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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago - When Presidential Words Led to Swift Action

From The New York Times:

These days it is hard to imagine a single presidential speech changing history.

But two speeches, given back to back by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this week, are now viewed as critical turning points on the transcendent issues of the last century.

The speeches, which came on consecutive days, took political risks. They sought to shift the nation’s thinking on the “inevitability” of war with the Soviet Union and to make urgent the “moral crisis” of civil rights. Beyond their considerable impact on American minds, these two speeches had something in common that oratory now often misses. They both led quickly and directly to important changes.

On Monday, June 10, 1963, Kennedy announced new talks to try to curb nuclear tests, signaling a decrease in tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Speaking at American University’s morning commencement, he urged new approaches to the cold war, saying, “And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

“In the final analysis,” he continued, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

The next evening, Kennedy gave an address on national television, sketching out a strong civil rights bill he promised to send to Congress. For the first time, a president made a moral case against segregation. He had previously argued publicly for obedience to court orders and had condemned violence, but not the underlying system.

“We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution,” Kennedy said. “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

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