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“I am so happy to be back where these memories are so strong.

Thirty-eight years have passed, but I still see the faces of the children who sat in my class. I still hear their eager voices speaking Spanish as I came in. I still see their excited eyes speaking friendship.

Right here I had my first lessons in poverty. I had my first lessons in the high price we pay for poverty and prejudice right here.

Thirty-eight years later our Nation is still paying that price.

Three out of every four Mexican-American children now in a Texas school will drop out before they get to the eighth grade.

One out of every three Mexican-Americans in Texas who are older than 14 have had less than 5 years of school. How long can we pay that price?

In one school district alone, one out of every two children is of Mexican-American descent. But two out of every three graduating seniors this year will be Anglo. How long can we pay that kind of a price? In five of our Southwestern States, 19 percent of the total population has less than 8 years of school. Almost one-fifth of the population in five States has less than 8 years in school.

What is the percent of the Mexican-Americans with less than 8 years of school? How many Mexican-Americans have less than 8 years of school? Fifty-three percent. Over half of all the Mexican-American children have less than 8 years of school. How long can we pay that price?

I will give you that answer this afternoon. I will give that answer to America this afternoon. I will say: We can afford to pay that price no longer. No longer can we afford second-class education for children who know that they have a right to be first-class citizens.

No longer can we afford to say to one group of children: Your goal should be to climb as high as you can. And then say to another group: Your goal should be to get out as soon as you can.

For the conscience of America has slept long enough while the children of Mexican-Americans have been taught that the end of life is a beet row, a spinach field, or a cotton patch.

To their parents, throughout the land this afternoon, we say: Help us lift the eyes of our children to a greater vision of what they can do with their lives.

And to all Americans, we say this: Help us—please help us—lift the shame of indifference from the plight of our children.”

President Johnson’s Remarks at the Welhausen Elementary School, Cotulla, Texas. November 7, 1966. LBJ Presidential Library photo #3826-0021a, public domain. 

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