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Statement of John Kerry on the 40th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Location: Washington, DC

July 02, 2004

For Immediate Release
Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry released the following statement today on the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

"Forty years ago-a decade after the Supreme Court declared separate inherently unequal and Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery public bus-the Congress passed and the President signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"The bill was signed at the White House, but as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood, in truth, it 'was … written in the streets' of America. It was written by foot soldiers in the sweltering heat of cities and towns all across the South. It was written by freedom fighters, who climbed aboard buses and marched into the blast of fire hoses and the bark of dogs, without ever resorting to violence. It was written by men and women like John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy, Dorothy Height, Ella Baker and Julian Bond who put their minds and their bodies into the crucible of hatred, so we would all see a better day. And it was written by three brave young men, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner who wanted to give their time and energy to help African-Americans exercise their right to vote but ended up tragically giving their lives.

"The Civil Rights Act was rooted in the fundamental ideal that all people are created equal - regardless of race, sex, religion, or national origin. We are all deserving of equal access to the American dream-good jobs, quality education, and the chance to drink from the same fountain of opportunity. We must fight to defend these ideals against those who would turn back the clock. We must have a change in national leadership - leadership that will appoint Federal judges that will defend rights instead of dismantling them. We must pass the Fairness Act to roll back the damage that right-wing judges have already done to our cherished civil rights protections.

"We have made real progress since 1964 - but there is much more to be done. Today we must take strength and inspiration from the courageous heroes and heroines that came before us and redouble our efforts to ensure that America lives up to the promise of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Our nation must be committed to the vision penned by the Old Testament Prophet Amos and made famous by Dr. King - 'Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.' Together we can make this one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

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