Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Televised Statement by the President Concerning the Signing of the D.C. Home Rule Petition by a Majority of House Members.

September 03, 1965

TODAY the last major Federal territory on this American Continent has taken a decisive step toward full membership in the American Union.

A majority of the House of Representatives has signed a petition requiring consideration of home rule for the District of Columbia.

Thus, we near victory in the final battle of the American Revolution--a revolution that was fought so that men might govern themselves.

A majority of the Members of both parties in the Senate have this year approved self-government for the District--as the Senate had five times before. But until today a small group of men in the House of Representatives have kept the Congress from exercising its will. Now the House of Representatives is going to vote. And I am confident that the House will affirm the right to democracy for the almost 1 million citizens of the Capital City.

In so doing, they will redeem a pledge that is older than the Nation itself.

It was in 1783 that the Continental Congress pledged that the future seat of government-- the capital of a nation yet unborn-would govern itself.

In obedience to this promise, James Madison wrote--in the Federalist Papers--that under the new Constitution citizens of the District would elect their own representatives and would frame their own laws.

Now for almost two centuries history and circumstance, indifference and hostility, have conspired to deny this historic pledge.

But now the time of fulfillment is at hand.

This is not a revolutionary bill. It does not make fundamental and far-reaching changes in the structure of the Nation. It simply extends the most elementary rights of democracy to almost a million of our fellow Americans--the right to choose their own leaders, frame their own laws, and manage their own affairs. It is a right which those in every State and community have long assumed, and cherished, and fought to keep. Now that same mantle of democracy will cover the entire land.

This Congress has already passed a law protecting the right of all to govern themselves whatever their race or color. And now it prepares to yield that same fight to Americans wherever they live. And in so doing, it links itself in honor with those who founded this country and with the ideals that they proclaimed before an amazed world.

This is truly the Congress of democracy. Its acts add luster to the great Nation which it governs. For it is proving once again that if the search for justice is unending, our vitality in that pursuit does not diminish.

And let me add that there have been few, if any, achievements that have given me personally greater pleasure. I came to this Capital almost 35 years ago. I have spent a good part of every year since that time as a resident of Washington. Here I brought my bride. Here my children were born. Here I have lived with my family. Here, also, I have made many lasting friends and we have enjoyed the manifold beauties and the opportunities of this great beautiful city. Therefore, not only as President, but as a resident, I feel very deeply the obligation to help liberate the people of this city--to extend to them the same democracy which is part of the life of the citizens of my other home in Texas.

Now that obligation is going to be fulfilled. And history, I think, will honor the leaders of the Congress and the many others whose work and sense of justice has brought us to this day.

Note: The President spoke at 2 p.m. in the White House Theater. See also Items 39, 402, 486.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Televised Statement by the President Concerning the Signing of the D.C. Home Rule Petition by a Majority of House Members. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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