Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Dr. Barnaby Keeney as Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities.

July 14, 1966

Dr. Keeney, Mrs. Keeney, Elizabeth, Secretary Gardner, Members of the Congress, friends of the Keeneys, and our fellow Americans:

Carl Sandburg, our great poet and good friend, speaks in one of his poems of our endless search for things beyond mere wealth. Americans, he writes, always come

"To the time for thinking things over;

To the dance, the song, the story--

Or the hours given over to dreaming."

So this morning we gather here not only to honor Barnaby Keeney as he begins this new chapter in his distinguished career. We have come here also to help our best minds find "the time for thinking things over"; the time to encourage our singers and our storytellers; the time to assist our scholars and our thinkers whose hours of dreaming really insure the greatness that is America.

It has now been less than a year since I signed legislation establishing the National Endowment for the Humanities--only a few months since the members of the Humanities Council first took their oath of office, as you will remember, here in the East Room in the White House.

But in this short period, throughout this country, they have raised very large hopes. Under the wise and the spirited leadership of Dr. Henry Allen Moe, the Council has already underwritten

--200 summer fellowships for young scholars and teachers;

--50 grants to established scholars in the humanities;

--awards now totaling more than $300,000 to museums and historical societies for

their education projects.

These grants that the Council has made are making our American classics much more widely available. They are assisting our historical researchers. They are distributing recorded classics to the blind people in our land. They are improving the quality of our educational television and radio.

The new Chairman of the Council and the Endowment, our distinguished and able friend Dr. Keeney, is a product of a great public university--the University of North Carolina--and the product of a great private university--Harvard University. He served in World War II and has distinguished himself as a professor of history, dean, and finally the president of the great Brown University.

But I know that he agrees with me that his new responsibilities will really be the most demanding of his entire career.

For Dr. Keeney and the Council are going to be dealing with far deeper questions than just how to distribute dollars. They will be probing deep into the heart of our people and deep into the heart of our society for answers to many ancient mysteries: What meaning has life? What purpose has man?

That is the veil that mankind has always sought to part; it is the mystery that has challenged and shaped us as a Nation from our beginning.

Our first soldiers and politicians were also the Nation's first scholars and the Nation's first philosophers. The Nation they brought forth excited all men. Why? Because it promised answers to the ancient mysteries; it promised new meaning and fulfillment for man.

Ours was the only Nation ever based on an idea--that all men are created equal-that every man is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But today, as we meet here, we still ponder the questions of the meaning of life and the purpose of man.

We already know that the answers are not wealth, or weapons, or wise government. These can help make life possible, but they can never really make it meaningful.

So, then, we must turn for our answers to those whose profession is ideas: our scholars and our writers, our historians and our philosophers; our men and women, and our boys and girls of the arts and the humanities.

They have contributed as much to our national life as our soldiers and our politicians. They have lighted our path for almost 2 centuries--and the centuries ahead ask even more of their mind and their heart.

And that is why I have such great hopes for the Humanities Council--greater, perhaps, than the Endowment's budget. But I know, too, that small budgets can spur large imaginations. As does every Board of Regents in every school in this land.

And if the Council has only a small membership and a small staff, I know that accomplishment does not depend on size.

I think of the Council as a small spark which can give the Nation--and give the world--great light.

All of us, Carl Sandburg has written, are reaching out "for lights beyond . . . for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death."

These keepsakes are not the products of industry, are not the spoils of war, are not the luxuries of wealth. They are the old ideas, the old words. The older they are, the more their meaning really excites all men. Freedom is one of them. Truth is another.

Now how well we preserve these priceless keepsakes, Dr. Keeney, is going to depend a great deal on the quality and quantity and the effectiveness of the work that you do and that your colleagues do.

So this morning, those genuine friends of yours who have come here join with me in welcoming you and in being happy witnesses as you take the oath of office.

We are so happy and so proud that one of your accomplishments and of your standing in this Nation would be willing to leave the very high position that you have honored with your service to come here and provide this leadership in this innovation that your Government is taking.

We have a good deal riding on you and our expectations are high, but I have not the slightest doubt that we will realize them.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Dr. and Mrs. Barnaby Keeney and their daughter Elizabeth, and to Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner, who administered the oath of office.

For the President's remarks upon signing legislation establishing the National Endowment for the Humanities, see 1965 volume, this series, Book II, Item 534.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Dr. Barnaby Keeney as Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives