Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Presentation of the Young American Medals.

June 30, 1965

Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Hoover, ladies and gentlemen:

It is always a very proud occasion here when we have the opportunity to honor young Americans.

America's greatest asset will always be our young people. If our society has achieved a measure of distinction and greatness, it is because we have held a very high regard and a sincere respect for our young people.

Many years ago, before our Government came into being, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to a friend, and in that letter he said, and I quote: "The fortune of our lives depends on employing well the short period of youth."

Today, contrary to much that is said--and some that is written and believed by at least a few--young Americans of this generation are employing well the period of their youth.

So, this is a responsible generation, a reasoning generation, a reliable generation-constructive, committed, and concerned in both its principles and its purposes. All the libels and slanders which the conduct of a few may bring upon the many cannot alter this truth about the overwhelming majority of the youth in America today.

So, on this occasion today here in the Cabinet Room, we are marking the 15th year of the award of the Young American Medals. This very fine program was conceived by Congressman Frank Chelf, the popular Congressman from Kentucky, and under his leadership it was enacted in 1950.

Since that time, Young American Medals have been presented to some 35 American boys and girls--24 for acts of exceptional courage and swift decision, and 10 for extraordinary character and public service in their home communities.

These medals honor more than the acts of individuals. They honor a spirit of our youth--a spirit of courage and conscience that is part of the fiber of our Nation's character.

Those qualities of character have been tested for other generations on fields of battle throughout the world. And for whatever tests the times ahead may bring, I have complete and absolute faith that young Americans of the present will be equal to the demands that destiny might make of them.

But I wish to say to all our young people-and to all the youth of the entire world-that it is the consistent, determined, and daily purpose of this Nation's leadership that the young people of our nations may live out their lives in a peaceful world. For we believe the only heroic battles of these times are the humane battles, the battles to improve the life and the lot of mankind-by warring on poverty, illness, illiteracy, prejudice, and despair.

And I think that in the few months that I have been in this office I have concentrated, both from the pulpit, from the Rose Garden, the legislative halls of the Congress, and all the States of the Union, for a program that declares war on the ancient enemies of mankind--poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, prejudice, and bigotry.

And so, it is today a very high privilege to be here in the company of these distinguished individuals--the Attorney General, and Mr. Hoover, and my colleagues from the Senate and the House of past bygone days--to present these medals to these young Americans.

The Governors of 18 States forwarded to the Attorney General the names of 46 young people whose deeds were all quite noteworthy. And out of this number only 4 have been selected.

And for each of these young Americans I am very proud, and I am very privileged, to offer the congratulations, the admiration, and the gratitude of all the American people.

Thank you very much.

Note: The ceremony was held at 12:10 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words the President referred to Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach and J. Edgar Hoover, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The President presented the gold Young American Medals for Bravery to the following:

Kenneth Pilago Magallanes, aged 13, of Pearl City, Hawaii, who descended twice into a noxious, abandoned cesspool to rescue a 2-year-old child who had fallen into the pool; Barbara Ann Lynch, aged 16, of Atco, N.J., who ran back into the family's burning home to rescue her invalid grandmother; and Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Espin, parents of Rosa Linda Espin, aged 7, of Charlotte, N.C., who was honored posthumously for having given her life to rescue her tiny brother from their burning house.

Dennis J. Power, aged 18, received a service medal for organizing his friends into a volunteer remedial reading school for Puerto Rican and Negro children in the Spanish quarter of Harlem in New York City.

Winners were selected by the Young American Medals Committee, composed of Mr. Hoover, Solicitor General Archibald Cox, and Jacob Rosenthal, Director of Public Information, Department of Justice.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Presentation of the Young American Medals. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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