now, so far we have not recognized in this country either this right of every boy and girl, all the little ones sitting at that fence, to all the education they can take, nor have we recognized this responsibility.

Almost a million boys and girls drop out of school each year, or they are pushed out by forces beyond their control. They face a jobless future. Every year more than 100,000 school graduates with proven ability drop out and do not even go on to college for one reason: because they cannot afford it.

How many world leaders, how many great admirals, how many imaginative generals, how many Presidents and Senators and Congressmen and educators and presidents of great universities we lose we do not know.

But we do know that more than 21 million youngsters now in grade school--21 million--1 out of every 9--will end their education short of college in a technological age when all the skill that they can acquire is not necessary just for them, but is essential to our survival. We do know that 1 out of 9 is going down the drain unless you do something about it.

Science and technology have moved so swiftly that advanced education is no longer a luxury just to be enjoyed by the child of the banker, or by the children of fortunate families. In this afternoon of our life, as you sit here, I say to you that it is a necessity for every American boy, and I repeat and try to drum it into all of our heads that it is the right of every American boy and girl.

To deny it to the children of poverty not only denies the most elementary democratic equality, it perpetuates poverty as a national weakness. And it denies our democracy and our great free enterprise system of government. It denies them the educated citizens that we must have if we are to lead and stay in the forefront of the other 120 nations in the world.

So, what of it? We must, therefore, prepare the next generation for the great decisions that it will have to make.

When I was a boy--my grandfather moved away, 50 years before I discovered America, from the prairies of Texas to the hills in order that he could enjoy more freedom. He wanted to get away from the trains that passed through every night and disturbed him. He went out into a new, uncharted wilderness, and he chose well, because he settled Johnson City almost 100 years ago and there hasn't a train come through there since.

But in the day and age now in which we live, it is not the question that the old-timers said when they did bring the first train to the prairie where they were, "They will never get it started, and if they get it started, they will never get it stopped."

Here in the State where we will send our first American to the moon, we must think in terms of the 21st century and the 22d century, and not the 18th century and the 19th century.

And ask yourself tonight whether you want your grade school Florida boys, and you want your high school Florida girls competing with the ruthless Communists who have Ph. D.'s, and expect them to outproduce them, to outthink them, and to outlead them.

In the last century we decided in this country, in a very forward step, on a certain amount of free education for all children. Well, that decision, that decision more than any other, put America in the forefront of civilization's advance in the world.

So I think it is time now, I think it is past time, for a new, adventurous, imaginative, courageous breakthrough, for a new revolution in education in America.

I am old enough to remember some of the voices of gloom and doom that opposed universal free education. I remember some of my State legislators talking about the loss of their freedoms when we passed a compulsory attendance law in our State.

But I would remind you that the freedom that we lost by educating our children is nothing to compare to the freedom we would lose if we didn't educate them.

Universal free education through high school--that was the decision of a century ago. But it no longer meets the test of the current times. The high school boys are not going to keep the Cape Canaverals functioning in the year 2000. So our goal must be to open the doors of higher education to all who can possible meet that standard and qualify.

The proud achievement of the GI bill-and it doesn't seem to me that you ought to have to go into uniform and go to boot camp, and spend 2 or 3 years in the service in order for your Government to have an interest in your education. And yet there is not a Member of Congress today that would look back on that GI bill and say, "We made a mistake in making that great adventure and that great decision."

The GI bill challenges us to programs of loans and scholarships enabling every young man and woman who has the ability to move beyond the high school level. So I think we just must not rest until each child--GI or no GI, boy or girl, rich or poor--has the opportunity to get the kind of education that he needs and that his country needs for him to have in order to defend it.

And I think it is a little wiser policy to do a little better planning, to take the boy out of the cotton field and train him in his normal high school years and his college years to develop himself, rather than to issue an emergency order and jerk him off overnight and send him on a train to a boot camp and then try to teach him how to fire a missile or handle a B-52 over Moscow without much notice.

So there is no real disagreement, I think, in this country about what I am talking about. We all want very much to do these things. But we are not doing them. We have stumbled in our efforts. Why? Because of various differences, because of lack of initiative, because of budget problems, because of the differences that we have had regarding segregation, because of the difficulties we have had about the relationship of public and private schools, because of the concern that I referred to a little earlier about local responsibility, and State responsibility, and Federal relationships.

These have been difficult problems. They are still difficult. But if we are going to be the leader of the world, and if we are going to survive in this world, they must be worked out. And we can, and we will, and we must find ways of working cooperatively together to achieve our common purpose.

Now, finally, we must turn the genius of science and technology to the service of education as we have to the service of medicine and other disciplines. The planners of the Florida Atlantic University have placed very special emphasis on bringing significant innovations to the methods of education. You are moving far toward making the partnership between campus and country stronger, so that the harvest of the future will be more fruitful for all of our people.

President Williams, a great challenge awaits you and this faculty. You are starting here today new, which I think gives you infinite opportunity. The road ahead is, as I must have implied, not easy for a new university. But I urge you to remember the admonition: "Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap." The past is your teacher, but it holds you in no bondage.

So I join you this evening in dedicating Florida Atlantic University to the responsibility of preparing the sons and daughters of Florida to meet the future, to meet it on its own terms, and on yours.

A great son of Georgia came to Texas to become one of the early Presidents of the Republic of Texas. He said in words that I shall always remember, and that I would hope you would not forget: "Education is the guardian genius of democracy. Education is the only dictator that free men recognize. And education is the only ruler that free men desire."

Now I must go along. I want to tell you what a pleasure it has been to be here with you. You are one of the modern States of America. The rest of the country looks to you folks who have come here from all the States of the Union, and those of you that were born here to lead us into a fuller and better life.

And your sons that represent you in the temples of justice and who are your spokesmen in the legislative chambers of the Nation, are among the most dependable and most enlightened. I know that you would want to be able to say that about your grandsons and about your grandchildren's children, too.

So I implore you to recognize before it is to late that while the Soviet Union can put up Sputnik I, and while we are debating about it, Sputnik II is saying "Beep, beep, beep" in the sky, that we are sometimes mighty slow to start, but mighty hard to stop. We don't need argumentation about the desirability of preparing our children to think and to act with judgment.

But remember, whether it is the man that picks up the telephone on the end of the "hot line" that is calling from Moscow, or whether it is the man that sits there with the responsibility of his thumb close to that button, who must act on a moment's notice, that no man's judgment on any given question is any better than the information he has on that question. And he can't get all the information he needs in this space age hunting and fishing. He can't get all that he needs on the football field or the baseball diamond. He has to get it in grade school, high school, in college, in graduate work, because Americans must never be second to anyone.

Note: The President spoke at 5:27 p.m. at the Florida Atlantic University at Boca Raton after being awarded an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters. His opening words referred to Kenneth R. Williams, president of the University. Later he referred to Palmer C. Pilcher, dean of Academic Affairs, and Roger Miller, dean of Administrative Affairs, of the University, and Senators Spessard L. Holland and George A. Smathers, Governor Farris Bryant, and Representatives Paul Rogers, Dante Fascell, and Claude Pepper, all of Florida, Warren Goodrich, chairman of the Florida State Democratic Executive Committee, Thomas F. Fleming, State Democratic campaign coordinator, Mrs. Annette Baker, State Democratic committeewoman, and the following members of the Florida State cabinet: Tom Adams, Secretary of State, J. Edwin Larson, Treasurer, Ray E. Green, Comptroller, James Kynes, Executive Assistant to the Governor, Thomas D. Bailey, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Doyle E. Conner, Commissioner of Agriculture.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Boca Raton at the Dedication of Florida Atlantic University Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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