Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1964

Author: Lyndon B. Johnson  | Date: October 12, 1964

Remarks at the Coliseum in Denver.
October 12, 1964

My longtime friend, Governor McNichols; Congressman Aspinall; Congressman Byron Rogers; Senator Roy McVicker; Representative Frank Evans; my beloved old-time friend from the Senate, Ed Johnson; my friend and my former colleague in both the House and the Senate, former Senator John Carroll; ladies and gentlemen; boys and girls:

If I had all night, and I don’t have but 20 minutes or I will be late to Boise, Idaho, and we are late enough anyway—we won’t get to Washington until 5 o’clock tomorrow morning—but if I had all night, I couldn’t tell you how much you have touched me, how deeply grateful I am for your generous welcome to us in this great outpost of the West.

We left home yesterday morning and went out to the great State of Arizona. We got a wonderful welcome—not as big a welcome as this one, but Arizona is not as big a State as this one is. But everywhere we have gone in the West, in California, Nevada, here in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana-I’ve been in all of those places today-and every place we have gone, every person we have seen, makes us believe that thepeople of this country believe in this country.

I don’t know how to really judge this crowd tonight, but the way you sound, that must have been the echo they have been talking about around here.

Seriously, I want to speak to you very briefly about a subject that is very close to all of us, and may well determine what kind of a world we live in. That subject is education. I believe that it is a bedrock issue in this campaign. I think that you do have a clear choice.

Our opponent has said: "The child has no right to an education. In most cases, the children will get along very well without it."

And we say, and I say, and the leadership of your country says, that every child has the right to as much education as he or she has the ability to take.

I want this for our children’s sake, but I also want it for our Nation’s sake, because nothing can mean more to the future of America. A great President of the Republic of Texas once said: "Education is the guardian genius of democracy. It is the only dictator that free men recognize, and it is the only ruler that free men desire."

Our great former President and Vice President Thomas Jefferson said, "If we expect a Nation to be ignorant and free, we expect what never was and what never will be."

Our school system was founded on that truth. We have come a long way, but I am here to tell you tonight, and to ask your help: we still have a long way to go.

Tonight, 40 million students are enrolled in our public schools in America; 5 million more students will enter by the end of this decade. And we must be ready for them.

Unless we act now, 1 out of every 3 students now in the fifth grade will drop out before they finish high school—1 out of 3. And 4 out of 5 juvenile delinquents between 15 and 18 years old—4 out of 5—are school dropouts.

So let those take note who preach against crime on the one hand, and on the other deny our children the right to have an education: It doesn’t do you any good to just go around the country talking against crime. You have to vote against crime, and when the roll is called on measures in the Congress that will control crime, that will drive away the ancient enemies of mankind-disease, illiteracy, poverty, and ignorance-you must answer those roll calls. One reason that we are in the shape we are in is, too many have been answering those roll calls with a loud "no."

It is getting harder and harder to get a job if you don’t have a high school diploma. Twenty percent of our 18 to 24 year olds with less than an eighth grade education are unemployed. That is four times the national average, and then when you try to do something about taking these taxeaters that are eating off the relief rolls off the front porch and putting them to work, and giving them some training in the poverty program so they will become taxpayers instead of taxeaters, you hear these people that talk about crime vote "no" on poverty.

This crime business is just not an autumn fever. It is just not something you talk about in September and October every fourth year at election time. It is something you vote against, it is something you fight against, it is something you work against, it is something that you do in the Congress to provide education, employment, and training for people so they can be constructive citizens instead of destructive citizens.

During the last 10 years, jobs filled by high school graduates increased 30 percent. Jobs for those without high school diplomas dropped 25 percent.

I had some experience in this field backin 1924. I graduated from the Johnson City High School in a class of six. For some time I had felt that my father was not really as smart as I thought he ought to be, and I thought that I could improve on a good many of my mother’s approaches to life. So when I got my high school diploma I decided to follow the old philosopher Horace Greeley’s advice and "Go West, young man," and seek my fortune.

With $26 in my pocket and a T-model Ford automobile, five of my schoolmates and I started out early one Saturday morning on our way to the Golden West, the great State of California. We got there in due time, minus most of my $26, and I got a very well paying job of $90 a month running an elevator. But I found at the end of the month, after I paid for three meals and paid for my room and my laundry that I was probably better off back there eating mama’s food than I was in California.

So I went back to Texas and I got a job with the Highway Department. We didn’t have to get to work until sunup, we got to quit every night at sundown. We did have to go to work on our own time. We had to be at work at sunup, and that was usually 20 or 30 miles down the road, and we had to ride home on our own time after sundown. I got the magnificent salary of a dollar a day.

After a little over a year of that, I began to think that my father’s advice that I should go and take some more training and not be a school dropout—maybe he was wiser than I had thought a year before. In other words, he became a lot smarter while I was gone to California. And with the help of the good Lord, and with a mother persistently urging me to go back to school and get some training, I hitchhiked 50 miles to get back into the classroom where I spent 4 years. And I have been reasonably well employed ever since. I now have a contract that runs until January 20, 1965.

So I have come out here to the West to tell you about my work and some of the problems I have, and what my job consists of, and perhaps to make an application with you to renew that contract after January the 20th.

But I have also come here to make this pledge to you and to the people of America. I make it to the parents, and I make it to all of their children: I intend to put education at the top of America’s agenda. And if you do not quite understand the details of what I mean by the top of America’s agenda, I will say this: that regardless of family financial status, education should be open to every boy and girl born in America up to the highest level they can take.

I guess you see from that that we really have a choice, we really have an honest difference of opinion, because I do not believe that in most cases the children will get along very well without it. I don’t think they will get along very well at all without it.

