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John F. Kennedy: Civil Rights Address

1331 words - 6 pages

When John F. Kennedy took the presidential office in January of 1961, the United States was at the forefront of the civil rights movement. Kennedy inherited a country that was mostly segregated in the southern states. African American civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. were busy trying to unify the south to allow for all equal rights. Protests, sit-in’s, and demonstrations became a common occurrence as African American people were being discriminated against. President Kennedy used his presidency to help transition a country of segregation to a country of integration.
While in office, Kennedy signed multiple equal rights orders. On March 6th, 1961 John F. Kennedy signed ...view middle of the document...

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.” He cited several statistics that explained the difficulties faced by African Americans. According to Kennedy, African Americans were half as likely to graduate high school and one third as likely to complete college as White Americans. African Americans were also twice as likely to end up unemployed, with a life expectancy of seven years shorter, then a White American. Race inequalities like these examples were the injustices that Kennedy hoped to end. It had been one hundred years since former president Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves yet the oppression still persisted. President Kennedy’s agenda did not always include equal rights, but as the country stood divided he was left with no choice.
Kennedy had to act in response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’ In the letter, King talked about the strategy of non-violent resistance in the opposition of racism. King explained that he and his followers had waited long enough for the end of injustice and that African Americans had waited long enough to be considered equal. Kennedy’s response to ‘Letters from Birmingham Jail’ mirrored King’s sentiment. In his civil rights address Kennedy demanded, “Who among us would then be content with counsels of patience and delay?” Kennedy then mimicked King’s critique of American silence and said; “Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence…Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise.” The powerful statements pleased Martin Luther King Jr. and the African American community.
In the latter part of his speech President Kennedy asked 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.” Kennedy continued by saying “this seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure…” Kennedy spoke with business owners and managers and requested their help to create equality for all Americans. He repeated how thankful and appreciative he was, and he asked the American population to morally do their part to provide equality. President Kennedy closed out his speech by explaining that though not every child has equal abilities, all children deserve a chance of making something of themselves. Kennedy was praised by Martin Luther King Jr. for his civil rights address. King said, “…that white man not only stepped up to the plate, he hit it over the fence!”
John F. Kennedy had to move forward with equal rights policies for the betterment of the United States of America and the betterment of America’s people. Race was no longer an issue that could wait....

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