White House Communications Agency #285--
Remarks in Johnson City, TX.
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
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 this program.
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 eyes.
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
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 education.
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 is
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 to
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. As enacted, the bill (H.R.
2362) is entitled "Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965"
(Public Law 89-10, 79 Stat. 27).