A Cautious Man
July 02, 2004
Wherever Somebody's Struggling to be Free
Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency, and himself, over the Vietnam War. But his legacy also includes his actions which culminated, forty years ago today, in his signing of the Civil Rights Act:
We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment.

We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights.

We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings--not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.

The reasons are deeply imbedded in history and tradition and the nature of man. We can understand--without rancor or hatred--how this all happened.

But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.
I wouldn't have been aware of this anniversary, if not for a terrific story today on NPR's Morning Edition. I was especially impressed to learn that Johnson had been advised to wait unil after July 4, to sign the legislation; there was a fear of public demonstrations against the new law. Not only did he reject that advice, but he reminded Americans of what the Declaration of Independence really stands for, as he put the law into effect.



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