“I Have a Dream” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the
flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by
the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of
poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the
corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent
words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every
American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed
the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this
promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has
given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the
great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the
riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the
luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to
lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality
for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate
discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but
a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude
awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro
is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright
day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice:
In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for
freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity
and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to
the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for
many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up
with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long
as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies,
heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be
satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as
our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be
satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from
narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the
storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering.
Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back
to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities,
knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will
be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the
heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the
words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join
hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places
will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh
shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to
transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to
work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we
will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every
state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and
Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
John F Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman,
reverend clergy, fellow citizens:
We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning --
signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears
prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all
forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe
-- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend
and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war,
disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of
those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and
around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship,
support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge -- and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little
we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do -- for we dare not meet a powerful challenge
at odds and split asunder.
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall
not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting
our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom -- and to remember that, in the past,
those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best
efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not
because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the
few who are rich.
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge: to convert our good words into good deeds, in a new
alliance for progress, to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful
revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to
oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this hemisphere intends
to remain the master of its own house.
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war
have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support -- to prevent it from becoming merely a forum
for invective, to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak, and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides
begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned
or accidental self-destruction.
We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond
doubt that they will never be employed.
But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course -- both sides overburdened
by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that
uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.
So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to
proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms, and bring
the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.
Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the
deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.
Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the
oppressed go free."¹
And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor --
not a new balance of power, but a new world of law -- where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of
this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was
founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young
Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though
embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in
tribulation,"² a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more
fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of
maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange
places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor
will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and
sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us
go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address
President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends:
This is a day of national consecration. And I am certain that on this day my fellow Americans expect that on my induction
into the Presidency, I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impels.
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing
conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning,
unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a
leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is
essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things.
Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by
serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial
enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; and the savings of many years in thousands of
families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great
number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils
which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature
still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in
the very sight of the supply.
Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and
their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers
stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True, they have tried. But their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they
have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their
false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a
generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to
the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy,
the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my
friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to
ourselves, to our fellow men.
Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the
false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal
profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the
likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on
honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.
Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation is asking for action, and action now.
Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It
can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency
of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing great -- greatly needed projects to stimulate and
reorganize the use of our great natural resources.
Hand in hand with that we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging
on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.
Yes, the task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products, and with this the power to
purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through
foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, the State, and the local
governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief
activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision
of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities that have a definitely public character. There are
many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped by merely talking about it.
We must act. We must act quickly.
And finally, in our progress towards a resumption of work, we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old
order. There must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments. There must be an end to speculation
with other people's money. And there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.
These, my friends, are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures
for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the 48 States.
Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income
balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time, and necessity, secondary to
the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor, as a practical policy, the putting of first things first. I shall spare no
effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment; but the emergency at home cannot wait on that
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not nationally -- narrowly nationalistic. It is the
insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States of
America -- a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the
way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that recovery will endure.
In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor: the neighbor who resolutely
respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others; the neighbor who respects his obligations and
respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each
other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and
loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be
made, no leadership becomes effective.
We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline, because it makes possible a
leadership which aims at the larger good. This, I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us, bind
upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in times of armed strife.
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined
attack upon our common problems.
Action in this image, action to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors.
Our Constitution is so simple, so practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis
and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly
enduring political mechanism the modern world has ever seen.
It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations. And it is to be
hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly equal, wholly adequate to meet the
unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for
temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken
world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I
shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
But, in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, in the event that the national emergency is
still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one
remaining instrument to meet the crisis -- broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the
power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.
For the trust reposed in me, I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.
We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking
old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young
alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded, a permanent national life.
We do not distrust the -- the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need
they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under
leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.
In this dedication -- In this dedication of a Nation, we humbly ask the blessing of God.
May He protect each and every one of us.
May He guide me in the days to come.
John F. Kennedy’s Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
Reverend Meza, Reverend Reck, I'm grateful for your generous invitation to state my views.
While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the
outset that I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign; the spread of Communist influence, until it
now festers only 90 miles from the coast of Florida -- the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those
who no longer respect our power -- the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctors
bills, the families forced to give up their farms -- an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the
moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues -- for
war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barrier.
