OTD in History… June 14, 1777, Continental Congress adopts the Stars and Stripes as the American flag, 1916 President Wilson proclaims it as Flag Day

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OTD in History… June 14, 1777, Continental Congress adopts the Stars and Stripes as the American flag, 1916 President Wilson proclaims it as Flag Day

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted in a resolution the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the newly formed United States of America. Nearly one hundred and forty years, later on, June 14, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson celebrated the first proclaimed Flag Day honoring and celebrating the American flag. The next year he delivered an address just two months after declaring war and plunging the US into the First World War. Flag Day officially became an observed holiday on June 14, 1949, under President Harry Truman when Congress passed it as a law.

In 1777, the Continental Congress passed the Flag Act to regulate the general appearance of the flag. The act stated, “Resolved: That the flag of the United States be made of 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Who actually designed and created the first is more myth than fact, with the common theory that General George Washington commissioned the flag, “New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson” designed it and the first was “sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross.”

President William Howard Taft signed the first act that standardized the flag’s appearance. He signed an executive order on June 24, 1912, regulating the proportions and placement of the stars and stripes on the flag. After Hawaii and Alaska were admitted as states, President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the stars arrangements on the flag to fit stars for all 50 states.

Flag Day, however, did not start as a government proclaimed holiday. Bernard J. Cigrand, a teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin first observed the holiday in 1885, and he is considered the “Father of Flag Day.” Cigrand, gave over 2,000 speeches in his life promoting Flag Day as holiday and he served as the president of the American Flag Day Association and the National Flag Day Society. He first suggested the national observance in “an article for the Chicago Argus entitled ‘The Fourteenth of June.’”

President Wilson first proclaimed Flag Day on May 30, 1916. In his proclamation, he wrote:

I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as FLAG DAY with special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in the history and our enthusiasm for the political programme of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its, vital union in sentiment and purpose, accepting only those as true compatriots who feel as we do the compulsion of this supreme allegiance.

The next year as the country entered World War he gave his address “at the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument,” where he listed Germany’s transgressions as reasons for war, and claimed the “military masters of Germany,” were a “sinister power that has at last stretched its ugly talons out and drawn blood from us.”

At the start of his speech, President Wilson linked the World War to other conflicts where the flag was flown:

“We meet to celebrate Flag Day because this flag which we honour and under which we serve is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us. — speaks to us of the past, * of the men and women who went before us and of the records they wrote upon it. We celebrate the day of its birth; and from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great, events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people. We are about to carry it into battle, to lift it where it will draw the fire of our enemies. We are about to bid thousands, hundreds of thousands, it may be millions, of our men. the young, the strong, the capable men of the nation, to go forth and die beneath it on fields of blood far away, — for what? For some unaccustomed thing? For something for which it has never sought the fire before? American armies were never before sent across the seas. Why are they sent now? For some new purpose, for which this great flag has never been carried before, or for some old. familiar, heroic purpose for which it has seen men, its own men, die on every battlefield upon which Americans have borne arms since the Revolution?

These are questions which must be answered. We are Americans. We in our turn serve America, and can serve her with no private purpose. We must use her flag as she has always used it. Wo are accountable at the bar of history and must plead in utter frankness what purpose it is we seek to serve.”

Congress passed a statute recognizing Flag Day in 1949, and President Truman signed on Aug. 3 of the year. Flag Day is not an official holiday but each President has declared the day ever since.

READ MORE

Leepson, Marc. Flag: An American Biography. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 12, 1987, President Reagan calls on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall

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OTD in History… June 12, 1987, President Reagan calls on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate and called upon the Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” in what became known as Berlin Wall Speech. The speech challenged Gorbachev but was controversial in Berlin and among his speech writing team. Reagan had made two previous references to the Berlin Wall in 1982 and 1986, but this was the boldest of his references. The speech is one of Reagan’s most famous anti-Communist speeches and a symbol of the start of ending the Cold War.

