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Quotations from Lyndon B. Johnson about Education

1964 | 1965 | 1968


May 22
Remarks at the University of Michigan ("Great Society Speech")
(The Presidential Papers, Item 357)


"A third place to build the Great Society is in the classrooms of America. There your children's lives will be shaped. Our society will not be great until every young mind is set free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination. We are still far from that goal.

"Today, 8 million adult Americans, more than the entire population of Michigan, have not finished 5 years of school. Nearly 20 million have not finished 8 years of school. Nearly 54 million - more than one-quarter of all America - have not even finished high school.

"Each year more than 100,000 high school graduates, with proved ability, do not enter college because they cannot afford it. And if we cannot educate today's youth, what will we do in 1970 when elementary enrollment will be 5 million greater than 1960? And high school enrollment will rise by 5 million. College enrollment will increase by more than 3 million.

"In many places, classrooms are overcrowded and curricula are outdated. Most of our qualified teachers are underpaid, and many of our paid teachers are unqualified. So we must give every child a place to sit and a teacher to learn from. Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty.

"But more classrooms and more teachers are not enough. We must seek an educational system which grows in excellence as it grows in size. This means better training for our teachers. It means preparing youth to enjoy their hours of leisure as well as their hours of labor. It means exploring new techniques of teaching, to find new ways to stimulate the love of learning and the capacity for creation."


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Link to Daily Diary for May 22, 1964
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January 4
Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union
(The Presidential Papers, Item 2)


"Our third goal is to improve the quality of American life.

"We begin with learning.
Every child must have the best education our Nation can provide.
Thomas Jefferson said no nation can be both ignorant and free. Today no nation can be both ignorant and great.

"In addition to our existing programs, I will recommend a new program for schools and students with a first-year authorization of $1,500 million.

"It will help at every state along the road to learning.
For the pre-school years we will help needy children become aware of the excitement of learning.

"For the primary and secondary school years, we will aid public schools serving low-income families and assist students in both public and private schools.

"For the college years we will provide scholarships to high school students of the greatest promise and greatest need and guarantee low-interest loans to students continuing their college studies.

"New laboratories and centers will help our schools lift their standards of excellence and explore new methods of teaching. These centers will provide special training for those who need and deserve special treatment."


January 12
Special Message to Congress: "Toward Full Educational Opportunity"
(The Presidential Papers, Item 9)


"In 1787, the Continental Congress declared in the Northwest Ordinance: 'schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.'"


"Every child must be encouraged to get as much education as he has the ability to take.
We want this not only for his sake -- but for the nation's sake.

"Nothing matters more to the future of our country: not our military preparedness -- for armed might is worthless if we lack the brainpower to build a world of peace; not our productive economy -- for we cannot sustain growth without trained manpower; not our democratic system of government -- for freedom is fragile if citizens are ignorant."


"In 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Second President of the Republic of Texas and the Father of Texas education, declared: 'The cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy. It is the only dictator that free man acknowledges. It is the only security that free man desires.'"


"We are now embarked on another venture to put the American dream to work in meeting the new demands of a new day. Once again we must start where men would improve their society have always known they must begin - with an educational system restudied, reinforced, and revitalized."

January 12
Recorded remarks on the Message on Education
(The Presidential Papers, Item 10)


"Education is 'the guardian genius of our democracy.' Nothing really means more to our future, not our military defenses, not our missiles or our bombers, not our production economy, not even our democratic system of government. For all of these are worthless if we lack the brain power to support and sustain them."


March 1
"Remarks before the National Conference on Educational Legislation."
(The Presidential Papers, Item 89)


"'Human history, ' H.G. Wells once wrote, 'becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.' You and I cannot be indifferent to the outcome of that race. We care deeply about the winner. Because we do care so deeply about the winner, that is why we are all in the East Room of the White House today.

"I don't think that I need to tell you how important to the outcome of that race is the education legislation that is now before the Congress. I hope that it is important enough that most of you have studied it in detail. I hope that you understand that it represents the very best thinking that the leading educators of this country can produce.

"Way back last summer I asked some of the most outstanding educational minds in this Nation to tackle this problem. I gave them a single instruction: find out how we can best invest each education dollar so that it will do the most good. Your support and the support of every leading education group proves that they did their job better than I had hoped, because for the first time we have succeeded in finding goals which unite us rather than divide us.

