down in Austin, Texas.
Three of our former presidents will be there, and our current president gave a speech recognizing the occasion and honoring LBJ as well.
He deserves some praise of course, but as one of my twitter friends said, I am not comfortable with him getting all the shine for this act getting passed when I know how much blood sweat and tears other black leaders and foot soldiers put into getting civil rights for people of color in this country.
LBJ was a complex fellow, who no doubt, like the Vice President before this current one, did some shaky things to amass wealth, grab power, and gain influence.
Yet still, as president, he presided over our government's effort to take care of the least among us in America. And it was his signature as president on the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. He helped to get those bills passed "against all odds" at a time in this country when it was cool to be a bigot.
"Historian Alan Brinkley has suggested that the most important domestic achievement of the Great Society may have been its success in translating some of the demands of the civil rights movement into law"
This is true. And, to his credit, he knew that the passing of The Civil Rights Act would cause the Democratic Party to lose the Southern white vote forever. And it did.
BTW, if it is true that he actually made this statement: "I'll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years." (Which I honestly think is a wingnut version of an urban legend.) It actually worked. Because when white Southerners left and joined the republican party, black folks knew where they weren't wanted. Equal rights for all was something that should have been easy to embrace, but it wasn't; simply because of the history of racism in this country. Now the two political parties reflect the racial divide that still exists.
"You know, four days into his sudden presidency, and the night before he would address a joint session of the Congress in which he once served, Lyndon Johnson sat around a table with his closest advisers preparing his remarks to a shattered and grieving nation.
He wanted to call on senators and representatives to pass a civil rights bill, the most sweeping since Reconstruction. And most of his staff counseled him against it. They said it was hopeless, that it would anger powerful Southern Democrats and committee chairmen, that it risked derailing the rest of his domestic agenda.
And one particularly bold aide said he did not believe a president should spend his time and power on lost causes, however worthy they might be, to which, it is said, President Johnson replied: Well, what the hell's the presidency for? (Laughter, applause.) What the hell's the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in?
Today as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible. Some of them are here today. We celebrate giants like John Lewis and Andrew Young and Julian Bond.
We recall the countless unheralded Americans -- black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers -- whose names are etched not on monuments but in the hearts of their loved ones and in the fabric of the country that they helped to change.
But we also gather here, deep in the heart of the state that shaped them, to recall one giant man's remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
And somewhere down in Alabama George Wallace is turning in his grave.