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Thank you. Thank you.
Len Johnson we paid tribute to you today for what you are. For what you have done for our country. And for mankind and for what you propose to do. On this occasion however we wish especially to express fact that if you withdraw from a battle the nation saw confronting us indeed and then swiftly changing tack with the chant of the Great Society. You have not only challenge this ideal but you know spending your days and nights to see that it is translated into law through an act of Congress. After another and you are bending your land and it is to make this ideal the ideal of every American man and woman. For you understand. That is realization in the final analysis rests upon a dedication to it by the heart of the nation. You have called
us to the side. From what you are told you haven't I. And also what's called a mash unit of the product you have the Spirit. When your problems are responsibilities when you demand you dream of the effect upon the character around the character of the parent the character of the children for us not simply for better houses. But for a better home when you come from America you see a chance a nation an American character. When
children of the same. We cannot sleep pondering the dream to which you have awakened compassion for the poor the disinherited and another's welfare part of it beautiful land along and beyond the highways in every corner. Johnson we thank you. Go to the Board of Trustees of Howard University speaking for the entire university community here back and I knew the honorary degree and all the rights and responsibilities pertaining to.
Ladies and gentlemen the president of the United States. Dr. neighbor. My fellow Americans I am delighted at the chance to speak at this important. And this historic institution. Howard has long been an outstanding senator. For the education of Negro Americans. Its students are of every race and color. And they come from many countries of the world.
It is truly. A working example. OB dem. excellent. Our Earth. Is the home of revolution. In every corner. Of every continent. Man Charged With hope and in tandem with ancient ways. And the pursuit of justice. They reach for the newest of weapons to realize the oldest of drinks that each may walk in freedom and pride stretching his talents enjoying the fruits of the earth. Our union is my occasionally sees the day of change.
But it is the banner of AI revolution. They take. And our own future is awake to this process and bible and change in many lands. In the world. But nothing in any country touches us more profoundly. And nothing is more freighted with meaning for our own destiny than the revolution of the negro America. And far too many way American Negroes. Have then another nation deprived of freedom coupled by hatred. The doors of opportunity. Close to home. In our time change has come to this nation to.
The American eggroll acting with impressive restraint has been patiently protested and March entered the court room in the streets of government demanding a justice that has long been denied. The voice of the negro. Was the call to action. But it is a tribute to America. That once aroused the courts and the Congress the president. And most of the people have been the allies of Proctor's. The US we have seen the High Court of the country they claim. That discrimination based on race was repugnant to the Constitution and therefore void. We have seen in 1957. And 1960 and
again in 1964. The first civil rights legislation in this nation in almost an entire century. The end. As majority leader of the United States any guide to these bills through the Senate and as your president. I was proud to sign the third. And now. Very soon. We will have the fourth. A new law. Guaranteeing every
American the right to vote. For. No act of my entire administration. Will give me greater satisfaction. Than the day when my signature. Makes this mail to the law of this land. The voting rights bill will be the latest and among the most important. In a long series of victories. But this victory as Westen Churchill said of another triumph of 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. It. Freedom is the right to share. Share fully and equally. In American society to vote. To hold a job in public places to go to school. It is their right to be treated and 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 liberating. Bringing up to the starting line of a race and then say you have free to compete with all the others. And still justly believe that you have them 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 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. Thank you. Are. The task is. To give 20 million make the same chance as every other American learn and grow. Work and share in society to develop their abilities physical mental and spiritual and to pursue. Their individual happiness.
