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Education in the United States, an Example to the World

Education in the United States, an Example to the World

Endorsement of President Jimmy Carter's Education Program - Feb. 7, 1979

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Since last year, when the U.S. Congress passed the J. H. Res. 770, authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim 18th of April, 1978 (11 Nissan, 5738), as "Education Day, U.S.A.," we have witnessed a growing awareness of the importance of Education as one of the highest priorities of the nation. Nowhere has this awareness been more evident than in Congress and, especially, in the Executive Branch of the government.

President Carter, in his State of the Union message at the beginning of this year, 1979, gave forceful expression to the urgent need of education reform. He has proposed an imaginative and sweeping program of restructuring the Federal stand on education through the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Education, at the same time requesting Congress to approve a significant increase in federal aid to education. That he has done this at a time when cutting federal expenditure—even in this vital area—would have been more popular in certain sectors, bespeaks his courage and conviction that upgrading the educational system is "the noblest task of government," and in the nation's most vital interests.

The President's proposal is a very real and practical step in the Nation's bicentennial history to give new direction and dimension to its educational system. I hope and pray that his conviction and concern will be shared by the vast majority of Americans of all walks of life.

I urge everyone to let their representatives in Congress know that they wholeheartedly support the President's proposal, with a view to securing the earliest possible enactment of legislation implementing the said program.

Basic Objectives of Education

In my remarks on the subject of Education in connection with the aforementioned J.H. Res. 770, I pointed out that what we need most is the upgrading of the quality of education in terms of values and character building. To reiterate:

Education, in general, should not be limited to the acquisition of knowledge and preparation for a career or in common parlance, "to make a better living." We must think in terms of a "better life," not only for the individual, but also for society as a whole. The educational system must, therefore, pay more attention, indeed the main attention, to the building of character, with emphasis on moral and ethical values.

I am sure that no one can disagree with the above principle. But a principle, however worthy, is good only if it is actually implemented in the everyday life and conduct. The President's proposal offers hope that more effective education help of the Federal government will provide the framework and means for upgrading the quality of education in the above sense.... I firmly believe, and urge, that the Administration should accentuate this aspect—and not merely on its own merits, but also because it will inspire new confidence in education and help overcome the discouragement and disappointment that many feel as a result of the shortcomings of the education system up until now, which, in turn, will help expedite the legislative process in Congress.

A Light to Other Nations

Our Sages declared, "Everybody is indebted to the wheat-giver."

Divine Providence has richly blessed this nation and land to be the "bread basket" for many nations, rich and poor. The U.S.A. has been, and will continue to be, an international benefactor on a vast scale, through generous economic and other forms of aid. And, of course, it is only right and proper to share one's blessings with the less fortunate.

By the same token, this Nation has a moral obligation to share its spiritual blessings with others.

The new direction in education which this Nation is about to embark upon provides an excellent opportunity of setting an example to other nations. But more than an example is needed; a conscious effort is called for to influence other nations, particularly developing countries and beneficiaries of American aid, to upgrade their educational systems with emphasis on those eternal moral and ethical values which are the very foundation of a civilized society... in a concerted effort to make the world a better and safer place for all...

To be sure, aid including "wheat aid," material aid, is to be given and is more welcome when it is given freely, unconditionally. But for a human being the material and spiritual must go hand-in-hand together.... Many a discreet way can be found to encourage other nations to follow the way of placing education at the top of national priorities, to the extent of investing a consistently growing share of the national resources in education, even while cutting down on military and similar expenditures.

And the sooner all the nations of the world begin to divert their resources from implements of war to implements of peace, beginning by inner peace and harmony of the individual as well as living in peace and harmony with one's neighbors, the sooner we will see the realization of the Prophetic vision: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation." Only through real and proper education can this be achieved, G‑d willing.

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To emphasize the vital role of education in society, the United States annually marks "Education and Sharing Day U.S.A." on the anniversary of the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, who dedicated his life to the cause of education.