Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks on Signing the Education Amendments of 1980 Into Law in Sterling, Virginia

October 03, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. President Ernst and distinguished members of the faculty and student representatives of this fine college, Secretary Hufstedler, Senator Pell, Senator Jennings Randolph, Congressman Ford, Congressman Biaggi, Congressman Fisher, Congressman Buchanan, Congressman Petrie, representatives of the American Federation of Teachers:

It's really a pleasure for me to be here. I had a wonderful welcome outside and almost decided not to come in. [Laughter] But because of the historic nature of this event I'm very grateful to all of you for letting me perform this act here in one of our fine centers of education of which we are all so proud.

We've come to this splendid new campus to celebrate the enactment of the Education Amendments of 1980, truly an historic piece of legislation for education. It's appropriate that we've come to a community college to sign this bill. This campus is a symbol of extraordinary enterprise that is American education. The task of that enterprise is one of the' most audacious ever undertaken by any nation in history—nothing less than the education of an entire people.

One of Virginia's greatest sons, about whom I think frequently, living in the White House, Thomas Jefferson, set forth the dream of a system of general education which shall reach every description of our citizens from the richest to the poorest. Making Jefferson's dream live and come true has been the business of our Nation under Presidents and Congresses of both parties. President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which opened up the great land grant universities of this Nation. President Truman signed the GI bill, which has enabled thousands and thousands of veterans to benefit from higher education which they would not otherwise have gotten.

President Eisenhower signed the National Defense Education Act, which for the first time made Federal loans available to undergraduate students. President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Higher Education Act of 1965. And as President I've also been busy. I've sought to breathe new life into this national tradition of devotion and commitment to education.

My first public job was as a member of the Sumter County Library Board, and later during the crucial years of racial integration in the South, I was on a local county school board. I ran for the Georgia State Senate, because I was concerned about education. When I got to Atlanta my only request was to be put on that committee. I was chairman of the higher education committee of the Georgia Senate and later served as Governor with a major portion of my time and commitment devoted to improving the education system in our State.

We have now expanded, with this legislation, the Elementary and Secondary Act, and we've also been able to increase, in spite of severe fiscal constraint, the budget increases for education by 75 percent, for education in general and for Head Start and other programs for deprived children in particular.

We've doubled funds for student aid and for educating handicapped children. We've tripled funds for basic skills education and provided new funds for the disadvantaged students in our urban centers. Through the Middle Income Student Assistance Act we've brought college within the reach of every single student in this Nation who's qualified for higher education. The idea that lack of money should be no barrier to a college education is no longer a dream, it's a reality.

We've put more Federal resources behind the historically black colleges, which award nearly half the degrees received by black students in our country. And by creating the new Department of Education we've given education its proper place in the highest councils of government.

When Congress reconvenes on November 12 I hope that we will soon be able to add the Youth Act of 1980 to that list. It will provide jobs and basic education skills to millions of impoverished young men and women, and will ultimately prepare large numbers of students to take advantage of community college educations.

This legislation will, for the first time, bind in an official way the Department of Labor and the Department of Education so that in the future the products of high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, and senior colleges will be more accurately oriented toward career opportunities in the communities where the graduates will live.

The legislation I'm signing today reflects the diversity and adds to the strength of American higher education. It helps parents and students pay college costs. It strengthens our research universities. It strengthens our black colleges. It strengthens our Hispanic colleges. It supports teacher training, language and areas studies, and graduate studies as well. It provides support to students in all kinds of institutions, public and private universities, communities and junior colleges, and private technical institutions as well, to the National Institute of Education and the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. It supports research that helps us to explore the nature of teaching and the nature of learning. And through a new urban grant university program it helps to bring the resources of the university into our cities and our neighborhoods.

Let me say something about why this bill and the activities it supports are so important. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote some 150 years ago, and I will quote from him, "America is a land of wonders . . . No natural boundary seems to be set to the efforts of man; and in his eyes what is not yet done is only what he has not yet attempted to do." That was prophecy.

Over the generations American creativity has erased natural boundaries. American ingenuity has pushed back the frontiers of technology. American imagination has given us a more rich and a more bountiful life. But most important of all, American liberty has brought meaning to the material achievements of our rich society. American education is both a source and a beneficiary of these values. No matter how rich we are, without freedom our wealth would not be of value.

