JANUARY 14, 1958
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The American people at the moment are very much concerned about the defense of our country. It seems to me, however, that one of the important things for us all to have clearly in mind is the problem of being sure that the nation as a whole knows exactly what we are defending. That requires a knowledge of our objectives for this nation. I can give only what I believe to be my own objectives and those of many of my fellow citizens.
Fifty or 100 years from now I hope that my country will be a place where all of our citizens will have an equal opportunity for health and education, and where jobs will be available to all on the basis of ability. I hope that there will be no one who cannot maintain a decent standard of living.
In addition to these material aims, I hope that there will never be any question of the right of every individual to worship as he desires and to hold such religious beliefs as he feels are essential and true. If he decides to be an atheist or a non-conformist, he should have the right to make that decision unmolested. I hope that we will acknowledge the right of every citizen to think, to express himself through any medium and to act according to his convictions without interference except that he must have due consideration for the rights of other citizens among whom he lives. I hope that we will gain in respect for learning, and will discover ways to understand the other peoples of the world and to live with them in peace and goodwill.
These being our aims, I am ready to defend every proper step that my country undertakes to serve these ends. I do not think that these ends can be achieved or defended in the world of today by military means alone, and so I would like to consider the other things that have to be done before we undertake consideration of the necessary military setup.
To develop a citizenry capable of understanding and working for these aims, we must have no illiteracy and the highest level of education possible. There is considerable anxiety in our country today about the type of education our young people are actually receiving. Since no one can expect to cover the whole field of the world's knowledge, what we look to achieve in education is disciplined minds, intellectual curiosity, and the basic tools through which one can study and master any subject found interesting. Good teachers are essential to good education, as are sufficient classrooms and proper equipment. If this cannot be accomplished by a locality or a state, then the nation should contribute, for all of our children deserve equal opportunity regardless of race, creed or color. Naturally, the decision on curriculum must rest with the local educators. But certain standards for the competence of teachers and the length of the school year should certainly be set by the Federal government.
I cannot here go into the details of what a good education should be to meet our present needs and our future development. But I am quite sure it should not be determined by a panicky survey of Russian methods which will allow our decisions to be controlled by the Russians. A survey by competent American authorities is much to be desired. Recommendation of how we can now cease to waste human material and give each of our children the maximum of education they are able to absorb is long overdue, and is one of the first foundations of defense.