Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the International Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, the Philippines

October 26, 1966

President and Mrs. Marcos, Ambassador Romualdez, Ambassador Blair, ladies and gentlemen:

We meet here in a new Asia.

In this Asia the old barriers of indifference and rivalry are slowly being overcome--and a new spirit of cooperation is taking shape.

Today, while our Asian friends still need a helping hand, they want to match it with their own efforts--aimed toward their own goals.

This Rice Research Institute here in Los Banns is a product of intelligent assistance. Two American foundations have given support. One of the moving forces behind the creation of the Institute, I am proud to say, was that great former president of the Rockefeller Foundation, whose vision, whose genius did so much to help in this work-Dean Rusk. The Institute's Director today is a New Hampshire man, who just addressed us, Dr. Robert Chandler. Yet the professional staff includes scientists of seven nationalities; two-thirds of them are Asian.

In its short 4 years of existence, this Institute has produced promising new strains of rice yields, which are now being planted in the soil of many countries. One strain developed here has been called the "miracle" rice.

I am glad to know that the Institute is prepared to make these seeds available to all nations--to all nations whatever their politics and ideology. The need for food transcends all the divisions man has created for himself.

At the Manila Conference we were deeply concerned with the military struggle in Vietnam.

But we were equally concerned with the critical needs of the societies of Asia--whatever their ideology.

So man's greatest problem is the fearful race between food and population. If we lose that race our hopes for the future will turn to ashes.

And the shocking truth is that as of now, as we speak here today, we are losing the war on hunger.

There are nations of the world with declining standards of living--where population growth is already outrunning the supply of fundamental foodstocks.

At the same time the stocks of surplus producing nations have rapidly declined.

There was in 1961 a grain surplus of 136 million tons.

The figure for 1967 is down from 136 million to 50 million.

A rice surplus of over a billion tons existed in 1956. It has now dropped to a mere 300 million tons--or less than a third of what it was 10 years ago.

These are danger signals that we cannot ignore.

For between now and 1980 we must prepare to feed one billion more people.

That may sound like a bloodless, economic abstraction.

But we must learn to hear what it says in human terms:

One billion more people means one billion babies. And four out of five of those babies will be born in countries that cannot today feed their people from their own resources. Now somehow or other we must do something about this. Somehow or other we must overcome this. And somehow or other you are doing something about it right here. This is one of the most encouraging things that I have seen.

And you at Los Banos are pointing the way that we will need pointed throughout all of Southeast Asia.

Drawing on your experiments, these new rice strains, the technical training you are giving in conjunction with the College of Agriculture at the University of the Philippines--which has your President so excited and who has described it to me fully today-will, I think, do more to escalate the war against hunger than anything that I know of that is being done today. So I congratulate President Marcos.

I say that that is the only war that we really seek to escalate.

We believe we can win this war against hunger. Yet victory will not come easily.

These young people believe--and they are right, I think--there is nothing natural or God-given about poverty or hunger and disease.

Some of them react against an unjust state by professing empty ideologies.

But some--and they are represented here at Los Banos--realize that only knowledge, skill, and hard work can provide fruitful avenues to a decent future.

In every country--but particularly in Asia, Latin America, and Africa--there is a desperate need for skilled men and women who can release their brothers from the barrios of poverty.

For if the world's need for food is to be met, it will be by scientists and economists who will discover better seeds, who will find better methods of planting, who will give us better ways of distributing the harvest of the earth. It will not be by "miracles," but by the qualities of dedicated minds that we find working right here tonight in the new Los Banos rice strain.

If illiteracy and disease that we pledged ourselves only yesterday to conquer are conquered, it will be by armies of well-prepared teachers and doctors.

Pickets and pamphlets, angry shouting against the leaders and against the society-these are all quite understandable among young people. But if that is all there is--if there is no equally vigorous determination to prepare for the long hard task of making a better life for one's people--then that picketing and that shouting will not be enough.

There is an anger that cannot tolerate hunger, disease, illiteracy, or injustice in the world. And it becomes a divine anger when it is translated into the practical work of healing and teaching.

I know and I have seen, I have touched the hands and looked in the eyes of the healers and the teachers here in Asia--in your universities, among those who are fortunate enough to have escaped a life of poverty-and in the barrios and in the villages as well.

Asia's great task is to liberate their energies for their children's sake. On her success our hopes for peace--and the conscience of all mankind--literally depend.

I want to thank Dr. Robert Chandler. I want to express my admiration to him and to all the members of the staff of this great Institute.

I want to commend President and Mrs. Marcos for their interest in this kind of a development. Because if we are to win our war and the only important war that really counts, if we are to win our war against poverty, against disease, against ignorance, against illiteracy, and against hungry stomachs, then we have got to succeed in projects like this.

You are pointing the way for all of Asia to follow and I hope they are looking. I hope they are listening. And I hope they are following.

Note: The President spoke at 12:58 p.m. at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos. In his opening words he referred to President and Mrs. Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Ambassador Benjamin Romualdez, special envoy of President Marcos, and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines William McC. Blair, Jr.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the International Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, the Philippines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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