Literature, mathematics, science, history, language, the arts, specialized education are all part of a truly national effort to expand, as de Tocqueville said, the natural boundary of human effort. To millions education means opportunity. It's a door through which we walk to attain happier lives, better jobs, and if we are lucky, a measure of wisdom. It's the mechanism by which the American dream, the dream of taking our talents and our abilities as far as we can, is realized in this Nation of refugees and immigrants. It's a vehicle for understanding the diversity that is America, and it's a unifier of our ideals and values among people that are different one from another.

The act I'm signing today emphasizes to us how vital our educational system is, because it reminds us of how enduring our national ideals have become. It also asks of all of us a major question. What will be our legacy to those who will follow us? When generations to come cast their minds back to our times, will they write and will they teach that we began to close the door to knowledge, that we slammed shut opportunities for some of our people, that we succumbed to a narrow, exclusionary vision of our land? Or will our legacy be one of building our national diversity—opening wide the flow of ideas, casting broadly our net of respect and tolerance? I have no doubt of the answer.

We Americans do not fear competition in the marketplace of ideas. We do not repress those who have a different ideology from us. We do not stifle competing thoughts. Instead we followed Jefferson's advice, "Enlighten the people generally," he said, "and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits in the dawn of a new day."

We often bear the argument that education deserves our support because it contributes to the economic strength of our Nation. That's certainly true. But the real meaning of education goes far beyond that, much deeper. In its broadest sense, education, the question of understanding and knowledge of ourselves, our fellow human beings and God's universe, is not a means to some end, but rather an end in itself.

Education and liberty are part of the same search for truth, and education and liberty are unthinkable without each other. Let me quote Jefferson once more. "The education of the people," he wrote, "can alone make them the safe, as they are the sole repository of our political and religious freedom." So, political and religious freedom depend upon education.

Today we strengthen American education, and by doing so, we enlarge a precious possession—American liberty. In the process, we strengthen and enlarge both our inner lives as individuals and also our common life as a democratic society. That's why I'm honored to be here with you. And that explains in brief and perhaps fumbling words the historic significance of this event.

And now I would like to introduce to you our Nation's first Secretary of Education, Shirley Hufstedler.

SECRETARY HUFSTEDLER. Mr. President, it gives me very great pleasure to be here this afternoon as you sign into law the Education Amendments of 1980. This is the first major piece of education legislation that has been signed since the new Department of Education was created, formally inaugurated 5 months ago. I am confident that the second piece of legislation will be the Youth Act of 1980. That critically important bill represents your major domestic initiative, and it will be the first and most dramatic original education legislation in the last decade. That takes nothing away at all from the historic moment of the education legislation you are signing today.

The Education Amendments of 1980 have traveled a long and very intricate route through Congress. I want not only to recognize all the persons in the House and in the Senate who worked so hard on this bill who are not here; I want to, however, especially acknowledge the indispensable help of two persons on this platform without whose ardent, selfless work we would not be here today, Senator Claiborne Pell and Congressman Bill Ford.

The result of all the work of the great leaders who are represented here today in favor of education has resulted in a bill of which you can be very justly proud. The legislation furthers some of the most important objectives of American education. It reaffirms our determination that postsecondary education will remain accessible to every single person in this country whose inclinations and aptitudes lead them to education beyond high school.

It permits a sharing of burdens and responsibilities for the cost of that education while making sure that no one will have the door on higher education closed by reason of financial want. The amendments protect the very diversity and pluralism that is at the heart and strength of American society, and particularly, the American educational systems. They will continue to provide assistance directly to students who will remain therefore free to make choices about which institutions can best meet the students' needs, and they will offer new support in a number of areas where colleges have compelling needs for help.

Some of the major accomplishments of the new law include a restructuring of the National Direct Student Loan program to allow more flexibility and an extended payment for borrowers who have financial hardships. It enacts a new loan program for parents which allows parents to spread their contributions to their children's education over a much longer period of time. It adopts a standard needs analysis system and a single application form. For all of those of you who have had to fill out so many of them, you can now feel very grateful. We are cutting down the paperwork in this bill. And you will see when we implement the bill, by regulations that we are going to work out in the closest cooperation with Congress, that you ought to— [laughter] —we hope the Hill is going to be as happy as you are with the results.

