Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bill Amending the National Defense Education Act

October 16, 1964

Ladies and gentlemen, friends, and fathers and mothers of education:

I want to welcome you to the East Room and tell you how good it makes me feel to know of your interest in this most vital of all subjects, and to have you here to participate with us in this historic occasion.

The 88th Congress is gone but its good works continue. The measure before me is one of the finest works of this very fine year.

For reasons personal, as well as Presidential, I am pleased and I am proud to be able to sign this measure into law today.

In 1958 I was privileged to be one of the authors of the National Defense Education Act which this legislation extends and expands. If it will not be construed as an intrusion on the bipartisan nature of this ceremony, I might mention that the other author was the Senator from Minnesota, Mr. Hubert Humphrey.

So 6 years ago our Nation was sorely concerned about the future. We were concerned about how our system was faring in the contest of this century. There were voices of despair and there were cries of doom. But we turned back to the vital source of our Great Society's strength and our people's capacity for renewal. We turned back to the wellspring of education.

We committed ourselves to do many of the works in education which had long been neglected and which had been left undone.

When this original legislation was enacted, I said--and I hope you will pardon me if I repeat it today: "History may well record that we saved liberty and saved freedom when we undertook a crash program in the field of education.

"We have not gone far enough fast enough. There must be an awakening not only here in the Congress but throughout this great country of ours. And first things must come first."

Today under your leadership, because of your courage and your counsel, there has been an awakening. We face the challenges and the contests of the world with much greater certainty and sureness than we did 6 years ago. Our effort in education is succeeding and is moving forward. More than 3,100 young men and women have been trained for college teaching. Five thousand more are already enrolled. Over 600,000 students have been helped to secure a college education under the NDEA student loan programs. Much has been done.

But as I said in '58 to the Congress, first things must still come first. In our colleges today the student enrollment is about 6.3 million. In only 6 more years the enrollment will be over 7 million. Already the American families must expect to spend from $4,000 to $5,000 for the college education of each of their children. These costs may be expected to increase by nearly half again in the next 10 years.

We are now losing more than 100,000 high school graduates of the highest ability who cannot afford to go to college.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this just must not continue. The challenge is obvious and we must meet it. Higher costs must not put higher education out of reach.

The Continental Congress was the first to pledge "that the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Now it's up to us to keep that pledge in our time.

That is the purpose of this legislation that I sign today. Under this program we will increase our training of teachers fivefold. We will, under this program, extend guidance and counseling to almost 45 million elementary school pupils.

Under this legislation we will establish 10 new graduate and 60 undergraduate language centers. And we will do much more than a growing America requires us to do.

The 88th Congress represents a turning point for education. There is a consensus. There is a commitment to unite and to move ahead in education. And I, with the forces that I see here, the leaders in this Congress, we are just going to do that.

I said the other night in Denver, Colo., to the largest facility they had for seating people-and every seat was full and there were almost an additional 15,000 or 20,000 outside--that we must say as a matter of national policy in the United States of America that every boy and girl born in this country under that flag has a right to all the education that he or she can take.

Now these Powell-Morse amendments represent a long step forward. And special thanks are due for the fine work of all the Members of the House and the Senate Education Committee, especially Senator Morse; and my own beloved Senator, Senator Yarborough; and Congressman Powell; Congressman Perkins; and Mrs. Green; and others who I will not take the time to enumerate because I have talked about those of you that have talked to me so often and so much on this subject. But I know you would yield to all the others in their dedication to this great program.

I have just been in a meeting with the Ambassador from the Soviet Union. They have a new government in the Soviet Union. And new governments bring new problems. We spent 45 minutes--he, assuring me that he was directed, on behalf of the new government, to tell our people that they wanted to continue to explore with us every possible means of achieving better understanding and relieving the tensions in the world.

We have just confirmed the detonation by the Chinese of a nuclear bomb. It is a rather crude weapon, but it is the beginning of a series of steps that I anticipate will be harmful and injurious, and require great sacrifices on the part of the Chinese people.

Now living in this kind of a world--even our good friends, the British, have a new Prime Minister that I must talk to this afternoon, if I can--we just can't rely on dropouts, on fourth-grade intellects, and on any people that have not acquired all the training and all the education that they are capable of acquiring. That is the investment that would pay us the greatest dividends of any investment we can possibly make.

A great President of the Republic of Texas once said, and I have repeated it so much that I hope my colleagues in the Senate will indulge me, "that the educated mind is the guardian genius of democratic government, of democracy." The educated mind--it is the only dictator that free men will ever recognize. And it is the only ruler that free men desire.

So as we sign this bill this afternoon, let's let this be another step along the road that we have taken and when we come back here, whenever that may be, let's be prepared to go all the way.

Note: The President spoke at 1 :45 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. During the course of his remarks he referred to Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, Representative Adam C. Powell of New York, Representative Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky, and Representative Edith Green of Oregon.

Among those attending the ceremony were members and officials of the National Education Association.

As enacted, the bill (S. 3060) is Public Law 88665 (78 Stat. 1100).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bill Amending the National Defense Education Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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