President Lyndon B. Johnson said recently, “There are three central places where we must begin to build the Great Society—in our cities, in our countryside, and in our classrooms. . . . Our society will never be great until our cities are great. . . . A second place where we begin to build the Great Society is in our countryside. . . . A third place to build the Great Society is in the classrooms of America. There our 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 the goal. Today, eight million adult Amer- icans have not finished five years of school. Nearly fifty- four million—more than one quarter of all America—have not even finished high school. Each year more than a hundred thousand high school graduates, with proven ability, do not enter college because they cannot afford it.
“If we cannot educate today’s youth, what will we do in 1970 when elementary school enrollment will be five million greater than in 1960? High school enrollment will rise by five million. College enrollment will increase by more than three million.”
It would seem, however, to be a grave mistake to imagine that even high-quality education in our public and private schools, of itself alone, can raise our society to great heights. Many of our most astute statesmen, educators, and other leaders of thought have warned that somehow there must be actively injected into the hearts and lives of our citizens those moral virtues and spiritual values which should emanate from our homes and churches. In fact, our leading educators have strongly emphasized that moral and spiritual values should be inculcated in the home.
A main objective of education in the early American colonies was the aim of making each pupil competent to read and observe the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. The colonists were in accord with the Apostle Paul, who said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. Most of our readers are well informed of the struggles and achievements of Mary McLeod Bethune. Speaking of the driving force which motivated her life, Dr. Bethune said, “The light I sought was learning, and . . . a chance to know and read the precious Bible.”
Of course, we are keenly aware of the American ideal of the separation of church and state. We believe that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States should never be abrogated. Yet, no one should fail to take full advantage of his educational opportunities.
To beautify the world He made
I like to think He took reflections
Of night and day in every shade
To give His children their complexions.
To some He gave a golden glow
That caught the morning sun’s warm rays;
He let the dusk of twilight flow
Upon the brown child all her days.
To some were given skins of white
To match the moon out there in space;
And from the velvet black of night
He made the dark child’s lovely face.
The swarthy ones, the pale, the tan
With love He painted all their faces.
And so, I like to think, began
The splendid rainbow of the races.
Originally published in Message Magazine’s January/February 1965 Edition by Anna M. Gasser