Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to Graduates of the Senior Seminar in Foreign Policy.

June 09, 1966

Mr. Vice President, Secretary Ball, Members of the Senate and Congress, graduates, honored guests, members of the press corps:

It gives me a great deal of pleasure this morning to greet the graduates of the Senior Seminar in Foreign Policy. This year of study has prepared you for the highest posts of responsibility in your Service. I have been able personally to judge the high standards set by some of your alumni who are now our ambassadors and senior officials with whom I frequently come in contact.

I am encouraged that among you are representatives of the four armed services and five other Government departments. This, I think, reflects the revolution in foreign affairs of the past generation. Because foreign policy is no longer just two-way communications between foreign offices. Almost every major branch of Government is involved in some way in foreign policy. The need for teamwork between all of us has never been greater.

The unique relationship of Secretaries Rusk and McNamara and Mr. Bell symbolizes the kind of cooperation that I think we need at every level of this Government. It is more than encouraging--I think it is quite essential to a strong foreign policy.

The very close and special ties between the President and the Foreign Service should always be close, for the Constitution places on the President the direct responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations. The Foreign Service, like the Office of the President, belongs to no one single department. It serves the whole of this Government.

So the Senior Seminar provides a year of thought, reflection, and study to some of the most talented in our Government. This chance to look backwards and forwards-and all around--in my judgment, has never been more essential.

This present moment of history stands balanced between high danger and great and rare opportunity.

The danger is clear enough--in Southeast Asia and other areas where human misery and vaulting ambitions continue to threaten peace and security in the world. Much of our effort must be devoted to preventing the forces of aggression from asserting themselves or dealing with them when they do.

But there is--I deeply believe--a very rising tide of good sense in the world and a growing determination to get on with the constructive tasks that are ahead of us.

And that is why, with our Latin American friends, we are constantly seeking ways to accelerate the Alliance for Progress.

That is why, with our friends in Africa, we are constantly searching for ways to accelerate that continent's economic and social development.

That is why, in the whole arc from Teheran to Tokyo and Seoul, we are working with the governments and with the peoples of free Asia as they seek increased development and increased regional cohesion.

And that is why, as we face the reorganization of NATO, we are concerned not merely with the relocation of troops and of headquarters, but with bettering relations among Atlantic nations and between the East and the West.

This has a special meaning for those of you who are graduating here today.

Those who bear an operating responsibility in foreign policy can never be content merely to handle today's problems with efficiency and discipline. They must every day ask each in his own field: What can we do--that we are not doing--to tip the balance a little bit in favor of order, in favor of progress, and in favor of peace in the world?

What can we start doing now which will enlarge the prospects of life for the people of a generation from now?

I ask those questions to myself every morning and every night.

And I look to you and your colleagues to help me find the answers to those questions.

The work we do will consume not only today, and this month, and this year, but the work we do will consume many lifetimes to come. So I urge you to remember that Americans often grow impatient when they cannot see light at the end of the tunnel-when policies do not overnight usher in a new order.

But politics is not magic. And when some of our fellow citizens despair of the tedium and the time necessary to bring change (and I mean no criticism to anyone; I hope the sensitive will not take notice) as for example in Vietnam today, I believe they really forget our history.

It was on July 4, 1776, that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Not for many years did the shape of true order and security finally emerge.

The seat of Government in those days moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore and then to Philadelphia again; to Lancaster and to York and back to Philadelphia; to Princeton to Annapolis to Trenton; then to New York City and finally here to Washington.

The Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1777, but they were not ratified by all of the States until 1781--the year that the war ended.

A small elite group--55 men from 12 States--met in our Constitutional Convention. One State would not participate. The meeting was called for May 14, 1787, but it did not have a quorum until some 11 days later. The Convention labored until September 17, before the Constitution was finished. Nine more months passed before that document was ratified by our people.

And after George Washington was elected President, down in 1789, Congress needed almost 4 months to get a quorum to come to organize. Washington was not inaugurated, finally, until April 30. Thirteen years had passed since the colonies, our colonies, had set out to become a nation.

So we ought never to be complacent when change is so painfully slow in coming. We must constantly work to accelerate its pace. And don't think we don't! But let me counsel you who are going on now to important posts in the far corners of the world, those of you who are taking up very difficult tasks in the field of foreign policy: Be restless and discontented with things as they are; always strive and constantly work to change them, but never despair because the task is greater than you are and the time to finish it is really longer than you have.

It gives me great pleasure this morning to present to this class, here in this beautiful Rose Garden of the first house of the land, your diplomas--and to congratulate each of you on the completion of your studies in the Senior Seminar. To you and to your families I extend the gratitude of all of us who benefit from your service.

There has never been a time in my judgment in the Federal Government when better equipped and better trained, more dedicated and more experienced and merited personnel, diligently and with dedication, try to serve the best interests of their country.

There is no one really, that ever campaigns on doing what is wrong. We all think we want to do what is right. But finding out what is right is our problem. We find--in attempting to get that answer-that experience and dedication to country, and belief in the ideals and principles of our Founding Fathers, better equips each of us to ultimately find the answer that will preserve the liberty and the freedom not only of those few of us who are fortunate enough to occupy this hemisphere, but, we hope, ultimately to all people who desire freedom and liberty in this world.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:20 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House before a class of 25 Senior Seminar graduates, Foreign Service School, Department of State. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Under Secretary of State George W. Ball. During his remarks the President referred to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, Robert F. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, and David E. Bell, Administrator, Agency for International Development.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to Graduates of the Senior Seminar in Foreign Policy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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