Remarks at the Dedication of the Crossland Vocational Center, Camp Springs, Maryland.
Chairman Perkins, distinguished Members of the Senate, Senator Brewster and Senator Tydings, Congressman Machen, Mr. Hrezo, Mr. Dixon, ladies and gentlemen:
It was 55 years ago that the great Kansas editor William Allen White issued his appeal for vocational education in America.
"The end of all schools," he said, "must be life--or public education will fail... we must provide for the practical, the vocational."
Five years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed the first great charter in this country for vocational education. That charter was the Smith-Hughes Act passed by the Congress in 1917. That Smith-Hughes Act pledged Federal support to the States for the education of young people in useful work.
This law established an educational partnership which has helped millions of Americans learn vital skills in agriculture, in home economics, and in industry.
So we come here today, in this year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that historic step when we passed that historic law. And as we dedicate this great new center for vocational education, we also celebrate another step toward another important national goal: and that goal is that every young American shall obtain as much education as he wants and as much training as he can absorb and can use.
There was a time when we thought that merely sending a child to school for a given number of years was enough to prepare him for his future life. Now we know that is not enough.
There was a time when a young man could drop out of school, get a job, and enjoy a reasonably secure future. But now, in an expanding universe of knowledge and change, we know that that is not enough.
Once we considered education a public expense; we know now that it is a public investment.
Once we thought that every man could have a job--if only the economy flourished. We know now that education--education and not the gross national product--is the real key to full employment in our land.
This new building, that we are all so proud of, is an example of what we have been learning about education and the world of work.
Crossland Vocational Center, and others like it that are springing up throughout this Nation, are a forge which will shape the lives and the careers of our young people-and through these young people, we will build the America of the 21st century.
As we approach the next century, every citizen who hopes to play a productive role in American society must have occupational training of a sort--whether he wants to be a brain surgeon, an airplane repairman, an X-ray technician, or an astronaut.
Before the year 2000, we will see startling changes in science and technology: Change will simply wipe out hundreds of occupations that exist today. It will create hundreds of others that require new knowledge and new skills.
If we are to step into the future without stumbling, we must produce trained citizens in this country.
We must help the one million students in our land who each year drop out--cutting themselves off from education, when the thing that they need most in this world is education.
We must smooth the transition from school to work. We must help students become employable by encouraging them to combine school with a job.
Four years ago, when we signed the Vocational Education Act of 1963, only 4 1/2 million students were enrolled in Federally assisted vocational classes in the country. Today, that 4 1/2 million has grown to 7 million.
Four years ago, there were fewer than 400 vocational schools in the country. Today there are nearly twice that number.
Not many people really realize how swiftly times have changed in Federal support for education. Four years ago, your Federal Government was spending a little over $4 billion--$4 billion 200 million--for education and related training programs. The budget for the coming year calls for $12 billion 400 million--almost three times as much.
Four years ago, the Office of Education was spending only $700 million to support education. In the coming year, it will spend $4 billion 200 million--and that is seven times as much.
The Public Health Service, the Office of Economic Opportunity, the National Science Foundation, the Labor Department, the Defense Department, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development--all of these are giving top billing to education in this land.
It looks easy now, but we spent more than 20 years in the Congress battling for this breakthrough.
There were big roadblocks every step of the way:
--the poor States were feuding with the rich States;
--the public schools versus private and church schools;
--the city schools versus the rural schools;
--the integrated schools versus the segregated schools.
During those 20 long years, many Members of the Congress despaired of ever passing any kind of Federal aid to education. But finally--finally--we worked out a program which avoided the roadblocks and, we thought, settled the feuds. At long last the Congress put the law on the books and put the money in the schools.
And now, today, we are confronted with another feud. Some so-called "friends of education" want to go--and believe that we should go--back to where we started. They claim that they know a better way to spend the money. They propose to discard the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that we put on the books with such great difficulty after 20 long years--to scrap it now before it is 2 years old--and to substitute in its place a different kind of legislation.
No one can tell for sure just how they plan to change the law. Each day new proposals, new substitutes, and new versions are presented. But already they have accomplished a great deal.
We see a revival of the suspicion of the poor States toward the wealthy States. We see a revival of the ancient and bitter feuds beginning all over again between the church and the public school leaders.
We see the fears of the big city school superintendents being expressed.
We see the same roadblocks which obstructed and halted Federal aid to education for 20 long years being built up again.
I hope that all our people and all of their spokesmen in the Congress will stop, look, and listen before they march down a blind alley.
This is a time of testing for American education.
The gains that we have made so far are only the beginning. We must build on those gains. But we must not lose all we have gained by reckless effort, by rewriting our laws, or by playing for partisan political advantage.
Thomas Jefferson said that "the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge . . . No other surer foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness."
I think that those words are even more true for the 20th century and the 36th President than they were for the 18th century and the 3rd President.
I am glad to come here today, because I am glad of the work that we have done together. The citizens of the Nation were supported overwhelmingly in the final analysis by the Congress in establishing these programs.
And finally, the young people presented proof that not only the citizens and the taxpayers, but also the Congress and the President were right in their hopes.
We can see from those programs great results flowing to our economy and to the individuals who have benefited from this training.
And there is nothing more important to freedom in the world, to liberty in the world, to the dignity of man than education. I am glad to come here today and to see the foundations that you in Maryland are building, the foundations that you have already laid, the predicates that you have planned for the preservation of freedom and of happiness.
It is a stimulating experience for me to come here with your leading State officials and your wonderful congressional delegation and see that we are building for tomorrow on a solid foundation, because as a great leader of my State once said, "Education is the guardian genius of democracy. Education is the only dictator that free men will ever recognize and the only ruler that free men will accept."
I think when the history of our time is written and the last 3 years of our work together with the Congress, the people, the country, and the Executive, the extra tenfold increase of $10 billion that we have spent in the field of education, and the extra $10 billion that we have spent in better health for our people, will pay the greatest returns of any investment that our country has ever made.
At this moment we are carrying great loads of expenditures because of our efforts to preserve liberty and freedom in Southeast Asia--and to protect it. And in the fiscal year our expenditures for military increases over what they were 3 years ago when I became President will more than exceed $20 billion.
But during the same time that we are carrying those burdens, we have not lost sight of the needs of the education and the health of our people. We have, accordingly, increased our domestic expenditures, primarily for health, education, and conservation, above those that we have increased for defense. We have increased them to some $25 to $30 billion.
And a nation where most of its people are employed, earning the best wages they have ever earned before, enjoying the greatest prosperity with the highest gross national product--
Yes, these are burdens, but we can carry burdens to preserve liberty, to provide health and education for our people. And we will. We will persevere. We will prevail. And we will educate our citizens and provide for the health of our Nation.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:20 p.m. at Crossland Senior High School, Camp Springs, Md. In his opening words he referred to Representative Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Senator Daniel B. Brewster, Senator Joseph D. Tydings, and Representative Hervey G. Machen, all of Maryland, John V. Hrezo, principal of Crossland Senior High School, and James Dixon, president of the Student Council. Toward the end of his remarks the President quoted a remark of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, second President of the Republic of Texas.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Dedication of the Crossland Vocational Center, Camp Springs, Maryland. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237490