Well, 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. It stopped his mother from bragging
I have come today from the turmoil of your Capital to the
tranquillity of your campus to speak about the future of your
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.
For a century we laboured 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.
The 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.
Your 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.
The 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.
The 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.
It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place
which honours 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
But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbour, 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 marvellous products of our labour.
So 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
Many of you will live to see the day, perhaps 50 years from now,
when there will be 400 million Americans - four-fifths of them in
urban areas. In the remainder of this century urban population will
double, city land will double, and we will have to build homes,
highways, and facilities equal to all those built since this country
was first settled. So in the next 40 years we must rebuild the
entire urban United States.
Aristotle 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. The
catalogue of ills is long: there is the decay of the centres 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.
Worst of all, expansion is eroding the precious and time honoured
values of community with neighbours and communion with nature. The
loss of these values breeds loneliness and boredom and indifference.
Our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today
the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities
and not beyond their borders. New 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.
I 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.
A 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.
A few years ago we were greatly concerned about the "Ugly American."
Today we must act to prevent an ugly America.
For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendour 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. A third place to build the Great Society is in
the classrooms of America. There your children's lives will be
shaped. Our society will not be great until every young mind is set
free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination. We are
still far from that goal.