Past Speakers of the: LANDON LECTURES

Landon Lecture by Earl L. Butz,
Secretary of Agriculture

May 4, 1972

The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare for It
by Earl L. Butz

Now you may be expecting a talk that deals specifically with agriculture today, but I am going to blend it with agriculture and the need for the kind of leadership we produce in these land-grant universities. And on campuses just like this we're not alone in professional leadership but in what I consider to be the still more important area of leadership in government.

I want to blend my remarks together along those lines here today. If I had to choose a title, I think I would choose the rather trite title, "The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare for It." I borrow that title from a full-page advertisement that appeared in the slick-paper magazines a good many years ago. I guess I was just getting started as a young man and I recall that ad yet. It was sponsored by one of the large life insurance companies. The ad showed two youngsters about sixth-grade age going to school, and just over the brow of the hill was the schoolhouse. Each youngster had a strap of books in his hand or her hand, a boy and a girl. Down below was the simple caption: It said the future belongs to those who prepare for it.

A Powerful Message

I thought it was a powerful message they put together on that page. I wish they'd dust it off again sometime and run it again, for never was that truer than now—in this age when we've telescoped the time span of progress, when we've accelerated the pace of scientific discovery and education. It is more important now than ever before.

Somebody has said the future is rushing at us. Somebody has said, never was the future so close as now. I think that was illustrated so well a while back in my home state of Indiana in the middle of the night in this farm home. The clock struck thirteen. The wife grabbed her husband and she shook him and said, "Wake up, boy. It's later than I ever knowed it to be." And that's about how late it is, the way things are rushing along here.

But I say I've got to choose a subject and it's going to come back to education. You couldn't get me off that subject with this kind of audience.

I'm somewhat like this chap I knew as a young man. He was quite an after-dinner speaker; he was a student of colonial history and very fond of Patrick Henry and he was always fond of quoting him. The townspeople grew very weary of this. So one day they decided to get Joe up in a situation where he couldn't talk about Patrick Henry. They got him behind the lecturn and said, "Now, Joe, we'd like a 10-minute speech on colic." They thought, "We've got him now. He can't bring Patrick Henry into this."

So Joe got up and said, "Whenever you discuss a subject, the first thing you must do is to define your subject. If I were to define colic, it would be something like this: Colic is that condition which exists when you have a bit of undigested food racing up and down the alimentary canal, crying out in those immortal words of Patrick Henry: 'Give me liberty or give me death.' "

Education is Big Business

That's where I come back to this subject of education. You know, education is the second biggest business we do in America, in terms of expenditure. It is second only to national defense and security. And hopefully, someday when we can wind down this Vietnam thing and trim down our defensive expenditures, education will be first. That will be a happy day, I think. Now, I use the term expenditure. That's really not the right term, for I regard it as an investment.

Each of you, by the time you graduated from a Kansas high school or wherever you went to high school, had a public investment in you of somewhere between eight and ten thousand dollars. That's the public investment in you. That's not counting what your parents put in you for clothing, food, books, and repaired fenders on the automobile and all that kind of stuff. That's the public investment, of eight to ten thousand dollars.

By the time you get through Kansas State University, the State of Kansas with a little federal help is going to have another $1,000 a year in you. That means by the time you walk out of here in two weeks with a diploma, that there's going to be a public investment in your education here now of somewhere between $12,000 and $14,000.

Now, I can't think of a better place I'd like to put money than that. I think it's a wonderful place to make an investment. As a taxpayer, I don't complain about that kind of investment. A substantial share of the taxes that I pay and all of you pay this year go into this type of investment in America.

Return on Investment Desired

But like anything else where we make an investment, I want a return. And I think society wants a return. We want that return sometimes in an intangible way that it's difficult to measure and sometimes in a more tangible way that you can measure—in terms of service, in terms of leadership in your profession, in terms of dedication to a country that has given you this opportunity, in terms of preparation for leadership in this terribly important business of living together—we call it government—locally, state, nationally, internationally, where we haven't been doing too good a job.

