Speech at the 35th Anniversary of Head Start

Washington, DC | April 26, 2000

Head Start has been a part of American life ever since. Over 18 million children have been served by Head Start.

What an inspiring and even awesome day, the 35th Anniversary of the birth of "Head Start"!

How lucky I am to have described that brand new initiative within the "War Against Poverty" as "Head Start". And how unbelievable it seems today that I had the power to inaugurate a wholly new Government initiative, organize its rules and regulations, enroll those who volunteered to serve, train them all, 44,000 of them, and send them off to 20 or more States, establish them in "Head Start" Centers, and finance all the costs with monies given by a Congress which never had heard of "Head Start", let alone authorized its existence.

Yes, Congress had appropriated money for the "War Against Poverty". But when that War started no one had ever dreamed of anything like "Head Start". It was only when I found that 50% of all the poor in the USA were fifteen years of age or younger(!) that I decided that we had to have a specific program dedicated to the youngest of that age group.

So, I used monies from our basic general funds. I authorized $18,000,000 to service the thousands who volunteered to serve in June, July, and August and prepare themselves for First Grade in schools all over the USA. 580,000 students in 2,600 communities enrolled in the summer of 1965! The Program was such a success that in August of 1965 President Johnson announced that Head Start's summer programs would be extended to full-year programs.

Head Start has been a part of American life ever since.

Over 18 million children have been served by "Head Start".

I congratulate each of them, their parents, their teachers, and the Head Start Administrators who have guided them. I am grateful to Dr. Robert E. Cooke who Chaired the Head Start Planning Committee which gave us the blueprint for Head Start. I am especially thankful to a President, Lyndon B. Johnson, who did not hesitate to support and encourage us in our work and to Mrs. Johnson who was the Honorary Chairman of Head Start.

Today is a day to rejoice!