Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lyndon Johnson, Memorial Day Prayer Speech

In our country, which many think must keep all mention of religion out of government, here we have a Memorial Day speech by Vice President of the United States Lyndon Johnson in 1963. And, is in the proclamation this year, it calls for a reverent prayer. Being given on the historic Gettysburg site, his theme is racial justice, which had made huge strides under President Lincoln with the assistance of many religious groups who fought for an end to slavery.

May 30, 1963

On this hallowed ground, heroic deeds were performed and eloquent words were
spoken a century ago.

We, the living, have not forgotten--and the world will never forget--the deeds
or the words of Gettysburg. We honor them now as we join on this Memorial Day
of 1963 in a prayer for permanent peace of the world and fulfillment of our hopes
for universal freedom and justice.

We are called to honor our own words of reverent prayer with resolution in the
deeds we must perform to preserve peace and the hope of freedom.

We keep a vigil of peace around the world.

Until the world knows no aggressors, until the arms of tyranny have been laid
down, until freedom has risen up in every land, we shall maintain our vigil to
make sure our sons who died on foreign fields shall not have died in vain.

As we maintain the vigil of peace, we must remember that justice is a vigil,
too--a vigil we must keep in our own streets and schools and among the lives of
all our people--so that those who died here on their native soil shall not have
died in vain.

One hundred years ago, the slave was freed.

One hundred years later, the Negro remains in bondage to the color of his skin.

The Negro today asks justice.

We do not answer him--we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil--when we
reply to the Negro by asking, "Patience."

It is empty to plead that the solution to the dilemmas of the present rests on
the hands of the clock. The solution is in our hands. Unless we are willing to
yield up our destiny of greatness among the civilizations of history, Americans
--white and Negro together--must be about the business of resolving the challenge
which confronts us now.

Our nation found its soul in honor on these fields of Gettysburg one hundred
years ago. We must not lose that soul in dishonor now on the fields of hate.

To ask for patience from the Negro is to ask him to give more of what he has
already given enough. But to fail to ask of him--and of all Americans--perseverance
within the processes of a free and responsible society would be to fail to ask what
the national interest requires of all its citizens.

The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not
use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law.
Law has not failed--and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not
trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which
law alone serves.

If the white over-estimates what he has done for the Negro without the law, the
Negro may under-estimate what he is doing and can do for himself with the law.

If it is empty to ask Negro or white for patience, it is not empty--it is merely
honest--to ask perseverance. Men may build barricades--and others may hurl themselves
against those barricades--but what would happen at the barricades would yield no
answers. The answers will only be wrought by our perseverance together. It is deceit
to promise more as it would be cowardice to demand less.

In this hour, it is not our respective races which are at stake--it is our nation.
Let those who care for their country come forward, North and South, white and Negro,
to lead the way through this moment of challenge and decision.

The Negro says, "Now." Others say, "Never." The voice of responsible Americans
--the voice of those who died here and the great man who spoke here--their voices say,
"Together." There is no other way.

Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity
is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but
not a fact. To the extent that the proclamation of emancipation is not fulfilled in
fact, to that extent we shall have fallen short of assuring freedom to the free.

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