And this is one of the reasons that I am pleased with the investment that I have made in that $14,000 we're going to have in you one of these days. You multiply that by the seven or eight million youngsters on American college campuses this day, you come out with a pretty sizable investment we're making in this business of developing leadership.

And we're paying a bigger price than that for it. You're sitting here on the campus of Kansas State University in the rather sterile business of listening to a professor every day. You're really not making anything very useful.

You're right in the most productive period of your life. You could be producing food or making houses or TV sets or doing something that we enjoy currently, you see. But we're investing in the future is the point I want to make.

Architect of the Environment

And it's the most profitable investment that we can make, because man, among all the animals, has the capacity to be the architect of his environment—not the victim of his environment. We have the capacity to adapt our environment to us and make it so that we live happier, fuller lives. In that respect we are different from all the rest of the animals, I think. We deal in the realm of the mind.

A most attractive memorial in Washington in my mind is the Jefferson Memorial —not most attractive in architecture, not the most attractive in terms of numbers of visitors, but the most attractive in terms of the inscription written around the rotunda inside the Jefferson Memorial down on the tidal basin in Washington.

The third president of the United States, a great Virginian, a great American, and in my book perhaps the greatest of Americans because he had the vision, Thomas Jefferson did, of the power of the human mind—if you could educate it and discipline it and motivate it in a free society to build a better society for all of us.

Inscribed in that rotunda in the Jefferson Memorial is one of his immortal writings that he wrote to a friend of his in New York some six months before he assumed the Presidency. And this is what it says: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man."

Now, I think Jefferson was not speaking of the tyranny of kings; he was not speaking of the tyranny of despots; he was not speaking of the tyranny of dictators. He was speaking of the tyranny of ignorance, the tyranny of superstition, the tyranny of prejudice, the tyranny of half truth, the tyranny of untruth. We have those tyrannies with us yet today, and they are vicious sometimes.

Those of us who call ourselves educated people must dedicate ourselves as Jefferson did, to pushing back those kinds of tyranny and freeing the mind of man in a free society to move this society ahead.

Leaders, Laborers, and Loafers

I look at you now as leaders. I think we can divide the entire population into three categories: leaders, laborers, and loafers—to use the alliteration that they taught you back in your high school English classes—leaders, laborers, and loafers. Each of us at some time has fallen into each of these categories. Sometimes we've fallen into more than one simultaneously

But I want to talk about leaders for a moment. That's a rather thinly populated group, this leader classification. If you go back in your mind now with me for a moment to your home community and try to recall the names of the real leaders that you knew in your home community, I will bet you're going to run out of names before you run out of fingers. They are a pretty scarce commodity—the real leaders—but what a premium we place on leadership.

There's nothing wrong with being a laborer, don't misunderstand me, we need them too and you need to be laborers, too. We can't have all chiefs in the tribe; we've got to have some Indians there, too, you understand. I guess there's nothing wrong with being a loafer once in a while.

But the most insidious kind of loafing is the kind that you and I can do—and it goes undetected —and that's mental loafing. You can loaf that way for six months and you don't find it out. Physical loafing is easily detected. You've got a product you measure at the end of the day and you see how much you come out with.

Wasting a Precious Resource

But those of us who are the beneficiaries of the $14,000 investment I was talking about—who ought to be doing creative thinking, who ought to be out on the frontiers of mental leadership—whenever we do not exercise our mental capacity— the originality the Lord gave us, blessed in the capacity we have— we're wasting one of the most precious resources we have in our society. It is an insidious type of thing, it seems to me. I caution you, let's don't do too much of it; we all need to do some.

A little while back I was in a research seminar dealing with amounts of physical energy required to do various kinds of farm work. This medical doctor was there and he made the observation that the ordinary human body doing average physical labor could produce energy equivalent to the energy in a 50-watt light bulb. I know about what the energy costs in a 50-watt light bulb. You get that energy for something less than one cent per hour. We live in the age of very, very cheap energy and it's going to get cheaper.

That means, therefore, that if I try to sell this human body you see here on the energy market, I'm competing with an extremely cheap source of energy. It's worth something less than one cent per hour. You and I live in a world of ideas. We live in a mental world. From shoulders down is just to carry from shoulders up around.

