It is really a great privilege and a very high honor
to have an opportunity of participating again in a student activity at
Tulane University. And for this opportunity, I thank you very, very much.
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 invited back.
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
3 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 2 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
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 our future.
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.