Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Arts and Humanities Bill

September 29, 1965

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Senator Mansfield, distinguished Members of the Congress:

In the long history of man, countless empires and nations have come and gone. Those which created no lasting works of art are reduced today to short footnotes in history's catalog.

Art is a nation's most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a Nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.

We in America have not always been kind to the artists and the scholars who are the creators and the keepers of our vision. Somehow, the scientists always seem to get the penthouse, while the arts and the humanities get the basement.

Last year, for the first time in our history, we passed legislation to start changing that situation. We created the National Council on the Arts.

The talented and the distinguished members of that Council have worked very hard. They have worked creatively. They have dreamed dreams and they have developed ideas.

This new bill, creating the National Foundation for the Arts and the Humanities, gives us the power to turn some of those dreams and ideas into reality.

We would not have that bill but for the hard and the thorough and the dedicated work of some great legislators in both Houses of the Congress. All lovers of art are especially indebted to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of New York, to Congressman Frank Thompson of New Jersey, to Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, to Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, to many Members of both the House and Senate who stand with me on this platform today--too many names to mention.

But these men and women have worked long and hard and effectively to give us this bill. And now we have it. Let me tell you what we are going to do with it. Working together with the State and the local governments, and with many private organizations in the arts:

--We will create a National Theater to bring ancient and modern classics of the theater to audiences all over America.

--We will support a National Opera Company and a National Ballet Company.

--We will create an American Film Institute, bringing together leading artists of the film industry, outstanding educators, and young men and women who wish to pursue the 20th century art form as their life's work.

--We will commission new works of music by American composers.

--We will support our symphony orchestras.

--We will bring more great artists to our schools and universities by creating grants for their time in residence.

Well, those are only a small part of the programs that we are ready to begin. They will have an unprecedented effect on the arts and the humanities of our great Nation.

But these actions, and others soon to follow, cannot alone achieve our goals. To produce true and lasting results, our States and our municipalities, our schools and our great private foundations, must join forces with us.

It is in the neighborhoods of each community that a nation's art is born. In countless American towns there live thousands of obscure and unknown talents.

What this bill really does is to bring active support to this great national asset, to make fresher the winds of art in this great land of ours.

The arts and the humanities belong to the people, for it is, after all, the people who create them.

Note: The President spoke at 9:50 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate.

As enacted, the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 is Public Law 89209 (79 Stat. 845).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Arts and Humanities Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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