The Rhetoric Of Lbj: Speech Addressing Discrimination And Voting Right Legislation

1020 words - 4 pages

Over Come we Shall
On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a session of

Congress to urge the passage of new voting rights legislation. President

Johnson’s speech was in response to the unjustly attack of African Americans

preparing to march in Montgomery. In his address Johnson confronted the problem

of racism and racial discrimination. He declared that “every American citizen

must have an equal right to vote. In order for Johnson to handle the American

crisis and simultaneously settle into his new position as chief executive, his

rhetorical debut as president would have to be one that offered Americans the

confidence to believe he was not simply a political figure, but instead a man of

principle, with a value system that would advance the interests of peace,

freedom, and social justice.

There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right.” Johnson

reminded the nation that the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed after the

Civil War, gives all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color.

Similar to, civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Johnson takes a

different approach for the promotion of civil rights. “In the I Have Dream”

speech, King strayed away from the traditional civil rights argument, which

relied mainly on the morality of pre-justice, and attacked the injustice imposed

in not granting civil rights.

“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of

wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking

from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on

the high plane of dignity and discipline”(King, I have a dream)

King, throughout the “I Have Dream” speech, made it clear that he was a man of

principal. One notices a comparison between Johnson and King. Johnson, like

King, also based his speech in the light of principal. For an example, Johnson

states, “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.” Johnson

unspoken claim is, he is a man of his word and if one is an American then one

should hold true to the word of the Constitution.

Johnson’s narrative of the American Promise was mainly a story of the

nation's commitment to freedom and equality. The speech began by identifying

these two ideas in a conventional way. He discussed freedom in terms of

political liberties, and equality is discussed in terms of equal rights or equal

opportunity. The struggle for civil rights, he suggested, was about guaranteeing

those principles. Johnson emphasized the exercise of freedom and equality, which

he claimed “takes much more than just legal right”. Rather than only


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