President Johnson's speech on the "Great
is a great pleasure to be here today. This university has been coeducational
since 1870, but I do not believe it was on the basis of your accomplishments
that a Detroit high school girl said, "In choosing a college, you
first have to decide whether you want a coeducational school or an educational
we can find both here at Michigan, although perhaps at different hours.
I came out here today very anxious to meet the Michigan student whose father told a friend of mine that his son's education had been a real value.
stopped his mother from bragging about him.
have come today from the turmoil of your capital to the tranquility
of your campus to speak about the future of your country. The purpose
of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our
citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that
pursuit is the test of our success as a Nation.
a century we labored to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a
century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to
create an order of plenty for all of our people.
challenge of the next half-century is whether we have the wisdom to
use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance
the quality of our American civilization.
imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether
we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a
society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled
growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward
the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.
Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an
end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed
in our time. But that is just the beginning.
Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich
his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is
a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom
and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only
the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for
beauty and the hunger for community.
is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which
honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding
of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality
of their goals than the quantity of their goods.
most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place,
a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed,
beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches
the marvelous products of our labor.
I want to talk to you today about three places where we begin to build
the Great Society--in our cities, in our countryside, and in our classrooms.
said: "Men come together in cities in order to live, but they remain
together in order to live the good life." It is harder and harder
to live the good life in American cities today.
catalog of ills is long: there is the decay of the centers and the despoiling
of the suburbs. There is not enough housing for our people or transportation
for our traffic. Open land is vanishing and old landmarks are violated.
of all expansion is eroding the precious and time-honored values of
community with neighbors and communion with nature. The loss of these
values breeds loneliness and boredom and indifference.
experiments are already going on. It will be the task of your generation
to make the American city a place where future generations will come,
not only to live but to live the good life.
understand that if I stayed here tonight I would see that Michigan students
are really doing their best to live the good life. This is the place
where the Peace Corps was started. It is inspiring to see how all of
you, while you are in this country, are trying so hard to live at the
level of the people.
second place where we begin to build the Great Society is in our countryside.
We have always prided ourselves on being not only America the strong
and America the free, but America the beautiful. Today that beauty is
in danger. The water we drink, the food we eat, the very air that we
breathe, are threatened with pollution. Our parks are overcrowded, our
seashores overburdened. Green fields and dense forests are disappearing.
once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it
can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty
or wonder at nature his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.
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.
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 school 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.
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.
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.
are three of the central issues of the Great Society. While our Government
has many programs directed at those issues, I do not pretend that we
have the full answer to those problems.
I do promise this: We are going to assemble the best thought and the
broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for
America. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of
White House conferences and meetings--on the cities, on natural beauty,
on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from
these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will
begin to set our course toward the Great Society.
solution to these problems does not rest on a massive program in Washington,
nor can it rely solely on the strained resources of local authority.
They require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism,
between the National Capital and the leaders of local communities.
Wilson once wrote: "Every man sent out from his university should
be a man of his Nation as well as a man of his time." Within your
lifetime powerful forces, already loosed, will take us toward a way
of life beyond the realm of our experience, almost beyond the bounds
of our imagination.
will you join in the battle to give every citizen the full equality
which God enjoins and the law requires, whatever his belief, or race,
or the color of his skin? Will you join in the battle to give every
citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty? Will you join
in the battle to make it possible for all nations to live in enduring
peace--as neighbors and not as mortal enemies? Will you join in the
battle to build the Great Society, to prove that our material progress
is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind
are those timid souls who say this battle cannot be won; that we are
condemned to a soulless wealth. I do not agree. We have the power to
shape the civilization that we want. But we need your will, your labor,
your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.
who came to this land sought to build more than just a new country.
They sought a new world. So I have come here today to your campus to
say that you can make their vision our reality. So let us from this
moment begin our work so that in the future men will look back and say:
It was then, after a long and weary way, that man turned the exploits
of his genius to the full enrichment of his life.
Thank you. Goodbye.