Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act of 1968

July 31, 1968

Mayor Washington, distinguished Members of the Senate and House of Representatives, ladies and gentlemen:

It is very hard for us to think of two sadder words than juvenile delinquency. They speak of wasted youth and they speak of worried families. Too often they speak of reformatories that do not reform the child and do not resolve the problem.

In 1966, 400,000 American boys and girls awaited trial behind bars. One of every six American boys will go to juvenile court before that boy is 18 years of age. About half of those arrested for major crimes of violence are now under 24 years of age.

The bill that we will sign this morning promises a fundamental reform of this tragedy. This bill is designed to prevent juvenile delinquency.

--It is designed to save a youngster from committing his first offense.

--It gives funds to States and to cities for youth programs.

--It helps local communities to train experts on how to combat juvenile crime.

--This bill will rehabilitate life and renew hope.

--It offers funds for bold projects to help young lawbreakers.

--It will help build new facilities to help reclaim the delinquents, not just to punish the delinquents.

--It assists police and other public agencies to come up with modern and compassionate answers to the stubborn problems of juvenile crime.

But this law is just a beginning. Criminals are made and not born. They are made by slums, they are made by bad schools, by bad health, by idleness, and by despair.

And until we get around to curing those ills, we cannot cure crime and we cannot stop violence.

Anyone who promises a cheaper solution promises a fake and a false solution. We want to guarantee every young American a life of fulfillment, not violence.

The intelligence and the moral energy of young Americans are greater forces today than ever before. They must be a force for good and not evil, for constructive and not destructive ends.

This is the end of this bill. It serves the urgent aims and the highest hopes of all of our youth and all of our people.

I am very proud that some of the outstanding leaders of the Congress, in the Senate and in the House, have given years of dedicated effort to helping bring about this measure today that I am so proud to affix my name to.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:43 p.m. in the Fish Room at the White House. His opening words referred to Walter E. Washington, Commissioner of the District of Columbia.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 12120) is Public Law 90-445 (82 Stat. 462).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act of 1968 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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