Our Real Value

In today's world, the real value we have is in the world of ideas. What a fascinating world it is there to live in. One hundred twenty-five years ago, Horace Greeley was writing in the Mew York Tribune saying "Go west, young man, go west." At that time Kansas was still a frontier. But you can't go west anymore in the sense that Horace Greeley meant. The geographical frontier is gone. There is no more horizontal frontier of that character in America.

But the modern frontier is a far more challenging frontier than Horace Greeley ever dreamed of; it's a vertical frontier. It's a frontier of the mind; it's a frontier of ideas; it's a frontier that will never be tamed. It's a frontier that will be just as wild a hundred years from today as it is today, because every new discovery opens up two new lines of investigation.

Much of what you are doing on this very campus is for the good of agriculture, for the good of American consumers, for the good of American industry, and is multiplied by the many, many campuses and research laboratories we have. And that's this fascinating world which we have, the world of ideas. That's the one where you're going to be working.

Professional Leadership Needed

We have two great areas where we need leadership. The first is professional. I'll touch on that very briefly and I'll use some agricultural illustrations because I'm most familiar with them. Professional leadership—we do that rather well in these technologically oriented land-grant universities. You seniors are going to walk out of here in two or three weeks with a tremendous amount of technological information packed into your minds, fact after fact. They've done a pretty good job of making a walking encyclopedia out of you.

Ten years from now half the information you take out of here next week will be obsolete and useless. Now your professors didn't know which half it was or they wouldn't have taught it to you. But your real job is to make sure you're not trying to operate 10 years from now on information that's obsolete and useless. If you do, you're going to be in trouble.

When Dr. McCain hands you a diploma in a couple of weeks, that's commencement. That's what it really means, that you commence to study and commence to learn.

But what frightens me more than that—it doesn't frighten me, it challenges me—what challenges me more than that is the fact that half the information you will need to be successful 10 years from now has not yet been discovered. I don't know what it is, but I just know these young scientists around here are going to turn it out.

A few months ago on the campus of Purdue University I walked into a physiological laboratory where some young scientists were working on chicken meat production. We make chicken meat pretty efficiently in this country now. We make a pound of chicken meat with about 2.2 pounds of feed; that's pretty good. They're trying to narrow that still further. I turned to one of them and said, "What is your long-time goal, anyway, in trying to increase the efficiency in producing chickens?" He looked up and said, "I'll never be satisfied until I can hatch a three-pound chicken." You know something? I didn't laugh at him because he doesn't know you can't do it.

And I've seen those youngsters, and Dr. McCain you've got them on this campus, that time and again have done things that any sensible college president knows wouldn't work. But it does work. It does work. And I'm talking about leadership in profession now. I'm talking about the need to keep retooling yourselves, the need to move ahead. We've made a lot of progress in this agricultural business since Kansas was a frontier state.

A Strong Motivator

We've made a lot of progress because we have applied brain power and ingenuity to this biological process we call agriculture in our free society, where we are strongly motivated and where the farmers of Kansas put this science into application out there, motivated by the desire to make a little more money in a free society. That's a powerful incentive to make men innovate, to make them dream, to make them dare, to make them risk, to make them invest, to make them grow, and to make this American society better.

Just two weeks ago or three, I came back from a hurried visit to Russia in an effort to explore the possibility of a major sale of grains to Russians—an interesting experience, my first visit there. I saw them introducing incentives into their system—some cash incentives, differentiation in wage rates; but a great many non-cash incentives in an effort to encourage people to work. And I saw it working over there too, for that nation is now number one in the world in steel production and moving up pretty fast on some other fronts. I saw them introducing this incentive system into their economy and then I came back and see it being eroded away here on front after front, and I'm not very happy about it, frankly.

Population Growth Predicted

But let's come back to agriculture here now and this job ahead. We've got 208 million people in this country now and we are growing pretty fast. Predictions are we're going to be brushing pretty close to 300 million people at the end of this century, and that's not very far away. That's closer to me now than I am removed from college graduation. Those years have passed pretty fast. We've got three and a half billion people in the world today. Predictions are by the end of this century, it's going to double-seven billion.

