Well, I am pleased today to sign the legislation extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Citizens must have complete confidence in the sanctity of their right to vote, and that's what this legislation is all about. It provides confidence that constitutional guarantees are being upheld and that no vote counts more than another. To so many of our people—our Americans of Mexican descent, our black Americans—this measure is as important symbolically as it is practically. It says to every individual, "Your vote is equal; your vote is meaningful; your vote is your constitutional right."
I've pledged that as long as I'm in a position to uphold the Constitution, no barrier will come between our citizens and the voting booth. And this bill is a vital part of fulfilling that pledge.
This act ensures equal access to the political process for all our citizens. It securely protects the right to vote while strengthening the safeguards against representation by forced quota. The legislation also extends those special provisions applicable to certain States and localities, while at the same time providing an opportunity for the jurisdictions to bail out from the special provisions when appropriate. In addition, the bill extends for 10 years the protections for language minorities.
President Eisenhower said, "The future of the Republic is in the hands of the American voter." Well, with this law, we make sure the vote stays in the hands of every American.
Let me say how grateful I am to these gentlemen up here, the Members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle, and particularly those on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for getting this bipartisan legislation to my desk.
Yes, there are differences over how to attain the equality we seek for all our people. And sometimes amidst all the overblown rhetoric, the differences tend to seem bigger than they are. But actions speak louder than words. This legislation proves our unbending commitment to voting rights. It also proves that differences can be settled in a spirit of good will and good faith.
In this connection, let me also thank all the other organizations and individuals-many who are here today—who worked for this bill. As I've said before, the right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties, and we will not see its luster diminished.
The legislation that I'm signing is the longest extension of the act since its enactment and demonstrates America's commitment to preserving this essential right. I'm proud of the Congress for passing this legislation. I'm proud to be able to sign it.
And without saying anything further, I'm going to do that right now.
[At this point, the President signed the bill.]