Remarks at Southwest Texas State College Upon Signing the Higher
Education Act of 1965.
November 8, 1965
Dr. McCrocklin; member of the faculty and the student body; Congressman
Pickle; Mr. Kellam, the chairman of the Board of Regents; Dr. Crook;
my old friend and conspirator and collaborator and former coworker
and cosecretary to Dr. Evans--Tom Nichols; my former superintendent,
Dr. Donaho; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen:
In a very few moments, I will put my signature on the Higher Education
Act of 1965. The President's signature upon this legislation passed
by this Congress will swing open a new door for the young people
of America. For them, and for this entire land of ours, it is the
most important door that will ever open--the door to education.
And this legislation is the key which unlocks it.
To thousands of young men and women, this act means the path of
knowledge is open to all that have the determination to walk it.
It means a way to deeper personal fulfillment, greater personal
productivity, and increased personal reward. This bill, which I
will make law, is an incentive to stay in school.
It means that a high school senior anywhere in this great land
of ours can apply to any college or any university in any of the
50 States and not be turned away because his family is poor.
This bill is only one of more than two dozen education measures
enacted by the first session of the 89th Congress. And history will
forever record that this session-the first session of the 89th Congress--did
more for the wonderful cause of education in America than all the
previous 176 regular sessions of Congress did, put together.
I doubt that any future Congress will ever erect a prouder monument
for future generations.
Last May, 2,700,000 boys and girls graduated from all the high
schools in America-2,700,000. One million, four hundred thousand--about
half of them--went on to college. But almost as many--1,300,000-dropped
out and never started college.
This bill, which we will shortly make into law, will provide scholarships
and loans and work opportunities to 1 million of that 1.3 million
that did not get to go on to college. And when you, the first year,
with the first bill, take care of 1 million of that 1.3 million
through this legislation, we are hopeful that the State and the
local governments, and the local employers and the local loan funds,
can somehow take care of the other 300,000.
So to thousands of young people education will be available. And
it is a truism that education is no longer a luxury. Education in
this day and age is a necessity.
Where a family cannot afford that necessity:
- We can now make available scholarships up to $1,000 a year,
awarded on the basis of need alone to an individual.
- We can award part-time jobs so one student can earn as much
as $400 a year.
- We can provide loans, free of interest and free of any payment
schedule until after you graduate, to worthy, deserving, capable
And in my judgment, this Nation can never make a wiser or a more
profitable investment anywhere.
In the next school year alone, 140,000 young men and women will
be enrolled in college who, but for the provisions of this bill,
would have never gone past high school. We will reap the rewards
of their wiser citizenship and their greater productivity for decades
This bill that I am signing will help our colleges and our universities
add grasp to their reach for new knowledge and enlightenment.
From this act will also come a new partnership between campus and
community, turning the ivory towers of learning into the allies
of a better life in our cities.
It ensures that college and university libraries will no longer
be the anemic stepchildren of Federal assistance.
And this act makes major new thrusts in a good many other directions:
- in assisting smaller, undernourished colleges obtain better
- in adding first-class equipment in order to have first-class
- in establishing a new National Teacher Corps to help our local
communities receive extra help in the training of our neglected
children, whom our teachers have been unable to reach. When Congress
convenes again in January, I intend immediately to ask again for
the money to take the Teacher Corps off the drawing boards and
put it in the classrooms.
I consider the Higher Education Act-with its companion, the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which we signed back in the
spring of this year--to be the keystones of the great, fabulous
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."
Too many people, for too many years, argued that education and
health and human welfare were not the Government's concern.
And while they spoke, our schools fell behind, our sick people
went unattended, and our poor fell deeper into despair.
But now, at last, in this year of our Lord, 1965, we have quit
talking and started acting. The roots of change and reform are spreading,
not just throughout Washington, but throughout every community in
every State of this great Nation.
On my way here this morning, I visited the Job Corps Center, and
I looked into the faces of boys who all their lives had been denied
opportunity because they came from large families and poor families,
but who today are now receiving that opportunity.
They are learning how to be mechanics and welders and operators
of heavy machinery, and they will have jobs that are some more enduring
and more profitable than some of you that go out to lead in our
One fellow told me that he had been offered--when he completed
his course in underwater welding--more per day than Dr. Donaho paid
me per month in 1928. I have seen other signs of progress and new
I have seen it throughout the States of this Nation. I saw it this
past week, I am proud to say, in our own great Lone Star State of
The people of Texas went to the polls and they approved constitutional
amendments which leave no doubt that the people of this State want
decent treatment for their aged. They want decent treatment for
the handicapped and the unfortunate children. They want an education
system that fits the needs of the 20th century. And they expect
the Federal and the State governments--both of whom are the servants
of all the people-to join shoulder to shoulder and work together
to get this job done.
