I am happy to join the Members of the National Head Start Association's celebration of the 40th Anniversary of "Head Start".
In 1965, when we initiated many programs designed to eradicate poverty, half of our nation's poor people were children! As the Director of "The War Against Poverty", I decided there was a need to create a program designed specifically to help these children of poverty. Fortunately, my wife, Eunice Kennedy Shiver, gave me a copy of a study which had been conducted by Dr. Susan Gray of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee for the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. Dr. Gray found that children with mental retardation benefited from ‘early intervention’. I was skeptical, but at Eunice's urging, she and I visited Dr. Gray, and we saw first-hand that Dr. Gray and her team had elevated the IQs of children with mental retardation. Immediately, I thought, if children with mental retardation benefited from ‘early intervention’ why wouldn't any child also benefit from ‘early intervention’. So, I created a Task Force, headed by Doctor Robert E. Cooke, Chief of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University!
In February of 1965, Doctor Cooke and his panel proposed recommendations for the primary goal of the new "Head Start" Program: --
The panel recommended a comprehensive program which would concentrate on health, nutrition, education, and social services for children, and they emphasized the desirability of parent participation in this new program.
This comprehensive approach is what has made our "Head Start" program such a nation-wide success. We must never let that creation be destroyed! Sure, we can always improve on what we started, but the basic components which make "Head Start" unique should not be abandoned, reduced in size, or limited in any way!
Forty years ago none of us who participated in the creation of "Head Start" thought that it would still be going strong today with over 20 million participants and hundreds of thousands of new enrollees every year!!!
I am grateful to President Lyndon Johnson who supported "Head Start" wholeheartedly, and to Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson who served as the Honorary Chair of "Head Start".
I congratulate the "Head Start" teachers, the "Head Start" parents, the "Head Start" students, and every one of you for supporting "Head Start"! You have helped to make our totally unique creation an increasing success every year over the last 40 years.
But we cannot rest on our achievements. There still are countless children in our country who are helpless, poor, disadvantaged, and desperately in need of assistance. They need "Head Start"!!!
Let us never forget, -- the challenge for you and for all of us in this 21st Century is to bring "Head Start" to each child who needs it! ! ! !
Director of "The War Against Poverty"
Founder of "Head Start"