A Moral Imperative: JFK takes a stand

Fifty years ago today, on June 11, 1963, General Henry Graham, the head of the Alabama Guard (which had been federalized by President John F. Kennedy) ordered Alabama Governor George Wallace to stop blocking two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, from entering the University of Alabama’s Foster Auditorium to register for classes.

That evening, President Kennedy informed citizens across America via a televised address that he was sending a federal civil-rights bill to Congress.  During his address, he said, “I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents …  We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”

For JFK’s full address:  http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/3375

For other speeches on Civil Rights:  http://www.history.com/speeches/john-f-kennedy-on-desegregation-at-ole-miss#john-f-kennedy-on-desegregation-at-ole-miss

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Photo courtesy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cSrvqYKQH8

A few hours later, Medgar Evers, a World War II veteran and civil-rights activist, was assassinated.

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Photo courtesy en.wikipedia.org

It’s critically important that desegregation was framed as a moral issue.  Doing this put the onus on every American citizen to do the right thing:  support this cause with both words and actions.  JFK argued that a problem this significant could not be solved through legislation alone.  He said, “It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.”

The same holds true for the issue that we face today:  environmental degradation.

We are consuming natural resources faster than the rate of  replenishment.  We are stripping the earth to satisfy our needs and wants and leaving behind a path of pollution.  Environmental degradation is an issue of such magnitude that we – each and every one of us, living in every corner of the world – must act.  We must consume less and do so less harmfully, and we must ensure the replenishment of extracted natural resources upon which our survival depends.

This is neither a partisan issue nor one of corporations versus individuals.  It is, however, an issue that requires us to work together to achieve a goal greater than ourselves.  We must redirect our efforts away from argument and toward collaborative action.

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Photo courtesy http://www.history.com

©Taryn Fisher 2013

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