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Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Washington, DC

August 08, 1960

The proposal of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is constructive and useful. I have always supported the measures they suggest. So does the Democratic platform.

I am prepared now, as I have been in the past, to vote for all these measures. In 1957 and again this year - after the administration had withdrawn its support from this vital measure - I supported and voted for the proposal to authorize the Attorney General to bring court actions to protect constitutional rights. If the administration had supported it I am convinced we could have enacted that measure past spring. Voting for it in the Senate were 28 Democrats and 10 Republicans (March 10).

I also was one of the sponsors of the cloture petition this year and I voted for cloture on March 10 as one of 30 Democratic Senators and 12 Republicans.

Similarly on the proposal for technical assistance to schools there were 20 Democrats and 10 Republicans in support (April 4), and on the administration's own proposal for a statutory Government contracts committee there were 27 Democrats in support and 11 Republicans (April 1). With vigorous administration leadership these measures could have passed.

Now in this short windup session, with a crowded calendar of pending' bills, only unprecedented bipartisan action could obtain the passage of these measures which failed to pass after 9 weeks of debate this spring. Despite these inherent difficulties I shall explore the possibilities of achieving effective results. If such results are not possible now I am sure that they will be possible and that they will be achieved promptly - under the leadership of a new Democratic administration.

Meanwhile, let us remember that a great part of the solution to these problems depends upon Presidential leadership. There are a number of vital steps which could be taken now - which should have been taken during the last 7 1/2 years - by Presidential action.

Let me give one example of an important immediate contribution that could and should be made by the stroke of a presidential pen.

Eleven months ago the Civil Rights Commission unanimously proposed that the President issue an Executive order on equal opportunity in housing. The President has not acted during all this time. He could and should act now. By such Executive action he would toll the end of racial discrimination in all Federal housing programs, including federally assisted housing.

I have supported this proposal since it was made last September. The Democratic platform endorses it. A new Democratic administration will carry it out. But there is no need to wait another 6 months. I urge the President to act now.

John F. Kennedy, Statement by Senator John F. Kennedy on Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Washington, DC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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