Tuesday, March 20, 2007

To Fulfill These Rights

The voting rights bill will be the latest, and among the most important, in a long series of victories. But this victory--as Winston Churchill said of another triumph for freedom--"is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

That beginning is freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling down. Freedom is the right to share, share fully and equally, in American society--to vote, to hold a job, to enter a public place, to go to school. It is the right to be treated in every part of our national life as a person equal in dignity and promise to all others.

But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.

For the task is to give 20 million Negroes the same chance as every other American to learn and grow, to work and share in society, to develop their abilities--physical, mental and spiritual, and to pursue their individual happiness.

To this end equal opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough. Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in--by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.

- Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965

How true, and how unfortunately unrealized even 40 years later.

View the whole thing here.


Jesse said...

He convinced me.

Devil From Russia said...

He did not convince me. He wrote (or spoke) well, but no game. The speech had nothing concrete in it, and was just happy filler words. I mean no one can look at the way this speech is made and say: "no, I don't believe in equality" (at least without sounding like a racist fbag). However, one can look at this speech and say: "you said nothing productive here, you just used pretty words to describe the status quo, not the procedure for progress".

Oli said...

That's very true, Artem. Though, I take what you see from a different view - he spoke very eloquently, which attracted me to the speech, and he gave a very reinforced description of the status quo. True, he gave few suggestions of what to do next, but that's not the point. The point is awareness of the status quo; that, despite legal advances, inequality still hasn't been reached. As a standalone piece, I would say it doesn't have enough information to convince people as an essay/report/whatever would. However, I think it's eloquent and supported enough to perhaps get people thinking in a new direction, to realize more to an issue they thought was closed.