What does that mean? That means we must learn in this next generation how to feed as many more people as we have learned to feed since the dawn of history—and do it at a time when there is no new Western Hemisphere to discover and there are no more prairie sods to plow and there is no more virgin timber on arable land to cut down, do it at a time when we're losing arable land to the urban sprawl, to highways. These dual lane highways across Kansas take out 30 acres a mile, and that concrete looks pretty solid to me. The cloverleaf in one of those highways takes out from 25 to 40 acres a mile depending upon how big the curve is. And I think it's there to stay.

What's the ingredient we are going to put into agriculture then to get this job done? Science, brain power, professional leadership, the very kind of thing that you're developing on this campus and on other campuses around the world. It's part of that investment I talked about a while ago on which I want a return.

Our scientists battle with Mother Nature in this food business. And she's a niggardly old cuss, that girl is. She holds her secrets close to her chest. She yields them reluctantly. Our scientists battle with her trying always to turn another leaf in that "book of nature" to see what's written on the back side of that leaf. There's always some interesting facts written on the back side of that leaf. And once we read them, we can classify them, we put them to use, and we all live better because of it.

But whenever she yields a leaf in that book of nature, she holds on to the next one more and more tenaciously. And it takes more input, better trained, more highly motivated scientists, more dogged persistence, to get the job done. That's one of the jobs we face in this American agriculture that's ahead.

One of the stories I've been trying to get across in recent months is that if we're going to do that, you've got to put a little income out there for the guy that's doing it. We have been under some flak, as you know, about food prices in this country. The Secretary of Agriculture has been both blessed and damned for this.

More Farm Income Needed

I've spoken out very vigorously on this point, that it's about time farmers are beginning to get some income for the work they do on the farms of America. Let's put it this way: Those Eastern columnists and commentators in the Washington-New York axis— they read each other, they talk to each other; that's the way they formulate their ideas. They're vaguely aware that the population has pushed west of the Allegheny Mountains. But they're not at all sure that it's gotten as far as Kansas City yet.

I hope as a result of this controversy that has been going on that additional tens of millions of Americans understand that there are some people on farms out here. There are families out there. There are people who aren't constrained by a 40-hour week, that there are people out there who don't tell the cow to shut down on the weekend, I want to go to the city. There are people out there who don't say that if the price isn't satisfactory, you pigs are just going to stop gaining for 30 days here.

There are people out there who haven't walked off the price board. There are people out there who haven't shut down the docks to erode a billion dollars off our income in the last year. There are people out there who are red-blooded Americans and have some degree of patriotism yet. There are people out there who are rearing children to have some respect for God and some respect for country. I hope we can get that story across; it's a rather important story.

I hope we can continue to get the story across that if we're going to continue to have this food supply coming in here, that this year is going to take only 15.6 percent of our disposable income—that's all, only 15.6 percent. With a third of meals eaten outside the home even in the figure, and with all the built-in maid service you've got in it, still only 15.6 percent. Last year over 16 percent, 20 years ago over 23 percent of disposable income went for food. Never did our people buy their food for so small a share of their disposable income as in 1972. And no place else in the world do they approach that figure.

That is why our families have a colored TV in the basement for their kids and the old black and white upstairs for the old folks—they've got two of them. That is why they have two cars — and if you've got a youngster in high school, you replace one every six weeks. That is why we have the air-conditioned homes.

That is why we have the nice furniture. That is why we can afford to have seven million of our population in colleges today who really aren't producing much, but preparing themselves. That is why we can have a great social security system. That is why we can have early retirement, and so on and so on —because these farmers bring food to 207 million Americans for less than 16 percent of their disposable income. Now let's never forget that. That is an important thing that 207 million Americans ought to appreciate—and a lot of people abroad ought to appreciate, too. And we're going to keep that coming and feed these 300 million Americans by the end of this century better than they're now fed, and I hope they do eat better than now.

Youth Needed on Farms

We're going to put a little profit out there to get some young men back on those farms. The average age of our farmers now is 55 years in this country. That's too old; they die about the same age as other people. We're 10 years behind in this process of getting youngsters out there. We've got to get some income out there. I know you folks out here have done a great job helping to tell this story as have the news media.

