Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Graduation Ceremony of the School for Capitol Page Boys.

June 15, 1965

Ladies and gentlemen:

Woodrow Wilson once said that "the Office of President requires the constitution of an athlete, the patience of a mother, and the endurance of an early Christian." Personally, I think he may have overstated the requirements of the Presidency. But from very long and close observation of 34 years, it seems to me that President Wilson may have been describing the requirements for congressional page.

So, whether your experience on the Hill has been long or brief, each of you in this page class this morning has been through a very rigorous and a very demanding test. And I want you to know--each of you to know--that I am extremely proud of you.

From this point on you will turn upward along many different paths. All of you are exceptional young men with exceptional training. I am sure that in your choices of professions or other pursuits many of you will achieve exceptional success. Whatever your pursuit, however, I hope that the experience you have had at the heart of our representative democratic system will always be a part of your life.

Even if you do not choose a career of public service, I hope as private citizens you will live your lives with a high and an active sense of public duty and responsibility.

This is a time of change in America. All of us are awakening to the fact that America today is far different from the land into which my generation or your generation was born. The answers, the attitudes, and the approaches of 30 years ago, or 20 years ago, or even 5 years ago, are not now adequate to meet the new obligations or the new opportunities of the 1960's.

As one who shares with you a very abiding respect and affection for the Congress, I am especially gratified and pleased by the response that Congress itself has made last year and this year toward meeting the change of our changing times. Congress has done much to silence the critics and the cynics who have belabored it and who have attempted to downgrade it.

You can all be proud that you served during a season when the Congress of the United States was strengthened and revitalized as a functioning, responsive, and conscientiously responsible branch of our system of government. And I am pleased that at their own direction they are now engaging in a considerable amount of introspection and study on how they can make the Congress stronger and better and more effective.

As this is a changing land, so America stands as a part of the changing world. There are some who would have mankind believe that the only choices of these times are choices between political philosophies. Actually, I do not believe that this is the case. In a real sense, the choice facing men in every nation today, old or young, large and small, is a choice between moving into the modern world with all of its unlimited potential or turning back toward the restrictive world that is dominated by the dogma and the doctrine of the 19th century.

So, in your lifetimes, and in the lifetimes of a majority of the nations on earth, the total of human knowledge has doubled twice. The growth of human knowledge has made obsolete many of the causes of friction and contention and division among nations. Certainly the advance of human knowledge has made war itself obsolete and impossible as a means of resolving differences between large or small nations. Above all, the growth of human knowledge has rendered obsolete and archaic the doctrine on which the dogma of communism was constructed.

Man today has in his capacity the potential of ending human misery or ending human life. We can really, for the first time, see the promise and the prospect of eliminating hunger and poverty, illness, bias, and prejudice in our own land and, we would hope, all around the world.

So, this is the work that we want to do. And this is the work which your generation will do. And that is why I have said over, and over, and over again that we of the United States invite all peoples--East and West--to pull back their curtains, and to tear down their walls, and to come out of the darkness of dogma and walk all together in the bright light of human knowledge and human freedom toward the peace that mankind must make together, and must keep together, on this earth.

I have seen many classes of Capitol pages graduate throughout the years. I would say that the class of which you are members faces the brightest and the most thrilling and the most hopeful prospects of any. For never before have young men like yourselves had so sure and so strong a prospect of being a part of the constructive building of a sane and a sensible and a rational world.

Whatever profession you choose as your own, I hope you will never forget that the ultimate success of our system rests upon the contributions that every citizen makes to public service.

And I would hope that as the days and weeks go by that you would, too, engage in a little introspection and ask yourselves, upon occasions at least: What did I do today to make my country better, to make it stronger, to make my Government more efficient and more useful? And whether as the elected or the elector you will have a great opportunity to be leaders of your times in fostering the responsible and the responsive politics that is needed at every level--local and State, as well as national and international ?

You have been privileged to know some of the great leaders of these times in the legislative halls. And I hope that when your time comes you will keep faith by being leaders then in the cause of peace and freedom for the world, and for progress for all of humankind.

I went to sleep last night after reading a letter from a mother who was the mother of only one child, and that boy was now 20 years of age. And she had just gotten a letter from him and he said in 20 days he would be on his way to Viet-Nam. And she said, "Mr. President, I hesitate to take your time to write this letter, but I did not want to see my boy go away unless and until I could have your assurance that our Government and our country needs that boy and needs him where he is going."

He had lost his father. He was an only child. It was a difficult letter to dictate an answer to, but I had to write it this morning. And I told her that our liberty and our freedom was so precious, and liberty and freedom was in danger. And we had to call upon those who were capable and equipped to help us protect it. And all of us in our own way were doing the very best we could to preserve freedom, and that I did think it was necessary.

The mother had said in her letter that if t felt that, that she wouldn't, under any circumstances, object, although she did have to admit that while she did not want him out of the service, and she did not want him not to face up to his duty, she had to admit that she did not look with any favor to his going to that place at this time.

So, those of you who in a short time will be in the service of your country in one capacity or another, know how blessed you are to live in a system that was inherited by you as the result of the sacrifice of many thousands of young men like yourselves.

I believe that as you leave your present work that you will have gained from the halls of the Congress a sense of duty and a sense of responsibility that will always make the job of serving your country a pleasant one for you.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12 noon in the Rose Garden at the White House at the graduation ceremony of the Capitol Page School.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Graduation Ceremony of the School for Capitol Page Boys. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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