Full Text Obama Presidency May 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the 9/11 Museum Dedication

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks at 9/11 Museum Dedication: “A Sacred Place of Healing and of Hope”

 Source: WH, 5-15-14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National September 11 Memorial & Museum dedication ceremony in New York, N.Y., May 15, 2014.President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National September 11 Memorial & Museum dedication ceremony in New York, N.Y., May 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This morning, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero opened its doors to the families of those who lost their lives in the 2001 attacks, as well as the first responders and recovery workers that helped save the lives of others that day…READ MORE

Remarks by the President at 9/11 Museum Dedication

Source: WH, 5-15-14

Watch the Video

New York, New York

10:12 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, honored guests, families of the fallen.

In those awful moments after the South Tower was hit, some of the injured huddled in the wreckage of the 78th floor.  The fires were spreading.  The air was filled with smoke.  It was dark, and they could barely see.  It seemed as if there was no way out.

And then there came a voice — clear, calm, saying he had found the stairs.  A young man in his 20s, strong, emerged from the smoke, and over his nose and his mouth he wore a red handkerchief.

He called for fire extinguishers to fight back the flames.  He tended to the wounded.  He led those survivors down the stairs to safety, and carried a woman on his shoulders down 17 flights. Then he went back.  Back up all those flights.  Then back down again, bringing more wounded to safety.  Until that moment when the tower fell.

They didn’t know his name.  They didn’t know where he came from.  But they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandana.

Again, Mayor Bloomberg; distinguished guests; Mayor de Blasio; Governors Christie and Cuomo; to the families and survivors of that day; to all those who responded with such courage — on behalf of Michelle and myself and the American people, it is an honor for us to join in your memories.  To remember and to reflect.  But above all, to reaffirm the true spirit of 9/11 — love, compassion, sacrifice — and to enshrine it forever in the heart of our nation.

Michelle and I just had the opportunity to join with others on a visit with some of the survivors and families — men and women who inspire us all.  And we had a chance to visit some of the exhibits.  And I think all who come here will find it to be a profound and moving experience.

I want to express our deep gratitude to everybody who was involved in this great undertaking — for bringing us to this day, for giving us this sacred place of healing and of hope.

Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together.  We stand in the footprints of two mighty towers, graced by the rush of eternal waters.  We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls — men and women and children of every race, every creed, and every corner of the world.  We can touch their names and hear their voices and glimpse the small items that speak to the beauty of their lives.  A wedding ring.  A dusty helmet.  A shining badge.

Here we tell their story, so that generations yet unborn will never forget.  Of coworkers who led others to safety.  Passengers who stormed a cockpit.  Our men and women in uniform who rushed into an inferno.  Our first responders who charged up those stairs.  A generation of servicemembers — our 9/11 Generation — who have served with honor in more than a decade of war.  A nation that stands tall and united and unafraid — because no act of terror can match the strength or the character of our country.  Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us; nothing can change who we are as Americans.

On that September morning, Alison Crowther lost her son Welles.  Months later, she was reading the newspaper — an article about those final minutes in the towers.  Survivors recounted how a young man wearing a red handkerchief had led them to safety.  And in that moment, Alison knew.  Ever since he was a boy, her son had always carried a red handkerchief.  Her son Welles was the man in the red bandana.

Welles was just 24 years old, with a broad smile and a bright future.  He worked in the South Tower, on the 104th floor. He had a big laugh, a joy of life, and dreams of seeing the world.  He worked in finance, but he had also been a volunteer firefighter.  And after the planes hit, he put on that bandana and spent his final moments saving others.

Three years ago this month, after our SEALs made sure that justice was done, I came to Ground Zero.  And among the families here that day was Alison Crowther.  And she told me about Welles and his fearless spirit, and she showed me a handkerchief like the one he wore that morning.

And today, as we saw on our tour, one of his red handkerchiefs is on display in this museum.  And from this day forward, all those who come here will have a chance to know the sacrifice of a young man who — like so many — gave his life so others might live.

Those we lost live on in us.  In the families who love them still.  In the friends who remember them always.  And in a nation that will honor them, now and forever.

And today it is my honor to introduce two women forever bound by that day, united in their determination to keep alive the true spirit of 9/11 — Welles Crowther’s mother Alison, and one of those he saved, Ling Young.  (Applause.)