Berliner’s protested Reagan’s arrival in West Germany, with 50,000 opposing his visit to the country. Earlier most of his speechwriters opposed the controversial line, concerned that it might heighten tensions with the Soviet Union, however, junior speechwriter Peter Robinson researched the mood in Germany and believed they wanted the wall down. Soviets erected the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent East Berliners in the Soviet bloc escaping to the Western-controlled half of the city.

In a May 18, meeting with his speechwriters, the line had fierce opposition from White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker and National Security Advisor Colin Powell, while Reagan was noted as saying, the speech was a “good solid draft” and said about the line, “I think we’ll leave it in.” Robinson claims to have gotten his inspiration from Ingeborg Elz of West Berlin at a dinner, who had said, “If this man Gorbachev is serious with his talk of Glasnost and perestroika he can prove it by getting rid of this wall.” Chief speechwriter Anthony Dolan counters Robinson’s recollection and insists Reagan thought of the line, not Robinson.

Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan arrived in West Berlin on June 12, to protests. They first visited the Reichstag, where they stood on the gallery observing the wall, before heading to the Brandenburg Gate for the speech at 2 p.m. Reagan chose the gate because both President John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter delivered speeches in the same spot. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963 was the better-known coming just months after the wall was erected and is considered “one of Kennedy’s best.”

Reagan’s speech “emphasiz[ed] freedom and reunification,” and challenged Gorbachev to show good faith in negotiations and challenged him to get rid of the wall, calling on him to do so twice in the speech.

The first time with the famous line:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The second, Reagan stated he foresees the inevitability of the wall falling:

“As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, ‘This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.’ Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

The speech’s focus, however, was to get Gorbachev at the negotiating table to reduce nuclear arms, particularly SS-20 weapons. As Reagan brought up, saying, “Not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”

The speech was not given the weight at the time as it does in historical context. When the wall fell on November 9, 1989, and Berlin reunified on October 3, 1990, Reagan’s call and foreshadowing had greater significance. Some journalists have been critical of the speech’s impact, however, New York Times best-selling author James Mann, believes it did have an impact on ending the Cold War. Mann argued in his 2007 New York Times article “Tear Down That Myth,” Reagan “wasn’t trying to land a knockout blow on the Soviet regime, nor was he engaging in mere political theater. He was instead doing something else on that damp day in Berlin… — he was helping to set the terms for the end of the cold war.”

READ MORE

Matlock, Jack F. Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended. New York: Random House, 2004.

Ratnesar, Romesh. Tear Down This Wall: A City, a President, and the Speech That Ended the Cold War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Remarks on East-West Relations at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin
June 12, 1987

Thank you very much. Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, ladies and gentlemen:

Twenty four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin, speaking to the people of this city and the world at the city hall. Well, since then two other presidents have come, each in his turn, to Berlin. And today I, myself, make my second visit to your city.

We come to Berlin, we American Presidents, because it’s our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we’re drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer, Paul Lincke, understood something about American Presidents. You see, like so many Presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: “Ich hab noch einen koffer in Berlin.” [I still have a suitcase in Berlin.]

Our gathering today is being broadcast throughout Western Europe and North America. I understand that it is being seen and heard as well in the East. To those listening throughout Eastern Europe, I extend my warmest greetings and the good will of the American people. To those listening in East Berlin, a special word: Although I cannot be with you, I address my remarks to you just as surely as to those standing here before me. For I join you, as I join your fellow countrymen in the West, in this firm, this unalterable belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin. [There is only one Berlin.]

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guardtowers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same–still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.

President von Weizsacker has said: “The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed.” Today I say: As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet I do not come here to lament. For I find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall, a message of triumph.

