Remarks Upon Signing Two Education Bills
Secretary Cohen, distinguished Members of the Congress, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
If they would let me climb up there to where those television cameras are, I would like to shout this from the rooftops, "We have come here this morning to sign education laws numbers 59 and 60 since the beginning of this administration."
I suppose that every one of the men who has had the experience of enduring the "splendid misery" of the Presidency must have come to this office with one dream-maybe two or three--that was more special than the rest. And I am certainly no exception.
If I could do anything--I told myself when I became President--in this office, I wanted to do one thing: that was to advance education among all of my people. I wanted every human being to have an opportunity to get all the education that he or she could take. Education for every child. Education for every man and woman. Education from preschool to Ph.D.; education for Pancho, the little Mexican-American Head Start boy, age 4; and education for his great-grandpa, an old farmer, age 74, who always--all of his life--wanted to learn to read, and to sign his name without marking an "X."
Exactly 4 years and 10 months ago today, I invited some of you same men here to the White House. You witnessed the signing of one of the first bills of my administration: the Higher Education Facilities Act.
A Governor called me this morning and asked me to come to his State, Saturday a week, to observe some of the results of that act. I wish he had not called so early. That is why I am late.
Two days after we signed that bill, I invited you back to the White House to the signing of another bill: the Vocational Education Act of 1963.
In the months and years since then you have been coming back here, sometimes often, but you have been coming again and again. You have been joining me in helping to build, brick by brick, law by law, a new and a better system of education in America.
I think every person in this room can understand the meaning of this moment because nearly every person in this room helped make this moment possible. Your imagination, your devotion is reflected in every line in those bills.
The first act I will sign today, the Higher Education Act, is a complex law. It extends the National Defense Education Act of 1958, passed during President Eisenhower's administration; the Higher Education Facilities Act, that I referred to a moment ago, we signed in 1963; the Higher Education Act of 1965; the International Education Act of 1966.
It authorizes, in addition, seven new programs ranging from the purchase of special equipment for poor students to complicated, modern communications networks among universities. This very complex law, though, has a very simple purpose: that purpose is to assure that all of America's future scientists, engineers, businessmen, doctors, and statesmen will have available the best this Nation can provide.
For millions of students who choose not to go to college, the vocational education measure promises the same thing. It will give students a chance to provide for useful, satisfying work--by learning in school and by training on the job. They will rescue thousands of worthy young men and women from failure and frustration.
So here we are, my friends, 60 laws later. We can count the laws. But no one can count the lives that these laws have and will change. How many bright youngsters have been discovered and inspired who might otherwise have been ignored? How many families have fulfilled the dream of college for their children? The answers to those questions, I think, explain to you why I feel as I do about education.
We believe, that is, you and I, that education is not an expense. We believe it is an investment. The 10 talents multiply. They return in the shape of economic growth. They return in the shape of better government. They return in the shape of a higher standard of living for all of us.
But the most important value lies beyond all of these things. When we advance learning, free men enter a new world of opportunity and experience. If we reject learning, we render ourselves dead to the past and lost to the future.
But standing in this room, we are not dead to the past. Here in this room we can hear the echo of Thomas Jefferson's words: "The most important bill in our whole code," he said, "is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness."
And we are not lost to the future. For those who have labored in this cause will be remembered--and that means all of you-as the men and the women who did much, as Jefferson said, "for the preservation of freedom and happiness." I don't know of any higher tribute that could be paid to any man or woman than to say that he fought the battle hard, he fought a good fight, and he preserved freedom and happiness, particularly in this hour when it is challenged in all corners of the world.
I was observing just last week a statement in an intelligence report. It said that in some 20 to 30 countries in the world people had gone in and taken over the universities and seized them. So it shows that in this critical hour that there is a great deal of restlessness in the Nation. And it shows that we have much yet to do in the field of education, not only here at home but throughout the world.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:01 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Wilbur J. Cohen, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
As enacted, the Higher Education Amendments of 1968 (S. 3769) is Public Law 90-575 (82 Stat. 1014), and the Vocational Education Amendments of 1968 (H.R. 18366) is Public Law 90-576 (82 Stat. 1064).
On September 3, 1968, the President received a memorandum from Secretary Cohen which reported that more students than ever before were enrolled in U.S.. schools and colleges and that the outlook for the future of American education was bright. The text of the memorandum is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 4, p. 1305).
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Two Education Bills Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237120