END
10:21 A.M. EDT

Political Musings May 7, 2014: Monica Lewinsky returns with Vanity Fair tell all as Hillary Clinton tops polls

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Monica Lewinsky returns with Vanity Fair tell all as Hillary Clinton tops polls

By Bonnie K. Goodman

History Buzz April 14, 2014: Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

U.Va. Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War

University of Virginia historian Alan Taylor, one of the nation’s premier experts in Colonial America and the early U.S. republic, has received a Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.”….READ MORE

History Buzz April 14, 2014: 2014 Winners of the Pulitzer Prize for History, Non-Fiction & Biography

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

The 2014 Winners of the Pulitzer Prize

Source: The Wire, 4-14-14

History
The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor (W.W. Norton)

Biography or Autobiography
Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

General Nonfiction
Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin (Bantam Books)

Full Text Obama Presidency April 11, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Voting Rights Being Threatened at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

Source: WH, 4-11-14

Sheraton New York Hotel
New York, New York

4:02 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENTHello, New York!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  It is good to be at the National Action Network!  (Applause.)  It is good to be here with some good friends.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

It is wonderful to be with all of you.  I want to say, first of all, thank you to your leader, Reverend Al Sharpton.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  And I appreciate the idea of being an “action” President, although I do also have style — (laughter) — I just want to point that out.  I know it’s not about it, but I just — but I do have it.  (Laughter.)  Al is not the only guy with style.

We’ve got Barbara Arnwine here today, and we want to thank her.  Clayola Brown, thank you.  Melanie Campbell, thank you.  Marc Morial, thank you.  We’ve got members of Congress, state and local officials from New York.  And of course, we’ve got all of you.  So thanks to all of you for such a wonderful welcome.  (Applause.)

Everybody, sit down.  Sit down.  Al doesn’t know how to get back to his seat.  (Laughter.)  Somebody help out the leader here.  But don’t make him jump over it.  Okay, they’re going to explain it.  There we go.  All right.  You’re going to be all right.

Now, the last time I was here was three years ago, and a few things have changed since then.  I am here as a second term President.  (Applause.)  I have more gray hair.  (Laughter.)  It’s all right.  Let’s see, what else — I’ve got twice as many dogs.  I’m glad I won’t have to serve a third term — because three dogs is too many.  I can’t keep on promising Malia and Sasha another dog.

Of course one thing that has not changed is your commitment to the cause of civil rights for everybody and opportunity for all people.  And that’s been something that’s been on my mind this week.  Some of you may know that yesterday I was down in Austin, Texas at the LBJ Library to speak on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the man who signed it into law.  (Applause.)  And standing there, I thought of all the Americans, known and unknown, who made it possible for me to stand in that spot — who marched and organized, and sat in, and stood up for jobs and for justice.  I thought of all who achieved that great victory and others — not just with respect to the Civil Rights Act, but the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, and immigration reform, and Medicare and Medicaid, and the first battles of a long War on Poverty.

And over the past five years, in the wake of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, we’ve won some victories, too.  Nearly 9 million new jobs at America’s businesses over the past four years.  (Applause.)  Seven and a half million Americans signing up to buy health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  And millions more who have gained coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, and young people being able to stay on their parents’ plans.  The rate of uninsured Americans is down.  High school dropout rates are down.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  More young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  (Applause.)  We’ve made progress and we’ve taken action.

But we also know our work is unfinished.  Too many Americans working harder than ever just to get by.  Too many Americans who aren’t working at all.  We know we have to do more to restore America’s promise of opportunity for all people, particularly for communities hardest hit by the recession; particularly for those who struggled since long before the recession — not only African Americans and Latinos, but Americans trapped across the country in pockets of poverty — inner city, suburban, rural.

And we know what opportunity means.  Opportunity means more good jobs that pay good wages.  Opportunity means training folks for those jobs.

Opportunity means changing the odds for all of our children through Pre-K, something Mayor de Blasio is fighting for here in New York City.  (Applause.)  And opportunity means affordable higher education for all who are willing to work for it.

Opportunity means answering the call to be My Brother’s Keeper and helping more boys and young men of color stay on track and reach their full potential.  (Applause.)

Before I came out, I was in a photo line, saw my good friend, Freddie Haynes, a great pastor from the great state of Texas.  And he told me this summer they’re going to hire 100 young men, pay them $10.10 an hour — maybe $10.50 — (applause) — as a consequence of this call.  And the point is, is that My Brother’s Keeper, that’s not just something I do, that’s not just something the government does.  That’s something everybody can participate in, because we know these young men need support.

Opportunity means making the minimum wage a wage you can live on.  It means equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  It means overtime pay for workers who have earned it.  It means continuing to extend the right of quality, affordable health care for every American in every state, because we’ve got some states that aren’t doing the right thing.  We have states who just out of political spite are leaving millions of people uninsured that could be getting health insurance right now.  No good reason for it.  If you ask them what’s the explanation they can’t really tell you.