"The experts spent a great deal of time and study working out a formula which would be fair to every State and fair to every county and fair to every child, and would put the education dollar where that dollar is needed most, now.

"We decided that our first job was to help the schools serving the children from the very lowest income groups. Those families constitute the number one burden, the number one burden in this Nation on the school systems.

"We know that they cannot bear their share of the taxes to help pay for their education. And unless those children get a good education we know that they become dropouts and they become delinquents and they become taxeaters instead of taxpayers. We know that they will join the unemployed. That is why we put top priority on breaking the vicious cycle that today threatens the future of 5 million children in this great land of opportunity which we talk about so much."


June 1
Statement by the President Announcing the Calling of a White House Conference on Education
(The Presidential Papers, Item 291)


"Education is the key to opportunity in our society, and the equality of educational opportunity must be the birthright of every citizen.

"No other challenge concerns me more than this one. None is of greater importance to the American people."


July 21
Remarks to the Delegates to the White House Conference on Education
(The Presidential Papers, Item 374)


"Education will not cure all the problems of society, but without it no cure for any problem is possible."


"Most of all we need an education which will create an educated mind. This is a mind not simply a repository of information and skills, but a mind that is a source of creative skepticism, characterized by a willingness to challenge old assumptions and to be challenged, a spaciousness of outlook, and convictions that are deeply held, but which new facts and new experiences can always modify."


"It means an educational system which does not simply equip the students to adjust to society, but which enables the student to challenge and to modify, and at times reject, if necessary, the received wisdom of his elders."


"For it was only after I could become President of this country that I could really see in all its hopeful and troubling implications just how much the hopes of our citizens and the security of our Nation and the real strength of our democracy depended upon the learning and the understanding of our people."


September 23
Remarks After Signing Bill Providing Funds for Programs Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(The Presidential Papers, Item 527)


"We have always believed that our people can stand on no higher ground than the school ground, or can enter any more hopeful room than the classroom. We blend time and faith and knowledge in our schools - not only to create educated citizens, but also to shape the destiny of this great Republic."


November 8
Remarks at Southwest Texas State College Upon Signing the Higher Education Act of 1965
(The Presidential Papers, Item 603)


"This Congress did more to uplift education, more to attack disease in this country and around the world, and more to conquer poverty than any other session in all American history, and what more worthy achievements could any person want to have? For it was the Congress that was more true than any other Congress to Thomas Jefferson's belief that: 'The care of human life and happiness is the first and only legitimate objective of good Government.'"



February 5
Special Message to the Congress on Education, "The Fifth Freedom" speech
(The Presidential Papers, Item 54)

"On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set forth to Congress and the people 'four essential human freedoms' for which America stands.

"In the years since then, those four freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear - have stood as a summary of our aspirations for the American Republic and for the world.

"And Americans have always stood ready to pay the cost in energy and treasure which are needed to make those goals a reality.

"Today - wealthier, more powerful and more able than ever before in our history - our Nation can declare another essential freedom.

"The fifth freedom is freedom from ignorance.
It means that every man, everywhere, should be free to develop his talents to their full potential - unhampered by arbitrary barriers of race or birth or income.
We have already begun the work of guaranteeing that fifth freedom.

"The job, of course, will never be finished. For a nation, as for an individual, education is a perpetually unfinished journey, a continuing process of discovery.

"But the work we started when this Nation began, which has flourished for nearly two centuries, and which has gained momentum in the past two Congresses - is ours to continue - yours and mine."

September 10
Statement by the President on the 10th Anniversary of the National Defense Education Act
(The Presidential Papers, Item 473)


"History may well record that we served liberty and saved freedom when we undertook a crash program in the field of education . . .. I hope this bill is only the forerunner of better things to come.


"First, this law - the National Defense Education Act - ended years and years of debate about one controversial question: 'Shall the Federal Government, with all its massive resources, get directly involved in aiding American education?' The answer this law gave was a loud 'Yes!' - and thus we paved the way for a new era of support for education in America. This law, in fact, helped make possible more than 50 new education laws passed in my administration.

"Second, this law has become a special symbol of our Nation's most important purpose: to fulfill the individual - his freedom, his happiness, his promise."


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