Today marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s call to Americans at every level of society for courage and action in the struggle for Civil Rights. Much of what Kennedy said from the Oval Office on June 11, 1963, remains sadly relevant today, as he describes a struggle for social and economic justice in communities of color across the nation. His words, if we let them, resound in our hearts and minds from the past into the present. To be sure there is much to celebrate and give thanks for fifty years later, but there is still much that needs to be confronted, transformed, and healed.
One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.
Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.
May God give us courage to “act boldly” in our times, each according to our gifts, and to recognize “right as well as reality.”
Read the full text and link to video here. From where you stand, which parts of Kennedy’s address, if any, do you find still resonant today, and why? (Or why not?)