But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been
obscured -- perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state
once again -- not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me -- but what kind of America I
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the
President -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote;
where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public
office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or
accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source;
where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its
officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been -- and
may someday be again -- a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers,
for example, that led to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you --
until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as
equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice, where there is no Catholic
vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and the
pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past,
and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe, a great office that
must be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it -- its
occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own
private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him¹ as a condition to holding that
I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty; nor
would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work
to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test, even by indirection. For if they disagree with that
safeguard, they should be openly working to repeal it.
I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all and obligated to none, who can attend any ceremony,
service, or dinner his office may appropriately require of him to fulfill; and whose fulfillment of his Presidential office is not
limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual, or obligation.
This is the kind of America I believe in -- and this is the kind of America I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my
brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we might have a divided loyalty, that we did not believe in liberty, or
that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened -- I quote -- "the freedoms for which our forefathers died."
And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers did die when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that
denied office to members of less favored churches -- when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Virginia
Statute of Religious Freedom -- and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie
and Crockett died Fuentes, and McCafferty, and Bailey, and Badillo, and Carey -- but no one knows whether they were
Catholics or not. For there was no religious test there.
I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition -- to judge me on the basis of 14 years in the Congress, on my declared stands
against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the
public schools -- which I attended myself. And instead of doing this, do not judge me on the basis of these pamphlets and
publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders,
usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and rarely relevant to any situation here. And always omitting, of
course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed Church-State separation, and which more
nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.
I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts. Why should you?
But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the State being used by any religious group,
Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or prosecute the free exercise of any other religion. And that goes for any
persecution, at any time, by anyone, in any country. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations
which deny their Presidency to Protestants, and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those
who differ, I would also cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as France and Ireland, and the independence
of such statesmen as De Gaulle and Adenauer.
But let me stress again that these are my views.
For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President.
I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.
I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before
me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my
decision in accordance with these views -- in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest,
and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide
But if the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible -- when my office would require
me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any
conscientious public servant would do likewise.
But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith; nor do I intend to disavow
either my views or my church in order to win this election.
If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I'd tried my best and was fairly
But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they
were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world,
in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.
But if, on the other hand, I should win this election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of
the Presidency -- practically identical, I might add, with the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without
reservation, I can, "solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the
best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution -- so help me God.
Frederick Douglass “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery”
Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I
represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice,
embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble
offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your
independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions. Then
would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold that a nation's sympathy could not
warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless
benefits? Who so stolid and selfish that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the
chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak,
and the "lame man leap as an hart."
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of
this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in
which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence
bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought
stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into
the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and
sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your
conduct. And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation (Babylon) whose crimes, towering up to
heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin.
Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous
yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not remember
those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of
To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous
and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.
My subject, then, fellow citizens, is "American Slavery." I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's
point of view. Standing here, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare,
with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July.
Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems
equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the
future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity, which is
outraged, in the name of liberty, which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and
trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to
perpetuate slavery -- the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate - I will not excuse." I will use the severest
language I can command, and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice,
or who is not at heart a slave-holder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some of my audience say it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother Abolitionists fail to make
a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more and denounce less, would you persuade more and
rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be
argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this
country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it.
The slave-holders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when
they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed
by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of these same
crimes will subject a white man to like punishment.
What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the
slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments, forbidding, under
severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read and write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to
the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the
fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to
distinguish the slave from a brute, then I will argue with you that the slave is a man!
For the present it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are plowing,
planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in
metals of brass, iron, copper, silver, and gold; that while we are reading, writing, and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants,
and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers; that we are
engaged in all the enterprises common to other men -- digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding
sheep and cattle on the hillside, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children,
and above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the
grave -- we are called upon to prove that we are men?
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already
declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of
logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice,
hard to understand? How should I look today in the presence of Americans, dividing and subdividing a discourse, to show
that men have a natural right to freedom, speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively? To do so
would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of
heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
What! Am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep
them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their
limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn
their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with
blood and stained with pollution is wrong? No - I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such
arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are
mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman cannot be divine. Who can reason on such a
proposition? They that can, may - I cannot. The time for such argument is past.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation's
ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is
not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the
earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the
nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be
What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year,
the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an
unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of
liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade
and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy - a thin veil to cover up crimes which
would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are
the people of these United States at this very hour.
Go search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America,
search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation,
and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.