In this season of spring in 1945, the people of Berlin emerged from their air raid shelters to find devastation. Thousands of miles away, the people of the United States reached out to help. And in 1947 Secretary of State–as you’ve been told–George Marshall announced the creation of what would become known as the Marshall plan. Speaking precisely 40 years ago this month, he said: “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”

In the Reichstag a few moments ago, I saw a display commemorating this 40th anniversary of the Marshall plan. I was struck by the sign on a burnt-out, gutted structure that was being rebuilt. I understand that Berliners of my own generation can remember seeing signs like it dotted throughout the Western sectors of the city. The sign read simply: “The Marshall plan is helping here to strengthen the free world.” A strong, free world in the West, that dream became real. Japan rose from ruin to become an economic giant. Italy, France, Belgium–virtually every nation in Western Europe saw political and economic rebirth; the European Community was founded.

In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty–that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany-busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of park land. Where a city’s culture seemed to have been destroyed, today there are two great universities, orchestras and an opera, countless theaters, and museums. Where there was want, today there’s abundance–food, clothing, automobiles-the wonderful goods of the Ku’damm. From devastation, from utter ruin, you Berliners have, in freedom, rebuilt a city that once again ranks as one of the greatest on Earth. The Soviets may have had other plans. But, my friends, there were a few things the Soviets didn’t count on Berliner herz, Berliner humor, ja, und Berliner schnauze. [Berliner heart, Berliner humor, yes, and a Berliner schnauze.] [Laughter]

In the 1950’s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind-too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent–and I pledge to you my country’s efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides. Beginning 10 years ago, the Soviets challenged the Western alliance with a grave new threat, hundreds of new and more deadly SS-20 nuclear missiles, capable of-striking every capital in Europe. The Western alliance responded by committing itself to a counterdeployment unless the Soviets agreed to negotiate a better solution; namely, the elimination of such weapons on both sides. For many months, the Soviets refused to bargain in earnestness. As the alliance, in turn, prepared to go forward with its counterdeployment, there were difficult days–days of protests like those during my 1982 visit to this city–and the Soviets later walked away from the table.

But through it all, the alliance held firm. And I invite those who protested then–I invite those who protest today–to mark this fact: Because we remained strong, the Soviets came back to the table. And because we remained strong, today we have within reach the possibility, not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth. As I speak, NATO ministers are meeting in Iceland to review the progress of our proposals for eliminating these weapons. At the talks in Geneva, we have also proposed deep cuts in strategic offensive weapons. And the Western allies have likewise made far-reaching proposals to reduce the danger of conventional war and to place a total ban on chemical weapons.

While we pursue these arms reductions, I pledge to you that we will maintain the capacity to deter Soviet aggression at any level at which it might occur. And in cooperation with many of our allies, the United States is pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative-research to base deterrence not on the threat of offensive retaliation, but on defenses that truly defend; on systems, in short, that will not target populations, but shield them. By these means we seek to increase the safety of Europe and all the world. But we must remember a crucial fact: East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed; we are armed because we mistrust each other. And our differences are not about weapons but about liberty. When President Kennedy spoke at the City Hall those 24 years ago, freedom was encircled, Berlin was under siege. And today, despite all the pressures upon this city, Berlin stands secure in its liberty. And freedom itself is transforming the globe.

In the Philippines, in South and Central America, democracy has been given a rebirth. Throughout the Pacific, free markets are working miracle after miracle of economic growth. In the industrialized nations, a technological revolution is taking place–a revolution marked by rapid, dramatic advances in computers and telecommunications.

In Europe, only one nation and those it controls refuse to join the community of freedom. Yet in this age of redoubled economic growth, of information and innovation, the Soviet Union faces a choice: It must make fundamental changes, or it will become obsolete. Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in the West stand ready to cooperate with the East to promote true openness, to break down barriers that separate people, to create a safer, freer world.

And surely there is no better place than Berlin, the meeting place of East and West, to make a start. Free people of Berlin: Today, as in the past, the United States stands for the strict observance and full implementation of all parts of the Four Power Agreement of 1971. Let us use this occasion, the 750th anniversary of this city, to usher in a new era, to seek a still fuller, richer life for the Berlin of the future. Together, let us maintain and develop the ties between the Federal Republic and the Western sectors of Berlin, which is permitted by the 1971 agreement.