It's going to take leadership and that's the important area I'm talking about here, of leadership in the professional field.

I want to leave that now and go to what I think is a still more important area than that, and that's leadership in this awfully important business of living together—we call it government. Government.

International Leadership Needs Strengthening

We're not doing too good a job here, especially at the international level. The role of international leadership on our shoulders is a new one. It's one that Great Britain carried for a couple of centuries. We've had it now for 20 or 25 years, and we're awkward at it. We don't understand it. It's difficult.

A friend of mine a while back gave me a book he had written. He called it the "Seven Seals of Science." In this book he developed the thesis that throughout history man has been trying to write two books. On the one hand, he said, man has been trying to write the "Book of Nature." This is a study of the universe to try and discover those immutable facts that God put into the universe at the time of creation and then classify them so he can use them.

He said man has done a pretty good job writing the "Book of Nature." There are seven chapters in it, he said. Those chapters, as I recall, were mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, physics, physiology, and psychology. He said man has done a pretty good job writing the "Book of Nature."

On the other hand, he said, throughout history man has been trying to write the "Book of Man." This is a book of rules whereby we live together. He said man has done a pretty lousy job writing the "Book of Man." He writes a chapter one generation in blood, only to erase it the next generation and rewrite it in blood.

He made the point that a chapter in the "Book of Man" written in blood doesn't stay written very well. It's unstable; it's always trying to come apart. And how true that is. As we sit right here this very day, how true it is.

In my life I've lived through two and a half of these blood chapters: World War I, to make the world safe for democracy, and it didn't succeed very well; World War II, to do the same thing, it didn't succeed very well; the Korean Conflict, and now this Vietnam thing. Two and a half, however you count it.

And right now, with two polar concentrations of power, one in Moscow and one in Washington, with great populations of the world poised at each other, with nuclear missiles aimed so that some fool halfway around the world could do some rash act to wipe us out as we sit right here. It's a rather serious indictment of man who has been trying to write this "Book of Man."

Help Write a Chapter

My plea to you is that somehow you dedicate yourselves to becoming active in government in a responsible way; to become active in the political party of.your choice in a responsible way—a rational way; to help write a chapter in that "Book of Man" that will stay written; to support a President who cracked the door open a little while back in China, and we're now beginning to talk to 800 million of the world's population, who for 30 years we pretended didn't exist. How silly can you get? But there they were.

Now we've cracked the door open just a little bit. Maybe later will come cultural exchanges, and then trade. The President going to Moscow—much at stake. To sit down across the table from the most powerful man in the Communist world, Mr. Brezhnev. I spent an hour and a half with him just three weeks ago in Moscow. It was quite an experience; I was the first American to whom he has granted an audience since he has become General Secretary of the Party over there and that's the top spot over there.

They say he is tops among equals. In Russia everybody is equal, but some are more equal than others. And he's one of those that's more equal, I take it.

Anyway, I spent an hour and a half with him. He is a very sharp, intelligent, well-informed, perceptive individual —a powerful man —physically, one who gives the impression of being completely in charge of himself. He could give that impression even if he weren't strong physically. Our President is going to meet with him and the hopes of the world, I think, hinge on these kinds of discussions. And obviously, he won't come back with all he wants. Nor will Brezhnev come out of it with all he wants.

Tremendous Progress Is Possible

If they can somehow move a little closer together and we can begin to communicate and trade and wind down the inordinate share of the world's productive resources that now go into this sterile business of defense or offense, as the case may be, what tremendous progress it will be. So this is my challenge to you: Get interested in politics, in government; participate in it. There's nothing wrong with it; there's nothing dishonorable about it. And yet I know there's an attitude that pervades much of Kansas, that if you're in the Senate, you must be after something ulterior. If you become governor, you must want something or you wouldn't want to become governor.

That's the pervading attitude, that if you're in politics, you're automatically crooked. That's not right. Politics is the way we govern ourselves; it's the most important business in the land. This year government in this country is going to take 34 percent of our gross national product—government at all levels, from the township on up to the international agencies—34 percent.