And, by the way, making sure our citizens have the opportunity to lead healthy lives also means dealing with things like the dangerous carbon pollution that’s disproportionately affecting low-income communities.  It means making sure that our young people are eating right, so listen to Michelle.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.

So we know we’ve got more work to do to bridge the gap between our founding ideals and the realities of our time.  And the question then becomes, well, how do we actually make these changes?  How does it happen?  How do we get a minimum wage bill passed?  How do we make sure that those states that aren’t yet implementing the Affordable Care Act actually are doing right by their citizens?  It means being vigilant.  We’ve got to be vigilant to secure the gains we’ve made, but also to make more gains in the future.

And that’s the meaning of these last 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed.  Because across the country right now there are well-organized and well-funded efforts to undo these gains.  And one of those gains is under particular assault right now, and that’s what I want to spend the rest of my time here talking about.

Just as inequality feeds on injustice, opportunity requires justice.  And justice requires the right to vote.  (Applause.)  President Johnson, right after he signed the Civil Rights Act into law, told his advisors — some of whom were telling him, well, all right, just wait.  You’ve done a big thing now; let’s let the dust settle, don’t stir folks up.  He said, no, no, I can’t wait.  We’ve got to press forward and pass the Voting Rights Act.  Johnson said, “About this there can and should be no argument.  Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.”  (Applause.)

Voting is a time when we all have an equal say -— black or white, rich or poor, man or woman.  It doesn’t matter.  In the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our democracy, we’re all supposed to have that equal right to cast our ballot to help determine the direction of our society.

The principle of one person, one vote is the single greatest tool we have to redress an unjust status quo.  You would think there would not be an argument about this anymore.  But the stark, simple truth is this:  The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago.

Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.  In some places, women could be turned away from the polls just because they’re registered under their maiden name but their driver’s license has their married name.  Senior citizens who have been voting for decades may suddenly be told they can no longer vote until they can come up with the right ID.

In other places, folks may learn that without a document like a passport or a birth certificate, they can’t register.  About 60 percent of Americans don’t have a passport.  Just because you don’t have the money to travel abroad doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to vote here at home.  (Applause.)  And just to be clear, I know where my birth certificate is, but a lot of people don’t.  (Laughter.)  A lot of people don’t.  (Applause.)  I think it’s still up on a website somewhere.  (Laughter.)  You remember that?  That was crazy.  That was some crazy stuff.  (Laughter and applause.)  I hadn’t thought about that in a while.  (Laughter.)

Now, I want to be clear — I am not against reasonable attempts to secure the ballot.  We understand that there has to be rules in place.  But I am against requiring an ID that millions of Americans don’t have.  That shouldn’t suddenly prevent you from exercising your right to vote.  (Applause.)

The first words put to paper in our American story tell us that all of us are created equal.  And we understand that it took a long time to make sure that those words meant something.  But 50 years ago, we put laws in place, because of enormous struggles, to vindicate that idea; to make our democracy truly mean something.  And that makes it wrong to pass laws that make it harder for any eligible citizen to vote, especially because every citizen doesn’t just have the right to vote, they have a responsibility to vote.  (Applause.)

So, yes, we’re right to be on guard against voter fraud.  Voter fraud would impinge on our democracy, as well.  We don’t want folks voting that shouldn’t be voting.  We all agree on that.  Let’s stipulate to that, as the lawyers say.

But there’s a reason why those who argue that harsh restrictions on voting are somehow necessary to fight voter fraud are having such a hard time proving any real, widespread fraud.  So I just want to give you some statistics.  One recent study found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation in 12 years — 10 cases.  Another analysis found that out of 197 million votes cast for federal elections between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters — out of 197 million — were indicted for fraud.  Now, for those of you who are math majors, as a percentage, that is 0.00002 percent.  (Laughter.)  That’s not a lot.  So let’s be clear — the real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.  (Applause.)

And I have to say, there have been — some of these officials who have been passing these laws have been more blunt.  They said, this is going to be good for the Republican Party.  Some of them have not been shy about saying that they’re doing this for partisan reasons.

“It is wrong,” President Johnson said, “deadly wrong, to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.”  It is wrong to change our election rules just because of politics.  It is wrong to make citizens wait for five, six, seven hours just to vote.  It is wrong to make a senior citizen who no longer has a driver’s license jump through hoops and have to pay money just to exercise the rights she has cherished for a lifetime.  America did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote for themselves and for others only to see it denied to their kids and their grandchildren.  We’ve got to pay attention to this.  (Applause.)