Our job is cut out for us. First, we need 660,000—660,000; more than a half million-new classrooms, and 200,000 new teachers in the next 4 years just to keep up.

Second, we must make an all-out effort to improve schools in city slums and in poor rural areas.

Third, we must expand and enrich our colleges. Our college population will double—double—in the next 10 years.

Fourth, we must encourage our adults to go back and get the schooling they need to keep up with technology so they can continue to be taxpayers and not go on relief and be taxeaters.

And finally, we must keep control of our schools where it belongs—with the people. I believe that you should run your own schools, and you will do that as long as I amPresident.

You are going to provide an answer on November 3d to those who distrust education. I believe that you are going to veto the philosophy of the candidate who says your children don’t have a right to education. Am I wrong?

It was a little over 10 months ago, following a terrible tragedy on November 22d, that in a matter of moments I assumed the awesome responsibilities of the most powerful position in the world, the Presidency of the United States. I said when I went to the White House from my plane that evening, that with God’s help and your help, I would do my best. I would do the best I could do.

Our beloved President had formulated a program that met with the approval of a good many of the leaders of the Congress, men of both parties. Patriotism is not limited to one party, but there was pending 51 major measures in the Congress on that night of November 22d, when the first inventory was made. Last Friday night when I left my office in the White House, the Congress had come and gone in these 11 months, and I had done the best I could. And thanks to the Congress and men like Congressman Rogers and Congressman Aspinall, and other patriots of both parties in the Congress, the United States Senate had passed every single one of those 51 bills, and all but three or four of them had passed the House of Representatives.

There are two real issues that stand out in this campaign. One is peace in the world. You can’t get peace by rattling your rockets. You can’t get peace by bluffing with your bombs. You must get peace by reasoning with men, and trying to find agreement with men, as President Kennedy did with 108 nations with the test ban treaty.

We have had a very successful postwar relation with other nations, and our foreign policy, I think, has generally been effective.

Harry Truman stopped the Communists in Greece and Turkey with the help of that great Republican Arthur Vandenberg, who brought the men from beth parties together to support a united country.

Dwight Eisenhower stopped them in the Formosa Strait with the help of Lyndon Johnson and Mike Mansfield, the Democratic leaders of the Congress.

President Kennedy negotiated the test ban treaty with the help of the distinguished Republican leader, Mr. Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who said, "I don’t want it written on my tombstone that I had a chance to do something about taking radioactive poison out of the air we breathe and the milk we drink, and that I had failed and refused to do it." But those two men, working together, passed the treaty in the Senate. And now 108 other nations have agreed upon it.

I believe in continuing that kind of bipartisan foreign policy. And I do not believe in going off on a tangent in a dangerous course, leading to evils that we know not of. I believe the leadership of this country should try to unite America instead of divide Americans.

I believe the President of this country ought to encourage neighbor to love neighbor instead of neighbor to hate neighbor. I believe the President of this great Republic and the leader of the world must have faith and must have hope and must have a desire to improve the lot of humanity here and throughout the world.

That is one of the questions that you are going to have to decide on November 3d: which party, which leader, which man you want to sit there with his thumb that may have to decide whether to push that button. You have to decide which man you want to sit there to pick up that "hot line" telephonewhen it rings and Moscow is calling.

You have judgment, you have training, you have experience, you know your needs and you know your wants. I don’t think there is anything that I can add to them. But this is going to be as serious a decision as you ever made, and you ought to make it based on what you think is best for America.

Tonight, more Americans are working than ever before in the history of our country—72.5 million. They are drawing higher wages than they have ever drawn before. They drew $60 billion more after taxes this year than they did when John Kennedy took office. Business is doing better than ever before. They made $12 billion more after taxes this year than they did when John Kennedy took office.

The farmer has an income of $12 billion, but if you, overnight, pull all the programs away from him, that income will drop from $12 billion to $6 billion.

I am here to say to you that I want to unite business and labor and the farmer, and not only have peace in the world, but have peace and prosperity here among our own people. I love our country. I have faith in our people. I think we have the best system of government that human ingenuity ever devised. If you want a leader that believes those things, then go vote Democratic on November 3d.

I believe in the responsibility of the President of this country. I think he has a duty and an obligation to lead this country, and if I am chosen to perform that obligation, I will lead it prudently and carefully and cautiously, progressively, with our eyes on the stars but our feet always on the ground. But I will not try to divide brother and brother. I will not array class against class, or race against race, or region against region, because I think that America needs to be united now more than ever in its history.

And if I am your President I am not only going to preach the Golden Rule throughout the world and throughout this land, of do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but I am going to practice it.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:35 p.m. at the Coliseum in Denver, Colo. In his opening words he referred to former Governor Stephen L. R. McNichols, U.S. Representatives Wayne N. Aspinall and Byron G. Rogers, State Senator Roy H. McVicker and State Representative Frank E. Evans, Democratic candidates for U.S. Representative, and former Senators Edwin C. Johnson and John A. Carroll, all of Colorado. Later he referred to Arthur H. Vandenberg, Senator from Michigan during the Truman administration, and Senators Mike Mansfield of Montana and Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois.


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Chicago: Lyndon B. Johnson, "658 Remarks at the Coliseum in Denver.," Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1964 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1964 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1673-1674 1318–1321. Original Sources, accessed December 11, 2023,

MLA: Johnson, Lyndon B. "658 Remarks at the Coliseum in Denver." Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1964, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1964 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1673-1674, pp. 1318–1321. Original Sources. 11 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Johnson, LB, '658 Remarks at the Coliseum in Denver.' in Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1964. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1964 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), Pp.1673-1674, pp.1318–1321. Original Sources, retrieved 11 December 2023, from