Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to the Delegates to the Conference on International Rural Development.

July 28, 1964

Mr. Bell, ladies and gentlemen:

You are in the city--and on the grounds of your house--in what some now call our "summer of discontent."

Before you return to your homes and duties, I would like to share with you some thoughts about this season.

In the long view of history, these years of the 1960's are the early summer of America. Our land is young. Our strength is great. Our course is far from run.

Yet there is among our people a deep discontent.

It is not the discontent of a single segment-or a single section. It reaches through the whole of our society. The most prosperous, the best housed, the best fed, the best read, the most intelligent, and the most secure generation in our history-or, for that matter, in all history--is discontent.


It seems to me that we can find answers from our history.

In our national character, one trait has run unbroken. That is the trait of putting the resources at hand to the fullest use--to make life better tomorrow for those who follow.

Since World War II we have multiplied our capabilities as never before, but we have not put them to the fullest use.

We have the capacity to abolish hunger. We have the capacity to end poverty and to eliminate most diseases. We even have the capacity to unsnarl our traffic--except possibly around the typical college campus.

We face no new problems in our society this summer--only old problems which we have for too long refused to face up to and have failed to meet.

We have not put our capacities to work.

Our cities show it. Our schools show it. Our rural areas show it. Our rivers and our streams show it. The edges of our society show it.

This is the source of our discontent.

We haven't been keeping faith with tomorrow--or with ourselves--and we ought to realize it.

If we are learning anything from our experiences, we are learning that it is time for us to go to work, and the first work of these times and the first work of our society is education.

Without compromise--without favor-we must demand and we shall maintain respect for law and order in this country. But democracy never has and democracy never will solve its problems at the end of a billy club.

We--no less than generations of Americans before us--must put our faith in education at all levels for all the people.

The institutions you represent are the foundation stones of our society today. Yet those foundations were put in place long ago--by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, by the Land Grant Act of 1862, by the State support of their universities in the 1870's.

Dr. Harry Ransom of my own University of Texas not long ago told the people of our State that "the early frontiersmen thought more of us 100 years ago than we think of those who will be living in the year 2064."

In our States and Nation we just simply must not let that indictment stand. We must rest our faith and our hopes for America on education--not for some but education for all.

I am proud to say that we are trying to do just that.

The 88th Congress has written its name in history as the education Congress on the basis of the legislation that you already know well.

We are very proud that it is going to be also the conservation Congress--more comprehensive conservation legislation will be passed this Congress than any Congress in our history, except perhaps for a period during Theodore Roosevelt's administration.

But the real important point I want to make is that this is an education Congress for all.

The first 60 days I was in office I signed three far-reaching educational pieces of legislation. More meaningful progress has been made this year than in any other single year in this century.

This is good, but there is much more that We Carl do.

To meet the needs of an urban Nation, I am directing that we push forward with discussions of what can be done to bring our city people those benefits that were long available to rural families through extension service.

Likewise, we intend to continue and strengthen the effective relationship between the Federal Government and your institutions in support of research in all of your regions.

I want to dwell on that in just a moment. But I have in the last 10 days seen the membership of 10 task forces from throughout this Nation who represent what we believe to be the best brains that are available in the Nation, because we think the best brains ought to be available to the President, and we have asked them to come here to study some of these vital subjects: the relation of Federal, State, and local governments; education, transportation, many of the things that will determine whether we have a Great Society or not. And they will burn some midnight oil in these task forces from now until the first of the year in preparation for the course that we will recommend that the Nation follow next year in the legislation to the Congress and the people on the countryside.

I would like to point out to you this morning that since the end of 1961 the number of AID-financed contracts with universities in this country has increased already 35 percent. The number of universities participating in those contracts has already increased 36 percent. The total amount of Federal contracts with universities is already up 44 percent.

The Federal role in relationships with institutions of higher learning is not a role of control, as you men know. The record of the institutions you represent is a record of real partnership in moderation between universities and colleges of this country and between the agencies of Government at all levels--Federal, State, and local.

In a short time we will have another group of educators from not only all the public school systems, to get a representative group, but also the State universities from each State in the Nation to get their views and their recommendations and exchange ideas with them as to what we can do to make tomorrow better living than yesterday.

We do not want centralized control of our society because experience has taught us that the surest way to prevent such centralization is to support strong institutions of higher learning in every State. And that is what we are trying to do.

This has been our Nation's course and it is the course that I am trying to steer today.

But our Nation faces great challenges here at home and many serious problems abroad-challenges of military security and challenges of economic stability, and these challenges cannot be met by Government alone or by business, that I conferred with last week, alone, or by labor, that met with me last Friday, alone, or by agriculture alone. What we must do is bring our great capabilities to bear on our problems and on our needs.

We have learned and we do know that those capacities can be focused most effectively for us by reliance upon the leadership of our institutions of higher learning of which you are an integral part.

So, ladies and gentlemen, you have a great trust to our society. We look to you for leadership. We plead with you to keep us moving. We vest in you great confidence, believing that a new age--an age of greater service, of greater influence, of greater contribution-is opening for all America and particularly for your institutions.

Our generation has spent most of its time and efforts, energies and talents on trying to preserve Western civilization. And because we have been successful and we now have the preparedness that is essential to preserve that civilization, we now have an opportunity to develop it and cultivate it and enjoy it and share some of its blessings.

Our Defense Department has spent $30 billion more than would have been spent if we had spent the same amount the last 4 years as we did the last year of the other administration. We were spending $43 billion a year. Now we are spending about $51 billion--about $7.5 billion more each year--but that is buying us more missiles, more bombers, more combat units, more paratroopers, and more power--power that we pray we will never have to use but power that protects us.

So, we are preserving that civilization in order to be able to develop this society, and you must be the bellwethers, the sheep that go through that fence first where others can follow you.

A great President of the Republic of Texas said in another generation, in another century, that education is the guardian genius of democracy. It is the only dictator that free men recognize and the only ruler that free men desire.

So, I thank you for honoring us here with your presence this morning. You are always welcome in this House as long as I am permitted to occupy it.

Note: The President spoke shortly before noon in the Rose Garden at the White House. His opening words referred to David E. Bell, Administrator of the Agency for International Development.

The conference, held in Washington July 27-28, was sponsored by the Agency for International Development, the Department of Agriculture, and the Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges in a joint effort toward improving the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to rural development in the less-developed countries.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the Delegates to the Conference on International Rural Development. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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