Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Before Signing the International Education Act.

October 29, 1966

Your Majesty, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen:

Twenty-five hundred years ago in Athens, in Palestine, in China, and in the western part of India, men probed deeply into the nature of their being--trying to make sense out of their lives.

The results of that search are still with us today all across the world. Since then, our similarities and our differences have been like separate rivers, flowing from a common lake of humanity.

The marvel and the challenge of our modern age are that we can see the rivers of man converging again. We have seen them converging at the United Nations in New York City, at a thousand universities and international conferences, and as millions of our citizens travel abroad to become acquainted with their cultures.

We live, then, at a spectacular moment in the ages of man.

The challenge to us is also spectacular.

We must first retain the beauty and the integrity of our separate streams.

Secondly, we must encourage the free adoption of the best of all the ways of life.

Our goal is an elementary one. It is this: to give each man in the world a chance to seek the highest and the deepest of the human experience, as he sees fit.

You are doing that today here in Thailand.

Forty-five years ago only 29 percent of your people were able to read and write. Today, literacy is close to 75 percent.

Twelve years ago only 21,000 of your youth were pursuing university study. Today the number is gratifyingly well over 45,000. Almost 8,000 are studying here at this beautiful university. In addition, 3,000 Thai young people are studying at colleges and universities abroad. I am very proud that more than half that number are at schools in the United States of America. All but a handful of these will return to your own country--as should be the case, but is not always so with students from other countries.

Your educational progress is exciting-and it is matched by material progress as well. A spreading network of roads is drawing remote farms into contact with your market places here in your land. You have applied modern technology to agriculture, making Thailand the world's leading exporter of rice, while achieving a remarkable diversification of your crops.

Your gross national product is growing at a rate of 7 percent a year, the highest in all of Southeast Asia.

But you have seen that in this world nationalism is not enough. You have seen that for men to reach the highest ground, these men must learn to work together. Nineteen regional organizations now have headquarters here in Bangkok--and their diligent and inspired work is already beginning to bear fruit.

When I was in Bangkok 5 years ago, I visited ECAFE with U Nyun--who is with us today on this platform--and I heard of that organization's plans for Asian regional development projects. Five years ago almost all they had were plans. Today the Asian highway is 94 percent completed and two dams, both here in Thailand, are already supplying water and power as the first part of what was then the visionary Mekong development project.

Thailand is not yet rich, but she is carefully selecting from the rivers of man those modern techniques that will make her materially rich--education, economic development, and regionalism.

But the human spirit is not made wealthy only by dams or highways or more rice. A wealthy human spirit cannot flourish without rice, without good health, or without decent housing. That is not to say that a wealthy spirit automatically and necessarily follows material wealth. We have seen in my own country that the good life does not end with the possession of a new car, a new house, a new refrigerator, or a new washing machine.

It was our philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, "The true test of civilization is not the census, not the size of the cities, nor the crops, but the kind of man the country turns out."

That is the meaning of my legislative program in the United States: the creation of a Great Society where each American has the opportunity to pursue excellence--to be the best that is within him to be.

Accordingly, we in America are seeking broader educational opportunity. We are seeking better medical care. We are seeking cleaner cities and purer water and freshet air. We are seeking equality as a fact for all of our citizens. We are seeking to preserve our land in the state that it was given to us.

And all of these things add up to what we call in America the Great Society.

But there is still more to excellence today in this world of many human rivers. A Great Society cannot really exist in one nation and not exist in another nation. Excellence can be achieved only by learning from the peoples of the entire world.

One year ago at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., I proposed that my country, the United States of America, launch a concerted effort in international studies. I learned just a few days ago while I was already here in Asia that our Congress had acted on this proposal and passed a new law, the first step--the International Education Act. That will have to be implemented, as it will be, as we go along. Its purpose is to help Americans learn from other nations and, we hope, to help other nations learn from America. It will also establish a center for educational cooperation in Washington, D.C.

I am so very proud that the American Congress has passed this act. I think it is fitting and appropriate to sign this program into law here today on this stage of this great university in a land where international cooperation has now become a national byword.

With the approval of your President, I intend to sign this far-reaching, novel piece of legislation immediately following this talk this morning.

I think we have reason for pride also in the record of my country in providing economic assistance to other nations, beginning with the Marshall plan and more recently with the nations of Asia.

Today, even as the conflict in Vietnam continues, and with all its major burdens, I hope and expect that we shall not only continue our present program, but do still more as the right programs and initiatives are developed.

And I am very happy to see that our efforts are being joined increasingly by those of other nations that may be in a position to help. You know this well in Thailand. In the past 5 years the development assistance that you have received from other nations has exceeded that which my own Nation has been called upon to supply. You have shown how effective the multilateral approach can be in a nation that is able to develop wise and effective programs of its own.

But I would go still one step further. My Nation today is bearing a heavy load in the Vietnamese conflict, alongside your nation. The central tragedy of our times is the human and material waste that goes into war. Innocent men are killed and billions of dollars put to unproductive use.

It is my hope, and my firm expectation, that as soon as Hanoi accepts reality and the war in Vietnam ends, it will be possible to devote substantially greater funds to the relief of all human need in the world--to the enrichment of life. In my own country we are awaiting the development of a great many worthwhile causes until we can reduce our military expenditures.

In that larger effort, we believe that Southeast Asia will have its full share. We know that you believe as we do--that we would much prefer to take our material resources and put them in bread for babies than to put them in bullets and bombs.

I say this from the bottom of my heart, and I tell you that I long to see the day come when we can live at peace in the world with our neighbors.

Sometimes a nation must do what it would not choose to do. Sometimes men must die in order that freedom may live.

That, this morning, is our greatest sorrow--that young men must spend their lives in battle, who might, instead, be building a world of peace.

So I say here in your presence, with all the sincerity I can command, I say to the leaders in Hanoi:

Let us lay aside our arms and sit down together at the table of reason.

Let us renounce the works of death-and take up, instead, the tasks of the living.

Enough of this sorrow. Let us begin the work of healing, of teaching, of building, and of providing for the children of men. This is the purpose for which we were really made; this is what our age asks us to do.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:36 a.m. at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Political Science. In his opening words he referred to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn, and Deputy Prime Minister Prapas Charusathien, all of Thailand. Later he referred to U Nyun, Secretary of ECAFE, a regional development organization with headquarters in Bangkok.

For the President's remarks on September 16, 1965, at the Smithsonian Institution's bicentennial celebration, during which he proposed that the United States launch a concerted effort in international studies, see 1965 volume, this series, Book II, Item 519.

As enacted, the International Education Act of 1966 is Public Law 89-698 (80 Stat. 1066).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Before Signing the International Education Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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