Some of the folks from Chicago know — Crider (ph) knows — one of the first jobs I had out of law school was to lead a voter registration drive in my home state of Illinois.  We registered more than 150,000 new voters.  And as an organizer, I got to help other citizens exercise their most cherished and fundamental rights.  That mattered to me.

And as President, I’m not going to let attacks on these rights go unchallenged.  We’re not going to let voter suppression go unchallenged.  (Applause.)  So earlier this week, you heard from the Attorney General — and there’s a reason the agency he runs is called the Department of Justice.  (Applause.)  They’ve taken on more than 100 voting rights cases since 2009, and they’ve defended the rights of everybody from African Americans to Spanish speakers to soldiers serving overseas.  (Applause.)

Earlier this year, a bipartisan commission I appointed chaired by my election lawyer and Mitt Romney’s election lawyer came up with a series of modern — or common-sense reforms to modernize voter registration, and to curb the potential for fraud in smart way, and ensure that no one has to wait for more than half an hour to cast a ballot.  States and local election boards should take up those recommendations.  And with the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer almost upon us, I urge members of Congress to honor those who gave their lives so that others could exercise their rights, and update the Voting Rights Act.  Go ahead and get that done.  (Applause.)

Do it because the right to vote is something cherished by every American.  We should not be having an argument about this.  There are a lot of things we can argue about, but the right to vote?  I mean, what kind of political platform is that?  (Laughter.)  Why would you make that a part of your agenda, preventing people from voting?  How can you defend that?  There are a whole bunch of folks out there who don’t vote for me; didn’t vote for me, don’t like what I do.  The idea that I would prevent them from voting and exercising their franchise makes no sense.

Black or white, man or woman, urban, rural, rich, poor, Native American, disabled, gay, straight, Republican or Democrat — voters who want to vote should be able to vote.  Period.  Full stop.  (Applause.)  Voting is not a Democratic issue, it’s not a Republican issue.  It’s an issue of citizenship.  (Applause.)  It’s what makes our democracy strong.

But it’s a fact this recent effort to restrict the vote has not been led by both parties — it’s been led by the Republican Party.  And in fairness, it’s not just Democrats who are concerned.  You had one Republican state legislator point out — and I’m quoting here — “Making it more difficult for people to vote is not a good sign for a party that wants to attract more people.”  (Laughter.)  That was a pretty — that’s a good insight.  (Laughter.)  Right?  I want a competitive Republican Party, just like a competitive Democratic Party.  That’s how our democracy is supposed to work — the competition of ideas.  But I don’t want folks changing the rules to try to restrict people’s access to the ballot.

And I think responsible people, regardless of your party affiliation, should agree with that.  If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that’s not a sign of strength, that’s a sign of weakness.  (Applause.)

And not only is it ultimately bad politics.  I believe ultimately it harms the entire country.  If voting is denied to the many, we risk ending up stuck year after year with special interest policies that benefit a fortunate few.  And injustice perpetuates inequality.

But remember, just as injustice perpetuates inequality, justice opens up opportunity.  And as infuriating as efforts to roll back hard-earned rights can be, the trajectory of our history has to give us hope.  The story of America is a story of progress.  No matter how often or how intensely that progress has been challenged, ultimately this nation has moved forward.  As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, [but] it bends towards justice.”  We move forward on civil rights and we move forward on workers’ rights, and we move forward on women’s rights and disability rights and gay rights.  We show that when ordinary citizens come together to participate in this democracy we love, justice will not be denied.  (Applause.)  So the single most important thing we can do to protect our right to vote is to vote.  (Applause.)

So I’m going to make one last point here.  We’re going to have an attorney general that looks at all the laws that are being passed.  We’re going to have civic organizations that are making sure that state laws and local laws are doing what they’re supposed to do.  We will fight back whenever we see unfairly the franchise being challenged.  But the truth is that for all these laws that are being put in place, the biggest problem we have is people giving up their own power — voluntarily not participating.

The number of people who voluntarily don’t vote, who are eligible to vote, dwarfs whatever these laws are put in place might do in terms of diminishing the voting roles.

So we can’t treat these new barriers as an excuse not to participate.  We can’t use cynicism as an excuse not to participate.  Sometimes I hear people saying, well, we haven’t gotten everything we need — we still have poverty, we still have problems.  Of course.  These things didn’t happen overnight.

When I was down in Texas, everybody was celebrating the day that the Civil Rights Law was finally passed.  Remember there were decades in which people sacrificed and worked hard.  (Applause.)  Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens as long as we don’t purposely give our power away.  Every obstacle put in our path should remind us of the power we hold in our hands each time we pull that lever or fill in that oval or touch that screen.  We just have to harness that power.  We’ve got to create a national network committed to taking action.  We can call it the National Action Network.  (Applause.)

So I want you to go out there and redouble your efforts.  Register more voters.  Help more folks to get their rights.  Get those souls to the polls.  If they won’t let you do it on Sunday, then do it on a Tuesday instead.  (Applause.)  I know it’s better going to the polls on Sunday because you go to church, you get a little meal.  (Laughter.)  You got the bus waiting for you.  I understand.  But you can do it without that if we have to.

We’re at a time when we’re marking many anniversaries.  And it’s interesting for me — I’ve been on this Earth 52 years, and so to see the progress we’ve made is to see my own life and the progression that’s happened.  You think about Brown v. Board of Education, and the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and Freedom Summer.  And with those anniversaries, we have new reason to remember those who made it possible for us to be here.  Like the three civil rights workers in Mississippi — two white, one black — who were murdered 50 years ago as they tried to help their fellow citizens register to vote.  James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner believed so strongly that change was possible they were willing to lay down their lives for it.  The least you can do is take them up on the gift that they have given you.  (Applause.)  Go out there and vote.  You can make a change.  You do have the power.

I’ve run my last election, but I need you to make sure that the changes that we started continue for decades to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
4:26 P.M. EDT

Political Musings April 11, 2014: Obama honors Lyndon B. Johnson and Civil Rights Act at 50th anniversary summit

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama honors Lyndon B. Johnson and Civil Rights Act at 50th anniversary summit

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Fifty years ago on July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law the most sweeping civil rights legislation since the of the end of Civil War, and 101 years after Abraham Lincoln emancipated the African American slaves, Johnson…Continue
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Full Text Obama Presidency April 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech honoring 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit

Source: WH, 4-10-14

President Barack Obama delivers remarks as First Lady Michelle Obama, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and LBJ Presidential Library Director Mark Updegrove, listen at right at the LBJ Presidential LibraryPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks as First Lady Michelle Obama, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and LBJ Presidential Library Director Mark Updegrove, listen at right at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, April 10, 2014. They attended a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
Austin, Texas

12:16 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Please, please, have a seat.  Thank you.

What a singular honor it is for me to be here today.  I want to thank, first and foremost, the Johnson family for giving us this opportunity and the graciousness with which Michelle and I have been received.

We came down a little bit late because we were upstairs looking at some of the exhibits and some of the private offices that were used by President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson.  And Michelle was in particular interested to — of a recording in which Lady Bird is critiquing President Johnson’s performance.  (Laughter.)  And she said, come, come, you need to listen to this.  (Laughter.)  And she pressed the button and nodded her head.  Some things do not change — (laughter) — even 50 years later.

To all the members of Congress, the warriors for justice, the elected officials and community leaders who are here today  — I want to thank you.

Four days into his sudden presidency — and the night before he would address a joint session of the Congress in which he once served — Lyndon Johnson sat around a table with his closest advisors, preparing his remarks to a shattered and grieving nation.

He wanted to call on senators and representatives to pass a civil rights bill — the most sweeping since Reconstruction.  And most of his staff counseled him against it.  They said it was hopeless; that it would anger powerful Southern Democrats and committee chairmen; that it risked derailing the rest of his domestic agenda.  And one particularly bold aide said he did not believe a President should spend his time and power on lost causes, however worthy they might be.  To which, it is said, President Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”  (Laughter and applause.)  What the hell’s the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in?

Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible.  Some of them are here today.  We celebrate giants like John Lewis and Andrew Young and Julian Bond.  We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers — whose names are etched not on monuments, but in the hearts of their loved ones, and in the fabric of the country they helped to change.

But we also gather here, deep in the heart of the state that shaped him, to recall one giant man’s remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those of us who have had the singular privilege to hold the office of the Presidency know well that progress in this country can be hard and it can be slow, frustrating and sometimes you’re stymied.  The office humbles you.  You’re reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions made by those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your vision.

But the presidency also affords a unique opportunity to bend those currents — by shaping our laws and by shaping our debates; by working within the confines of the world as it is, but also by reimagining the world as it should be.

This was President Johnson’s genius.  As a master of politics and the legislative process, he grasped like few others the power of government to bring about change.

LBJ was nothing if not a realist.  He was well aware that the law alone isn’t enough to change hearts and minds.  A full century after Lincoln’s time, he said, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”

He understood laws couldn’t accomplish everything.  But he also knew that only the law could anchor change, and set hearts and minds on a different course.  And a lot of Americans needed the law’s most basic protections at that time.  As Dr. King said at the time, “It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”  (Applause.)

And passing laws was what LBJ knew how to do.  No one knew politics and no one loved legislating more than President Johnson.  He was charming when he needed to be, ruthless when required.  (Laughter.)  He could wear you down with logic and argument.  He could horse trade, and he could flatter.  “You come with me on this bill,” he would reportedly tell a key Republican leader from my home state during the fight for the Civil Rights Bill, “and 200 years from now, schoolchildren will know only two names:  Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen!”  (Laughter.)  And he knew that senators would believe things like that.  (Laughter and applause.)

President Johnson liked power.  He liked the feel of it, the wielding of it.  But that hunger was harnessed and redeemed by a deeper understanding of the human condition; by a sympathy for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for the outcast.  And it was a sympathy rooted in his own experience.

As a young boy growing up in the Texas Hill Country, Johnson knew what being poor felt like.  “Poverty was so common,” he would later say, “we didn’t even know it had a name.”  (Laughter.)  The family home didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.  Everybody worked hard, including the children.  President Johnson had known the metallic taste of hunger; the feel of a mother’s calloused hands, rubbed raw from washing and cleaning and holding a household together.  His cousin Ava remembered sweltering days spent on her hands and knees in the cotton fields, with Lyndon whispering beside her, “Boy, there’s got to be a better way to make a living than this.  There’s got to be a better way.”

It wasn’t until years later when he was teaching at a so-called Mexican school in a tiny town in Texas that he came to understand how much worse the persistent pain of poverty could be for other races in a Jim Crow South.  Oftentimes his students would show up to class hungry.  And when he’d visit their homes, he’d meet fathers who were paid slave wages by the farmers they worked for.  Those children were taught, he would later say, “that the end of life is in a beet row, a spinach field, or a cotton patch.”

Deprivation and discrimination — these were not abstractions to Lyndon Baines Johnson.  He knew that poverty and injustice are as inseparable as opportunity and justice are joined.  So that was in him from an early age.

Now, like any of us, he was not a perfect man.  His experiences in rural Texas may have stretched his moral imagination, but he was ambitious, very ambitious, a young man in a hurry to plot his own escape from poverty and to chart his own political career.  And in the Jim Crow South, that meant not challenging convention.  During his first 20 years in Congress, he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation “a farce and a sham.”  He was chosen as a vice presidential nominee in part because of his affinity with, and ability to deliver, that Southern white vote.  And at the beginning of the Kennedy administration, he shared with President Kennedy a caution towards racial controversy.

But marchers kept marching.  Four little girls were killed in a church.  Bloody Sunday happened.  The winds of change blew.  And when the time came, when LBJ stood in the Oval Office — I picture him standing there, taking up the entire doorframe, looking out over the South Lawn in a quiet moment — and asked himself what the true purpose of his office was for, what was the endpoint of his ambitions, he would reach back in his own memory and he’d remember his own experience with want.

And he knew that he had a unique capacity, as the most powerful white politician from the South, to not merely challenge the convention that had crushed the dreams of so many, but to ultimately dismantle for good the structures of legal segregation.  He’s the only guy who could do it — and he knew there would be a cost, famously saying the Democratic Party may “have lost the South for a generation.”

That’s what his presidency was for.  That’s where he meets his moment.  And possessed with an iron will, possessed with those skills that he had honed so many years in Congress, pushed and supported by a movement of those willing to sacrifice everything for their own liberation, President Johnson fought for and argued and horse traded and bullied and persuaded until ultimately he signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

And he didn’t stop there — even though his advisors again told him to wait, again told him let the dust settle, let the country absorb this momentous decision.  He shook them off.  “The meat in the coconut,” as President Johnson would put it, was the Voting Rights Act, so he fought for and passed that as well.  Immigration reform came shortly after.  And then, a Fair Housing Act.  And then, a health care law that opponents described as “socialized medicine” that would curtail America’s freedom, but ultimately freed millions of seniors from the fear that illness could rob them of dignity and security in their golden years, which we now know today as Medicare.  (Applause.)

