Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the 175th Anniversary Convocation of Georgetown University

December 03, 1964

Most Reverend Apostolic Delegate, Most Reverend Archbishop O'Boyle, Very Reverend Father Bunn, Very Reverend Father Campbell, my distinguished friends:

Robert Frost once said the greatest test of a college student's chances is when we know the sort of activity for which he will neglect his studies.

And so I hope that the presence of all of you here today is a very promising sign.

When it was proposed that a telegraph be set up between Texas and Maine, Thoreau commented: We are in a great rush to establish instant communication between Texas and Maine. But how do we know that Texas and Maine have anything to communicate ?

I might add that last November, Texas and Maine were in close communication.

This is also a central problem of today's world. For almost the first time, the interdependence of nations is not a remote goal or a ringing slogan. It is a fact which we neglect at our own peril.

Communication satellites, atomic rockets, jet transports have made distant capitals into close neighbors. Our challenge is to transform this reality into an instrument for the freedom of man.

Today the cost of failure to communicate is not silence or serenity, but destruction and disillusion. Nowhere is this more true than in our relations with the nations of Western Europe.

Since World War II, we have sought a Europe growing in intimacy and unity with America. If we look beyond the clamor of daily reports and the voluble doubts of skeptics, we can see that this effort has been the greatest success story in the history of the West.

From desolation has come abundance. From division has come a degree of unity not achieved in a thousand years or more. From weakness and vulnerability have come stability within and increased security from without. From the ashes of holocaust has emerged the second strongest industrial civilization in the history of the world.

This is the triumph of the people of Europe and it is a tribute to the generosity of America. But most of all it stems from those men of vision who saw that the interests of their own people lay in increased unity and in partnership with the United States of America.

It was perhaps fortunate that the greatest threat came when the memory of past failures was still fresh. Out of the common experience of disaster and the onrush of new danger came the course that we have charted.

We must not now let success and prosperity strengthen the forces of inertia or dull the sense of urgency. Our very success opens the door to the revival of the ancient rivalries which have so often torn the fabric of our society.

We are not joined together by experience or convenience in pursuit of temporary goals. European unity and Atlantic partnership are based on deeply shared values and dangers, and interests, and the wise pursuit of the interest of each will strengthen the connection among all our nations.

The United States has no policy for the people of Europe, but we do have a policy toward the people of Europe. And we do have common hopes and common objectives shared with most of the people of Europe.

Answers to our common problems must emerge from the consent of free countries, and that consent, in turn, will be based on discussion and debate and respect for the ideas and the proposals of all. But there must be progress.

A Chinese proverb says there are many paths up the mountain, but the view from the top is always the same. We are always ready to look for a better or easier path, but we intend to climb to the summit.

First, we must all seek to assist in increasing the unity of Europe as a key to Western strength and a barrier to resurgent and erosive nationalism.

Second, we must all work to multiply in number and intimacy the ties between North America and Europe. For we shape an Atlantic civilization with an Atlantic destiny.

Third, we must all make sure that the Federal Republic of Germany is always treated as an honorable partner in the affairs of the West. Germany has labored to build a stable and a free society in complete loyalty to European unity and to Atlantic partnership. And the people and the leaders of Germany have bound themselves to peace and reconciliation with their European neighbors, and especially with France. They have rejected all separate adventures, especially, and I think most wisely, in the field of nuclear weapons.

In particular, our friends and comrades throughout Germany deserve assurance from their allies that there shall be no acceptance of the lasting threat to peace which is the forced division of Germany. No one seeks to end this grim and dangerous injustice by force. But there can be no stable peace in Europe while one part of Germany is denied the basic right to choose freely its own destiny and to choose, without threat to anyone, reunion with the Germans in the Federal Republic.

Fourth, those of us who are ready to proceed in common ventures must decide to go forward together, always with due deliberation, with due respect for the interests of others, and with an open door for those who may join later. We shall always seek agreement. We shall never insist on unanimity. This is the course which has brought fruitful results and almost every major advance in the 20 years since World War II.

The Atlantic Alliance is not in the midst of crisis, as some alarm mongers would have you believe. But it is in the midst of change.

Every important period of progress has been marked by the same kind of discussion and debate that is now in progress.

The Coal and Steel Community, the integration of Germany into NATO, the Common Market, itself--raise some blood pressures among excitable people, arouse question and concern and warning. And we were told that such steps might be against the interests of America. We were told that it might become harder to deal with the Soviet Union. We were told that we might encourage German militarism. We were told that we might divide Europe or arouse hostilities.