To this an equal opportunity is essential but not enough. Not enough. Man and Women. Of all races are born of the same range of abilities but ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched. Our study. 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 the man. This graduating class at Howard University is one thing and the determination of the name
of America when he has weighed in American life. The number of negroes in schools of higher learning has almost doubled in 50 years. The number of nonwhite professional workers has more than doubled in 10 years. The median income. Of Negro college women. Tonight exceeds that of white college women. And they're also all of the enormous accomplishments of distinguished individual negroes. Many of them are graduates of this institution. And one of them. The first lady ambassador in the history of the United
States a hundred. These are proud and impressive achievements. But they tell me the story of the growing middle class minority steadily narrowing the gap between them. And their white counterparts. But for the great majority of Negro Americans the poor. The unemployed. The upper rooted and the dispossessed. There is a much grammar story. They still as we meet here tonight. Are another nation. Despite the court orders and the law despite the legislative
victories and the speeches by them the walls are rising and the guy is white. Here are some of the facts of this American face here. Thirty five years ago the rate of unemployment for Negroes and whites was about the same. Tonight the negro rate is twice as high in 1040 the 8 percent unemployment rate for Negro teenage boy as it was actually less than that of whites by last year that rate had grown to 23 percent as against 13 percent for whites and between 1949 1959 the income of negro man relative to white. Decline and every section of this come from
1952 to 1963 the median income of Negro families compared to whites actually dropped from it to 7 percent to 53 percent in the years 1955 through 1957. Twenty two percent of experienced Negro workers were out of work at some time. During the year. In 1960 one. Through one thousand sixty three that proportion had soared. To 20 percent since 1947 the number of white families living in poverty. Has decreased 27 percent. While the number of poor nonwhite families. Decreased. Only 3 percent.
The infant mortality of non-whites in 1940 was 70 percent greater than whites. Twenty two years later it was 90 percent greater. Moreover. The isolation of may grow from white communities. Is increasing rather than decreasing. A negro's crowd and as Negroes crowd into the central cities and become a city within a city. Of course Negro Americans. As well as white Americans have shared in our rising national abundance. But the harsh fact of the matter. Is that in the battle part true equality. Too many far too many are losing ground every day.
We're not completely sure why this is. We know the causes are complex and subtle. But we do know the two broad basic reasons. And we do know that we have to act. First. Negroes are cracked. As many whites are inherited Gateless poverty they lack training and skill they are shoddy and slum. Without decent medical care. Private and public poverty. Combined to cripple their capacity. We are trying to attack these evils. Through my poverty program through our education program. Through our medical care and our other health programs. And a
dozen more of the Great Society programs that are aimed at the root causes of this power. We will increase and we will accelerate and we will broaden this attack. In years to come. Until this most enduring a vote finally to our unyielding will. There's a second much more difficult to explain more deeply grounded more desperate in its followers. And it is the devastating heritage of the long years of slavery. And a century of oppression. And. A tree.
And injustice are Negro poverty is not white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures are the same but there are differences. A rosy. Obstinate deference radiating painful roots into the community and into the family. And the nature of the individual. These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of an ancient root talent passion and judged and present prejudice. They are anguishing. To observe.
For the negro. They are a constant reminder of oppression for the white. They are a constant reminder of guilt. But they must be faced and they must be dealt with and they must be overcome. If we are ever to reach the time. When the only difference between Negroes and whites. Is the color of their skin. It. Nor can we find a complete answer in the experience of other American monarch. They made a valiant and a largely successful effort to emerge from poverty and prejudice the negro.
Like these others will have to rely mostly on his own efforts. He just cannot do it alone. Far they did not have the heritage of centuries to overcome and they did not have a cultural tradition which had been twisted and battered by endless years of a trade and hopelessness. Now are they excluded. These others because of race are color. A feeling whose dark intensity. Is matched by no other prejudice in our society. How are can these differences be understood as isolated from. They are a seamless web. They cause each other. They result from each other. They reinforce
each other. Much of the Negro community is buried under a blanket of history and circumstance. It is not a strong lasting solution to lift just one corner of that blanket. We must stand on all sides and we must raise the entire cover. If we are to liberate our fellow citizens. One of the differences is the increased concentration of negroes in our cities. More than 73 percent of all Negroes live in urban areas. Compared with less than 70 percent of the whites. Most of these Negroes live in slums. Most of these Negroes lived together. A separated
people. And man. Are shaped by their work. When it is a world of decay. Rang by an invisible law. When escape is arguers and uncertain. And the saving pressures of a more hopeful society are unknown. It can cripple the youth and it can desolate the man. There is also the burden that a dark skin can add to the search for a productive place in our society. Unemployment strikes most with Julie and broadly at the negro this burden the roads home blighted hope. Reads despair. Despair brings indifference
to the learning which offers a way out. And despair coupled with indifference is often the source of destructive rebellion against the fabric of society. There is also the lacerating hurt. Early collision with white hatred or prejudice. Distaste our condescension. Other groups have felt somewhere in tolerance. But success and achievement. Could wipe it away. They do not change the color. Of a man's skin. I have seen this uncomprehending pain. In the eyes of the little young Mexican-American school children that I taught many years ago. But it can be overcome.
