Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to the American Field Service Students.

July 20, 1964

I SUPPOSE I should introduce myself. Well, I am the father of Lynda and Luci Johnson--and I am known as the man who is the White House dogs' best friend.

It is good to have you here at the White House with us this evening. We have been very much in doubt all afternoon about whether the weather would permit.

Nothing makes a house happier than young people--and this house is a very happy home right now with all of you here on our lawn.

I know that during the past year each of you has made life much happier, much more rewarding for the American families with whom you have lived. I hope that you will take back to your own lands even half as much enrichment as you are leaving behind in our land.

You have been in the United States during a year that history will never forget--and that I think you will always remember. You have seen our system--and our people-tested by a terrible tragedy. But you have also seen that system and this people respond nobly--respond with great courage and with great commonsense.

I believe there is an example in this for all the rest of the world.

People in other countries sometimes forget what we in America can never forget: that America has been built by sons and daughters of every continent and every country.

Men may try to tell you that peace among nations and neighbors is not possible--that old animosities can never be forgotten--that old suspicions and prejudices can never be overcome--that old rivalries and struggles can never be laid aside.

When any tell you that, then you tell them of America.

Because here in this diverse land of 190 million people--people with the blood of your own ancestors in their veins--have forgotten and have overcome and have laid aside the divisions of the past.

We live together today in 50 States as one people--one people, united and indivisible.

If such unity can be accomplished here, it can be accomplished everywhere. And we believe that you will--in your own times-be leaders for peace and justice around the world.

I don't know what impressions you may have brought here--or what impressions you may be taking away now.

But I do hope that you will convey to your families and your friends and your fellow countrymen one fact about America. That almost nobody in America thinks that much in America is as good as it should or could be--even, sometimes, including its President!

Free expression, self-criticism, constant self-examination are the great strengths of free peoples--and are the great sources of the energy from which progress comes.

You have seen this process at work this year. We have been dealing with problems in our society which have existed 100 years or more. But we are making progress--toward fulfilling the rights of all the people, toward opening greater opportunity, toward building better cities, toward building a more prosperous economy, toward making life better for people.

So America is not an old, contented, complacent land--ready to stand still. America is young--as you are young--with its future before it, as your future is before you.

Your land and this land have much to do together.

I am sure you will be leaders in those great works.

On this happy evening, I know there is in the hearts of all of us one note of sadness. One week ago today the man who had done so much for 40 years to foster and to nurture this program passed away in his sleep--Director General Stephen Gallati.

Mr. Gallati was a most remarkable American-and quite a remarkable citizen of the world. Through the fruits of this program, his influence will live on for many generations yet to come.

And so tonight, before I conclude, I would like to announce that I am conferring upon Mr. Stephen Gallati, Sr., a Presidential Citation. The citation reads as follows:

"Trusted Counselor, Friend, and Inspiration for Young People Throughout the World, he selflessly devoted his life to the cause of Peace by laboring tirelessly to foster understanding today among the youth who will lead the nations of the world tomorrow."

If Mr. Gallati's son, Stephen, Jr., will come forward, I would like to present this Presidential Citation to him at this time.

Note: The President spoke on the South Lawn at the White House. The group was composed of some 3,000 exchange students, representing 59 countries, who had completed their senior year in high schools in the United States and were preparing to return to their homes.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the American Field Service Students. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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