Each time that I have been privileged to visit Tulane, I have come away
newly impressed with the intense application of the student body to the great
issues of our time, and I am pleased tonight to observe that your interest
hasn't changed one bit.
As we came into the building tonight, I passed a student who looked up
from his book and said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins but with a single
step." To indicate my interest in him, I asked, "Are you trying to figure
out how to get your goal in life?" He said, "No, I am trying to figure out
how to get to the Super Dome in September." [Laughter] Well, I don't
think there is any doubt in my mind that all of you will get to the Super
Dome. Of course, I hope it is to see the Green Wave [Tulane University] have
their very best season on the gridiron. I have sort of a feeling that you
wouldn't mind making this another year in which you put the Tigers [Louisiana
State University] in your tank.
When I had the privilege of speaking here in 1968 at your "Directions
'68" forum, I had no idea that my own career and our entire Nation would move
so soon in another direction. And I say again, I am extremely proud to be
I am impressed, as I undoubtedly said before -- but I would reiterate
it tonight -- by Tulane's unique distinction as the only American university
to be converted from State sponsorship to private status. And I am also impressed
by the Tulane graduates who serve in the United States Congress: Bennett Johnston,
Lindy Boggs, Dave Treen.
Eddie Hebert, when I asked him the question whether he was or not, and
he said he got a special degree: Dropout '28. [Laughter]
But I think the fact that you have these three outstanding graduates testifies
to the academic excellence and the inspiration of this historic university,
rooted in the past with its eyes on the future.
Just as Tulane has made a great transition from the past to the future,
so has New Orleans, the legendary city that has made such a unique contribution
to our great America. New Orleans is more, as I see it, than weathered bricks
and cast-iron balconies. It is a state of mind, a melting pot that represents
the very, very best of America's evolution, an example of retention of a very
special culture in a progressive environment of modern change.
On January 8, 1815, a monumental American victory was achieved here --
the Battle of New Orleans. Louisiana had been a State for less than three
years, but outnumbered Americans innovated, outnumbered Americans used the
tactics of the frontier to defeat a veteran British force trained in the strategy
of the Napoleonic wars.
We as a nation had suffered humiliation and a measure of defeat in the
War of 1812. Our National Capital in Washington had been captured and burned.
So, the illustrious victory in the Battle of New Orleans was a powerful restorative
to our national pride.
Yet, the victory at New Orleans actually took place two weeks after the
signing of the armistice in Europe. Thousands died although a peace had been
negotiated. The combatants had not gotten the word. Yet, the epic struggle
nevertheless restored America's pride.
Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam.
But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America
is concerned. As I see it, the time has come to look forward to an agenda
for the future, to unify, to bind up the Nation's wounds, and to restore its
health and its optimistic self-confidence.
In New Orleans, a great battle was fought after a war was over. In New
Orleans tonight, we can begin a great national reconciliation. The first engagement
must be with the problems of today, but just as importantly, the problems
of the future. That is why I think it is so appropriate that I find myself
tonight at a university which addresses itself to preparing young people for
the challenge of tomorrow.
I ask that we stop refighting the battles and the recriminations of the
past. I ask that we look now at what is right with America, at our possibilities
and our potentialities for change and growth and achievement and sharing.
I ask that we accept the responsibilities of leadership as a good neighbor
to all peoples and the enemy of none. I ask that we strive to become, in the
finest American tradition, something more tomorrow than we are today.
Instead of my addressing the image of America, I prefer to consider the
reality of America. It is true that we have launched our Bicentennial celebration
without having achieved human perfection, but we have attained a very remarkable
self-governed society that possesses the flexibility and the dynamism to grow
and undertake an entirely new agenda, an agenda for America's third century.
So, I ask you to join me in helping to write that agenda. I am as determined
as a President can be to seek national rediscovery of the belief in ourselves
that characterized the most creative periods in our Nation's history. The
greatest challenge of creativity, as I see it, lies ahead.
We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina. But these
events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America's
leadership in the world.
Let me put it this way, if I might. Some tend to feel that if we do not
succeed in everything everywhere, then we have succeeded in nothing anywhere.
I reject categorically such polarized thinking. We can and we should help
others to help themselves. But the fate of responsible men and women everywhere,
in the final decision, rests in their own hands, not in ours.
America's future depends upon Americans -- especially your generation,
which is now equipping itself to assume the challenges of the future, to help
write the agenda for America.
Earlier today, in this great community, I spoke about the need to maintain
our defenses. Tonight, I would like to talk about another kind of strength,
the true source of American power that transcends all of the deterrent powers
for peace of our Armed Forces. I am speaking here of our belief in ourselves
and our belief in our Nation.
Abraham Lincoln asked, in his own words, and I quote, "What constitutes
the bulwark of our own liberty and independence?" And he answered, "It is
not our frowning battlements or bristling seacoasts, our Army or our Navy.
Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men,
in all lands everywhere."
It is in this spirit that we must now move beyond the discords of the
past decade. It is in this spirit that I ask you to join me in writing an
agenda for the future.