I want to make it dear once and for all, here and now, so that
all that can see can witness and all who can hear can hear, that
the Federal Government--as long as I am President--intends to be
a partner and not a boss in meeting our responsibilities to all
the people. The Federal Government has neither the wish nor the
power to dictate education.
We can point the way.
We can offer help.
We can contribute to providing the necessary and needed tools.
But the final decision, the last responsibility, the ultimate control,
must, and will, always rest with the local communities.
Today, then, we embark on a new adventure in learning. And it has
a very special meaning to me.
This is a proud moment in my life. I am proud to have a part in
the beginning that this bill provides, because here a great deal
began for me some 38 years ago on this campus.
It was here in these surroundings that I first understood the
deeper meaning of the Bible's promise that: "Ye shall know the truth
and the truth shall make you free."
Here the seeds were planted from which grew my firm conviction
that for the individual, education is the path to achievement and
fulfillment; for the Nation, it is a path to a society that is not
only free but civilized; and for the world, it is the path to peace--for
it is education that places reason over force.
As a student, I lived in a tiny room above Dr. Evans' garage. I
lived there 3 years before the business manager knew I occupied
those quarters and submitted me a bill. I shaved and I showered
in a gymnasium that was down the road. I worked at a dozen different
jobs, from sweeping the floors to selling real silk socks. Sometimes
I wondered what the next day would bring that could exceed the hardship
of the day before.
But with all of that, I was one of the lucky ones--and I knew it
I left this campus to become a teacher under one of the great teachers
that I have known. I want him to stand because he did much in my
life. Dr. Donaho, please stand.
He came here and looked over my credentials and somehow or other
offered me a job at $125 a month to teach a Mexican school at Cotulla
when I was a sophomore, and it was necessary that I leave that year
I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that
little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain
of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically
every one of those children because they were too poor.
And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this Nation
could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to
So here, today, back on the campus of my youth, that door is swinging
open far wider than it ever did before. The rest is up to you.
The rest is up to the teachers and the citizens and the educational
leaders of tomorrow. I want to say this to each of you, finally.
You are witnessing a historic moment. You should carry the memory
and the meaning of this moment with you throughout your life.
And when you look into the faces of your students and your children
and your grandchildren, tell them that you were there when it began.
Tell them that a promise has been made to them. Tell them that the
leadership of your country believes it is the obligation of your
Nation to provide and permit and assist every child born in these
borders to receive all the education that he can take.
I looked over some editorials that I wrote when I was editor of
the college paper here last night. Some I wasn't too proud of. But
in one I urged our people to know no North or no South, or no East
or West, to strive to be no sectionalist, but only an American.
And I pointed out to the 1,357 students then enrolled here at this
college what I thought vision required of each of us. Some of that
vision has been supplied to this student body that has gone from
1,300 to 5,500.
So, when we leave here this morning, I want you to go back and
say to your children and to your grandchildren, and those who come
after you and follow you--tell them that we have made a promise
to them. Tell them that the truth is here for them to seek. And
tell them that we have opened the road and we have pulled the gates
down and the way is open, and we expect them to travel it. And when
we meet back here again a few years from now, there will be many
more than the 1,300 and the 5,500 that will be here seeking and
receiving the knowledge that is an absolute necessity if we are
to maintain our freedom in a highly competitive world.
All you have to do is look at the morning paper this morning to
see the rockets that were paraded down the avenues in the Soviet
Union yesterday or the day before, and realize that until we banish
ignorance, until we drive disease from our midst, until (Pg. 1106)
we win the war on poverty, we cannot expect to continue to be the
leaders not only of a great people but the leaders of all civilization.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. in the Strahan
Gymnasium at Southwest Texas State College, San Marcos, Tex. In
his opening words he referred to James H. McCrocklin, President
of Southwest Texas State College, J. J. Pickle, Representative from
Texas, Jesse C. Kellam, Chairman of the State Board of Regents of
Texas State Colleges, Dr. W. H. Crook, Regional Director of the
Office of Economic Opportunity, Dr. C. E. Evans, President of Southwest
Texas State College when President Johnson was a student there,
Tom W. Nichols, professor of business administration at the college
and formerly President Johnson's college journalism instructor,
and William T. Donaho, superintendent of Cotulla, Tex., public schools
when the President was a teacher there. As enacted, the Higher Education
Act of 1965 is Public Law 89-329 (79 Stat. 1219). A summary of the
major provisions of the act is printed in the Weekly Compilation
of Presidential Documents (vol. I, p. 482).