Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Reception for the Presidential Scholars of 1968.

June 10, 1968

Mrs. Johnson, members of the Cabinet, parents, distinguished young scholars:

I hope that you feel as special about this award and this event--at least as special--as we feel about those who have been selected for this great honor.

"Of those to whom much is given," it is said, "much will be required." Those words apply both to you, with your great gifts, as well as to the country that we all love, with the country's great wealth and its great resources.

Certainly, we all recognize that we are living in a time which requires a great deal from all of us. This time demands that we sacrifice for our country in many ways: ways that are difficult, in causes that all of us don't always understand.

The times demand that all of us solve problems which at times appear to some of us to be unsolvable, problems that we inherited, problems that are thrust upon us by years of injustice and years of neglect.

Finally, this time in America has required us to endure events which seem unbelievable--and almost, at times, unbearable-tragedies of violence and unreason.

You and I must face the difficulty of being citizens and we must face it in a difficult time.

Really, there never has been an easy age in America.

No one ever promised that this democracy of ours would be easy; No one ever promised that this Nation's great experiment could be carried without great pain.

Every time for our country has been a difficult time.

But every time has also been a time of hope, too.

The greatest question facing this country today, as we meet here this afternoon in the East Room of the first house of the land, is not whether we can rebuild our cities; of course we can do that. It is not whether we can improve our schools; of course we can and we must do that.

It is not whether we can create and build more housing or create more jobs. Those are all, I think, questions of will--not questions of capacity.

The critical question that we face is whether we can, as one people, hold fast to our faith--in each other and in this Nation's purpose.

If we answer that question in the affirmative,

--we will overcome injustice;

--we will erase the stain of violence;

--we will heal and help this country.

I hope that every one of the Presidential Scholars, of whom we are all so proud, with your considerable talents, will be active participants in that effort.

Ask yourself not what you can say or do that will create doubt or will plant fear, but ask yourself what you can do that will heal, build, and be constructive.

The honor that your Nation pays you today is not just a reward for past achievement. It is a way of recognizing your special talents and expressing the confidence of the country in you.

We want, in return, for you to express confidence in your country and try to provide ability to lead and to return your great gifts to the country that has given you so much.

In effect, we want you and your ability to make your difficult time, which we all realize is difficult, to be also a time of hope.

In all the periods of doubt and uncertainty and trouble that have faced this Nation--and there have been many critical moments in our history--there has always been hope that led us out of it, and always young people and their faith that I think have made us the greatest land in all the world.

I have not the slightest doubt about the future as long as a country can develop young men and women with faith like you, with hope like you, with the leadership that I hope you will give all of us.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:06 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

The 121 Presidential Scholars of 1968, announced by the President on May 27, were chosen for their superior intellectual attainment and potential from among the Nation's outstanding secondary school graduates. The Presidential Scholars were selected by a commission appointed by the President and headed by Dr. J, E. Wallace Sterling, president of Stanford University. The group, composed of 64 boys and 57 girls, included at least one boy and one girl from each State, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Two were selected from Americans living abroad.

The Presidential Scholars program was established in 1964 "to recognize the most precious resource of the United States--the brain power of its young people--and to encourage the pursuit of intellectual attainment among all our youth."

The names of the 1968 Presidential Scholars and the members of the commission which selected them are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 855).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Reception for the Presidential Scholars of 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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