On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses a joint session of Congress calling for the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all.
Here are four excerpts from what is likely his most important and meaningful speech:
“The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution. We must now act in obedience to that oath.”
“It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.
Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome.”
“In Selma as elsewhere we seek and pray for peace. We seek order. We seek unity. But we will not accept the peace of stifled rights, or the order imposed by fear, or the unity that stifles protest. For peace cannot be purchased at the cost of liberty.”
“Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States it says–in Latin–“God has favored our undertaking.”
God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. But I cannot help believing that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight.”