But for many the ones are always hope. Perhaps most important it is radiating to every part of life. Is the breakdown. Of the Negro family structure. For this most of all white America. Must accept responsibility yet flow from centuries of oppression and persecution of the Negro man. It follows from the long years of degradation degradation and discrimination. Which have attacked his dignity. And assaulted his ability to produce for his family. This too is not pleasant to look at but it must be faced by those who seriously into em. Is to improve the life. Of all America.
Only a minority. Less than half. Of all Negro children. Reach the age of 18. Having lived all their lives with both of their parents. At this moment tonight. A little less than two thirds. Are at home with both of their parents. Probably a majority of all Negro children. Receive federally aided public assistance sometime during their child. The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other board it shapes the attitude. They hope. The ambition. And the values of the child. When the family collapses
it is the children that are usually down. When it happens on a massive scale. The entire community itself is crippled. So unless we work to strengthen the family. To create conditions under which most parents will stay together. All the rest has good playgrounds and public assistance and private concerns will never be enough. To cut completely the circle of despair and deprivation. There is no single easy answer to all of these problems. Jobs. Are part of the answer. They bring the income. Which permits a man.
To provide for his family. Decent Homes. And decent surround. And a chance to learn an equal chance to learn are part of the answer. Welfare and Social programs are better designed to hold families together are part of and care for the sick as part of the answer and understanding heart. All of America. Is another. Big part. Of the answer. And to all of these fronts and a dozen more. I will dedicate the expanding effort. Of the Johnson administration.
But there are other answers that are still to be found. Do we fully understand even all of the problem. Therefore. I want to announce tonight that this fall. I intend to call a White House conference of scholars. And experts and outstanding the Negro leaders of both races and officials of government at every level. This White House conference theme entitled will be. For all failed these rights. Its object will be to help the American Negro. Fulfill the riots. Which after the long time of
injustice. Is finally. About to secure. To move beyond opportunity. To achieve. To shatter for ever not only are the barriers of law and public practice but the wall which bound the condition of man by the color of his skin. To dissolve as best we can. The antique in them tis of the heart. Which diminish the hold. Divide the great democracy. And do wrong great wrong to the children of God. And I pledge you tonight that this will be a cheat of my administration and of my program next year. And in the years to come.
And I hope and I pray and I believe it will be a part of the program of America. For what is justice. It is to fulfill the fyre expectations of man. Thus. American justice. Is a very special thing. Far from the first. This has been a land of towering expectations. It was to be a nation where each man can be ruled by the common consent of a freind in law given to live by institution guided by man themselves subject to its rule and all.
All on every station and origin. Would be touched equally. In obligation and in living beyond the law. Lay the land. It was a rich land glowing with more abundant promise than man had ever seen. Here. Unlike any place you have known. All. Or to share the harvest. And beyond their. Lives the dignity of man. Each could become whatever it is while it is of mine. And very dry. And if he could find his happy
this is American justice. We have pursued it faithfully. To the edge of our imperfection and we have failed to find it on the American Negro. So it is the glorious opportunity of this generation to end the one huge wrongs of the American nation and ensure doing. To find an America. Far are still. With the same immense thrill of discovery which ripped the souls who first began to realize that here at last was a home. For freedom. And all it will take. Is for all of us.
Howard University Commencement 1965
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President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses the Howard University graduating class of 1965.
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Speaker: Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
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Chicago: “Howard University Commencement 1965,” 1965-00-00, WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Howard University Commencement 1965.” 1965-00-00. WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Howard University Commencement 1965. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from