To fulfill these rights: commencement address at Howard University
|Speaker:||Lyndon B Johnson|
Baccalaureate addresses Howard University.
Civil rights United States.
In his commencement address at Howard University, Lyndon Johnson expressd his support
for equal outcomes policies directed at Black Americans. He linked economic rights
with civil rights and equality of outcome with equality of opportunity. He said:
“It is not enough to open the gates of opportunity; all our citizens must have the
ability to walk through those gates.” This commitment to equality led to race- and
gender-based quotas and preferences. These policies in turn led to legal and political
challenges on the ground of reverse discrimination. NOTE: The President spoke at
6:35 p.m. on the Main Quadrangle in front of the library at Howard University in
Washington, after being awarded an honorary degree of doctor of laws. His opening
words referred to Dr. James M. Nabrit, President of the University. During his remarks
he referred to Mrs. Patricia Harris, U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg and former associate
professor of law at Howard University.
Dr. Nabrit, my fellow Americans:
I am delighted at the chance to speak at this important and this historic institution.
Our earth is the home of revolution. In every corner of every continent men charged
Our enemies may occasionally seize the day of change, but it is the banner of our
In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom,
In our time change has come to this Nation, too. The American Negro, acting with
Thus we have seen the high court of the country declare that discrimination based
As majority leader of the United States Senate, I helped to guide two of these bills
No act of my entire administration will give me greater satisfaction than the day
The voting rights bill will be the latest, and among the most important, in a long
That beginning is freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling down. Freedom
But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying:
You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate
Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must
This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We
For the task is to give 20 million Negroes the same chance as every other American
To this end equal opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough. Men and
This graduating class at Howard University is witness to the indomitable determination
The number of Negroes in schools of higher learning has almost doubled in 15 years.
These are proud and impressive achievements. But they tell only the story of a growing
But for the great majority of Negro Americans-the poor, the unemployed, the uprooted,
Here are some of the facts of this American failure.
Thirty-five years ago the rate of unemployment for Negroes and whites was about
In 1948 the 8 percent unemployment rate for Negro teenage boys was actually less
Between 1949 and 1959, the income of Negro men relative to white men declined in
In the years 1955 through 1957, 22 percent of experienced Negro workers were out
Since 1947 the number of white families living in poverty has decreased 27 percent
The infant mortality of nonwhites in 1940 was 70 percent greater than whites. Twenty-two
Moreover, the isolation of Negro from white communities is increasing, rather than
Of course Negro Americans as well as white Americans have shared in our rising national
We are not completely sure why this is. We know the causes are complex and subtle.
First, Negroes are trapped–as many whites are trapped–‘m inherited, gate-less
We are trying to attack these evils through our poverty program, through our education
We will increase, and we will accelerate, and we will broaden this attack in years
But there is a second cause–much more difficult to explain, more deeply grounded,
For Negro poverty is not white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures
These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence
Nor can we find a complete answer in the experience of other American minorities.
The Negro, like these others, will have to rely mostly upon his own efforts. But
Nor can these differences be understood as isolated infirmities. They are a seamless
Much of the Negro community is buried under a blanket of history and circumstance.
One of the differences is the increased concentration of Negroes in our cities.
Men are shaped by their world. When it is a world of decay, ringed by an invisible
There is also the burden that a dark skin can add to the search for a productive
There is also the lacerating hurt of early collision with white hatred or prejudice,
Perhaps most important–its influence radiating to every part of life–is the breakdown
This, too, is not pleasant to look upon. But it must be faced by those whose serious
Only a minority–less than half–of all Negro children reach the age of 18 having
The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it shapes
So, unless we work to strengthen the family, to create conditions under which most
There is no single easy answer to all of these problems.
Jobs are part of the answer. They bring the income which permits a man to provide
Decent homes in decent surroundings and a chance to learn–an equal chance to learn-are
Welfare and social programs better designed to hold families together are part of
Care for the sick is part of the answer.
An understanding heart by all Americans is another big part of the answer.
And to all of these fronts–and a dozen more–I will dedicate the expanding efforts
But there are other answers that are still to be found. Nor do we fully understand
This White House conference’s theme and title will be “To Fulfill These Rights.”
Its object will be to help the American Negro fulfill the rights which, after the
To move beyond opportunity to achievement.
To shatter forever not only the barriers of law and public practice, but the walls
To dissolve, as best we can, the antique enmities of the heart which diminish the
And I pledge you tonight that this will be a chief goal of my administration, and
For what is justice?
It is to fulfill the fair expectations of man.
Thus, American justice is a very special thing. For, from the first, this has been
Beyond the law lay the land. It was a rich land, glowing with more abundant promise
And beyond this was the dignity of man. Each could become whatever his qualities
This is American justice. We have pursued it faithfully to the edge of our imperfections,
So, it is the glorious opportunity of this generation to end the one huge wrong
All it will take is for all of us to understand what this country is and what this
The Scripture promises: “I shall light a candle of understanding in thine heart,
SOURCE: The Presidential Papers , Lindon, Utah: CDEX Information