Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Members of the National Council on the Arts.

April 09, 1965

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am delighted to welcome this distinguished group here today on the occasion of the first meeting of the National Council on the Arts. Let me say now how much, how very much, I appreciate the willingness of each of you to serve on this Council and to give us this help.

This, to me, is a very important and I think, in fact, a very historic occasion.

As you may know, bills to establish arts councils have been pending before Congress since the year 1877. So it made me especially happy, therefore, to be able to sign this bill last September. I hope I will be able to sign an education bill this April. It has been pending in Congress since 1870, so we are gradually catching up.

It is my hope that you, as my artistic advisers and counselors, may have some very constructive and dynamic recommendations to make that we would like to follow. I think it is important to meet, but what is quite important is not just to meet but to get things done.

I went to bed last night reading a transcript of a meeting I had out in Bangkok in 1961 with a group of men of vision, and we were talking about the development of the great Mekong Delta Valley--the construction of dams and the great evolution operation out there.

And I said to them, "We have been talking for several years, planning for several years; when do we get some action?" And they said, "Well, you have to have plans before you get action."

We agree with that.

Now, then, yesterday I was talking to Mr. Eugene Black and I was asking the same question I had asked in 1961. Since then dozens of thousands of people have died, perhaps because we still are talking instead of getting things done. So, I think that we could all profit by the recognition and understanding that it is important to meet, but it is more important to act.

I believe that a world of creation and thought is at the very core of all civilization, and that our civilization will largely survive in the works of our creations.

That quality, as I have said many times before, confirms the faith that our common hope may be much more enduring than our conflicting hostilities. And we want to think each hour of the things that we do that will be enduring.

Right now the men of affairs are struggling to catch up with the insights of great art. The stakes may well be the survival of our entire society.

So this great Nation, this country that we love so much, is looking to this handful of extremely talented individuals, looking to you as the representatives of all fields of the arts, for ways in which the Government can maintain and can strengthen an atmosphere which will permit the arts to flourish and to become a part of everyone's life.

Yesterday we had a bill passed through the Congress by a vote of 313 to 155 that affects the health of every person in this land, And while they were voting on it in House, they were acting in the Senate on the education bill, which will affect every child born in this world. And I hope that before too long Congressman Thompson and my delightful friend, Senator Pell, will be moving in the direction of trailblazing legislation that will have the support of all of you, and that will truly make our meeting here today worthwhile.

Nothing gives me more real pleasure than to be able to take that pen and to act and to approve this trailblazing thing. I kind of have a rule against arm twisting myself, but I do want to provide proper leadership, and if any of my friends on this Council have any views in connection with Senator Pell's bill and Congressman Thompson I would not object to your communicating them to such friends as you may have on the Hill.

Note: The President spoke at 12:15 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island and Representative Frank Thompson, Jr., of New Jersey.

The bill establishing the National Council on the Arts was approved by the President on September 3, 1964 (78 Stat. 905).

The President's reference to a 1961 meeting in Bangkok was to a visit to Thailand during his southeast Asia trip in May 1961 (see "Public Papers of the Presidents, john F. Kennedy 1961," Items 171 [2], 203).

On February 23, the White House announced the appointment of 26 members of the National Council on the Arts, of which Roger L. Stevens, Special Assistant to the President on the Arts, was designated Chairman.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Members of the National Council on the Arts. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives