History Musings June 23, 2015: The Confederacy hostile to African Americans safe haven for American Jews

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Note: The following includes an extensive excerpt from the author’s unpublished thesis entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Anti-Semitism, 1860-1913” for the MA in Judaic Studies program at Concordia University.

After the shooting attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 where Dylann Roof, 21 shot and killed nine African Americans, in what is being deemed a racist attack, the debate over South Carolina‘s official usage of the Confederate flag is again heating up. On Saturday, June 20, protesters gathered objecting to the flag remaining at the capital, thousands signed a petition on moveon.org. There are now calls for the flag to be removed from its official spot in South Carolina’s state capitol of Columbia.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP Presidential nominee set the bar high calling for the flag’s removal in a tweet on Saturday, June 20, 2015, where he called it a “symbol of racial hatred.” Romney shares the same views as President Barack Obama, who has long called for the flag’s removal. One by one, the Republican presidential candidates weighed in on the issue, many called an issue for the state to decide, a few called for its downright removal including front runner Jeb Bush. In the wake of the movement to remove the flag, SC governor Nikki Haley, Charleston’s mayor, and a group of bipartisan legislators agreed on Monday, June 22, the flag has to go. The state started the process by removing the flag from the Citadel just a day later on Tuesday, June 23.

South Carolina is not the only state to look to end the Confederate flag’s continued life; Virginia will no longer allow the flag to appear on any license plates. The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, June 18 that it was not a violation of the first amendment for the government deny certain images or words be placed on specialty license plates. The case revolved around the Texas Motor Vehicles Board refusing the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) a license plate design with the Confederate flag on it. Retailers including Walmart, Etsy, Sears and Amazon.com will no longer sell any items with the Confederate flag on them. The calls are not just to remove Confederate flags, but statues and monuments relating to the Confederacy trying wipe away a major part of American history.

In a long held tradition sacred for the state, South Carolina flies in addition to the American flag the Confederate flag. South Carolina has fought to keep flying the flag, which they deem an important part of “their heritage.” For many others it is a symbol of the Civil War and slavery, a “dark” time in American history. After the Charleston church shooting, and the perpetrator’s racist motives and plans becoming clearer, many are calling for the flag to be removed from the state capitol grounds in Columbia. In 2000, after a similar fight, civil rights activists had a minor victory when the flag was removed from inside the statehouse and capitol dome, however, it remained flying on the grounds.

For Southerners the flag has historical significance for other especially after the shooting it is considered even more so a symbol of racial hatred and a reminder of slavery. The Confederate south was not racially hostile to every racial group that did not fit the mold of a white Christian, in fact American Jews found an oasis in the antebellum and Civil War south, free of the anti-Jewish prejudice that was prevalent in the North at that time. Part of the reason was that American Jews joined and found common ground with Southern White Christians and partook in every aspect of Southern life, the good, the bad, slavery, racism, participating in every aspect of the Civil War on the side of the South and the Confederacy.

Even from Colonial times, life in America for Jews offered more freedom than they could hope for in Europe.  In North America, the division of society was based less on religion, as had been the case in Europe, but on skin color. The first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619, even before the arrival of the first Jews in 1654, and although slavery was not the system that it would become, by the time Jews began arriving, the distinction between black and white was set in colonial society.  Slavery spread throughout the American colonies with Rhode Island acting as an exemption.  There are two primary reasons that motivated a slavery system in America; slave labor was a driving force behind economic development, as well as the main method in determining class status.

Whiteness equaled to freedom, while slave ownership, and the number of slaves owned indicated wealth and social status; it allowed the poorest of whites to remain always above blacks in the social ladder. In a society were race was more important than religion, Jews believed they could escape religious persecution because they were white, and they could exploit this fact to gain freedom and social acceptance. Fifty years after their entrance into America, Jews had already integrated and assimilated themselves through the practice of owning slaves; Jewish involvement in the slave trade and slavery was another way to integrate with America’s Christian population. The South’s peculiar institution of slavery touched every Jew that chose to live in the South in the antebellum period, and in the antebellum period, this was a large portion of America’s Jewish population.

The population of Jewish in the southern colonies and then states was practically old as their founding. Robert Rosen writing in The Jewish Confederates points out, Southern Jews were an integral part of the Confederate States of America and had been breathing the free air of Dixie for 200 years” by the time the Civil War ended.[i] The historian Steven Hertzberg recounts in Strangers within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915, “Jews had resided in the South since the seventeenth century, and a party of 42 Jews landed at Savannah in July 1733, just five months after the arrival of Georgia’s first colonists.  At the time of the first federal census in 1790, nearly half of the approximately 1,300 to 1,500 Jews in the United States lived below the Mason-Dixon Line, and Charleston, with an estimated 200 Jewish inhabitants, sheltered the second largest Jewish community in the country.” [ii]

By 1820, Charleston would surpass New York as the most populous Jewish city in the new nation with a total 700 Jews living there. Although during this period, a good portion of America’s Jews made their home in the South their numbers were small in comparison to the Southern white majority. Clive Webb argues in Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, “Jews never constituted more than a tiny percentage of the southern population. Their desire for social acceptance ensured their compliance with the laws and customs of their adopted homeland.  In particular this involved their acceptance of slavery and then racial segregation.” [iii]

Jews thoroughly accepted slavery; its practices and rules, and ingrained it into the fabric and day to day living of their lives. Whichever economic pursuit Southern Jews were involved in, or their economic status in Southern society; they were fervent advocates of slavery. Jews participated in the plantation lifestyle; adhered to Southern norms in their treatment of their slaves, and were even involved in slave trading. On Jewish owned plantations, slaves would work as either field hands, or house servants, while urban dwelling Jews would own slaves that worked in their homes and businesses or hired them out, while a smaller number of Jews even participated in the slave trade.

Jews participated in these practices because they wanted to feel they belonged to the chivalry and elite Southern society.  Participating in the slave system was the primary method for Southern Jews to belong to white Southern society, but also partaking in the South’s code of honor, and duels were another, historian “Mark I. Greenberg points out that Jews adopted the Southern way of life, including the code of honor, dueling, slavery and Southern notions about race and states’ rights.”[iv]

Adhering to the majority allowed Jews to be as “white” as Southern Christians, and they also could contrast sharply with the slave population, move up in American society, and take part equally in the American democratic dream; a position of equality continually denied to Jews in their European countries of origin. Historians Marvin Perry and Frederick Schweitzer write in Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, “The views of southern Jews on race and slavery differed little from other white southerners who regarded slavery as the natural condition of blacks. An insecure minority eager to be accepted as equals by the society which they dwelled, southern Jews, like other southerners, did not challenge the slave system.” [v]

Many Jews were recent immigrants who did not want to instigate the segregationist anti-Semitism they experienced in Europe by their opposition. As Webb argues “Confronted with such a hostile political climate, Jews had little choice but to accept slavery. Those who did harbor doubts about the ethics of the slave system kept such thoughts to themselves for fear of provoking an anti-Semitic backlash. Gary Zola has indeed suggested that at times this determination to avoid conflict caused southern Jews to support slavery even more aggressively than other whites.”[vi]

This whiteness allowed many Southern Jews to shared similar experiences and beliefs about slavery as their Christian counterparts did, and were devoted to the cause. America’s Jews as Jacob Rader Marcus writes had “a readiness, if not an eagerness, to adapt themselves to the life and culture about them”[vii]  In fact Southern Jewry’s participation in the South cultural and societal norms such as slavery and the honor code did serve as Jews’ acceptance into the Christian society as white Southerners.  As Lauren Winner claims, “Recent scholarship has attempted to argue that Jews were accepted fully into the society of the Old South. One recent enterprising scholar claimed that Jews in antebellum South Carolina, because they dueled, sported hoop skirts, and owned slaves, were full participants in Southern society.”[viii]

Southern Jews did enjoy a relative prejudice free life in the antebellum South, “Nowhere else in the United States had Jews been as fully accepted into the mainstream of society. Nowhere else in the United States had Jews become as fully integrated into the political and economic fabric of everyday life.”[ix] In their opinion, it was a privilege they held dear, and supported the South’s peculiar institutions to hold on to this acceptance.

There was still one aspect however; Southern Jews differed from the rest of the Southern white population: religion.  Jews could not participate in Christian evangelism that was so prevalent in the South during that period.  As Lauren Winner points out in her article “Taking up the Cross: Conversion among black and white Jews in the Civil War South”, “That Jews could not engage in that essential feature of the South’s social landscape-evangelicalism-is, in this scholar’s estimation, inconsequential at best.” [x]  That was why is was so essential in Southern Jewry’s opinion to integrate and participate in the South’s other customs to ensure they would be considered white, and avoid any religious animosity, and anti-Jewish prejudice was more prevalent in the North.

In nineteenth century, America slavery became probably the most divisive issue both politically and socially, and one of the main causes leading to the Civil War (1861-1865). As the doyen of history of Jews during the Civil War Bertram Korn indicates, “had Negro slavery not been an integral aspect of the life of the Old South, there would have been no conflict, no secession, no war.  Differences there might have been, but not violence and bloodshed.  Slavery was the single indigestible element in the life of the American people which fostered disunion, strife, and carnage, just as the concomitant race problem has continued to an important degree to be a divisive force in American life to this day.”[xi]

Its effects were not unnoticed on America’s small but ever growing Jewish population. Slavery was predominately a Southern issue although its moral and political ramifications affected the entire American population. Americans took positions on the issue, while many remained indifferent. There was however, a small minority of northern reformers who believed that slavery should be abolished in the South, and they worked towards this goal much to the resentment of Americans both in the North and much more vehemently in the South.

As relative newcomers to America, the majority of the Jewish population did not speak out against slavery; essentially all of the South’s small Jewish population supported slavery, since it was their entrée into acceptance by the Christian majority. Korn, notes “No Jewish political figure of the Old South ever expressed reservations about the justice of slavery or the rightness of the Southern position.”[xii]

Even when slavery was becoming more controversial, and Civil War loomed Southern Jews still continued their support of slavery. As Arthur Hertzberg writes in The Jews of America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : A History, “In the 1850s most people in America hoped that the issue of slavery could be avoided; so did most Jews. In the Southern states Jews almost unanimously supported the proslavery interests.”[xiii] Hasia Diner concurs explaining in The Jews of the United States, “Nothing demonstrated this fact better than the Civil War and the issue of slavery. Southern Jews regarded the matter no differently than did their neighbors. Three thousand Jewish men fought in gray uniforms, and Jewish women aided the cause with volunteer work.”[xiv]

Jews were loyal to slavery, the Southern way of life, and the Confederate cause. As Abolitionist Rabbi Bernhard Felsenthal observed “Israelites residing in New Orleans are man by man—with very few exceptions—ardently in favor of secession, and many among them are intense fanatics.” [xv] Most Southern Jews supported the South’s secession from the Union and the newly established Confederacy, whether they were citizens of the South for many years or recently arrived immigrants. The South had been good to its Jewish population they flourished economically, politically and socially in a Christian society, essentially without anti-Semitism.

Most Jews however, believed their support for the Confederacy; states’ rights, and slavery were the key to maintaining acceptance as a part of the white majority. As Oscar R. Williams in “Historical Impressions of Black Jewish Relations Prior to World War II” writes, “During the Civil War Jews defended the system which insured them acceptance and success in the South.” [xvi] While Webb writes that “Through their loyal support for secession, southern Jews therefore hoped to reinforce their social acceptance.”[xvii] As Robert Rosen describes in Confederate Charleston, “The Charleston Jewish community gave its enthusiastic support to the Confederacy. Having found in South Carolina from colonial times a haven from religious persecution, a freedom to practice their religion, and the freedom to engage in all forms of commerce, the Jews of Charleston showed great devotion to the Confederate cause.”[xviii]

All over the South, Jews heeded the call to support the Confederate cause. The obvious choice for most men was to join a company in the Confederate army, many Southern Jews could not physically give their support, they used the other means they had in the powers to help in the Confederacy, for some it was political and most often monetary contributions. Southern Jewry’s devotion to the Confederacy translated into the actions in support of the Southern cause approximately two to three thousand Jewish men fought for the gray, while on the home front the women worked as loyal volunteers, as nurses resisting Northern, Yankee troops’ growing occupation of their beloved South. Rosen claims, “Thus, overwhelmingly, and almost unanimously, some with fear and trepidation, others with courage and enthusiasm, some with reservations, others with a firm unflinching resolve, Southern Jewry cast its lot with the Confederate States of America.”[xix]

So fierce was Jewish devotion to Southern ideals that when as Rosen writes “in April 1861 the Jewish messenger of New York City called upon American Jewry to “rally as one man for the Union and Constitution,” the Jews of Shreveport responded with a resolution denouncing the newspaper and its editor
“We, the Hebrew congregation of Shreveport,” the resolution began, “scorn and repel your advice, although we might be called Southern rebels; still, as law-abiding citizens, we solemnly pledge ourselves to stand by, protect, and honor the flag, with its stars and stripes, the Union and Constitution of the Southern Confederacy, with our lives, liberty, and all that is dear to us.”[xx] Southern rabbis agreed with the congregations’ support of the war and preached and prayed for the Confederacy in their services: “This once happy country is enflamed by the fury of war; a menacing enemy is arrayed against the rights, and liberties and freedom of this, our Confederacy;…Here I stand now with many thousands of the sons of the sunny South, to face the foe, to drive him back, and to defend our natural rights, O Lord…Be unto the Army of the Confederacy as though were of the old, unto us, thy chosen people-Inspire them with patriotism!”[xxi]

Southern Jewish men that remained on the home front during the war also made tremendous contributions in support of the war. Many men continued their mercantile businesses, or as peddlers or in their stores, supplying the troops as well as those that remained on the home front. They also worked as innkeepers, tanners, apothecaries, doctors or teachers.[xxii] Many who unable to literally go off to fight in the war would join the home guard or militia to protect the city or town where they lived. The Jewish men who remained on the home front were also involved in philanthropic efforts.

The most common form of philanthropy was the creation of benevolent societies to help the poor affected the war, donate money to hospitals, and bury dead Confederate Jewish soldiers in Jewish cemeteries. Southern rabbis remained fervent advocates of the South and the Confederacy throughout the war, as were their Christian counterparts; they prayed for and praised the Confederacy in their services. Rabbi James Gutheim of Montgomery, AL, had recently arrived in the South 1843, prayed for it at the onset of the war, asking for divine intervention for “our beloved country, the Confederate States of America. May our young Republic increase in strength, prosperity and renown.”[xxiii]

Southern Jews supported the Confederacy because they believed they had a haven from the anti-Semitism that hounded them in Europe this was especially true for new and recent immigrants from Central Europe, whom compromised a majority of Southern Jews serving in the Confederate Army. Rosen continues, “Many like “Ike” Hermann, had found the land of Canaan. Others, like Gustavus Poznanski, had found their Jerusalem, their Palestine. Still others, like Marcus Baum, Jacob Samuels, Adolph Proskauer and Herschell Kempner, had finally found their Fatherland.”[xxiv]  Leopold Weil a Jewish cotton merchant wrote at the time “This land has been good to all of us…I shall fight to my last breath and to the full extent of my fortune to defend that in which I believe.”[xxv] Weil did he enlisted in the Confederate Army as a lieutenant.

Southern Jewry was motivated to support the Confederacy as Webb explains, “there were a number of reasons why Jews championed the Confederate cause. Like many southern Jews, Leopold Weil attained privilege and prosperity through the exploitation of slave labor. The South also offered safe haven to thousands of Jews who fled persecution in Europe. Although Weil recognized that slavery was immoral, he was not prepared to abandon a land that “has been good to all of us.”[xxvi] Even many years after the war Southern Jews could declaring how good the South was for immigrant Jews  Isaac “Ike” Hermann, a private 1st Georgia Infantry proclaimed  “I found in [the South] an ideal and harmonious people; they treated me as one of their own; in fact for me, it was the land of Canaan where milk and honey flowed.” [xxvii] Testifying that Southern Jewry in the antebellum period had found in the South the haven from prejudice they had been looking for.

When Civil War erupted after the Southern states seceded from the Union, women in the South faced an upheaval as their way of life was threatened to be changed forever.  For Southern Jewish women were fiercely attached to the Southern way of life, and this manifested itself into a deep loyalty for the Confederacy and support that it would win the war.  As historians Hasia Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly indicate in Her Works Prise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present, “When the Civil War split America, Jews, as Americans, supported both sides, either as passionate proponents of the Union or devoted sons and daughters of the Confederacy.” [xxviii]  Jacob Rader Marcus, the doyen of American Jewish history concurs in Memoirs of American Jews, 1775-1865, “The apogee of patriotism was reached by the Southern women, including Jewesses.”[xxix]  While Marli F. Weiner explains in Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830-80, “In the antebellum South gender and race were the two most significant shapers of individual experiences.  Other factors such as class, region, religion, family skill, personality even appearance, were also important, of course but being born free or enslaved, male or female determined the possibilities and limitations for each individual.” [xxx]

The majority of these Jewish women were not recent immigrants, but American born and shared the lifestyle and values of their Christian counterparts. As Diner and Benderly recount, “Rosana [Osterman], the Levy sisters, and the Natchez M[a]yer daughters were not, of course, recent immigrants but rather the American-born descendants of earlier migrant generations.  But they, like Jews throughout the country, both newly arrived and long established, saw themselves as wholehearted Americans and fashioned their lives and identities in response to an American reality quite unlike anything Jews had ever experienced elsewhere.”[xxxi]  These women were Jewish southern belles and lived their lives accordingly.

These Southern Jewish women were integrated in Southern society, and were attached to lifestyle they had become accustomed to, and as the war, demonstrated Southerners and the Confederacy were more tolerant of Jews than the Union army that ravaged the South, Southern Jewish recognized this and devotedly aligned themselves with their beloved South at all costs.  Marcus writes, “The Southern Jewesses were fanatically, almost hysterically, passionate in their sympathies for their new regime.  Were they trying to prove that they were more ardent than their neighbors? Why?”[xxxii]

Like many other Christian women in the South, Southern women contributed on many levels through volunteer work, as war supply collectors, sewing circles, and nursing, but the far more committed chose to rebel against the Union officials. Jewish women especially took advantage of this new politicizing position the war granted women by demonstrating their loyalty to the South, through fiercer methods, often through illegal means including, smuggling, espionage, and belligerency.  Practicing slavery and being perceived as white, and generally adhering to the South’s social norms helped Southern Jewry escape Anti-Semitism.\

When Civil War erupted the North was threatening the Southern oasis Jews had created, virtually free of old prejudices.  The North in contrast, was more anti-Semitic and welcomed less its Jewish population into the Christian majority. Although the majority of Southerners Jews tried to defend the Confederacy and the land that had been so good to them, Southern women left on the home front were supporters that were even more ardent. As Catherine Clinton explains, “The Civil War, many Southern Jews felt, would change all this. Not unlike African Americans, who have believed throughout U.S. history that military service would guarantee them rights of full citizenship, Southern Jews expected that if they embraced the Confederate cause wholeheartedly, they would in turn be embraced by the Confederacy and accorded a new role in the society of the new nation.”[xxxiii]

Southern Jewish women adhered to the similar place other Southern women took in society, but also in supporting the Confederacy, Southern Jewish women took on added role defending Southern Jewry whiteness and place in Southern Christian society with their war efforts.  To the end, Southern Jews were even more enthusiastic towards their allegiance to all Southern practices, especially Jewish women.

Southern Jewish women knew that the Southern way of life was integral to maintaining the racial equilibrium for Jews and for avoiding anti-Semitism.  As Steven Hertzberg writes in Strangers Within The Gate City: The Jews Of Atlanta, 1845- 1915, “While suspicion engendered by their foreign birth and alien religion may have induced some Jews to conform outwardly to regional values as a means of protective coloration, most willingly embraced Southern attitudes because they had a consuming desire to succeed in their new home.”[xxxiv]  These women would go to great lengths to support the Confederacy in the manner they best knew how, and within the limits of the white womanhood, they wished to maintain.  They felt if they would defend the Confederacy on the home front, after the war they would keep being defined as white Southerners, and find a sense of belonging in the land they were living in.

The Jews’ harmony living in a Southern Christian society however was not without anti-Semitism. Seth Forman explain in his article “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” “All of this does not mean that the position of Southern Jews was not in any way precarious. Living in a region characterized largely by an overpowering caste system and fierce racial bigotry, Southern Jews treaded lightly and made their way in a place that was largely ambivalent about their presence.” [xxxv] Webb concurs, “Southern Jews did not succeed entirely in eroding anti-Semitism.” [xxxvi]

Even with all Southern Jewry’s efforts and support for Southern institutions, they could not entirely escape anti-Jewish prejudice in the South, since it essentially began with their arrival in 1733, as Hertzberg claims “even in the colonies which were hospitable to Jews.”[xxxvii]  Winner explains, “The new nation did not come to fruition, and neither did Southern Jews’ expectations of their support of the Confederacy. To the contrary, they found that during wartime, their support was not welcomed but, rather, received warily. Protestant Confederates blamed Southern Jews when any aspect of the war effort went wrong, accusing them of espionage, racketeering, and conspiracy.”[xxxviii]

With trying times, and the increase of the Jewish population in 1850 caused an increase in anti-Semitism. A general dislike of all aliens and foreigners increased during the Civil War. Korn describes, “Additional social factors peculiar to life in the South tended to strengthen and heighten the reaction to Jews: a general dislike of all aliens and foreigners which, during the War, created the legend that the Union Army was a band of German and Irish hirelings and mercenaries, while the Confederate Army was said to be exclusively native; a wide-spread suspicion of the merchant and storekeeper, typical of a society dominated by the plantation owner and farmer.”[xxxix]

Jews however, hoped that their strict adherence to Southern norms, with either keep anti-Semitism to a minimum or restrict any further occurrence of anti-Jewish activity. As the Civil War was becoming a reality, Jewish support for the Confederacy, states’ rights, and ultimately slavery was the key according to the Southern Jewish population to acceptance as a part of the white majority. Forman writes, “For the most part, however, these kinds of actions were mitigated by countervailing Southern ideas concerning the equality of all white men, the overriding concern with the subordination of black Americans, and the usefulness of the Jews as merchants and artisans. Spread thinly throughout the vast region, the Jews in the South tended to avoid taking public stands on controversial issues. When the issue of slavery tore the country in two during the Civil War, for example, Southern Jews largely accepted slavery and supported the South.[xl]

The rise in anti-Semitism commenced as the war turned towards the worse for the South, defeat was imminent, and the economy worsened with food and supplies difficult to acquire as the war raged on. Jews were blamed because their religion differed, clashing with the Christian Fundamentalism of the Confederate South, Jews roles as merchants and Judah P. Benjamin prominent political role in the Confederate government as attorney general, secretary of state and secretary of war. This only magnified after the South lost the war, the blame shifted over to the Southern population, despite the fact that very few Jews had any political or economic power.

Leonard Dinnerstein explains in Antisemitism in America, that Southern Jews despite living among evangelical Christian only sporadically experienced Anti-Semitism, and this was usually just in the most trying economic times. “Thus Jews as a group, despite their opportunities in the United States, never quite relaxed, and always kept a watchful eye open for Christian bias. Such prejudice was not uniformly exhibited and it often depended on historical circumstances and the strengths or trials of distinct Christian groups at different times in history as to how the beliefs would be exercised. Sometimes numbers made a difference; when Jews were strong in number they often felt more secure and comfortable. Other times local values dictated their reception and demeanor.”[xli]

Although the South had always been a Christian and religious area, the war was only reinforced this, and brought religion to the forefront. As the war raged on Southerners began invoking Christian religious language in relation to the Southern cause, and the Confederacy, which separated Jews from the pre-war unified white majority; classifying them as foreigners both religiously, and with the implications that Jews were Yankees, Northerners. Myron Berman states, “public demonstrations of piety and the use of Christian concepts became more pronounced in the course of the war.”[xlii]

This was because of the fundamentalist style that Southerners were invoking in their religious practices. Diane Ashton explains in her article “Shifting Veils: Religion, Politics and Womanhood Among Jewish Women During the Civil War,” “First in the North and later in the South, the belief that America played a pivotal role in bringing the second coming of Christ reached an apogee just before and during the Civil War. Southern anti-Semitism was fueled in part by a more fundamentalist style reading the New Testament than was common in most Northern Churches. The Confederacy went so far as to define itself as a Christian nation in its constitution. Southern clergy mounted frequent revivals among the troops, both to obtain God’s favor and to enable soldiers to fight without fear of death. Historian Harry Stout explained that the Confederacy declared many fast days, a practice previously more common in the North, to bind the civilians troops alike to display their patriotism and piety-then defined as the same thing.”[xliii]

As the situation in the Civil War was becoming increasingly worse for the Confederacy, Southerner’s anti-Semitism arose, when before the before the war these sentiments had publicly been kept to a minimum, and Jews were for the most part tolerated in Southern society. Korn explains, “Granted an original suspicion and dislike of the Jew before the War, the four-year-long travail of the Confederacy was certain to emphasize it.”[xliv] Southern Christians began to blame to the Jewish leaders of the Confederacy for the South’s loses. Diane Ashton writes that “Denunciations of Jews became more commonplace during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Southerners explained their defeat as God’s chastisement for widespread sinfulness.”[xlv] The Confederate anti-Jewish feelings however, were mostly reserved for Judah Benjamin and Jewish merchants. Southern newspapers and magazines would refer to Jews as “Yankees among us” or as shylocks.[xlvi]

Judah Benjamin was the Secretary of War and then State for the Confederate government, and he took the blame for many of the South’s defeats and problems. The fact that he was a Jew led a citizen of North Carolina, John Beauchamp Jones to swear that “all the distresses of the people were owing to a Nero-like despotism, originating in the brain of Benjamin, the Jew.”[xlvii] Henry L.
also reiterates that Benjamin was blamed for war loses because of his religion as opposed to his actually polices and military decisions. As Feingold writes in Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present, “In 1862 Judah Benjamin, who had suffered much calumny because of his being Jewish, was censured by the Confederate Congress for failing to send war supplies to Roanoke and thus causing its loss to the Union Army. He did not reveal that if he had complied with Roanoke’s request, Norfolk would have been left vulnerable.”[xlviii] Winner states, “Benjamin was only one of the many Confederate Jews whom Confederate Christians plugged into age-old stereotypes of the Jew qua extortionist, thief, shylock, of Jews driven by, in the words of historian John Higham, “cunning” and “avarice.”[xlix]

This anti-Jewish prejudice also was seen in the Confederate military. Jewish Confederate’s in the military were faced with prejudice and ridicule, and were often prevented from receiving promotions that were due to them or they were reluctantly given to them. Winner writes, “Captain R. E. Park recounted that his colonel attempted to block the promotion of Mobile’s Captain Proskauer because the Colonel was suspicious of Jews’ loyalty to the Confederacy. A Jewish Colonel assigned to a Texas regiment experienced such ridicule and antagonism that within forty-eight hours of joining up with his new regiment, he left.”[l]

On the home front, the situation was not quite different; Southern Jews faced anti-Jewish prejudice in their daily lives. In the United States at the time is not uncharacteristic for Jews to be scapegoats blamed for an economic situation, which was out of their control, and a product of the war rather than anything else. In these desperate times Christian Southerners were looking for scapegoats and the rising prices for living essential made the Jew and particularly the Jewish merchant the ideal scapegoat, and the fact that most Jews were merchants, an important component of the Confederate economy did not help the increase of anti-Jewish prejudice. Ashton claims this economic blame was widespread writing “Across the South, both small merchants and public figures like Benjamin were blamed for the region’s economic woes and its military defeat. Although Richmond‘s major industries were not in Jewish hands, Jews were among those blamed for the South‘s economic ills as the war dragged on.”[li]

Southerners often saw the high prices merchants charged as extortion, and they viewed the Jewish merchants as “extortionists.” George Rable notes in The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, “Many Confederates looked for scapegoats and discovered an ancient one: foreign-born Jewish merchants. Henry S. Foote denounced “shylocks,” Examiner editorials deplored “synagogue” influences, and Texas vigilance committees harassed Jewish businessmen.” [lii] While Winner explains, “Confederate Christians, as Gary L. Bunker and John Appel have shown, portrayed Jews as vultures hoping to gain from wartime shortages.”[liii] The majority of anti-Jewish sentiment experienced in America was in direct relation to economics. As Leonard Rogoff clarifies in his article “Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew,” “The Jewish racial question was not a social or political issue in the antebellum South: whatever anti-Semitism Southern Jews encountered was primarily economic or religious.” [liv]

Southern women had additional responsibilities resulting from the men being away at war, and dealing with the desperation in the South’s situation at home. The women were faced with providing for their families while the war that kept dragging on, without the men to provide for them many women had little to go on to survive, even the wealthier ones dealt with these issues. This also contributed to the image of the image of the Jewish merchant as a profiteer of the poor. As Feingold notes, “Jewish merchants in the Southland felt the sting of anti-Semitic slander as civilian goods became scarce.”[lv]

These women actively and most time violently attacked the Jewish merchants for raising the cost of food and supplies. The most violent occurrence was in Georgia, where Jewish merchants were accused repeatedly as Winner explains of “unpatriotic conduct.” Fear and suspicion of Jewish merchants was only exacerbated by the extreme shortages that became frequent as the war progressed.”[lvi] In desperation, these women blamed their unfortunate situation on the merchants particularly Jewish buying into the anti-Semitic rhetoric about Jewish merchants. The women went in at gunpoint, justifying their criminal activity by as Winner writes accusing “the owner of speculating and making a fortune while their husbands died in defense of their country;”[lvii] they then proceeded to steal all the supplies and goods they possibly could from the store. Korn claims, “These examples indicate a trend which was characteristic of many sections of the Confederacy — the Jews being held responsible for the inflation of prices and the shortages of goods a pattern which bears a remarkable likeness to the background of the Grant Order.”[lviii]

Southerners seemed to believe that Jews controlled on its commerce and trade. A leader in this anti-Jewish opinion was Congressman Hilton of Florida. To illustrate his point Hilton would recount the story of a blockade-runner, who although was found out by the authorities, but before they could confiscate his goods. Winner writes “Florida Jews, however, had somehow learned the whereabouts of the blockade runner, and “at least one hundred” Jews, flocked there, led even to this remote point of the scent of gain, and they had to be driven actually at point of bayonet.”[lix]

In Richmond, Virginia, the Christian population had a similar opinion of its Jewish merchants; that they had the ability to acquire goods and luxury items that were impossible for anybody else in the South to acquire when a blockade was enforced. Winner writes, “they called one store, one by a German Jew, “Noah’s Ark” because it “seemed capable of producing anything from a needle to firearms.”[lx] Although this opinion of Jewish merchants as profiteers was prevalent in South, by those who were suffering from the war, this opinion was common with outsiders as well. As Miller explains “One Englishman described how Jews stood by the Confederacy only in hopes of turning a profit: “The Israelites, as usual, far surpassed the Gentiles in shrewdness to the auspicious moment, and laid in stocks.”[lxi]

Jews were also accused of other illegal activities however, including passing counterfeit money and running the blockade. This anti-Jewish prejudice manifested itself in the South’s newspapers, particularly the Richmond Examiner. As Feingold explains, “The Richmond Examiner filled its pages with anti-Semitic diatribes which began by complaining about Jewish war profiteering and ended by accusing them of being responsible for Confederate defeats on the field of battle.”[lxii] One particular instance was on January 7, 1864, when the paper printed a rumor that an unnamed Congressman had obtained passports for three Jews to leave the Confederacy. Congressman Henry S. Foote of Tennessee took this as an opportunity to vent his prejudice towards Jews. As Korn writes Congressman Foote “was generally known that he disliked Jews and took advantage of every opportunity to vent his hatred upon them, no matter how flimsy the evidence.”

Foote called for an investigation, but Congress was not interested in pursue the matter. Additionally the Richmond Daily Examiner, Jan. 8, 1864 reported another instance where Jews appeared as balking their responsibilities to the Confederacy: “very recently, two immensely wealthy Israelitish merchants on Broad Street, departed for the North leaving their wives and daughters to carry on the business of their stores.” [lxiii]  The anti-Jewish prejudice above all accused Jews of being unpatriotic and supportive of the South, especially during the Confederacy’s most trying times. These accusations often led to South Christians demonstrating fierce anti-Jewish prejudice towards their Jewish neighbors. One town; Thomasville, Georgia passed a legal resolution to banish all of their Jewish resident, while another town found the Jewish residents guilty of “evil and unpatriotic conduct.”[lxiv]

Upper class Southern Jewish women for the most part did not experience anti-Semitism, but as Ashton states, “For Jewish women of this period, anti-Semitism could not be said to have been universal and open, but rather sporadic and threatening.”[lxv] There always the possibility that anti-Semitism could occur and that altered the behavior of Jewish women. Ashton recounts, “To navigate that social and political turbulence, to maintain established ties, or to forge new alliances, Jewish women displayed either their patriotism, their religious piety, or their common understanding that good women are supposed to maintain family and social ties. Their personal perception of their own needs and of the degree of danger they faced determined their highly individualized shaping of their community during the Civil War. After determining whom they loved and needed and whom they could trust, they displayed those aspects of their own identities that would in turn enable them to present themselves as trustworthy.” [lxvi]

Despite the sporadic incidents towards the end of the war Jews in the South faced less anti-Semitism on a whole than then their Northern counterparts did. Southern Christians did in fact accept individual Jews into kinship, developing friendships with them, and socializing with Jews. Jews were more accepted into the South by the Christian majority, because of slavery and the racial issue but also as Rosen claims, “It was OK to be anti-Semitic in Boston in the 19th century. Jewish immigrants were discriminated against in New York. There was less of this in New Orleans and Charleston, I think because of the diversity of religions in Southern cities, the lack of Puritanism, which was anti-Semitic generally.”[lxvii]

The North’s Union Army committed the worst incident of anti-Semitism during the Civil War. The Shylock stereotype was behind Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s reasons for ordering General Order Number 11, on December 17, 1862 , expelling Jews from areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. General Order Number 11stands out in American history as the first instance of a policy of official anti-Semitism on a large scale. The anti-Semitic order had deeper roots; many Northerners and Union army officials harbored anti-Jewish resentments. Jews in Union occupied Southern cities and towns faced the brunt of this prejudice. As Korn explains in his authoritative work, American Jewry and the Civil War (1951); “Some of the most prominent people in the Union were imbued with prejudice against the Jews.”[lxviii]

The racial situation in the South and the practice of slavery were one of the primary reasons Jews were able to avoid widespread anti-Semitism; Seth Forman points out “But the racial divide was the most substantial reason why anti-Semitism in the South remained tempered.”[lxix] While Korn writes, “The institution also furthered the Jew’s social acceptance. By providing a class of defenseless victims, slavery acted as an escape valve for frustrations which might otherwise have been expressed more frequently as anti-Jewish sentiment.” [lxx] Southern Jewry truly believed they could avoid anti-Jewish prejudice in the South by complying with the slavery system, and adhering to rest of Southern society.

It was primarily the issue of shared whiteness the smoothed the way for, and elevated Jewish social status at all levels. Southern Jews reached higher levels in the Confederate government, than they would see for nearly 75 years in any administration in the United States government. Southern Jews took up preeminent positions in the new Confederate nation, reaching ranks that were unheard for Jews anywhere even in the North. Judah Benjamin took up the most important positions, essentially being Confederate President, Jefferson Davis’ right hand man. Benjamin held numerous positions in the Confederate cabinet including, Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State.

Although Jews represented a small portion of the Southern population, they disproportionately held high-ranking positions in the Confederacy, including, “the Quartermaster General, the Surgeon General, several Congressmen, and other high public and military officers of the Confederacy.”[lxxi] Other Southern Jews that reached high positions included David Camden De Leon who was appointed the Surgeon General after the outbreak of the Civil War. His brother Edwin also held a prominent position, as an overseas representative for the Confederacy. De Leon was responsible for persuading European nations to recognize the Confederacy.

Now 150 years after the Civil War ended, and the Confederacy took its last breath, immortalized in a life “Gone with the Wind,” and a mythology still referred by many Southern states, including South Carolina, it is widely forgotten, that the Confederacy was not entirely a nation of hatred for all who were not White Christians. American Jewry found a haven in the South, experiencing some anti-Semitism, but not nearly at the level, they did in the North, or that Southern Jewry ever faced in the hands of the Confederate government or their southern neighbors as they did by the Union army and a future President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.

The Confederacy did imbue subservience for African Americans in the form of slavery, but Jewish activists now, need to remember their own participation in the full life of the slave holding antebellum South and Confederacy. The white supremacist hatred that caused the Charleston Church shooting historically was not born in the Confederacy, but in its death, during Reconstruction and its aftermath resulting in the rise of Jim Crow segregationalist laws, and vicious hatred of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) where a defeated South could not find its footing after losing the life they loved.

In mourning a mythological Confederacy, this hatred was born, but with the civil rights movement’s victories, and the election of the first African American president, this hatred is but sporadic. Removing every monument or reminder of the Confederacy is not the solution to the problem, we need to learn from history not erase it. Although the Confederacy and its flag and confederate symbols and monuments are bearing the brunt of the blame now, the United States as whole is facing continuing problems with race relations. The epidemic of police shooting African Americans is predominately in the North or so-called border states. Unfortunately, persistent racism in the North has no symbol like the Confederate flag to blame, but it is still there, and is still a problem. As President Obama stated in his famous speech in March 2008 as a Democratic candidate, the country as a whole needs to strive for a “More Perfect Union” in order to end racism in the entire United States of America.

[i] “Robert Rosen, The Jewish Confederates,” Susannah J. Uralp, ed. Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America’s Bloodiest Conflict, 157.
[ii]  Steven Hertzberg, Strangers within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978), 13-14.
[iii]  Clive Webb, Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, (University of Georgia Press, 2001), 2.
[iv]   Robert N. Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, (University of South Carolina Press, 2000), p. 15-16
[v]   Marvin Perry and Frederick M. Schweitzer, Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 241.
[vi]  Webb, Fight Against Fear, 7.
[vii]  Leonard Dinnerstein and Mary Dale Palsson, eds., Jews of the South, (Louisiana State University Press, 1973), 25.
[viii] Catherine Clinton, Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, (Oxford University Press, 2000)p. 194.
[ix] Arthur W. Bergeron Jr., Lawrence Lee Hewitt, Louisianians in the Civil War, (Columbia, MO.: University of Missouri Press, 2002, 73.
[x]  Lauren F. Winner, “Taking up the Cross: Conversion among black and white Jews in the Civil War South” in Catherine Clinton, ed. Southern Families at War : Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, (Oxford University Press, 2000), 194.
[xi]  Dinnerstein, Jews and the South, 89, 90.
[xii]  Dinnerstein, Jews and the South, 27.
[xiii]  Arthur Hertzberg, The Jews of America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : A History, (Columbia University Press, 1998), 111.
[xiv]  Hasia Diner, The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000, (University of California Press, 2004), 155.
[xv] Bergeron, Louisianians in the Civil War, 2002. 75, 76.
[xvi]  Maurianne Adams and John H. Bracey, eds., Strangers & Neighbors: Relations between Blacks & Jews in the United States, ( University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 35.
[xvii]  Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xviii]  Robert Rosen, Confederate Charleston, University of South Carolina Press, 88.
[xix]   Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 14.
[xx]   Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 38.
[xxi]   Lewis M. Killian, White Southerners, (University of Massachusetts Press, 1985), 73.
[xxii]  Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 219.
[xxiii]  LTC John C. Whatley VI, Jews in the Confederacy.
[xxiv]  Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 14.
[xxv]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xxvi]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xxvii] Isaac Hermann, Memoirs of a Veteran Who Served as a Private in the 60s in the War Between the States, (CSA Press, 1911). The biblical reference is to Exod. 3:17.
[xxviii]  Hasia R. Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly, Her Works Prise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present, (Basic Books, 2002), 100.
[xxix]  Jacob Rader Marcus, Memoirs of American Jews, 1775-1865, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1955), 21
[xxx]  Marli F. Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830-80, (1997), 1.
[xxxi]  Diner and Benderly, Her Works Praise Her, 106.
[xxxii]  Jacob R. Marcus, The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History, 31.
[xxxiii]  Clinton, Southern Families at War, 195.
[xxxiv] Hertzberg, Strangers Within The Gate City, 26
[xxxv]   Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[xxxvi]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 8.
[xxxvii]   Arthur. Hertzberg, The Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : a History, (Simon and Schuster, 1989), 47.
[xxxviii]   Clinton, Southern Families at War,  195.
[xxxix]   Korn, “Jews and Negro Slavery in the Old South, 1789-1865,” in Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 136.
[xl]   Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[xli]  Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, (Oxford University Press, 1994), xi.
[xlii]   Diane Ashton, “Shifting Veils: Religion, Politics and Womanhood Among Jewish Women During the Civil War” in Pamela S. Nadell and Jonathan D. Sarna, eds., Women and American Judaism: Historical Perspectives, (University Press of New England, 2001), 83.
[xliii]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 82.
[xliv]   Dinerstein, Jews in the South, 136.
[xlv]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[xlvi]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[xlvii]   Dinerstein, Jews in the South, 137.
[xlviii]   Henry L. Feingold, Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present, (Twayne Publishers, 1974), 93.
[xlix]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[l]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[li]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[lii]    George C. Rable, The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 185. (Michelbacher, Sermon Delivered, 3-14.)
[liii]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[liv]    Leonard Rogoff, “Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew,” 195.
[lv]    Feingold, Zion in America, 93.
[lvi]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lvii]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lviii]   Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 141, 142.
[lix]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lx]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lxi]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lxii]   Feingold, Zion in America, 93
[lxiii]   Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 150.
[lxiv]   Feingold, Zion in America, 93.
[lxv]    Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, p. 83.
[lxvi]    Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, p. 83.
[lxvii]  http://www.truthinstitute.org/AJC_010701J_Conf.htm
[lxviii]  Bertram W. Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951), 164.
[lxix]  Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[lxx]  Adams and Bracey, eds., Strangers & Neighbors, 175.
[lxxi]  Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 239.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Medal of Honor Presentation Sergeant William Shemin and Private Henry Johnson — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Presentation of the Medal of Honor

Source: WH, 6-2-15

President Obama Signs Medal of Honor Certificate and Citation

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

11:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please be seated.

Welcome to the White House.

Nearly 100 years ago, a 16-year-old kid from the Midwest named Frank Buckles headed to Europe’s Western Front.  An ambulance driver, he carried the wounded to safety.  He lived to see our troops ship off to another war in Europe.  And one in Korea.  Vietnam.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  And Frank Buckles became a quietly powerful advocate for our veterans, and remained that way until he passed away four years ago — America’s last surviving veteran of World War I.

On the day Frank was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Vice President Biden and I went to pay our respects.  And we weren’t alone.  Americans from across the country came out to express their gratitude as well.  They were of different ages, different races, some military, some not.  Most had never met Frank.  But all of them braved a cold winter’s day to offer a final tribute to a man with whom they shared a powerful conviction — that no one who serves our country should ever be forgotten.

We are a nation — a people — who remember our heroes.  We take seriously our responsibility to only send them when war is necessary.  We strive to care for them and their families when they come home.  We never forget their sacrifice.  And we believe that it’s never too late to say thank you.  That’s why we’re here this morning.

Today, America honors two of her sons who served in World War I, nearly a century ago.  These two soldiers were roughly the same age, dropped into the battlefields of France at roughly the same time.  They both risked their own lives to save the lives of others.  They both left us decades ago, before we could give them the full recognition that they deserved.  But it’s never too late to say thank you.  Today, we present America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin.

I want to begin by welcoming and thanking everyone who made this day possible — family, friends, admirers.  Some of you have worked for years to honor these heroes, to give them the honor they should have received a long time ago.  We are grateful that you never gave up.  We are appreciative of your efforts.

As a young man, Henry Johnson joined millions of other African-Americans on the Great Migration from the rural South to the industrial North — a people in search of a better life.  He landed in Albany, where he mixed sodas at a pharmacy, worked in a coal yard and as a porter at a train station.  And when the United States entered World War I, Henry enlisted.  He joined one of only a few units that he could:  the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment.  The Harlem Hellfighters.  And soon, he was headed overseas.

At the time, our military was segregated.  Most black soldiers served in labor battalions, not combat units.  But General Pershing sent the 369th to fight with the French Army, which accepted them as their own.  Quickly, the Hellfighters lived up to their name.  And in the early hours of May 15, 1918, Henry Johnson became a legend.

His battalion was in Northern France, tucked into a trench. Some slept — but he couldn’t.  Henry and another soldier, Needham Roberts, stood sentry along No Man’s Land.  In the pre-dawn, it was pitch black, and silent.  And then — a click — the sound of wire cutters.

A German raiding party — at least a dozen soldiers, maybe more — fired a hail of bullets.  Henry fired back until his rifle was empty.  Then he and Needham threw grenades.  Both of them were hit.  Needham lost consciousness.  Two enemy soldiers began to carry him away while another provided cover, firing at Henry.  But Henry refused to let them take his brother in arms.  He shoved another magazine into his rifle.  It jammed.  He turned the gun around and swung it at one of the enemy, knocking him down.  Then he grabbed the only weapon he had left — his Bolo knife — and went to rescue Needham.  Henry took down one enemy soldier, then the other.  The soldier he’d knocked down with his rifle recovered, and Henry was wounded again.  But armed with just his knife, Henry took him down, too.

And finally, reinforcements arrived and the last enemy soldier fled.  As the sun rose, the scale of what happened became clear.  In just a few minutes of fighting, two Americans had defeated an entire raiding party.  And Henry Johnson saved his fellow soldier from being taken prisoner.

Henry became one of our most famous soldiers of the war.  His picture was printed on recruitment posters and ads for Victory War Stamps.  Former President Teddy Roosevelt wrote that he was one of the bravest men in the war.  In 1919, Henry rode triumphantly in a victory parade.  Crowds lined Fifth Avenue for miles, cheering this American soldier.

Henry was one of the first Americans to receive France’s highest award for valor.  But his own nation didn’t award him anything –- not even the Purple Heart, though he had been wounded 21 times.  Nothing for his bravery, though he had saved a fellow solder at great risk to himself.  His injuries left him crippled. He couldn’t find work.  His marriage fell apart.  And in his early 30s, he passed away.

Now, America can’t change what happened to Henry Johnson.  We can’t change what happened to too many soldiers like him, who went uncelebrated because our nation judged them by the color of their skin and not the content of their character.  But we can do our best to make it right.  In 1996, President Clinton awarded Henry Johnson a Purple Heart.  And today, 97 years after his extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness, I’m proud to award him the Medal of Honor.

We are honored to be joined today by some very special guests –- veterans of Henry’s regiment, the 369th.  Thank you, to each of you, for your service.  And I would ask Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson of the New York National Guard to come forward and accept this medal on Private Johnson’s behalf.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America authorized buy Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Private Henry Johnson, United States Army.  Private Henry Johnson distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, on May 15, 1918, during combat operations against the enemy on the front lines of the Western Front in France.

In the early morning hours, Private Johnson and another soldier were on sentry duty at a forward outpost when they received a surprise attack from the German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers.  While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Private Johnson mounted a brave retaliation, resulting in several enemy casualties.  When his fellow soldier was badly wounded and being carried away by the enemy, Private Johnson exposed himself to great danger by advancing from his position to engage the two enemy captors in hand-to-hand combat.  Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded himself, Private Johnson continued fighting, defeating the two captors and rescuing the wounded soldier.  Displaying great courage, he continued to hold back the larger enemy force until the defeated enemy retreated, leaving behind a large cache of weapons and equipment and providing valuable intelligence.

Without Private Johnson’s quick actions and continued fighting, even in the face of almost certain death, the enemy might have succeeded in capturing prisoners in the outpost and abandoning valuable intelligence.  Private Johnson’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

(The Medal of Honor is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, William Shemin loved sports — football, wrestling, boxing, swimming.  If it required physical and mental toughness, and it made your heart pump, your muscles ache, he was all in.  As a teenager, he even played semi-pro baseball.  So when America entered the war, and posters asked if he was tough enough, there was no question about it — he was going to serve.  Too young to enlist?  No problem.  He puffed his chest and lied about his age.  (Laughter.)  And that’s how William Shemin joined the 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and shipped out for France.

On August 7th, 1918, on the Western Front, the Allies were hunkered down in one trench, the Germans in another, separated by about 150 yards of open space — just a football field and a half.  But that open space was a bloodbath.  Soldier after soldier ventured out, and soldier after soldier was mowed down.  So those still in the trenches were left with a terrible choice: die trying to rescue your fellow soldier, or watch him die, knowing that part of you will die along with him.

William Shemin couldn’t stand to watch.  He ran out into the hell of No Man’s Land and dragged a wounded comrade to safety.  Then he did it again, and again.  Three times he raced through heavy machine gunfire.  Three times he carried his fellow soldiers to safety.

The battle stretched on for days.  Eventually, the platoon’s leadership broke down.  Too many officers had become casualties. So William stepped up and took command.  He reorganized the depleted squads.  Every time there was a lull in combat, he led rescues of the wounded.  As a lieutenant later described it, William was “cool, calm, intelligent, and personally utterly fearless.”  That young kid who lied about his age grew up fast in war.  And he received accolades for his valor, including the Distinguished Service Cross.

When he came home, William went to school for forestry and began a nursery business in the Bronx.  It was hard work, lots of physical labor — just like he liked it.  He married a red-head, blue-eyed woman named Bertha Schiffer, and they had three children who gave them 14 grandchildren.  He bought a house upstate, where the grandkids spent their summers swimming and riding horses.  He taught them how to salute.  He taught them the correct way to raise the flag every morning and lower and fold it every night.  He taught them how to be Americans.

William stayed in touch with his fellow veterans, too.  And when World War II came, William went and talked to the Army about signing up again.  By then, his war injuries had given him a terrible limp.  But he treated that limp just like he treated his age all those years ago — pay no attention to that, he said.  He knew how to build roads, he knew camouflage — maybe there was a place for him in this war, too.  To Bertha’s great relief, the Army said that the best thing William could do for his country was to keep running his business and take care of his family.  (Laughter.)

His daughter, Elsie — who’s here today with what seems like a platoon of Shemins — (laughter) — has a theory about what drove her father to serve.  He was the son of Russian immigrants, and he was devoted to his Jewish faith.  “His family lived through the pogroms,” she says.  “They saw towns destroyed and children killed.  And then they came to America.  And here they found a haven — a home — success — and my father and his sister both went to college.  All that, in one generation!  That’s what America meant to him.  And that’s why he’d do anything for this country.”

Well, Elsie, as much as America meant to your father, he means even more to America.  It takes our nation too long sometimes to say so — because Sergeant Shemin served at a time when the contributions and heroism of Jewish Americans in uniform were too often overlooked.  But William Shemin saved American lives.  He represented our nation with honor.   And so it is my privilege, on behalf of the American people, to make this right and finally award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin. I want to invite his daughters — Elsie and Ina — 86 and 83, and gorgeous — (laughter) — to accept this medal on their father’s behalf.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin, United States Army.

Sergeant William Shemin distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy on the Vesle River, near Bazoches, France from August 7th to August 9th, 1918.

Sergeant Shemin upon three different occasions left cover and crossed an open space of 150 yards, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue wounded.  After officers and seniors noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Sergeant Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire until wounded on August 9th.

Sergeant Shemin’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, and the United States Army.

(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve.  And there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated.  So we have work to do, as a nation, to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told.   And we’ll keep at it, no matter how long it takes.  America is the country we are today because of people like Henry and William — Americans who signed up to serve, and rose to meet their responsibilities — and then went beyond.  The least we can do is to say:  We know who you are.  We know what you did for us.  We are forever grateful.

May God bless the fallen of all of our wars.  May He watch over our veterans and their families and all those who serve today.  May God bless the United States of America.

With that, I’d ask the Chaplain to return to the podium for a benediction.

(The benediction is given.)

THE PRESIDENT:  With that, we conclude the formal ceremony.  But I welcome everybody to join in a wonderful reception.  And let’s give our Medal of Honor winners one big round of applause. (Applause.)

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
11:48 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day Ceremony Speech Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-25-15 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:32 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Carter, for your leadership of our men and women in uniform.  General Dempsey; Major General Buchanan; Mr. Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries; Chaplain Studniewski; members of our armed services, veterans, and, most of all, families and friends of our fallen — it is my deep honor to share this day with you again.

For 147 years, our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country that we love.  And while the nature of war has changed over that time, the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform remain constant:  Honor, courage, selflessness.  Those values lived in the hearts of everyday heroes who risked everything for us in every American war — men and women who now rest forever in these quiet fields and across our land.

They lived in the patriots who sparked a revolution, and who saved our union.  They lived in the young GIs who defeated tyranny in Europe and the Pacific.  And this year, we mark a historic anniversary — 70 years since our victory in World War II.   More than 16 million Americans left everything they knew to fight for our freedom.  More than 400,000 gave their lives.  And today I ask all the family and friends of our fallen World War II heroes — spouses, children, brothers and sisters, and fellow veterans of World War II — to please stand if you can, or raise your hand, so that our country can thank you once more.  (Applause.)

These same values lived in those who braved the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of the Middle East.  And in the past decade, we’ve seen these values on display again in the men and women of our 9/11 Generation.

For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end.  Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.  So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American servicemembers — men and women — who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

As an Arizona kid, Wyatt Martin loved the outdoors.  He started fishing when he was two years old.  His dad says he was pretty good for a toddler.  Wyatt grew to 6-foot-4, became a hunter and wore flannel shirts every day — so his friends nicknamed him Paul Bunyan.  He planned to go to college and work in the Arizona Game and Fish Department so that he could protect the land and waters he loved so much.

Wyatt’s life was animated by the belief that the blessings that he and his family enjoyed as Americans came with an obligation to give back, an obligation to serve.  So before he pursued his dream of being a good steward of the great outdoors, he enlisted in the Army.  And when he deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer, there was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing.  Last summer, Wyatt told his sister, “If something happens to me, know that I went happy.”

Ramon Morris was born in Jamaica.  He moved to Queens as a teenager.  Like so many proud immigrants, he was called –compelled — to serve his new country.  He, too, enlisted in the Army, and he even recruited his older brother Marlon to join, as well.  He served five tours, including several in Iraq.  Along the way, he fell in love with an Army Reservist named Christina.  And they had a little girl, and named her Ariana.  Ramon was the kind of leader who would do anything for his men, on and off the battlefield.  But nothing was more important to him than being a great father to his little girl.

Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris were 15 years apart in age.  They traveled greatly different paths in life.  But those paths took them to the same unit.  Those paths made them brothers-in-arms, serving together in Afghanistan.  In December, an IED struck their vehicle.  They were the last two Americans to give their lives during our combat mission in Afghanistan.  Today, here in Arlington, in Section 60, Ramon lies in eternal rest.  And we are honored to be joined by his brother, Sergeant First Class Marlon Laidley, who is deploying for Germany tonight.  Thank you, Marlon.  Thank you to your family.  (Applause.)

These two men, these two heroes, if you saw them passing on the street, you wouldn’t have known they were brothers.  But under this flag, in common cause, they were bonded together to secure our liberty, to keep us safe.

My fellow Americans, this hallowed ground is more than the final resting place of heroes; it is a reflection of America itself.  It’s a reflection of our history — the wars we’ve waged for democracy, the peace we’ve laid to preserve it.  It’s a reflection of our diversity — men and women of all backgrounds, all races and creeds and circumstances and faiths, willing to defend and die for the ideals that bind us as one nation.  It’s a reflection of our character, seen not only in those who are buried here, but also in the caretakers who watch over them and preserve this sacred place; and in the Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment who dutifully, unfailingly watch over those patriots known only to God, but never forgotten.  Today, a grateful nation thanks them as well.

Most Americans don’t fully see, don’t fully understand the sacrifice made by the one percent who serve in this all-volunteer armed forces -– a sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we too often take for granted.  Few know what it’s like to take a bullet for a buddy, or to live with the fact that he or she took one for you.  But our Gold Star families, our military families, our veterans — they know this, intimately.

Whenever I meet with our Gold Star families, like I did this morning, I hear their pride through their tears, as they flip through old photos and run their fingers over shiny medals.  I see that their hearts are still broken, and yet still full of love.  They do not ask for awards or honors.  They do not ask for special treatment.  They are unfailingly humble.  In the face of unspeakable loss, they represent the best of who we are.

They’re people like Ramon’s mother, who could carry hate for the people who killed her son — but she says, “I have no anger, no bitterness, even for the person who did this.  I feel sorry for them, and I ask God to change their hearts.”  That’s one Gold Star mother’s amazing grace.

Folks like Wyatt’s parents, Brian and Julie Martin, who said of their son, “He’s not just our kid, he’s everybody’s.  He’s an American soldier.  And as an American soldier, he belongs to everybody.”

They are siblings, like the Gold Star sister who wrote to me of her brother, Private First Class Stephen Benish, who gave his life in Iraq in 2004:  She said, “Remember him not as the 1,253rd war casualty, but the 6-foot-7 burst of light and positive influence he was on the world.”

These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us — they belong to us all.  They’re our children, too.  We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world.  And it’s our duty, our eternal obligation, to be there for them, too; to make sure our troops always have what they need to carry out the mission; to make sure we care for all those who have served; to make sure we honor all those whom we’ve lost; to make sure we keep faith with our military families; to make sure we never stop searching for those who are missing, or trying to bring home our prisoners of war.  And we are grateful for the families of our POW/MIAs.

This may be the first Memorial Day since the end of our war in Afghanistan.  But we are acutely aware, as we speak, our men and women in uniform still stand watch and still serve, and still sacrifice around the world.

Several years ago, we had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces.  We’ll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year.  But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place.  And as so many families know, our troops continue to risk their lives for us.

Growing up in Massachusetts, John Dawson was an honor student who played varsity soccer.  He loved the Bruins, loved the Pats, and was always up for fun — running into a room while spraying silly string, or photobombing long before it was in style.

And John was passionate about service.  He shared the same convictions of so many we honor today, who wanted nothing more than to join a common cause and be part of something bigger than himself.  He channeled his love of cycling into charity bike rides with his church.  He joined the Army.  And as a combat medic, he fulfilled his dream of helping people.  He loved his job.

In April, an attacker wearing an Afghan uniform fired at a group of American soldiers.  And Army Corporal John Dawson became the first American servicemember to give his life to this new mission to train Afghan forces.  The words on John’s dog tag were those of Scripture:  “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

The Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, they are why our nation endures.  Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings.  It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay.  By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice.  By living our own lives the way the fallen lived theirs — a testament that “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

We are so grateful for them.  We are so grateful for the families of our fallen.  May God bless our fallen heroes and their families, and all who serve.  And may He continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 16, 2015: President George W. Bush’s Remarks by at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President George W. Bush at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

Source: Bush Center,  Saturday, May 16, 2015

SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY, MOODY COLISEUM, DALLAS, TEXAS (May 16, 2015) —
Thank you. Thank you very much. President Turner, thanks. Members of the Board of Trustees, Provost Ludden, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, parents, and—most importantly—the Class of 2015. (Applause.) Thank you for your warm welcome, and I appreciate the invitation to be with you.

You know, when I mentioned this speech to some pals, they were surprised I was going to give it. (Laughter.) I haven’t given a commencement address since leaving office. You know, my decision is quite practical. So I got a call from my landlord – (laughter) – Gerald Turner. (Laughter.) Rather than raising the rent or threatening to withhold our security deposit – (laughter) – I was relieved to hear President Turner ask if I believed in free speech. (Applause.) I said yeah. He said, “Perfect. Here’s your chance to give one.” (Laughter and applause.)

As a proud member of the SMU community, I am honored to be here – truly honored – to deliver the 100th Spring Commencement address. I admire President Turner’s persuasiveness – (laughter) – and leadership. He runs a fantastic university. (Applause.) It is dynamic, diverse, and destined for continued excellence. He has assembled a strong administrative team. He is supported by engaged alumni, and he has an outstanding Board of Trustees.

I’m fortunate to know many of the trustees. (Laughter.) Well, for example I’m good friends with the Chairman, Mike Boone. And there’s one trustee I know really well – (laughter) -a proud graduate of the SMU Class of 1968 who went on to become our nation’s greatest First Lady. (Applause.) Do me a favor and don’t tell Mother. (Laughter.) I know how much the trustees love and care for this great university. I see it firsthand when I attend the Bring-Your-Spouse-Night Dinners. (Laughter.)

I also get to drop by classes on occasion. I am really impressed by the intelligence and energy of the SMU faculty. I want to thank you for your dedication and thank you for sharing your knowledge with your students.

To reach this day, the graduates have had the support of loving families. Some of them love you so much they are watching from overflow sites across campus. (Laughter.) I congratulate the parents who have sacrificed to make this moment possible. It is a glorious day when your child graduates from college — and a really great day for your bank account. (Laughter and applause.) I know the members of the Class of 2015 will join me in thanking you for your love and your support. (Applause.)

Most of all, I congratulate the members of the Class of 2015. You worked hard to reach this milestone. You leave with lifelong friends and fond memories. You will always remember how much you enjoyed the right to buy a required campus meal plan. (Laughter.) You’ll remember your frequent battles with the Park ‘N’ Pony Office. (Laughter.) And you may or may not remember those productive nights at the Barley House. (Laughter and applause.)

You were founding members of the mighty SMU Mob, bouncing like mad and watching in wonder as your then-Student Body President, Señor Lobster – (laughter) – danced with joy after all those Pony victories right here in Moody. (Applause.) And you’ll think back to those carefree fall game days on the Boulevard – though I don’t recall seeing too many of you in the football stadium. (Laughter.)

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, “well done.” And as I like to tell the “C” students: You, too, can be President. (Laughter and applause.)

After four years of sitting through lectures, I have a feeling you’re not in the mood for another one. (Laughter.) What I have learned about graduation speeches is that they’re too long and rarely remembered. So I’ll keep this short. I just can’t attest to how memorable it will be.

I’ve also learned that it’s important to refer to someone associated with the University. So I picked one, an SMU trustee (who by the way is not here), Reverend Mark Craig. Now, I asked Mark to deliver the sermon at the First United Methodist Church in Austin before my second inauguration as Governor of Texas. I still remember his Fort Worth twang as he talked about Moses. God called Moses to action, and Moses repeatedly found excuses not to act. “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I pray, send some other person. I have sheep to tend. And the people won’t believe me — I’m not a very good speaker.”

Moses wasn’t the only one who could mangle his language. (Laughter.) [Inaudible.]

Fortunately, Moses recognized the call to serve something greater than himself. He answered the call, led his people, and history was made.

You, too, will be called at some point. The question, as Mark aptly and artfully laid out, is: Will you be optimistic and hopeful, or pessimistic and cynical? Here are three reasons why you should be optimistic and hopeful.

One, you are graduating from a great university. Your SMU degree will open the door to a wide variety of career options. Millions will never have had this opportunity. SMU has laid a foundation so you can reason, and continue to learn throughout your life. It has given you the tools to be productive citizens.

One of the great strengths of America is our active public square. Issues are influenced by the will of the people. That is why an educated citizenry is so important to the success of our country. As SMU graduates, you are well-equipped to participate in these vital debates. My hope is that you speak out on the issues that matter to you. Participate in your Nation’s civic life as citizens, not spectators. You’ll come to learn that who you are is more important than what you have—and that you have responsibilities to your fellow citizens, your country, and your family. By taking part in American democracy, you will make our country stronger.

Secondly, you are blessed to live in the greatest Nation – ever. (Applause.) Here you can strive and succeed as far as you dare to dream. It says something about our country that millions around the world are willing to leave their homes and families and risk everything to come here and realize the American dream. Their pursuit of that dream invigorates our national soul. It renews our country’s character. And it adds vitality to our culture.

You live in a land that is compassionate and decent. Because we believe in the rights and dignity of our own citizenry, we are committed to defending the rights and dignity of people everywhere. America has liberated millions around the world from tyranny and terror. We’ve helped turn the tide against deadly disease in places like Africa. In our hearts we believe all are created equal under God. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is Almighty God’s gift to humanity.

At home, there are thousands of platoons in the Army of compassion working to honor those beliefs. No matter what your career path, enlist. When you help another, you enrich your heart, and you strengthen the fabric of our collective goodness.

Many of you have already made service a priority in your lives by volunteering during winter, spring, and summer breaks; and completing more than one-hundred community projects through Engaged Learning. I thank you for recognizing the timeless truth: of those to whom much is given, much is required.

As you serve others, you can inspire others. I’ve been inspired by the examples of many selfless servants. Winston Churchill, a leader of courage and resolve, inspired me during my Presidency—and, for that matter, in the post-presidency. Like Churchill, I now paint. (Laughter.) Unlike Churchill, the painting isn’t worth much without the signature. (Laughter.)

In 1941, he gave a speech to the students of his old school during Britain’s most trying times in World War II. It wasn’t too long, and it is well-remembered. Prime Minister Churchill urged, “Never give in … in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I hope you’ll remember this advice. But there’s a lesser-known passage from that speech that I also want to share with you:

“These are not dark days. These are great days. The greatest our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

When Churchill uttered these words, many had lost hope in Great Britain’s chance for survival against the Nazis. Many doubted the future of freedom. Today, some doubt America’s future, and they say our best days are behind us. I say, given our strengths—one of which is a bright new generation like you—these are not dark days. These are great days.

And finally, you can be hopeful because there is a loving God. Whether you agree with that statement or not is your choice. It is not your government’s choice. It is essential – (applause). It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want—or not worship at all—is a core belief of our founding.

I have made my choice. I believe that the Almighty’s grace and unconditional love will sustain you. I believe it will bring you joy amidst the trials of life. It will enable you to better see the beauty around you. It will provide a solid foundation amidst a rapidly changing, somewhat impersonal, technologically-driven world. It will show you how to love your neighbor, forgive more easily, and approach success with humility—and failure without fear.

It will inspire you to honor your parents and eventually be a better spouse and parent yourself. It will help you fully grasp the value of life—all life. It will remind you that money, power, and fame are false idols. And I hope and believe that God’s love will inspire you to serve others.

I want to thank you for letting me share this special day with you. I wish you all the very best. Stay in touch with your friends. Love your family. Treat this day as a step toward a lifetime of learning. And go forth with confidence. May God bless you. (Applause.)

Full Text Political Transcripts March 19, 2015: Monica Lewinsky’s speech at TED 2015 Conference about Bill Clinton Scandal and Cyber-Bullying Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Monica Lewinsky’s speech at TED 2015 Conference about Bill Clinton Scandal and Cyber-Bullying Transcript

Monica Lewinsky speaks at TED2015 - Truth and Dare, March 19 2015, Vancouver Convention Center. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Monica Lewinsky

You are looking at a woman who was publicly silent for a decade. Obviously that has changed, but only recently.

It was several months ago that I gave my very first, major public talk at the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit.

1500 brilliant people, all under the age of 30. That meant that in 1998 the oldest among the group were only 14 and the youngest just 4.

I joked with them that some might only have heard of me from rap songs. Yes, I am in rap songs. Almost 40 rap songs.

But the night of my speech, a surprising thing happened. At the age of 41, I was hit on by a 27-year-old guy. I know, right? He was charming and I was flattered and I declined. Do you know what his unsuccessful pickup line was? He could make me feel 22 again.

I realized later that night I am probably the only person over 40 who does not want to be 22 again.

At the age of 22 I fell in love with my boss. And at the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences.

Can I see a show of hands of anyone here who  didn’t make a mistake or do something they regretted at 22? Yep, that’s what I thought. So like me, at 22, a few of you may have taken wrong turns and fallen in love with the wrong person. Maybe even your boss.

Unlike me, your boss probably wasn’t the President of the United States of America.

Of course, life is full of surprises.

Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of my mistake. And I regret that mistake deeply.

In 1998, after having been swept up into an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal and media maelstrom like we had never seen before. Remember, just a few years earlier, news was consumed in just three places: reading a newspaper or magazine, listening to a radio, or watching television. That was it.

But that wasn’t my fate. Instead, this scandal was brought to you by the digital revolution. That meant we could access all the information we wanted, when we wanted it, anytime, anywhere. And when the story broke in January, 1998, it broke online. It was the first time the traditional news was usurped by the internet for a major news story. A click that reverberated around the world.

What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly-humiliated one worldwide. I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on the global scale almost instantaneously.

This rush to judgement enabled by technology led to mobs of virtual stone-throwers. Granted, it was before social media, but people could still comment online, email stories and of course, email cruel jokes. News sources plastered photos of me all over to sell newspapers, banner ads online, and to keep people tuned to the TV.

Do you recall a particular image of me, say, wearing a beret? Now, I admit I made mistakes, especially wearing that beret. But the attention an judgement I received, not the story, but that I personally received, was unprecedented.

I was branded as a tramp. Tart. Slut. Whore. Bimbo. And, of course, “That Woman”. I was seen by many, but actually known by few. And I get it. It was easy to forget that “that woman” was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.

When this happened to me 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyber-bulling and online harassment.

Today I want to share some of my experiences, and talk about how those experiences helped shape my cultural observations, and how my past experiences can lead to a change that can lead to less suffering for others.

In 1998 I lost my reputation and my dignity. I lost almost everything. And I almost lost my life.

Let me paint a picture for you. It is September of 1998. I am sitting in a windowless office room inside the Office of the Independent Counsel, underneath humming flourscent lights. I am listening to the sound of my voice. My voice on surreptitiously taped phone calls that a supposed friend had made the year before. I am here because I’ve been legally required to authenticate all 20 hours of taped conversation. For the past eight months, the mysterious content of these conversations has hung like the Sword of Damocles over my head.

I mean, who can remember what they said a year ago?

Scared and mortified, I listened. Listened as I prattled on about the flotsam and jetsam of the day. Listen as I confess my love for the president. And of course, my heartbreak. Listened to my sometimes catty, sometimes churlish, sometimes silly self being cruel, unforgiving, uncouth. Listened deeply, deeply ashamed of the worst version of myself. A self I don’t even recognize.

A few days later, the Starr Report is released to Congress and all of those tapes and transcripts, those stolen words, form a part of it. That people can read the transcripts is horrific enough. But a few weeks later the audio tapes are aired on TV, and significant portions are made available online.

The public humiliation was excruciating. Life was almost unbearable.

This was not something happened with regularity back in 1998. And by this, I mean the stealing of people’s private words, actions, conversations or photos, and then making them public. Public without consent, public without context, and pubic without compassion.

Fast forward 12 years to 2010 and now social media has been born. The landscape has sadly become much more populated with instances like mine, whether or not someone actually made a mistake. And now it is for both public and private people. The consequences for some have become dire. Very dire.

I was on the phone with my mom in September, 2010 and we were talking about the news of a young college freshman from Rutgers University named Tyler Clementi.

Sweet, sensitive, creative Tyler was secretly webcammed by his room mate while being intimate with another man. When the online world learned of this incident, the ridicule and cyber-bullying ignited. A few days later, Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death. He was 18.

My mom was beside herself about what happened to Tyler and his family and she was gutted with pain in a way I just couldn’t understand.

And then eventually, she was reliving 1998. Reliving a time when she sat beside my bed every night. Reliving a time when she made me shower with the bathroom door opened. And reliving a time when both of my parents feared I would be humiliated to death. Literally.

Today too many parents haven’t had the chance to step in and rescue their loved ones. Too many have learned have of their child’s humiliation and suffering after it was too late.

Tyler’s tragic, senseless death was a turning point for me. It served to recontextualize my experiences and I then began to look at the world of humiliation and bullying around me and see something different.

In 1998 we had no way of knowing where this brave new technology called the Internet would take us. Since then it has connected people in unimaginable ways, joining lost siblings, saving lives, launching revolutions.

But the darkness, cyber-bullying and slut-shaming that I experienced had mushroomed. Every day online people, especially young people who are not developmentally equipped to handle this, are so abused and humiliated that they can’t imagine living to the next day. And some, tragically, don’t. And there is nothing virtually about that.

ChildLine, a UK-based service that is focussed on helping young people on various issue, released a staggering statistic late last year. From 2012 to 2013, there was an 87 per cent increase in calls and emails related to cyber-bullying. A meta analysis done out of the Netherlands showed that for the first time, cyber-bullying was leading to suicidal ideations more significantly than offline bullying.

And you know what shocked me, although it shouldn’t have, was other research that determined that humiliation was a more intensely felt emotion that either happiness or even anger.

Cruelty to others is nothing new. But online, technologically-enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained and permanently accessible.

The echo of embarrassment used to extend only as far as your family, village, school or community. But now it is the online community too. Millions of people can stab you anonymously with their words, and that is a lot of pain. And there are no perimeters around how many people can publicly observe you and put you in a public stockade.

There is a very personal price to public humiliation. And the growth of the internet has jacked up that price. For nearly two decades now we have slowly been sowing the seeds of humiliation and shame in our cultural soil, both on and offline.

Gossip websites, paparazzi, reality programming, politics, news outlets and sometimes hackers all traffic in shame. It has led to desensitization and a permissive environment online which lends itself to  trolls, trolling, cyber-bullying and invasion of privacy. This shift has created what Professor Nicolas Vilas calls a culture of humiliation.

Consider a few common examples just from the past six months alone.

Snapchat, the service which is mainly used by the younger generations and claims that its messages only have the life span of a few seconds. You can imagine the range of content that gets. A third-party app that SnapChatters used to preserve the life span of the messages was hacked, and 100,000 personal conversations, photos and videos were leaked online to now have a lifetime of forever.

Jennifer Lawrence and several other actors had their iCloud accounts hacked and private, intimate nude photos were plastered across the internet without their permission.

One gossip website had over one million hits for this one story.

And what about the Sony Pictures cyber-hacking? The documents that which received the most attention were private emails that had maximum public embarrassment value.

But in this culture of humiliation, there is another kind of price tag attached to public shaming. The price does not measure the cost to the victim, which Tyler and many others, notably women and minorities and members of the LGBTQ community have paid, but the price measures the profit of those who prey on them.

This invasion of others is a raw material efficiently and ruthlessly mined, packaged and sold at a profit. A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry.

How is the money made? Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. We are in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we become to the human lives behind it. And the more numb we get, the more we click.

All the while, somebody is making money off of the back of someone else’s suffering. With every click we make a choice. The more we saturate our culture with public shaming, the more accepted it is, the more we will see behaviour like trolling, cyber-bullying, some forms of hacking and online harassment.

Why? Because they all have humiliation at their cores. This behaviour is a symptom of the culture we’ve created. Just think about it.

Changing behaviour begins with evolving beliefs. We’ve seen that to be true with racism, homophobia and plenty of other biases today and in the past. As we have changed beliefs about same-sex marriage, more people have been offered equal freedoms. When we began valuing sustainability, more people began to recycle.

So as far as our culture of humiliation goes, what we need is a cultural revolution. Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop. And it is time for an intervention on the internet and in our culture.

The shift begins with something simple, but it is not easy. We need to return to a long-held value of compassion. Compassion and empathy. Online we have a compassion deficit and an empathy crisis.

Researcher Berne Brown said, and I quote, “shame can’t survive empathy. Shame cannot survive empathy.”

I have seen some very dark days in my life. It was the compassion and empathy from my family, my friends, professionals, and even strangers, that saved me.

Even empathy from one person can make a difference. The theory of minority influence proposed by social psychologist Serge Muscovici says that even in small numbers, when there is consistency over time, change can happen.

In the online world we can foster minority influence by becoming “up standers”. To become an upstander means instead of bystander apathy, we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation.

Trust me, compassionate comments help abate the negativity. We can also counteract the culture by supporting organizations that deal with these kinds of issues, like the Tyler Clementi Foundation in the US. In the UK there is anti-bullying Pro, and in Australia there is Project Rocket.

We talk a lot about our right to freedom of expression. But we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression. We all want to be heard. But let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.

The internet is the superhighway for the Id. But online, showing empathy for others benefits us all

and helps create a safer and better world.

We need to communicate online with compassion, consume news with compassion and click with compassion. Just imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.

I’d like to end on a personal note. In the past nine months the question I have asked most is why.

Why now, why now was I sticking my head above the parapet. You can read between the lines in those questions, and the answer has nothing to do with politics. The top note answer answer was, and is, because it is time. Time to stop tip-toeing around my past, time to stop living a life of oppoprium, and time to take back my narrative.

It is also not just about saving myself. Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know on thing. You can survive it.

I know it is hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy. But you can insist on a different ending to your story. Have compassion for yourself.

We all deserve compassion. And to live both online and off in a more compassionate world.

Thank you for listening.

Political Musings March 11, 2015: Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?

March 11, 2015

Law professors and liberal pundits and news media are taking their criticism of the letter to Iran 47 Republican Senators signed against a potential nuclear weapons deal on Monday, March 9, 2015 to a new level charging that the Republican…

Political Musings November 17, 2014: Never mind government shutdown Obama is looking to be impeached or sued by GOP Congress over immigration reform

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Never mind government shutdown Obama is looking to be impeached or sued by GOP

When news broke on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 that President Barack Obama is planning to take executive action on immigration this week, the first thought that came to mind is that the GOP might prevent the budget bills from passing…READ MORE

Political Musings November 3, 2014: History proves Michelle, Barack Obama divorce talk is probably just that rumors

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

 

 

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

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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

History Headlines January 8, 2014: The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later

Source: WH, 1-8-14

Fifty years ago, in January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” and introduced initiatives designed to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources of those struggling to make ends meet.

Read the President’s statement on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty here

Take a look at the Council of Economic Advisers report here

Political Musings December 8, 2013: Obama & family light National Christmas Tree at rainy ceremony with star line-up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama & family light National Christmas Tree at rainy ceremony with star line-up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With a week filled with unrolling the holiday season at the White House, unveiling Christmas decorations hosting Hanukkah receptions, there was one more annual tradition President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and family had to partake in; lighting the…READ MORE
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