Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Presentation of the White House Fellows Association Report on the Federal Government and the Student Community.

October 29, 1968

Chairman Macy, Mr. Gardner, Mr. Humann, ladies and gentlemen:

You said something in your presentation about the need to communicate better and the need for people to listen. Well now, we have a Deputy Press Secretary who is in charge of communications around here who is a White House Fellow. If there is anything wrong with the communications I want to refer you to Mr. Tom Johnson.

I had a late evening last night and I awoke this morning, turned on the television and there was a White House Fellow communicating with me before I had my coffee.

Now, I am just getting to where I can start with the evening mail. I have several White House Fellows communicating with me. I even understand that two of the former White House Fellows are running for office. That may be one reason I am not running this year. But both of these are Republicans. Now, this is a nonpartisan group, so I am not going to discuss politics at any length, but I do want to say that all the other results of the program that I have observed have been highly satisfactory. And I can understand the two that are running for office as Republicans, because we Democrats spend a good deal more time training our candidates.

I am very pleased to have your report. I think it is excellent. I hope it gets the distribution that it deserves.

Now, I think the central point of it is a very crucial one. As I see it, it is this: How can we really involve the young people in the institutions that are shaping their own destiny?

This problem, as all of us have seen recently, is not just an American problem. It is a problem facing governments and young people all over the world. I observed the other day that I had seen in a very recent report where young people were involved in university confrontations in more than 25 nations. It is not strictly a local situation.

I sense a healthy dualism in this report. It seems to be a demand for youth's separatism, independence, and autonomy combined with a desire for youth's full-scale integration into the adult society. And I understand these parallel themes.

On the other hand, the advantages of a separate youth enterprise are many; if it could be created as a somewhat loose, freewheeling operation it might be able to experiment on a wide range of new approaches. If it were freed from existing administrative structures, it could serve as a pacesetter.

Now, you have one of the real experts on administrative structures here. I don't know whether he can tell you how to stay free of them or not, but I am glad Mr. Macy has fathered this program from the very beginning. I think it is one of the many things he has done that we are all proud of.

Yet, on the other hand, the ultimate goal is not further polarization but true integration. I do not see the separate office as a way of putting an artificial structure around young people. Nor do I see it as a way of institutionalizing a generation gap or a bureaucratic gap or a cadre of gray-haired "youth" bureaucrats. I see its goal, I think, in much broader terms as the beginning step to open our entire political process to greater participation by young people.

The Presidential Scholars, the White House Fellows, the intern program, the young men and women in high positions in Government, those young folks like Alan Boyd, Ramsey Clark, and others who now sit in the Cabinet, all of that means that young people are participating in the decisions of their Government. And the more of them we can arouse and the more of them we can incite and the more of them we can inspire, the more we can stimulate, the better off Government is going to be.

All of your recommendations are interesting and some can work out easier than others. I have already acted on one. Last week, I asked all of the departments to create a special committee to evaluate their training programs for young Federal employees.1 I urged that the key element in their review process should be the participation of young people. As you pointed out, this just has not been done before.

1 See Item 526.

Your suggestions for duplicating the White House Fellows program on the local and State level is of great interest to me. Tom Johnson brought that to the attention of the Nation this morning in his television appearance. I am asking Governor Daniel, who is our liaison with the Governors of the States, and the Vice President, who represents us with the mayors, to transfer your recommendations to the Governors and to the mayors.

I would like to see every mayor and every city in the country have some program that was patterned after this one so that we could get young folks involved at the local level. I would like to see every Governor of every State do the same thing. What they do, of course, is a matter up to them.

Beyond the specific actions you have recommended here, certain other ideas have come to mind. Perhaps during the transition period, there might be a meeting here in the White House bringing together a wide variety of student leaders to discuss their ideas and to ask their suggestions as to the next step that should be taken by the new President.

After I came into the White House, I asked the State colleges in every State in the Union to have their student presidents and their student editors and some of their student leaders that had been selected by the students themselves, to send them here for a meeting. We thought that was helpful. I am sorry we have not had more of them. We should have. I quite agree with you that we are not communicating with the youth as well as we should and, vice versa, they are not communicating with us.

I think the new President is going to discover, as I have, that the White House Fellows program can be a very valuable resource. You have made it very clear to me that you have a very solid background of accomplishment. You have gained great experience in the Government. Now, through this report of the White House Fellows Association, I think you have shown that you are an effective body for working on unsolved problems and rather difficult problems. I hope that the White House Fellows and your Association will continue for many years in the service of America. And I hope the Presidents who follow me will try to improve on this bare bones beginning that we have made here.

Unless I can get all of you to go to Texas with me, I look forward to hearing from you and about you. I do not exaggerate when I say to the White House Fellows that I think you have great promise. As I told Mrs. Johnson, when Lyn and Lucinda first vote, I hope they will be voting for a member of this Association.

You may observe that I am already not only interested in the voting processes of younger people, but I am also trying to recruit new members for youth.

MRS. JOHNSON. I love this very much. Thank you all, more than I can say. For what is now almost 5 years that we have been in this house, there have been dozens and dozens of state dinners and always at the center of the table a bowl like this sits with beautiful flowers in it. It is one of the pictures of the White House that I will always take away in my mind. I am just so very happy to also be able to take away the bowl.

One other slight touch to let you know how much I do value it. Some time ago, I suggested to Bess [Abell, Social Secretary] that this would make really just the right present when we have a visiting king and queen or prime minister and his wife. So, this has often been our main state gift to visiting dignitaries from far away.

Thank you so much. I want to keep up with all of you White House Fellows. It has been one of the most exciting things about my stay here, knowing you all and your work.

Note: The President spoke at 5:35 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to John W. Macy, Jr., Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, John Gardner, Special Assistant to the Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Waiter J. Humann, President, Executive Committee, White House Fellows Association. During his remarks he referred to Wyatt Thomas Johnson, Jr., Assistant Press Secretary to the President, Alan S. Boyd, Secretary of Transportation, Ramsey Clark, Attorney General, Price Daniel, Director, Office of Emergency Planning and former Governor of Texas, and Patrick Lyndon Nugent and Lucinda Desha Robb, the President's grandchildren.

The report, dated October 1968, is entitled "Confrontation or Participation? The Federal Government and the Student Community" (Government printing Office, 25 pp.).

A White House announcement of the presentation ceremony is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, P- 1553). On the occasion the President and Mrs. Johnson, as "founders and sustainers of the White House Fellows program," were presented with a vermeil bowl in a bamboo motif from the White House Fellows, 1965-1968.

On September 3, 1968, the White House announced the start of the fifth nationwide search for outstanding young men and women to serve as White House Fellows. The release stated that the third group of White House Fellows had just completed their year-long assignments and a fourth group, the 1968-69 Fellows, had just begun their duties (4 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 1304).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Presentation of the White House Fellows Association Report on the Federal Government and the Student Community. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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