THIRTY-FOUR days ago, I asked the Congress m keep our Nation's century-old promise to the American Negro.
I called on Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since that time, there have been prompt, full, and numerous hearings on this proposal in both Houses. Each section of the bill has been closely examined.
Following these prompt deliberations, the Senate tomorrow will begin consideration of the bill on the floor. Hearings have also been concluded and committee action scheduled for next week by the House. It is my devout hope that the Congress will now continue its excellent display of deliberation with speed and enact the voting fights bill without delay.
There can be no forgetting, however, that neither a Voting Rights Act nor any other single act will solve the civil rights problems of the Nation or insure equal justice and equal opportunity for our Negro citizens. Those goals can be achieved only as the result of individual understanding, of community responsibility, and of national good faith. We have, in past months, seen some splendid examples of such action.
In the period preceding enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, hundreds and even thousands of Southern businessmen undertook to comply with it voluntarily, even though it was not yet law. That spirit of acceptance illustrated not only respect for law and human dignity; it also established the climate of order throughout the South which has been so important to the successful implementation of the 1964 act.
Similarly, there have been encouraging reports in recent days of community responsibility in the South. One such report concerns the action by 22 Alabama business groups who advertised, both locally and nationally, their commitment toward improved communication between the races. Perhaps an even more interesting illustration is that offered by the leaders of the city of Selma. Although not party to the original advertisements, they decided, by overwhelming vote, to endorse them.
Assuredly, racial problems will persist, not only in Alabama and not only in the South. But for this to happen in a city where group feelings have been so inflamed suggests, I think, that men of reason and men of good will can prevail in all parts of our country. There could be no more encouraging fact.