We are consolidating and broadening Federal support for international education activities, a subject of such tremendous importance to the United States. You know, not many months ago I wouldn't be surprised if most persons in the United States thought that Kabul was some kind of comfy slipper. The amount of ignorance—by which I mean not "stupidity," I mean "unknowing"—about international affairs, has been a cause of very serious concern in the United States. Accordingly, President Carter has doubled for this fiscal year, commitment to international education. And we are going to continue the upward path to making international education available in a much more meaningful way to all interested students.

And finally, we don't want to forget that, although it's a higher education bill, it is going to provide very significant and essential support for the research efforts of the National institute of Education-and perhaps touching everybody in the country, it provides very significant help for libraries.

The Education Amendments of 1980 are evidence of a continuing momentum of the Congress and, I must say, under Democratic leadership and on the ongoing commitment of this administration to expand and improve the opportunities for education of all citizens in America.

I could not possibly speak to this audience in this setting without referring to the motto of the Department of Education, because it has very great meaning here. The motto of the Department of Education is "Learning never ends," and I say that is of such importance here, because this set of community colleges has done such an outstanding job in adult education. It is not alone enough to educate our children; we must all keep educating ourselves all our lives if we are to reach the full potential for our country and for ourselves.

As the President has said, education is an end in itself even though it leads to all kinds of things that enhance the quality of life in America. Universities and colleges have to have some hardware within which to do our work, but we must always remember the hardware is not an end, it is a means to the enhancement of the human spirit, of the quality of intellectual life, and to the sustaining joy of knowledge which we all hope will ultimately lead us to wisdom.
Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Shirley has already bragged on him, but I would like to take the opportunity to introduce to you the key worker and a visionary man who can put his thoughts into practical benefits for the people of our country, Senator Claiborne Pell.

SENATOR PELL. Thank you, Mr. President.

Machines, means of production, construction, transportation, communication, even of destruction, do not really determine the strength—the true strength—of a nation. The true strength of a nation is the sum total of the education and the character of its people, and this is what we're here today to celebrate. And this is the bill that President Carter has just signed, because it brings to reality the dream that some of us have had that any American who desires a college education and can cut the mustard in achieving it can secure it, and this bill really does ensure that that happens.

So, I say thank you, President Carter; thank you, colleagues in the Congress; thank you, particularly staff, with whom we depend in the Senate very much indeed; thank you, lobbyists, for keeping us on our toes; and thank you, everybody.

THE PRESIDENT. Now I'd like to introduce as the final speaker a man who's a driving force in the House of Representatives, who knows from practical experience in his own district the need for better education for the working people of our Nation, and whose staunch support and courage in hammering out this detailed but very significant legislation has been very important to me as President, to all those that take pride in our country. Congressman William Ford.

REPRESENTATIVE FORD. Thank you, Mr. President, Madam Secretary, and my colleagues from the Congress.

I'm sure that those of you here fully realize how proud we are to be here for the reason that we are here, and, Mr. president, it needs to be said that the two pieces of higher education legislation that you will have signed now within the space of 2 years probably goes further to keep promises that Harry Truman made to the people than we have been able to move in our party ever since the time of Truman at any one time. Even the great days of the Johnson administration pale by comparison in dollar amounts to the initiatives that you've put in place.

With the signing of the Middle Income Student Assistance Act you gave to higher education the largest single increase in commitment that's occurred at any time since the adoption of the GI bill in World War II. With the signing of this bill today the President is committing us to authorizing $10 billion a year for each of the next 5 years, taking us well into the decade of the eighties. And when people ask the frequent question—"What is education going to be in the eighties?"—you can be optimistic because, as the President has already indicated, under his leadership our commitment at the Federal level has increased by over 70 percent, a little bit more in higher education than in other areas, but over 70 percent-above the commitment of the Federal Government measured in dollars when he became President.

Mr. President, you are, indeed, entitled to a place in the history books of this country as an education President, and we're very proud to be a part of your team and to be here with you for this momentous occasion.

THE PRESIDENT. And now comes a difficult decision in the life of a President. I've had good advice from these people on the stage, but I have to decide now whether to sign this bill or veto it. [Laughter]

I'd like to ask all those of you who think I should sign the bill to please raise your hand. [Laughter] It seems to be unanimous. Thank you very much. That's genuine participatory democracy. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 2:05 p.m. at the Loudon Campus of the Northern Virginia Community College. Following his remarks, the President signed the bill.

As enacted, H.R. 5192 is Public Law 96374, approved October 3.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing the Education Amendments of 1980 Into Law in Sterling, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252087

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