I welcome your invitation particularly tonight, because I know it is at
Tulane and other centers of thought throughout our great country that much
consideration is being given to the kind of future Americans want and, just
as importantly, will work for. Each of you are preparing yourselves for the
future, and I am deeply interested in your preparations and your opinions
and your goals. However, tonight, with your indulgence, let me share with
you my own views.
I envision a creative program that goes as far as our courage and our
capacities can take us, both at home and abroad. My goal is for a cooperative
world at peace, using its resources to build, not to destroy.
As President, I am determined to offer leadership to overcome our current
economic problems. My goal is for jobs for all who want to work and economic
opportunity for all who want to achieve.
I am determined to seek self-sufficiency in energy as an urgent national
priority. My goal is to make America independent of foreign energy sources
Of course, I will pursue interdependence with other nations and a reformed
international economic system. My goal is for a world in which consuming and
producing nations achieve a working balance.
I will address the humanitarian issues of hunger and famine, of health
and of healing. My goal is to achieve -- or to assure basic needs and an effective
system to achieve this result.
I recognize the need for technology that enriches life while preserving
our natural environment. My goal is to stimulate productivity, but use technology
to redeem, not to destroy our environment.
I will strive for new cooperation rather than conflict in the peaceful
exploration of our oceans and our space. My goal is to use resources for peaceful
progress rather than war and destruction.
Let America symbolize humanity's struggle to conquer nature and master
technology. The time has now come for our Government to facilitate the individual's
control over his or her future -- and of the future of America.
But the future requires more than Americans congratulating themselves
on how much we know and how many products that we can produce. It requires
new knowledge to meet new problems. We must not only be motivated to build
a better America, we must know how to do it.
If we really want a humane America that will, for instance, contribute
to the alleviation of the world's hunger, we must realize that good intentions
do not feed people. Some problems, as anyone who served in the Congress knows,
are complex. There arc no easy answers. Willpower alone does not grow food.
We thought, in a well-intentioned past, that we could export our technology
lock, stock, and barrel to developing nations. We did it with the best of
intentions. But we are now learning that a strain of rice that grows in one
place will not grow in another; that factories that produce at 100 percent
in one nation produce less than half as much in a society where temperaments
and work habits are somewhat different.
Yet, the world economy has become interdependent. Not only food technology
but money management, natural resources and energy, research and development
-- all kinds of this group require an organized world society that makes the
maximum effective use of the world's resources.
I want to tell the world: Let's grow food together, but let's also learn
more about nutrition, about weather forecasting, about irrigation, about the
many other specialties involved in helping people to help themselves.
We must learn more about people, about the development of communities,
architecture, engineering, education, motivation, productivity, public health
and medicine, arts and sciences, political, legal, and social organization.
All of these specialities and many, many more are required if young people
like you are to help this Nation develop an agenda for our future -- your
future, our country's future.
I challenge, for example, the medical students in this audience to put
on their agenda the achievement of a cure for cancer. I challenge the engineers
in this audience to devise new techniques for developing cheap, clean, and
plentiful energy, and as a byproduct, to control floods. I challenge the law
students in this audience to find ways to speed the administration of equal
justice and make good citizens out of convicted criminals. I challenge education,
those of you as education majors, to do real teaching for real life. I challenge
the arts majors in this audience to compose the great American symphony, to
write the great American novel, and to enrich and inspire our daily lives.
America's leadership is essential. America's resources are vast. America's
opportunities are unprecedented.
As we strive together to prefect a new agenda, I put high on the list
of important points the maintenance of alliances and partnerships with other
people and other nations. These do provide a basis of shared values, even
as we stand up with determination for what we believe. This, of course, requires
a continuing commitment to peace and a determination to use our good offices
wherever possible to promote better relations between nations of this world.
The new agenda, that which is developed by you and by us, must place a
high priority on the need to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to work
for the mutual reduction in strategic arms and control of other weapons. And
I must say, parenthetically, the successful negotiations at Vladivostok, in
my opinion, are just a beginning.
Your generation of Americans is uniquely endowed by history to give new
meaning to the pride and spirit of America. The magnetism of an American society,
confident of its own strength, will attract the good will and the esteem of
all people wherever they might be in this globe in which we live. It will
enhance our own perception of ourselves and our pride in being an American.
We can, we -- and I say it with emphasis -- write a new agenda for
I am glad that Tulane University and other great American educational
institutions are reaching out to others in programs to work with developing
nations, and I look forward with confidence to your participation in every
aspect of America's future.
And I urge Americans of all ages to unite in this Bicentennial year, to
take responsibility for themselves as our ancestors did. Let us resolve tonight
to rediscover the old virtues of confidence and self-reliance and capability
that characterized our forefathers two centuries ago. I pledge, as I know
you do, each one of us, to do our part.
Let the beacon light of the past shine forth from historic New Orleans
and from Tulane University and from every other corner of this land to illuminate
a boundless future for all Americans and a peace for all mankind.
Thank you very much.
President Gerald R. Ford - April 23, 1975