And I invite Mr. Gorbachev: Let us work to bring the Eastern and Western parts of the city closer together, so that all the inhabitants of all Berlin can enjoy the benefits that come with life in one of the great cities of the world. To open Berlin still further to all Europe, East and West, let us expand the vital air access to this city, finding ways of making commercial air service to Berlin more convenient, more comfortable, and more economical. We look to the day when West Berlin can become one of the chief aviation hubs in all central Europe.

With our French and British partners, the United States is prepared to help bring international meetings to Berlin. It would be only fitting for Berlin to serve as the site of United Nations meetings, or world conferences on human rights and arms control or other issues that call for international cooperation. There is no better way to establish hope for the future than to enlighten young minds, and we would be honored to sponsor summer youth exchanges, cultural events, and other programs for young Berliners from the East. Our French and British friends, I’m certain, will do the same. And it’s my hope that an authority can be found in East Berlin to sponsor visits from young people of the Western sectors.

One final proposal, one close to my heart: Sport represents a source of enjoyment and ennoblement, and you many have noted that the Republic of Korea–South Korea–has offered to permit certain events of the 1988 Olympics to take place in the North. International sports competitions of all kinds could take place in both parts of this city. And what better way to demonstrate to the world the openness of this city than to offer in some future year to hold the Olympic games here in Berlin, East and West?

In these four decades, as I have said, you Berliners have built a great city. You’ve done so in spite of threats–the Soviet attempts to impose the East-mark, the blockade. Today the city thrives in spite of the challenges implicit in the very presence of this wall. What keeps you here? Certainly there’s a great deal to be said for your fortitude, for your defiant courage. But I believe there’s something deeper, something that involves Berlin’s whole look and feel and way of life–not mere sentiment. No one could live long in Berlin without being completely disabused of illusions. Something instead, that has seen the difficulties of life in Berlin but chose to accept them, that continues to build this good and proud city in contrast to a surrounding totalitarian presence that refuses to release human energies or aspirations. Something that speaks with a powerful voice of affirmation, that says yes to this city, yes to the future, yes to freedom. In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin is love–love both profound and abiding.

Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the Sun strikes that sphere–that sphere that towers over all Berlin–the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, “This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.” Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.

And I would like, before I close, to say one word. I have read, and I have been questioned since I’ve been here about certain demonstrations against my coming. And I would like to say just one thing, and to those who demonstrate so. I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they’re doing again.
Thank you and God bless you all.

OTD in History… June 11, 1963, President Kennedy orders the National Guard to desegregate the University of Alabama

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OTD in History… June 11, 1963, President Kennedy orders the National Guard to desegregate the University of Alabama

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy orders the National Guard to force Alabama Governor Wallace to end his blockade and desegregate the University of Alabama. June 11, 1963, was a busy day for the civil rights movement. Early in the day, Alabama Governor and strong segregationist George Wallace delivered his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door Speech.” Alabama was the only state that still did not desegregate their schools, Democrat Wallace entered office earlier in the year promising “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” Wallace was unyielding refusing to negotiate and compromise with the Kennedy Administration, hoping instead for a confrontation that would elevate his status, while diminishing Kennedy in the Deep South.

Wallace physically prevented two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from completing their registration at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Wallace literally stood in front of the school’s Foster Auditorium door blocking Malone and Hood from entering. Wallace attempted to prevent the university’s integration despite a court order the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

When Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach asked Wallace to move aside, he refused. Instead, Wallace delivered his infamous speech on states’ rights. Wallace called the desegregation an “unwelcomed, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus” and “a frightful example of the expression of the rights, privileges, and sovereignty of this state.” (Brinkley, 109) Katzenbach then contacted President Kennedy.