That means this year that all of us together will decide how each of us spends $1 in $3. That's big business. And I want the best brains in Kansas taking part in that. I want the best people in Kansas to take part in that at the county council level, the city council level, the state general assembly, the congress. Wherever you are, at whatever role you can play, get active in it.

Plato once said, "The price that men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves." Never was that truer than now. There's nothing dishonorable about politics. Only politicians are dishonorable, and not many of them.

Work For America

But let's work for a free society in government. Let's work for the same kind of America that gave us these opportunities that have moved this country to the point it is, in just four years short of our bicentennial celebration that comes up in 1976. Let's get some ideas across that our rural community understands. There are no shortcuts for making our dream of a more comfortable, happier, and more satisfying world come true unless somebody works.

This is kind of a growing disease that grips America today. Many of us think there is a shortcut to the happy land. Too many people have lost sight of the virtues that count. And these are rural virtues, I think, all across rural America—of industry, of integrity, of patriotism, of work, and production.

No Shortcut Possible

I think nobody understands better than our farm people if you would have more, you must produce more. There is no shortcut for it; I've never found it yet. And that goes not alone for food; it goes for TV, for housing, for the ills of society we would like to cure. You don't get better housing in this country by marching. You don't help hungry people by some of these demonstrations going on in Washington. Somebody has got to work to do that. And I think rural people understand that.

I'm getting to the point some of these days I'm going to be eligible for Medicare. Happy thought! You know it's beyond the power of the Congress of the United States to provide Medicare for me. To do that, somebody's got to train a nurse, somebody must educate a doctor, somebody must build a hospital somebody must produce antibiotics. And only men and women who work do that, not those who expect the easy life for doing nothing.

The Congress this afternoon could pass a law guaranteeing tomorrow morning every American would get a free loaf of bread made of Kansas wheat, of course. That law wouldn't amount to anything unless between now and tomorrow morning somebody baked 208 million loaves of bread. And only men who work produce that wheat, mill it, transport it, bake it, deliver it. I've never found a shortcut for it.

Many Do Not Understand

A lot of our people don't understand that. A lot of our people get up at the start of a meeting, put their chests out proudly as they sing "America, the Beautiful" or "The Land of the Free" and not recognize there's another line: "The Home of the Brave." When Francis Scott Key penned those lines, I'm sure that it wasn't accidental that he said "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." For this is the land of the free only because it has always been the home of the brave.

It has been the home of somebody who was willing to work. It has been the home of somebody who believed in this country. It has been the home of somebody who was willing to sacrifice for that ideal, and to move ahead toward it. And let's never forget that. For if we ever lose the substance of the home of the brave, that ideal we know as the land of the free will vanish.

There is one fairly high place in government I simply want to say that as I get around the country and meet with groups of students like you, I go back refreshed. And I know that these headlines we see in the paper from time to time about conditions on the college campus are not representative. I've lived with young people all my life, and I see them now in your faces.

Inspired and Refreshed

And I go back inspired anew, and refreshed over and over again that the days ahead are going to have the kind of leaders that we want in this country—leaders with vision —leaders with courage—well-informed leaders —leaders that understand that to achieve these dreams we have for a better America, will take somebody who is willing to sacrifice, somebody who is willing to work, somebody who knows you can't get something for nothing in this country.

I look at you now as I do audiences around the country, and I see you not as Jayhawkers or Cornhuskers or Sooners or whatever it may be; not as young people or old; not as men or women; not as agriculturalists or engineers or humanists; I see you simply as Americans.

I've been in 30 nations or more around this world. I've seen a lot of people. In no country and in no nation have I seen an analogy like the one I make now. If you take the word AMERICAN and break it down, the last four letters of that word spell the two words: I CAN. I can. Therefore, my parting challenge to you is that tomorrow morning you rise, put your head up and your shoulders back, take a good breath, and say to yourself something like this:

Today I will do all the good I CAN

In as many ways as I CAN

In as many places as I CAN

For as many people as I CAN

As long as I CAN

When you have resolved that down deep in the very recesses of your heart, you will have merited the right proudly to wear the title—Amer I CAN.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

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