On This Day in History: Today

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February 19th, 1964

On this day in 1964, President Johnson made remarks at the White House to a delegation of students from Seton Hall University to thank them for the living memorial to President Kennedy. The delegation from Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J., presented the President with a parchment scroll signed by 6,000 students and containing the following pledge:

To the President of the United States, as a living memorial to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I pledge that I shall freely accept the torch which has been passed on my generation, that I shall replace all hatred with tolerance, all rashness with patience, all bigotry with love, that I shall commit myself to the full implications of the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God and thereby spread those ideals for which John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave his last full measure of devotion. I therefore pledge you, Mr. President, my loyalty, my cooperation and my prayers.

February 19th, 1968

On this day in 1968, President Johnson sent a letter to Senator Philip Hart expressing his views on pending civil rights legislation.

We have made extraordinary progress in the past decade. Nevertheless equal justice is clearly not a reality for millions of Americans today. The civil rights legislation now pending before the Senate—about which you have asked my views—will not in itself achieve equality for every citizen; but it is a vital step along the way. Both conscience and reason insist that it be passed.

In one title of the pending legislation, we seek new and clear authority to punish those who would use violence and intimidation to prevent others from exercising the rights of American citizenship:

—the right to vote,
—to go to school,
—to obtain a job,
—to serve as a juror,
—and to use public facilities.

There should be no question about the exercise of these fundamental rights. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that their exercise is protected by law against those who would use force to deny them.

Pending legislation before the Senate also seeks. to ensure that every American has the opportunity to provide a decent home for his family. Segregation in housing—the product of long-standing discriminatory real estate practices—has compounded the Nation's urban problem. Minorities have been artificially compressed into ghettoes where unemployment and ignorance are rampant, where human tragedies and crime abound, and where city administrations are burdened with rising social costs and falling tax revenues. Fair housing practices—backed by meaningful Federal laws that apply to every section of the country—are essential if we are to relieve the crisis in our cities.

From every moral and practical standpoint, these measures are necessary. The wrongs they address are urgently in need of redress. Together with the other measures I have recommended to combat discrimination-particularly in the fields of employment and jury selection—they respond to the elemental demands of equal justice in America. They should be adopted without delay.