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美国20世纪最伟大的100篇演讲John F. Kennedy - Civil Rights Address

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AmericanRhetoric.com


John F. Kennedy:
Civil Rights Address

 

Delivered
11
June 1963


AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED:
Text
version below
transcribed
directly
from
audio

Good evening,
my fellow citizens:

This afternoon, following a series of threats and
defiant statements, the presence of Alabama
National
Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama
to carry out the final and
unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That
order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened
to have been born Negro. That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good
measure to
the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met
their
responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his
conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many
nations and backgrounds.
It was founded on the principle that all
men are created equal, and
that
the rights of every man are diminished when
the rights of one man are threatened.


Today, we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect
the rights of all who
wish to be free. And when
Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do
not ask for
whites only. It oughta be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any
public institution
they select without having to be backed up by troops.
It oughta to be
possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public
accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants
and theaters and retail stores, without being
forced to
resort
to demonstrations in the street, and it oughta be possible for American
citizens of any color to register and to
vote in a free election without
interference or fear of
reprisal. It oughta to be possible, in short, for every
American to
enjoy the privileges of being
American without regard to
his race or his color.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
1



AmericanRhetoric.com


In
short, every American ought
to have the right
to be treated as he would wish
to be treated,
as one would wish his children to be treated.
But
this is not the case.


The Negro baby born in
America today, regardless of the section of the State in which
he is
born, has about onehalf
as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in
the same place on
the same day, onethird
as much chance of completing college, onethird
as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming
unemployed, about oneseventh
as much
chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy
which
is 7
years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional
issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist
in every city,
in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens
the public safety. Nor is this a partisan
issue.
In
a time of domestic crisis men of good will and
generosity should be able to unite regardless of
party or politics. This is not
even a legal or
legislative issue alone. It
is better to
settle these matters in the courts than on the streets,
and new
laws are needed at
every level, but law alone cannot make men see right. We are
confronted primarily with a moral issue. It
is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the
American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all
Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal
opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow
Americans as we want
to be treated.
If
an American, because his skin
is dark, cannot eat lunch
in a restaurant open to
the public, if
he cannot
send his children
to the best public school available,
if he cannot vote for the public
officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of
us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and
stand in
his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and
delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet
their
heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice.
They are not yet
freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes
and all
its boasts, will
not be fully free until all
its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at
home, but are we to say to
the world, and much more importantly, to each other that
this is
the land of the free except for the Negroes. that we have no secondclass
citizens except
Negroes. that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no
master race except with
respect
to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to
fulfill
its promise. The events in Birmingham and
elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can
prudently choose to
ignore them. The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city,
North and South, where legal remedies are not
at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in
demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and
threaten
lives.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
2



AmericanRhetoric.com


We face, therefore, a moral
crisis as a country and a people.
It cannot be met by repressive
police action. It cannot be left
to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted
by token moves or talk. It
is a time to act in the Congress, in
your State and local
legislative
body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It
is not enough to pin
the blame on others, to
say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face.
A great
change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that
change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those
who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as
violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to
make a commitment
it has
not
fully made
in this century to
the proposition
that race has no place in American
life or law.
The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition
in a series of forthright
cases. The Executive
Branch has adopted that proposition
in
the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of
Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.
But
there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must
be
provided at
this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every
wrong a remedy, but
in
too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are
inflicted on Negro
citizens and there are no
remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their
only remedy is the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact
legislation giving all
Americans the right
to be
served in facilities which are open to
the public hotels,
restaurants, theaters, retail stores,
and similar establishments. This seems to
me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an
arbitrary indignity that
no American
in 1963 should have to endure, but
many do.

I have recently met with
scores of business leaders urging them to
take voluntary action
to
end this discrimination, and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last two
weeks over 75
cities have seen
progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But
many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation
is needed if we are
to move this problem from the streets to
the courts.

I'm also asking the Congress to authorize the Federal
Government
to participate more fully in
lawsuits designed to end segregation
in public education. We have succeeded in persuading
many districts to desegregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence.
Today, a Negro
is attending a Statesupported
institution
in every one of our 50 States, but
the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro
children entering segregated grade schools at
the time of the Supreme
Court's decision
nine years ago will enter segregated high
schools this fall, having suffered a
loss which can
never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a
chance to get a decent job.


The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to
those who may not have the economic resources to
carry the legal action or who may be
subject
to harassment.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
3



AmericanRhetoric.com


Other features will be also
requested,
including greater protection for the right
to vote.
But
legislation, I repeat, cannot
solve this problem alone.
It must be solved in the homes of every
American
in every community across our country. In
this respect I wanna pay tribute to
those
citizens North and South who've been working in their communities to make life better for all.
They are acting not out of sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency. Like our
soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom's challenge on
the firing
line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.


My fellow
Americans, this is a problem which faces us all
in
every city of the North as well
as the South. Today, there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to
whites, inadequate education, moving into
the large cities, unable to find work, young people
particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a
restaurant or a lunch
counter or go
to a movie theater, denied the right
to a decent
education,
denied almost
today the right
to attend a State
university even
though qualified.
It seems to
me that
these are matters which
concern us all, not
merely Presidents or Congressmen or
Governors, but every citizen of the United States.

This is one country. It
has become one country
because all of us and all the people who came
here had an equal
chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to ten percent of the
population that you can't have that
right. that your children
cannot have the chance to
develop whatever talents they have. that the only way that
they are going to get
their rights
is to go
in the street and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better
country than
that.

Therefore, I'm asking for your help in making it
easier for us to
move ahead and to provide
the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves. to give a chance for every
child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As
I've said before,
not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or equal
motivation,
but they should have the equal right
to develop their talent and their ability and their
motivation, to
make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect
that
the Negro
community will be responsible, will uphold the law,
but they have a right
to expect that the law will
be fair, that
the Constitution will be color
blind, as Justice Harlan said at
the turn of the century.

This is what we're talking about and this is a matter which
concerns this country and what it
stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.

Thank you
very much.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.
Page
4


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