Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to a Group of State and Local School Officials.

July 30, 1964

Mr. Secretary, ladies and gentlemen:

The honor is mine to meet with you today.

This house is your house. This office is your office.

The trust I bear is a trust you share. You and I are servants of the American people. Together, we are trustees of the American promise.

That is why I have asked you here today.

The American promise has never been so great. We are prosperous. We are strong. We live in peace. The roots of freedom run deep in our society's soul.

By every measure--and in every view--we have our greatest works yet to do.

This moment we hold must not be lost. This is the call--this is the challenge--to all who are leaders in America today. Other generations, in other times, have been summoned to serve their communities by answering the call of our Nation. Our generation, in these times, is summoned to serve our Nation by answering the call of our communities.

The challenges of our society are no longer far away.

The cures for our society can no longer come from far away.

What America is to be for our children will be decided and be determined by how we work--by what we do-by where we live today.

I know that you know this.

If I had continued on the course I first began in life, I might be sitting where you sit now--as one of you. If I have an understanding of the work and the worries and the wishes of any Americans, I believe I understand what you face each day in your offices of trust and responsibility.

That is why I say to you that no Americans have an opportunity--or an obligation-so great as yours now to serve and to help us shape the future of our country.

We are what we are in this land of ours-and what we have become in the rest of the world--because we have placed our faith as a nation in public education.

Onto my desk each day come the problems of 190 million men and women. When we consider those problems, when we study them, when we analyze them, when we evaluate what can be done, the answer almost always comes down to one word: education.

This is true for economic problems, this is true for social problems. This is true for the challenges of peace as well as for the challenges of preparedness.

The simple and sure truth of our times is that America in this decade must enlarge, must broaden, must deepen its commitment to the classroom as the central core of our society and of our success.

I am proud, and I am deeply gratified, that the record of the 88th Congress clearly confirms that just such a commitment is being made by the American people.

This Congress has set in motion what I believe are the grandest measures for American education of any Congress in all of our history.

When you begin your school year this fall, you will have support America's educators have never had before, support to help your systems, support to serve your communities. Because in the past year, this education Congress has passed legislation:

--for vocational and technical education

--for higher education facilities

--for teaching handicapped children

--for preventing juvenile delinquency

--for medical education

--for public community libraries

--for college libraries

--for graduate schools

--for technical institutes

--for public community colleges

--for student college loans

--for guidance and counseling and training

--for science and mathematics and foreign language instruction

--for schools in federally-impacted areas

--for educational media

--for educational research

--for manpower development and retraining.

And there are still being debated before the Congress:

--the antipoverty bill; its major objectives are for education,

--the nurse training act,

--the extension and expansion of the National Defense Education Act, and,

--the extension and expansion of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.

I believe that this Congress has truly earned from you--and from the Nation-a long round of applause. And let's give it to them!

These measures and this activity represent what I believe is a new maturity among Americans.

We cherish our liberty.

We are jealous of our freedom.

We resent--and we would resist--inroads upon either from an all-powerful central government.

But we have come to one profound realization today.

The greatest guardian against centralization of power is the diffusion of knowledge throughout the world--and particularly to our own people.

Men who neglect their schools neglect their liberty.

The challenge of our times is to end the neglect of all on which our society stands-our classrooms, our cities, our countryside, and our family fireside.

I am conscious--and I know you are-of how much greater is the responsibility imposed upon our schools today than when my own teaching career began 35 years ago.

Our schools are bearing many burdens that were once borne only within the family home. Upon you and upon the teachers of America rests today the responsibility of passing to tomorrow's leaders the values and the standards by which America has been led in all of her past.

The soul of our society is in your hands this year.

This same Congress which has reaffirmed America's faith in education has also reaffirmed--before the world--America's fidelity to the rights of man.

After 100 years the ugly cloud of division has been rolled away from America's horizon-and a brighter future beckons to us than any generation has ever known.

This is the moment that we must not lose.

This is a moment when the best in America must rise up to put down the worst in the nature of man. This is a moment when America seeks--when America needs--when America will receive the best from those who are America's real leaders.

I will say to you what I said last week to the leaders of business in this country and the captains of industry and the leaders of labor.

As President of all the people, I intend to work to ensure that every human being enjoys the full constitutional rights and equal opportunity that are his birthright as an American citizen.

I intend to use all the resources that I have to make sure those who claim rights--and those who deny them--bend their passions to peaceful obedience of the law of the land.

No man could attain a higher honor than to occupy this office I now hold. No man would be worthy of that honor who thought of self. No man would be worthy who thought of any success except America's Success.

That is the only thought I have in this house today.

If the man who lives in this house is not free to stand for right, no man in any house in America is free from the injury of wrong.

The task before our Nation in this hour-the challenge before our system and our society--cannot be met by the man in the White House alone, whoever he may be.

I need your help--I need the help of every American.

You are leaders from every State in the Union. I ask you to exercise that leadership in every State in the Union.

You are respected in your communities. You are looked up to and emulated by those who must lead America tomorrow. Your respect for law and order--your respect for human rights--will live long after you in the lives of those who look to your example now.

This is a great and golden moment for America--a moment to lay aside the burdens of the past, a moment to look forward and to move ahead.

As your President, I wanted you to come here and talk to your servants, to exchange viewpoints, to share ideas, to determine how we can close ranks to prevent our society from being divided, to keep our brothers from being separated, and to keep our Nation united.

I trust to your leadership to help us hold that course.

I hope your deliberations are successful. I am going to leave you to the tender mercies of some of the men who work for you. And I leave with the thought, that because of your visit, America will be stronger tomorrow than it is today. And that is the purpose and the objective of all who really care.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke in the late afternoon in the East Room at the White House. His opening words referred to Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Anthony J. Celebrezze.

Attending the reception were more than 300 public school superintendents and other State and local school officials.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to a Group of State and Local School Officials. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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