Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Dedication of the National Geographic Society Building.

January 18, 1964

Dr. Grosvenor, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Society, my fellow Americans:

This is a very proud and happy occasion. In the homes of our land and in all lands around the world, the National Geographic Society and its magazine are old friends and a very welcome companion.

You have broadened the horizons and narrowed the misunderstandings of many generations--and you have helped us all to be better citizens of the world and better citizens of our times.

It is gratifying today to now join in welcoming the society and its magazine into this new and magnificent home. This imposing home for the National Geographic stands not as a monument to the past but as a testament of confidence in and enthusiasm for the future.

For free men, whatever land they may call home, these qualities are indispensable. The future is the special trust of the free. We are not likely to keep that trust or likely to keep our freedom unless we keep our confidence in the future and unless we maintain our enthusiasm for always meeting new challenges and new opportunities.

The last 4 centuries of human experience have been centuries of exploration, discovery, and advancement of the frontiers of man's knowledge. We of this strong and still developing young nation are more than any others children of those explorations.

America, as we know it, and freedom as we know it could well not exist tomorrow for either our children or their children if we should lose from our national life that confidence in the future and that enthusiasm for exploration which has brought us to this high moment of history and high moment of hope.

All the seas have been sailed and all the continents have been explored. The highest mountains have been scaled and the darkest jungles have been penetrated. We have reached into the realms of space and out toward the domain of the stars. Yet our work is not complete and our race is not yet won.

This generation of Americans is challenged to live a life of high adventure. If we are to keep our trust in freedom, we must in these last 4 decades of this century undertake explorations in many realms, realms which dwarf all those of the past 4 centuries.

We must participate in the high adventure of advancing man's knowledge of both the universe about us and the capacities within us.

We of this land must commit ourselves to a demanding life of dedicated participation in the forward movement of the times in which we live.

We are called to the greatest works that man has ever done. If we are to live as free men in a world of danger, we must explore for new and better ways to maintain our security without impairing our solvency.

If we are to live at peace in a world of peril, we must set forth to discover the secrets of peace just as we long ago discovered the awesome secrets of war and devastation.

If we are to live with pride in a world of decency, we must commit ourselves to removing from the earth the scars and scourge of human poverty and disease and ignorance and intolerance.

These works are not and can never be the works of one nation or one people alone. These works will be accomplished when they become the joint works and the common labors of nations and peoples everywhere.

If that is to come to pass, nations must have more than common forums in which to meet. They must have common enterprises on which they can work together for the common good.

We of the United States believe today, as we have long believed, that the realms of scientific explorations offer this opportunity for common enterprises and endeavors.

Scientific exploration and research knows no national boundaries. Human knowledge is never the captive of international blocs. Commonsense dictates that all nations lend their learning to other nations. This is a loan in which the science of all nations is the beneficiary, and the good of all mankind is advanced. The more that we share with each other, the less we misunderstand each other.

Today in this house of exploration, let us invite exploration by all nations, for all nations.

The only way to begin is to begin. What greater challenge can there be for the National Geographic Society to take the initiative in this endeavor. Why should not the National Geographic in this land and around the world serve as a clearing house for knowledge, to bring together men of science of every land, to share and to spread their knowledge and their talents. Where they begin, others will follow.

So, let us renew our hope that all nations with the interest and the capacity for scientific exploration unite in mutual enterprises of discovery to the benefit of their neighbor nations.

As the late beloved President Kennedy said one month before his death:

"Recent scientific advances have not only made international cooperation desirable, but they have made it essential. The ocean, the atmosphere, outer space, belong not to one nation or one ideology, but to all mankind .... "

This is the principle upon which we stand. Explorations and discoveries of centuries past were most often meant to serve the interest and the advantage of individual nations. Today, as we meet here, we believe that the explorations and the discoveries of decades ahead must be meant to serve the aspirations and the well-being of individual men in all nations.

This Nation is committed now to the most intensive effort ever made by any peoples to advance the frontiers of human knowledge. We shall remain committed. The cost of knowledge, whatever its price, is small against the price mankind has already paid throughout all history for his ignorance and for the darkness.

The United States shall welcome any who wish to join with us in seeking to serve the common good of mankind. But if others are not willing or if they are not able to join with us, our own endeavors will not slacken.

I will have more to say about that in the early part of the week, which I hope you will follow, in an exchange I have with some other nation.

With confidence in the future and in ourselves, with enthusiasm for the opportunities that the future presents to us; we therefore welcome the privilege of leading this century's great explorations to find a better life to build a better world for all the races of man.

So, in this spirit, then, it is my very proud privilege now, on this 18th day of January in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-four to dedicate this beautiful new home of the great National Geographic Society: to the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge, to man's eternal quest for knowledge of earth, sea, and space.

Note: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. at the new National Geographic Society building in Washington, D.C. His opening words referred to Dr. Melville Bell Grosvenor, president of the Society, and Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Dedication of the National Geographic Society Building. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives