Free translation from a talk of the Rebbe, Yud-Alef Nissan, 5738 (1978), (excerpt)

Most deserving of our very profound appreciation is one of the most meaningful actions by the U.S. Congress who, in a joint resolution, carried by a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and by unanimous vote in the Senate, authorized and requested the President of the United States to proclaim this day as “EDUCATION DAY, USA,” which the President graciously signed into law.

While the timing of this action was conceived as a tribute to our movement, which sees in education the cornerstone not only of Jewish life, but of humanity at large, and has been dedicated to this vital cause ever since its inception more than two hundred years ago—it is a fitting and timely tribute to the cause of education in general, focusing attention on what is surely one of the Nation’s top priorities.

Moreover, this enactment by the U.S. Congress and after that by the President of the United States gives it the force of dina dmalchusa, “Law of the Government,” which, according to the Halacha (Jewish Law), becomes part of, the Jewish Law. (Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) Part 4, chapter 369. Para. 2, 7, 8, 9).

lt is fitting indeed that the U.S.A. has shown, through a forceful example, to the world that it places education among its foremost priorities. It is also to be hoped that “Education Day” will become a permanent institution, especially since, by reason of the pervasive nature of education, it would lend further significance to other Days such as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and similar institutions which have become part of the American life.

The proclamation of “Education Day, U.S.A.” is of extraordinary significance in impressing Upon all citizens the importance of education, both in their own lives as well as, and even more so, for the young generation in the formative years—particularly in the present day and age.

In Retrospect and Prospect

We have now concluded the “Year of Education” proclaimed last year on this day. This calls for review and introspection. In all humility we can say that with G‑d’s help it has been a very successful year for education, with the addition of numerous educational facilities on all levels in the U.S.A. and in many parts of the world a substantially increased enrollment; and upgrading the quality of education. However, needless to say, as long as there is still one child that does not receive an adequate education, we can neither be satisfied nor slacken our efforts. On the contrary, the successful “Education Campaign” should spur us to even greater efforts in the ensuing year. It is human nature that ambition grows with achievement If this is so in regard to material riches, how much more so in regard to real and eternal values. Moreover, since this trait of the human nature to strive for ever greater spiritual advancement has been given to every human being by the Creator, as a commendable factor, it is self undcrstootj that the Creator provides, at the same time, the capability and opportunity to translate it into tangible results, for “G‑d requests of people only according to their powers (that He has given them)” (Midrash Bamidbar 13:3). Thus, in the final analysis, it is mainly a matter of one’s own will and determination. And let no one be satisfied with just a little greater effort for the cause of education, but—in keeping fully with human nature as cited above—double and redouble one’s efforts for so vital a cause.

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 living” not only for the individual but also for the 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. (Need one be reminded of what happened in our own lifetime in a country that ranked among the foremost in science, technology Philosophy, etc.?)

Education must put greater emphasis on the promotion of fundamental human rights and obligations of justice and morality, which are the basis of any human society, if it is to be truly human and not turn into a jungle.

* * *

In light of all that has been said above, it is most gratifying indeed that President Carter. Vice-President Mondale, and the eminent members of the US Congress, G‑d bless each and all of them, have thoughtfully and graciously, initiated and associated themselves with the Proclamation of “EDUCATION DAY, USA.” It augurs well for the vital cause of education in the United States. It will, we hope and pray, also have a beneficial impact on education in all countries which look up to the United States of America for leadership and inspiration in all vital matters that transcend national boundaries, and conduce to a better human society and a better world.

* * *

It has been asked, what is the value of assigning one day in the year to a cause or obligation to which we are committed every day of the year?

The answer has already been given in the Torah, where the institution of “one day in the year,” or “once a year,” underlies all our festivals and many a religious practice Suffice it to cite some conspicuous examples: Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, is celebrated in remembrance of the Creation of the World and of Man. It is designated as “Coronation Day” of the Creator, who became “King of the Universe” after He created the first man—the creature endowed with a unique soul, intelligence and the power of speech, who alone among all the creatures of the world has the capacity of conscious awareness of Creation and of the Creator and of recognizing and accepting, and submitting to, the Divine rule, But the awareness and recognition of the Supreme Being should, of course, be the Underlying principle of human conduct each and every day of the year. Nevertheless, the Torah designates a special day in the year as a “Remembrance Day” so that it serve as an occasion for rededication to the service of G‑d and as a source of continuous inspiration throughout the year.

The festival of Shovuous is celebrated as the anniversary of the Divine Revelation and the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Needless to say, this Divine gift, and our acceptance of it, is an every day experience, and the festival is meant to stimulate everyone of us to an even stronger commitment to its teachings and imperatives in our every day life. With the same enthusiasm as when the Torah was received for the first time, or. in the words of our Sages. “Each day the words of the Torah should be as new to you.” (Rashi Yetro 19:1)

The offering of Bikkurim (first-ripened fruits and farm produce) took place once a year, as an expression of gratitude to G‑d for the harvest and daily bread, though every day we reiterate our dependence upon G‑d and our gratitude to Him by reciting a Benediction and Grace before and after we eat or drink anything.

The illustrations of the significance of the “one day” in the year institution in the Torah are too numerous to recount. One more, however, must be mentioned which more directly bears on the subject of education. It is a time-honored Jewish custom that the induction of a Jewish child into a life long Torah education begins on the child’s third birthday. On that day the child is ceremoniously carried on the father’s shoulders to Cheder (school) and formally enrolled therein. It is an occasion for special celebration for the family and friends. Needless to say, the event leaves an indelible impression on the child’s mind. The celebration of “Bar Mitzvah” has a similar significance, on a higher level, when a Jewish boy reaches the age of adulthood as a full-fledged Jew at thirteen and a girl becomes “Bas Mitzvah” at the age of twelve.

Further reading: Education and Sharing Day U.S.A.