“[W]hen Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select, without having to be backed up by troops.”
I was born in 1961. JFK was in the White House. But I’ve never been caught up in the Kennedy mystique.
Recently, I found a fascinating audio file on the Web. It’s a speech President Kennedy gave on June 11, 1963. He had just federalized the Alabama National Guard and sent those troops to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. So that two black students could enroll.
“We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it. … But are we to say to the world – and, much more importantly, to each other – that this is a land of the free, except for the Negroes? That we have no second-class citizens, except Negroes?”
Does it seem like forever since we had a U.S. president who provided true moral leadership? Who could stir our souls with simple, straightforward language? Who could describe our national crises with clarity?
Then click here and listen to President Kennedy’s 13½-minute address on civil rights. And try to imagine what it felt like to hear these words 44 years ago.