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EQUAL OPPORTUNITY...A LIVING POLICY [[image - Henry Kissinger and President Lyndon Johnson]] President Johnson has made more historic, precedent -breaking appointments of Negroes in Government than any other President of the United States. Equal opportunity is no longer a political promise, but a living policy of this administration. Thurgood Marshall was appointed Solicitor General of the United States on August 11, 1965 by President Johnson. On June 13, 1967 President Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He will be the first Negro in history to be so honored. PRESIDENT JOHNSON'S VOTING RIGHTS ADDRESS Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the Congress, I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause. At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Ala. There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man - a man of God - was killed... There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish it must be rooted in democracy. The most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country in large measure is the history of expansion of that right to all of our people. Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote... Wednesday, I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote. This bill will strike down restrictions to voting in all elections, Federal, state and local, which have been used to deny Negroes the right to vote. This bill will establish a simple, uniform standard which cannot be used, however ingenious the effort, to flout our Constitution. It will provide for citizens to be registered by officials of the United States Government, if the state officials refuse to register them. It will eliminate tedious, unnecessary lawsuits which delay the right to vote. Finally, this legislation will insure that properly registered individuals are not prohibited from voting. I will welcome the suggestions from all the members of Congress - I have no doubt that I will get some - on ways and means to strengthen this law and make it effective. But experience has plainly shown that this is the only path to carry out the command of the Constitution. To those who seek to avoid action by their national Government in their home communities, who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections, the answer is simple: Open your polling places to all your people. Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin... There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong - deadly wrong - to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states rights, or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights... So I ask you to join me in working long hours and nights and weekend, if necessary, to pass this bill. And I don't make that request lightly, for from the window where I sit with the problems of our country I recognize that from outside this chamber is the outraged conscience of a nations, the grave concern of many nations and the harsh judgement of history on our acts. But even if we pass this bill the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome... A century has passed - more than 100 years - since equality was promised, and yet the Negro is not equal. A century has passed since the day of promise, and the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is the right in the eyes of man and God that it should come, and when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American. For Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated? How ma n white families have lived in stark poverty? How man white lives have been scarred by fear because There is really no part of America where the promise of equality has been fully kept. In Buffalo as well as Birmingham, in Philadelphia as well as Selma, Americans are struggling for the fruits of freedom. This is one nation. What happens in Selma and Cincinnati is a matter of legitimate concern to every American... And I have not the slightest doubt that good men from everywhere in this country, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Gold Gate to the harbors along the Atlantic, will rally now together in this cause to vindicate the freedom of all Americans. For all of use owe this duty and I believe that all of us will respond to it. Your President makes that request of every American. The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety, and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change, designed to stir reform. He has called upon us to make good the promise of America. And who among us can say that we would have made the same progress were it not for his persistent bravery and faith in American democracy? For the real heart of the battle for equality is the deep-seating belief in the democratic process. Equality depends, not on the force of arms or tear gas, but depends upon the force of moral right - not on recourse to violence, but on respect for law and order. There have been many pressures upon your President and there will be others as the days come and go. But I pledge you tonight that we intend to fight this battle where it should be fought - in the courts, and in the Congress, and in the hearts of men. We must preserve the right of free speech and the right of free assembly. But the right of free speech does not carry with it - as has been said - the right to holler fire in a crowded theatre. We must preserve the right to free assembly. But free assembly does not carry with it the right to block public thoroughfares to traffic. We do have a right to protest. And a right to march under conditions that do not infringe on the constitutional rights of our neighbors. And I intend to protect all those rights as long as I am permitted to serve in this office. We will guard against violence, knowing it strikes from our hands the very weapons which we seek - progress, obedience to law, and belief in American values... The bill I am presenting to you will be known as a civil rights bill. But in a larger sense, most of the program I am recommending is a civil rights program. Its object is to open the city of hope to all people of all races, because all Americans just must have the right to vote, and we are going to give them that right. All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship, regardless of race, and they are going to have those privileges of citizenship regardless of race. But I would like to caution you and remind you that to exercise these privileges takes much more than just legal right. It requires a trained mind and a healthy body. It requires a decent home and the chance to find a job and the opportunity to escape from the clutches of poverty. Of course people cannot contribute to the nation if they are never taught to read or write; if their bodies are stunted from hunger; if their sickness goes untended; if their life is spent in hopeless poverty, just drawing a welfare check. So we want to open the gates to opportunity. But we're also going to give all our people, black and white, the help that they need to walk through those gates... I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of tax eaters. Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States it says in Latin, "God has favored our undertaking." God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. But I cannot help believe that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight. 399
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