President Kennedy again was forced to federalize the Alabama National Guard Executive Order 11111 to end the conflict. Kennedy issued Presidential Proclamation 3542 to force Wallace to comply and allow the students to enter the university building and complete their registration. Four hours later Wallace finally moved aside after being by Guard General Henry Graham, allowing for the integration of the University. Wallace made national headlines upping his profile, but also forcing Kennedy’s hand that he had no choice left but to announce his intentions to introduce a civil rights bill to Congress.

SOURCES

Dallek, Robert. An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co, 2003.

Dallek, Robert. John F. Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

 

Executive Order 11111—Providing Assistance for the Removal of Obstructions of Justice and Suppression of Unlawful Combinations Within the State of Alabama
June 11, 1963

WHEREAS on June 11, 1963, I issued Proclamation No. 3542, pursuant in part to the provisions of section 334 of Title 10, United States Code; and

WHEREAS the commands contained in that Proclamation have not been obeyed, and the unlawful obstructions of justice and combinations referred to therein continue:

NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including Chapter 15 of Title 10 of the United States Code, particularly sections 332, 333 and 334 thereof, and section 301 of Title 3 of the United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

SECTION 1. The Secretary of Defense is authorized and directed to take all appropriate steps to remove obstructions of justice in the State of Alabama, to enforce the laws of the United States within that State, including the orders of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama referred to in the said Proclamation, and to suppress unlawful assemblies, combinations, conspiracies and domestic violence which oppose or obstruct the execution of the laws of the United States or impede the course of justice under those laws within that State.

SEC. 2. In furtherance of the authorization and direction contained in section 1 hereof, the Secretary of Defense is authorized to use such of the Armed Forces of the United States as he may deem necessary.

SEC. 3. I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of Defense to call into the active military service of the United States, as he may deem appropriate to carry out the purposes of this order, any or all of the units of the Army National Guard and of the Air National Guard of the State of Alabama to serve in the active military service of the United States for an indefinite period and until relieved by appropriate orders. In carrying out the provisions of section 1, the Secretary of Defense is authorized to use the units, and members thereof, called into the active military service of the United States pursuant to this section.

SEC. 4. The Secretary of Defense is authorized to delegate to the Secretary of the Army or the Secretary of the Air Force, or both, any of the authority conferred upon him by this order.

JOHN F. KENNEDY
THE WHITE HOUSE,
June 11, 1963

OTD in History… June 11, 1963, President Kennedy addresses civil rights to the nation

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OTD in History… June 11, 1963, President Kennedy addresses civil rights to the nation

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

John F. Kennedy delivering the Civil Rights Address (Wikimedia Commons)

On This Day in History… June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a televised address on civil rights to the nation from the White House Oval Office paving the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Two days in June 1963 have been highlighted as part the pantheon of major turning points in American history. The recently published “Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Changed History” by award-winning journalist and Canadian political author Andrew Cohen in 2014 highlighted the importance of those two days to both the Civil Rights movement, the Cold War and the Kennedy presidency.

Cohen emphasized the magnitude of the events and particularly two speeches Kennedy delivered one on foreign policy at the commencement at American University and the other televised to the nations advancing civil rights. Cohen explained, “To the calendar, June 10 and June 11, 1963, was late spring; to history, it was high summer. Great forces converged and smaller ones emerged over these forty-eight hours, bracketed by two imperishable speeches. One produced an arms treaty, the first of the Cold War. The other produced a civil rights law, the most important of its time” (p. 19)

Cohen indicated the importance of those dates in the Kennedy Presidency, but a recent op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal by author Joel Engel went further. Engel in his article entitled “Three Days That Changed the World, Not That the World Noticed” elevated the significance of three days in June 1963 as major turning points in history. Engel noted, “History is in part the observation of consequential days, tragic and joyous. Americans celebrate July 4 and commemorate Sept. 11. We remember Dec. 7 and honor June 6. In those four days, major events bore consequences that changed the world. But at no time in American history have there been three days like June 10–12, 1963, during which several unrelated events altered the nation’s course as surely as had the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

June 11 and 12, 1963 represented a tide that turned in the battle African-Americans had been waging to obtain civil and equal rights in the United States. All the more significant, 1963 was the bicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation were in the midst of the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln granted freedom to America’s slaves. Freedom did not mean equality, although initially through Reconstruction African-Americans saw gains with the addition of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution soon segregationist Jim Crow laws segregating African-American settled in throughout the South leaving a new form of bondage.

