Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of Proclamation "White Cane Safety Day, 1965."

October 07, 1965

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen:

The blind poet Milton once asked, "Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?" And he answered, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

This morning, America's blind citizens-nearly a half million of them--stand and wait. But now they wait for us. It is no longer the physical condition of blindness that rules their fate. It is our attitude toward that condition.

Too many blind people are condemned to a life of frustration because we have been willing to accept as fact that they can do no more. Well, I have not been willing to accept that fact, and as long as I hold this Office of the Presidency I am going to try not to accept that fact. Because today we know from experience that blind people can master such diverse occupations as teaching, sales, computer work, public relations, journalism, and law.

I just recently appointed to one of the highest legal assignments in this country-a member of the Tax Court--a person who is blind. He will serve with great distinction on that Federal bench and by so doing, I think, will open many other opportunities to blind people, not only on the bench but in other places in Federal service. Notwithstanding this, too many of these blind people today are making brooms and wicker furniture because no one has really given them a chance to do anything else.

And we are going to move forward in this area. We just must understand that blind people want to live normal, productive lives--and we believe they have the ability to do so.

So, today, we have come here to proclaim October 15th as "White Cane Day." In so doing we hope to remind all the American people, and through the generous services of all the media, remind the American people that the blind are dependent on them. So let us respond as the kind and the compassionate people that I believe we really are.

When we see a blind person on the street, let us try to be a little extra courteous and helpful. Let us give him the right of way. If we are on foot, let us speak to him. Let us offer our assistance at the crossings.

Above all, let us light the world of our blind citizens with opportunity. The white cane is not a symbol of uselessness. I think it is a symbol of determination. But it is up to us, all of us--everyone in this room and everyone in this country--to open the way.

If there was ever a time for us to apply the Golden Rule, let us set an example and engage in a little introspection this morning and ask ourselves if we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

The blind need no longer stand and wait in order to serve. It is my judgment that now they are just awaiting our call and awaiting an equal opportunity.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12 noon in the Cabinet Room at the White House just prior to signing Proclamation 3679 "White Cane Safety Day, 1965" (1 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 378; 30 F.R. 12931; 3 CFR, 1965 Supp., p. 65).

For the President's statement at the swearing in of Charles R. Simpson, who is blind, as Judge of the Tax Court of the United States, see Item 478.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of Proclamation "White Cane Safety Day, 1965." Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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