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Statement by the President Upon Signing the Foreign Assistance Act of 1967.

November 15, 1967

I HAVE signed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1967.

This act reaffirms the basic principles which have guided America's foreign economic policy for two decades. It proclaims our readiness to help those who help themselves in mankind's unrelenting struggle against poverty, ignorance, and disease.

Foreign assistance represents our hopes for the world our children will inherit. It gives meaning to the pledges of four Presidents and 10 Congresses that the United States will help to provide the margin of hope that nourishes the poverty-stricken millions around the world for whom change is not a matter of choice but of necessity.

I regret to say that the Foreign Assistance Act of 1967 reduces the margin of hope to the danger point.

The legislation I proposed in February was austere, yet consistent with responsible pursuit of our interests abroad. It represented the combined judgment of the President, the Secretary of State, and other senior officers of the Government. It was below the request of any previous year.

The Congress has now lowered even this request by almost $400 million, and further substantial appropriation reductions have been proposed which threaten to reduce the program by a third.

I know that this results from consideration by many thoughtful men. I know too that there are many other pressing claims on our resources. There is no absolute in these matters. Each man must make his own assessment of the consequences.

I respect the judgment of the Congress. But I would be remiss in my duty if I failed to state my own conviction. I believe the money cuts and other restrictions in this act will seriously inhibit this Government's effort to assure and enlarge the security of the free world. For 20 years we have recognized the link between that security and our own. We should not lose sight of it now.

Nor do I accept the argument that we can afford no more. If we must distribute thousands of rifles to our Armed Forces abroad, we can afford to distribute 15 million textbooks, as the AID program did last year. If we can build thousands of barracks, we can build 25,000 classrooms, as the AID program did last year. If we can train thousands of soldiers, we can train 120,000 teachers as the AID program did last year. If we can protect almost a billion people in free Asia from the ravages of aggression, we can vaccinate 100 million people against the ravages of smallpox, as the AID program did last year.

These programs are not luxuries to be dispensed with when the going gets tough. They are the lifeblood of freedom in the world--the constructive steps which give meaning to the hope of all free men that hard work can transform struggle and privation into peace and plenty.

The lesson of history is that a community of independent and prosperous nations is the best long-term guaranty of a secure America in a peaceful world.

This is the goal of the foreign aid program. Its victories are quiet--a school opened, a hospital equipped, a farm made productive, and, ultimately, a nation built.

This is not the stuff of headlines, but it is the way to peace. These are the returns the taxpayer receives on his investment in foreign aid. It is a long-term business. It is often frustrating. The reward of success is enormous--and the penalty of failure is disaster.

I urge each Member of Congress to search his own mind and his own heart before he joins in any effort to erode these vital programs still further.

Note: As enacted, the bill (S. 1872), approved November 14, 1967, is Public Law 90-137 (81 Stat. 445).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Foreign Assistance Act of 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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