To change patterns of thought or the shape of institutions is never very easy. Today's discussion and debate, the flow of ideas and proposals, is proof of coming change and a spur to continuing action.

The agenda for future progress does not consist of an isolated or a single dramatic step. It is made up of action--action across the whole range of common interest, which is the bedrock of our alliance.

We have a common interest in the defense of the West. For 20 years the atomic might of the United States has been the decisive guard of freedom. Ours remains the largest strength and ours a most awesome obligation. But we recognize the reasonable interest and concerns of other allies, those who have nuclear weapons of their own and those who do not. We seek ways to bind the alliance even more strongly together by sharing the tasks of defense through collective action, and meeting the honorable concerns of all.

This is the meaning of the proposals that we have made. This is the meaning of the • discussions that we expect and that we welcome, with all interested allies. We come to reason, not to dominate. We do not seek to have our way, but to find a common way.

Any new plans for the handling of weapons so powerful we think deserve most careful discussion and deliberation. No solution will be perfect in the eyes of everyone. But we all know that the problem is there. It must be solved. And we will continue to work for its solution.

We have a common interest in a rising standard of living for humanity. This will require a continuing effort to lower industrial tariffs in the Kennedy Round, and a joint study of the political and human problems of agriculture.

We have a common interest in assisting the freedom and the growth of the developing world, and none of us will be finally secure in a world that is divided into hostile camps of rich and poor, or black and white.

We must also seek progress towards stable prices and nondiscriminatory trade for our basic commodities.

We have a common interest in building bridges of trade and ideas, of understanding and humanitarian aid to the countries of Eastern Europe. These countries are increasingly asserting their own independence and we will work together to demonstrate that their prospects for progress lie in greater ties with the West.

We have a common interest in increasing political consultation among the nations of the alliance. This may well require more frequent meetings among all the ministers or deputy ministers of the NATO Alliance. It clearly demands that all of us be ready for those patient and determined efforts to meet each other halfway, without which no real agreement is ever possible among strong and honorable states.

Most of all, the Atlantic nations have a common interest in the peace of the world. In the past 4 years, we have taken several steps toward lessening the danger of war. The United States is prepared in full consultation with its allies to discuss any proposal with the Soviet Union which might increase the chances of a lasting peace.

These are some of the areas in which we must work together. At every turning point for 20 years we have risen above national concerns to the more spacious vision of European unity and Atlantic partnership. This, too, must be such a time.

So let no one mistake a brief calm for the end of the storm. The world is still full of peril for those who prize and cherish freedom. Across the earth from Asia to the heart of Africa forces are loosed whose direction is uncertain and whose portent is full with challenge.

All day yesterday the workers and the thinkers and the doers of your Government were occupied with the future of Africa. All day into the early hours of the morning the day before, the thinkers and the planners and the doers, if not the talkers or writers, were evaluating and searching for a solution to some of the problems of Asia. The unknown tide of future change is already beating about the rock of the West.

These fruitful lands washed by the Atlantic, this half-billion people unmatched in arms and industry, this measureless storehouse of wisdom and genius, can be a fortress against any foe, a force that will enrich the life of an entire planet.

It is not a question of arms or wealth alone. It is a question of moving ahead with the times, and it is a question of vision and persistence, and the willingness to surmount the barriers of national rivalry against which our ancestors have always collided.

There are so many things, so many more things in the world, that unite us than that divide us. And in this hour of trial, now is the time to come to the aid of your world by trying to be a force for unity instead of a voice for division.

Only yesterday, one of the notable men of this generation called to talk to me, and I had to postpone his call. I said to my assistant, "We can wait for him until tomorrow because he is a force for division."

So if we have the qualities of which I have spoken, then the first age with the power to destroy--destroy the world--can be the first, also, to put an end to that destruction. No one person, no individual, regardless of his heritage or his training, can alone lead us to the summit of the good things that are ahead. But I do in my own humble way appeal to each of you to forget the emotionalism that would bring hate to our hearts, and try to remember the sentiment that would make us all brothers in a world of great opportunity, in a time of great need.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. in McDonough Gymnasium at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., after being awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree. In his opening words he referred to the Most Reverend Egidio Vagnozzi, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, the Most Reverend Patrick A. O'Boyle, archbishop of Washington, the Very Reverend Edward B. Bunn, chancellor of the university and retiring president, and the Very Reverend Gerard I. Campbell, the university's newly inaugurated president.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the 175th Anniversary Convocation of Georgetown University Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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