On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy called upon the nation to embrace civil rights as a moral issue, urging Americans to recognize that “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
Thirteen months later, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since the abolition of slavery was signed into law.
We have come a long way since President Kennedy first proposed what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But we as Americans will not truly be free until all our fellow citizens not only have equal rights, but equal opportunity.
Too many of our brothers and sisters have neither. Discrimination based on race, though illegal, still exists. Tens of millions of Americans still cannot marry the men and women they love. Women are still paid less than men for the same work. Our children’s chances of success still depend largely on the zip code in which they are born.
The rights of every man and woman are indeed diminished when the rights of one individual are threatened. If we are to truly serve as a beacon of hope to the world, we must ensure that all our citizens are afforded the equal rights and opportunity that freedom necessitates. I will work every day in Congress to make that equality a reality.