Heroes & Villains
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Transcript: Source6

President Kennedy’s statement after meeting with civil rights leaders, 29 August 1963
(Catalogue ref: FO 371/168485)

Source 6a

KENNEDY STATEMENT ON CIVIL RIGHTS RALLY
The following is the text of President Kennedy's statement after his meeting with leaders of the civil rights rally in Washington yesterday.

        We have witnessed today in Washington tens of thousands of Americans both white and Negro -- exercising their right to assemble peaceably and direct the widest possible attention to a great national issue. Efforts to secure equal treatment and equal opportunity for all without regard to race, colour, creed or nationality are neither novel nor difficult to understand. What is different today is the intensified and widespread public awareness of the need to move forward in achieving these objectives -- objectives which are older than this nation.

        Although this summer has seen remarkable progress in translating civil rights from principles into practices, we have a very long way yet to travel. One cannot help but be impressed with the deep fervour and the quiet dignity that characterises the thousands who have gathered in the nation's capital from across the country to demonstrate their faith and confidence in our democratic form of government.

Source 6b

        History has seen many demonstrations -- of widely varying character and for a whole host of reasons. As our thoughts travel to other demonstrations that have occurred in different parts of the world, this nation can properly be proud of the demonstration that has occurred here today. The leaders of the organisations sponsoring the march and all who have participated in it deserve our appreciation for the detailed preparation that made it possible and for the orderly manner in which it has been conducted.

        The Executive Branch of the Federal Government will continue its efforts to increase employment and to eliminate discrimination in employment practices, two of the prime goals of the march. In addition, our efforts to secure enactment of the legislative proposals made to our Congress will be maintained, including not only the Civil Rights Bill, but also proposals to broaden and strengthen the manpower development and training programme, the Youth Employment Bill, amendments to the vocational education programme, the establishment of a work-study programme for high school age youth, strengthening of the adult basic education provisions in the Administration's education programme, and the amendments proposed to the public welfare work-relief and training programme. This nation can afford to achieve the goals of a full employment policy -- it cannot afford to permit the potential skills and educational capacity of its citizens to be unrealised.

        The cause of 20 million Negroes has been advanced by the programme conducted so appropriately before the nation's shrine to the Great Emancipator, but even more significant is the contribution to all mankind.