The Start Of Education Day USA

Compiled by Dovid Zaklikowski,

The Rebbe’s long-term influence and involvement in U.S. policies was primarily to serve the interests of education. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, constantly addressed presidents, lawmakers and cabinet members about their obligation to educate children to be ethical and just citizens.

President Jimmy Carter designated April 18, 1978, the secular date on which the Rebbe’s Jewish birthday, the 11th of Nissan, fell that year, as “Education Day U.S.A.” Every year since, the acting president has designated the anniversary of the Rebbe’s birth as a day dedicated to educational awareness.

Here are excerpts of the primary documents of the proclamations, correspondence and the Rebbe’s talks about the importance of Education Day U.S.A.

Whereas the Congress recognizes a need for the Nation to set aside on the calendar a day devoted to the importance of education to the lives of its citizens and to the general well-being of the Nation; and

Whereas the Lubavitch Movement, which conducts educational activities at more than sixty centers in twenty-eight States as well as around the world, is especially committed to the advancement of education and has proposed the establishment of an "Education Day, U.S.A."; and

Whereas world Jewry marked in 1977 the seventy-fifth birthday of the revered and renowned Jewish leader, the head of the worldwide Lubavitch Movement., Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who proclaimed on that occasion a "Year of Education"; 

Whereas the seventy-sixth birthday of this celebrated spiritual leader will occur on April 19, 1978, thus concluding the year of Lubavitch Movement activities dedicated to the "Year of Education" and the Lubavitcher Rebbe's milestone birthday: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation designating April 18, 1978, as "Education Day, U.S.A.".

On the first "Education Day USA," April 18, 1978, the Rebbe held a public address. Here is an excerpt from the talk:

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.

It 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 American life.

The proclamation of "Education Day, USA" is of extraordinary significance in impressing upon 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.

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 understood that the Creator provides, at the same time, the capability and opportunities to translate it into tangible results, for "G‑d requests of people only according to their powers (that He has given them)."1 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." And 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 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.

The United States of America has a long-standing policy of foreign aid to developing countries, through direct grants and through U.N. agencies. Economic aid to foreign countries includes also cultural aid for the promotion and support of cultural programs, etc.

It is generally recognized, at any rate among the free and democratic nations, that each nation is a member of the Family of nations, and all must live together in "the world" which is like one organism. When any part of an organism ails, it affects the whole body; strengthening any part of the body strengthens the whole.

The record of this Nation's foreign aid is unexcelled in the annals of history, which is as it should be for a Nation so generously blessed by the Al-mighty. One would wish, however, for more affirmative action in the area of cultural, particularly educational, programs.

Economic aid given to a developing country is meant to be used most efficiently and productively. While the conditions attached to such aid must necessarily be limited and circumspect, there are certain conditions which are considered prerequisites. To cite a recent example, President Carter has taken a courageous stand on Human Rights, dismissing the notion that it is an "internal matter," and he has made it also a condition of Foreign Aid. It is to the President's credit that he has not only raised this issue, but has succeeded in arousing the world's "interest" in behalf of this cause. "Unofficially," however, there is a great deal more that the U.S. government can do to make foreign aid even more productive.

This Nation, with a healthy intuition, indeed, conviction, recognized that its economic system must not be based on crass materialism. Nothing expresses this idea more eloquently and forcefully than the motto on the American Dollar—"In G‑d We Trust."

In giving out billions of dollars in foreign aid, many discreet ways can be found to have the beneficiaries take a look and ponder on this inscription, with a view to encouraging them to recognize the importance of Trust in G‑d, of appropriate education, with particular emphasis on moral values and genera, humanitarian principles, as mentioned above.

Carrying this train of thought further brings us also to the question of military aid.

Ideally, education should lead to a world state where "Nation shall not lift up sword against Nation, neither shall they train for war."2 Until such an ideal state is reached, there will be a need—in the Nation's own interest—to provide friendly, democratic nations with military aid for self defense, but not to provide military aid to nations that will use it to start war. It would surely be in the best interests of those countries themselves, as well as of the United States and the world at large, if, instead, goodwill and benevolence towards them were expressed in terms of economic and cultural aid, to help them raise a new generation free from hatred and violence and bent on channeling their youthful energies and ambitions towards all that is good, good for them and for their countries, and the common good of humanity both materially and spiritually.

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 United States Congress, G‑d bless each and all of them, have thoughtfully and graciously initiated and associated themselves with the Proclamation of "Education Day, U.S.A." 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.

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