What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression.  It required the presence of economic opportunity.  He wouldn’t be as eloquent as Dr. King would be in describing that linkage, as Dr. King moved into mobilizing sanitation workers and a poor people’s movement, but he understood that connection because he had lived it.  A decent job, decent wages, health care — those, too, were civil rights worth fighting for.  An economy where hard work is rewarded and success is shared, that was his goal.  And he knew, as someone who had seen the New Deal transform the landscape of his Texas childhood, who had seen the difference electricity had made because of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the transformation concretely day in and day out in the life of his own family, he understood that government had a role to play in broadening prosperity to all those who would strive for it.

“We want to open the gates to opportunity,” President Johnson said, “But we are also going to give all our people, black and white, the help they need to walk through those gates.”

Now, if some of this sounds familiar, it’s because today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity, and the role of government in ensuring each.  As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it.  There are also those who argue, John, that nothing has changed; that racism is so embedded in our DNA that there is no use trying politics — the game is rigged.

But such theories ignore history.  Yes, it’s true that, despite laws like the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, our society is still racked with division and poverty.  Yes, race still colors our political debates, and there have been government programs that have fallen short.  In a time when cynicism is too often passed off as wisdom, it’s perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change; that we are trapped by our own history; and politics is a fool’s errand, and we’d be better off if we roll back big chunks of LBJ’s legacy, or at least if we don’t put too much of our hope, invest too much of our hope in our government.

I reject such thinking.  (Applause.)  Not just because Medicare and Medicaid have lifted millions from suffering; not just because the poverty rate in this nation would be far worse without food stamps and Head Start and all the Great Society programs that survive to this day.  I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of LBJ’s efforts.  Because Michelle has lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because my daughters have lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because I and millions of my generation were in a position to take the baton that he handed to us.  (Applause.)

Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody — not all at once, but they swung open.  Not just blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability.  They swung open for you, and they swung open for me.  And that’s why I’m standing here today — because of those efforts, because of that legacy.  (Applause.)

And that means we’ve got a debt to pay.  That means we can’t afford to be cynical.  Half a century later, the laws LBJ passed are now as fundamental to our conception of ourselves and our democracy as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  They are foundational; an essential piece of the American character.

But we are here today because we know we cannot be complacent.  For history travels not only forwards; history can travel backwards, history can travel sideways.  And securing the gains this country has made requires the vigilance of its citizens.  Our rights, our freedoms — they are not given.  They must be won.  They must be nurtured through struggle and discipline, and persistence and faith.

And one concern I have sometimes during these moments, the celebration of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the March on Washington — from a distance, sometimes these commemorations seem inevitable, they seem easy.  All the pain and difficulty and struggle and doubt — all that is rubbed away.  And we look at ourselves and we say, oh, things are just too different now;  we couldn’t possibly do what was done then — these giants, what they accomplished.  And yet, they were men and women, too.  It wasn’t easy then.  It wasn’t certain then.

Still, the story of America is a story of progress.  However slow, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey, however flawed our leaders, however many times we have to take a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf — the story of America is a story of progress.  And that’s true because of men like President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  (Applause.)

In so many ways, he embodied America, with all our gifts and all our flaws, in all our restlessness and all our big dreams.  This man — born into poverty, weaned in a world full of racial hatred — somehow found within himself the ability to connect his experience with the brown child in a small Texas town; the white child in Appalachia; the black child in Watts.  As powerful as he became in that Oval Office, he understood them.  He understood what it meant to be on the outside.  And he believed that their plight was his plight too; that his freedom ultimately was wrapped up in theirs; and that making their lives better was what the hell the presidency was for.  (Applause.)

And those children were on his mind when he strode to the podium that night in the House Chamber, when he called for the vote on the Civil Rights law.  “It never occurred to me,” he said, “in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students” that he had taught so many years ago, “and to help people like them all over this country.  But now I do have that chance.  And I’ll let you in on a secret — I mean to use it.  And I hope that you will use it with me.”  (Applause.)

That was LBJ’s greatness.  That’s why we remember him.  And if there is one thing that he and this year’s anniversary should teach us, if there’s one lesson I hope that Malia and Sasha and young people everywhere learn from this day, it’s that with enough effort, and enough empathy, and enough perseverance, and enough courage, people who love their country can change it.

In his final year, President Johnson stood on this stage, racked with pain, battered by the controversies of Vietnam, looking far older than his 64 years, and he delivered what would be his final public speech.

“We have proved that great progress is possible,” he said.  “We know how much still remains to be done.  And if our efforts continue, and if our will is strong, and if our hearts are right, and if courage remains our constant companion, then, my fellow Americans, I am confident, we shall overcome.”  (Applause.)

