President Lyndon B. Johnson's
Remarks in Johnson City, Texas, Upon Signing
the Elementary and Secondary Education Bill
April 11, 1965
Ladies and gentlemen:
I want to welcome to this little school of my childhood many
of my former school mates and many who went to school to me at
Cotulla and Houston and San Marcos, as well as some of my dear
friends from the educational institutions of this area.
My Attorney General tells me that it is legal and constitutional
to sign this act on Sunday, even on Palm Sunday. My minister assured
me that the Lord's day will not be violated by making into law
a measure which will bring mental and moral benefits to millions
of our young people.
So I have chosen this time and this place for two reasons.
First, I do not wish to delay by a single day the program to
strengthen this Nation's elementary and secondary schools. I devoutly
hope that my sense of urgency will be communicated to Secretary
Celebrezze, Commissioner Keppel, and the other educational officers
throughout the country who will be responsible for carrying out
Second, I felt a very strong desire to go back to the beginnings
of my own education--to be reminded and to remind others of that
magic time when the world of learning began to open before our
In this one-room schoolhouse Miss Katie Deadrich taught eight
grades at one and the same time. Come over here, Miss Katie, and
sit by me, will you? Let them see you. I started school when I
was 4 years old, and they tell me, Miss Kate, that I recited my
first lessons while sitting on your lap.
From our very beginnings as a nation, we have felt a fierce
commitment to the ideal of education for everyone. It fixed itself
into our democratic creed.
Over a century and a quarter ago, the President of the Republic
of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, proclaimed education as "the
guardian genius of democracy . . . the only dictator that free
men acknowledge and the only security that free men desire."
But President Lamar made the mistaken prophecy that education
would be an issue "in which no jarring interests are involved
and no acrimonious political feelings excited." For too long,
political acrimony held up our progress. For too long, children
suffered while jarring interests caused stalemate in the efforts
to improve our schools. Since 1946 Congress tried repeatedly,
and failed repeatedly, to enact measures for elementary and secondary
Now, within the past 3 weeks, the House of Representatives,
by a vote of 263 to 153, and the Senate, by a vote of 73 to 18,
have passed the most sweeping educational bill ever to come before
Congress. It represents a major new commitment of the Federal
Government to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer
our young people. I predict that all of those of both parties
of Congress who supported the enactment of this legislation will
be remembered in history as men and women who began a new day
of greatness in American society.
We are delighted that Senator McCarthy could be speaking at
the University of Texas yesterday, and he came up and had lunch
with me today, and is returning to Washington with me at 7:30
in the morning. Senator McCarthy is an old friend of mine from
Minnesota. Stand up, Senator, and let them see you. He has been
working for this educational bill ever since the first day he
came to the House of Representatives, and ever since he has been
in the Senate.
I am delighted to have another good friend of mine who spent
the weekend in his home district--McAlester, Oklahoma--and who
came down here to spend the evening with me, and is returning
in the morning, the distinguished majority leader of the House,
without whose efforts we would never have passed this bill--Carl
Albert of Oklahoma.
By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness
and hope for more than 5 million educationally deprived children.
We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new
books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.
We reduce the terrible time lag in bringing new teaching techniques
into the Nation's classrooms.
We strengthen State and local agencies which bear the burden
and the challenge of better education.
And we rekindle the revolution--the revolution of the spirit
against the tyranny of ignorance.
As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only
valid passport from poverty.
As a former teacher--and, I hope, a future one--I have great
expectations of what this law will mean for all of our young people.
As President of the United States, I believe deeply no law
I have signed or will ever sign means more to the future of America.
To each and everyone who contributed to this day, the Nation
On Tuesday afternoon we will ask the Members of the House and
Senate who were instrumental in guiding this legislation through
the Congress to meet with us at a reception in the White House.
So it is not the culmination but only the commencement of this
journey. Let me urge, as Thomas Jefferson urged his fellow countrymen
one time to, and I quote, "Preach, my dear sir, a crusade
against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating
the common people .... "
We have established the law. Let us not delay in putting it
NOTE: The President spoke at 4:20 p.m. on the front lawn of
the former Junction Elementary School, Johnson City, Tex. Early
in his remarks he referred to Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach,
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Anthony J. Celebrezze,
and Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel. Later he referred
to Mrs. Kate Deadrich Loney, his first schoolteacher. He also
referred to Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota and Representative
Carl Albert of Oklahoma.
The reception at the White House for the Members of the Congress was held on
April 13. As enacted, the bill (H.R. 2362) is entitled "Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965" (Public Law 89-10, 79 Stat. 27).
Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965. Volume I, entry 181, pp. 412-414. Washington, D.
C.: Government Printing Office, 1966.
June 6, 2007