Constant striving for 'more perfect Union'

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Signing of Civil Rights Act also a part of patriotic week

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We celebrated our nation’s freedom on Monday with our annual Fourth of July parades, picnics, patriotic readings and fireworks. This week also marks President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Our nation is the greatest on earth, but we print excerpts of President Johnson’s speech upon signing the document that we may not forget it has not always been the greatest nation for a large part of its citizens, many of whom were brought here against their own will.

Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent words about equality in the Declaration of Independence were written even as he kept slaves and believed in the mental and physical inferiority of people of color. Those words, though, help guide us to be “a more perfect nation,” and his choice of verbiage showed his prescient genius.

Ours is an imperfect union, but we find part of its greatness is the continuing struggle to improve. It’s messy, sometimes ugly, but this “experiment” has resulted in the greatest democracy known to man.

Today, we reflect on President Johnson’s words.

 

“One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week, a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom — not only for political independence, but for personal liberty — not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men.

That struggle was a turning point in our history. Today in far corners of distant continents, the ideals of those American patriots still shape the struggles of men who hunger for freedom.

This is a proud triumph. Yet those who founded our country knew that freedom would be secure only if each generation fought to renew and enlarge its meaning. From the minutemen at Concord to the soldiers in Vietnam, each generation has been equal to that trust.

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