We shall overcome.  We, the citizens of the United States.  Like Dr. King, like Abraham Lincoln, like countless citizens who have driven this country inexorably forward, President Johnson knew that ours in the end is a story of optimism, a story of achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth.  He knew because he had lived that story.  He believed that together we can build an America that is more fair, more equal, and more free than the one we inherited.  He believed we make our own destiny.  And in part because of him, we must believe it as well.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
12:46 P.M. CDT

History Buzz March 22, 2014: Paul Boller, well-known presidential scholar and a TCU professor emeritus, dies at 97

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Paul Boller, well-known presidential scholar and a TCU professor emeritus, dies at 97

Source: Star-Telegram, 3-22-14

Mr. Boller, a professor emeritus of history at Texas Christian University, died last week in Fort Worth after a brief illness. He was 97….READ MORE

History Headlines February 28, 2014: Thousands of Bill Clinton White House Papers Released

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

Thousands of Bill Clinton White House Papers Released

Source: NYT, 2-28-14

Newly released papers underscored what a pivotal force Hillary Rodham Clinton was in her husband’s White House, intimately involved in the policy and politics that shaped Washington in the 1990s….READ MORE

History Buzz February 24, 2014: Is Black History Month still needed?

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Is Black History Month still needed?

Source: USA TODAY, 2-24-14

They were born long after the Jim Crow laws that officially divided American society were banished to history’s dustbin. Their lives began more than 20 years after Martin Luther King was assassinated, and just 20 years before the nation….READ MORE

History Buzz February 18, 2014: Black History Month: 6 Facts About The Origins Of The Black History Celebration

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Black History Month: 6 Facts About The Origins Of The Black History Celebration

Source: International Business Times, 2-18-14

Every February, people across the nation celebrate Black History Month with lectures, parades, award ceremonies and numerous other events, all aimed at preserving and highlighting the immeasurable contributions of African-Americans to U.S. History….READ MORE

History Buzz February 17, 2014: Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange

Source: Washington Post (blog), 2-17-14

Most federal holidays are clear-cut. On the Fourth of July, for example, Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776….READ MORE

History Buzz February 16, 2014: Finalists Announced for 2014 George Washington Book Prize

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Two Univ. of Virginia professors among finalists for George Washington Book Prize

Source: WaPo, 2-16-14

(Courtesy of W.W. Norton) Two professors at the University of Virginia — Alan Taylor and Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy — are among the three finalists for this year’s George Washington Book prize. The $50,000 award, one of the country’s most lucrative literary prizes, recognizes the best new book about early American history….READ MORE

Alan Taylor, “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832″ (Norton)

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, “The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire” (Yale)

Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy” (Kansas)

Full Text Obama Presidency January 31, 2014: President Barack Obama Issues Presidential Proclamation for National African-American / Black History Month 2014

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Presidential Proclamation — National African American History Month, 2014

Source: WH, 1-31-14

NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH, 2014

- – - – - – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Americans have long celebrated our Nation as a beacon of liberty and opportunity — home to patriots who threw off an empire, refuge to multitudes who fled oppression and despair. Yet we must also remember that while many came to our shores to pursue their own measure of freedom, hundreds of thousands arrived in chains. Through centuries of struggle, and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied. During National African American History Month, we honor the men and women at the heart of this journey — from engineers of the Underground Railroad to educators who answered a free people’s call for a free mind, from patriots who proved that valor knows no color to demonstrators who gathered on the battlefields of justice and marched our Nation toward a brighter day.

As we pay tribute to the heroes, sung and unsung, of African-American history, we recall the inner strength that sustained millions in bondage. We remember the courage that led activists to defy lynch mobs and register their neighbors to vote. And we carry forward the unyielding hope that guided a movement as it bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Even while we seek to dull the scars of slavery and legalized discrimination, we hold fast to the values gained through centuries of trial and suffering.

Every American can draw strength from the story of hard-won progress, which not only defines the African-American experience, but also lies at the heart of our Nation as a whole. This story affirms that freedom is a gift from God, but it must be secured by His people here on earth. It inspires a new generation of leaders, and it teaches us all that when we come together in common purpose, we can right the wrongs of history and make our world anew.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2014 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

History Headlines January 8, 2014: ‘War on Poverty’ at 50: Political Clash over LBJ’s Vision

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

‘War on Poverty’ at 50: Political Clash over LBJ’s Vision

Arnold Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “all-out war on human poverty and unemployment” in America, Republicans and Democrats are locked in a pitched battle over whether the United States is winning – or losing…READ MORE

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