Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Gallaudet College Centennial Banquet

June 06, 1964

Mr. Chairman, Mr. President, Senator Hill, members of the Board of Trustees of Gallaudet College, ladies and gentlemen:

I am pleased to be able to join personally tonight in honoring Gallaudet College.

Twenty years ago tonight, on distant shores, America's sons were engaged in a great battle in mankind's greatest war. One hundred years ago tonight on these shores America's sons were engaged in bitter battles of our own cruel civil war. How we are observing this historic day says much about America.

In Europe, America's sons meet tonight in peace with yesterday's allies--and adversaries alike--to plan the works of future unity instead of worrying about the wounds of past conflict.

Here in Washington tonight we gather to honor an institution of higher learning which was established as an act of compassion in those times of callous strife 100 years ago.

The character of our Nation is comprised of many traits.

We honor courage.

We value commonsense.

But, across our 188 years, the great cementing influence has always been compassion.

In our purposes abroad and at home we have always heeded the injunction of the Apostle, who told us long ago, "Be ye of one mind, showing compassion one of another."

Yet, our wealthy society is tolerating a worrisome burden of wasted human lives. Tonight, too many of our people are unschooled, untrained, and underemployed. Too many are physically handicapped. Too many are mentally handicapped, too many more are handicapped for life by the environments and the experiences of their childhoods.

America needs these talents. We must not and we cannot let them go to waste.

An ancient Hebrew proverb teaches that there are three pillars of society: education, charity, and piety. For our society, the pillars have been: education, compassion, and morality.

In the next 24 hours the research that comes forth around the world would fill seven sets of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. In the next year the output of such research would require a man to read around the clock--day and night--for the next 460 years. In the next 10 years the sum of human knowledge will multiply twofold.

When knowledge is advancing at this pace, a compassionate nation cannot afford to leave any segments of our society behind to form, and to perpetuate, a human slag heap.

We must express our compassion in a greater commitment to education.

Here at Gallaudet we have a proud example of what education and compassion have achieved. This was the first--and is still the only--college in the world for the deaf. But since President Lincoln signed Gallaudet's charter, no boy or girl has been turned away because of the poverty of their parents.

Universal education has brought our society to its present high level of success. If our society is to move higher, higher education must be made a universal opportunity for all young people. Public education and compassion go hand in hand with private morality.

In our private lives--as in our public policies-we are challenged to show the morality of compassion. When the helpless call for help, the hearing must hear, the seeing must see, and the able must act.

Our rich society will be a mockery if we permit it to become a callous society or an uncaring society.

One hundred years ago Lincoln told us that this Nation could not stand half-slave and half-free. Tonight, for my part, I believe this society cannot succeed part committed and part uncommitted, part concerned and part unconcerned, part compassionate and part callous.

The great battle, the great adventure, for Americans living tonight is not only to defend our freedom and to preserve our peace but to defend, preserve, and strengthen those pillars of our society: education, compassion, and morality.

To you here who are devoting your lives as committed, concerned, and compassionate citizens, I am proud and honored to present tonight to Gallaudet College the 1964 Award from the President's Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped.

It has been a great pleasure for me to make this appearance tonight. I feel close ties with this great institution. One of the real influences in my life as a young man and, later in my public life, a lady whose intense interest in this college first brought the school to my attention--Mrs. Mary Thornberry--whose son later served in Congress and now sits with distinction on the Federal bench.

I have many old and dear friends who have manifested an interest in your development through the years, particularly that noble American, Senator Hill who honors us with his presence this evening. I know many members of your board, Mr. Collins, and others who have been my friends through the years, so you do me a great honor to ask me to come here to be with you, and I am very proud that I could Come.

My congratulations to all of you.

Note: The President spoke in the evening in the Student Union Building on the campus at Gallaudet College in Washington. His opening words referred to Albert W. Atwood, chairman of the board of trustees of the college, and Leonard M. Elstad, president, and to Senator Lister Hill of Alabama. Later he referred to Linton M. Collins, a member of the board of trustees. During his remarks he also referred to the late Mary Thornberry, in whose honor the college's Speech Center is named, and her son Homer Thornberry, U.S. District Judge, Western District of Texas, and former Representative from Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Gallaudet College Centennial Banquet Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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