Throughout, African-Americans were slowly fighting back, primarily with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded in 1909; the best way to move forward was within the court system. Any gains were minimal until a major victory in the Supreme Court by the landmark ruling of the Brown v Board of Education. The decision declared separate segregated school, were not equal but also illegal.

A legal victory was not a practical one; the south remained unwilling to desegregate their schools, and only 10 percent of schools desegregated by the end of the decade. Desegregation took a turn when in 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the National Guard to “enforce the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.” Afterward, desegregation sped up in public schools, but in every other way of life, it remained at a standstill. In 1960 and 1961, sit-ins and freedom rides attempted to desegregate lunch counters and buses. The gains remained modest under Democrat John F. Kennedy’s presidency despite the sympathetic rhetoric, but only minor action.

The spring of 1963 was paving the way to those two fateful days that would lead to a turning point. The push for desegregation gained momentum with the rise of a charismatic and eloquent leader; Montgomery, Alabama, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King’s non-violent protests became a hallmark of the civil rights movement, and integral part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which King helped found in 1957, and also served as president. King gained prominence as the leader of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in the winter of 1955–56 at just 26.

In the interim, King’s movement would continue to make news, but King again made headlines in the spring of 1963 with a string of protests in Birmingham, Alabama, which King called “probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.” Throughout the spring, from April 3 to May 10, King along with Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and James Bevel of the SCLC led activists in the Birmingham campaign, who protested with sit-ins, marches and a boycott, most leading to clashes with the local police.

One of the most notable occurred on Good Friday, April 12, 1963, where King was arrested for his 13th time. King would remain in jail for a week staying longer than necessary mostly to publicize the movement. There he wrote his famous treatise “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the letter was a response to a letter eight religious leaders wrote criticizing him in Birmingham’s newspaper. King defended the movement’s methods and criticizing the leaders saying, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” President Kennedy eventually intervened leading to King’s release on April 20.

The demonstrations continued and the violent tactics of Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor, continued. On May 2, what was later dubbed the “Children’s Crusade,” protest led to nearly 1000 arrests and Connor used “fire hoses and police dogs” on the young school age protesters. The televised images gripped the nation with the New York Times publishing a photo of dogs attacking a 17-year-old student on their front page. At the time Kennedy remarked, “The other problem is the problem of civil rights… What a disaster that picture is. That picture is not only in America but all around the world.”

There was a brief moment of peace, on May 11, civil rights leaders and city and business owners in Birmingham signed the “Birmingham Truce Agreement.” The deal allowed for a “partial desegregation (of fitting rooms, water fountains, and lunch counters in retail stores).” Additionally, those arrested during the campaign would be released, and there would be the creation of a Committee on Racial Problems and Employment.

On the evening of May 11, segregationists most probably members of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama targeted civil rights leaders with bombs including the home of Rev. A. D. King, movement leader, King’s brother and the Gaston Motel, where King was staying and held a press conference the day before. The non-violence espoused by King turned to violent protests and riots later in the evening.

The violence forced President Kennedy to act; he sent “troops to an Alabama air base” and began the process of “drafting” a proposed civil rights bill to send to Congress. Addressing the nation, Kennedy balked at addressing the larger issue at hand, civil rights. Instead, while addressing the nation Kennedy said, “This Government will do whatever must be done to preserve order, to protect the lives of its citizens, and to uphold the law of the land.” (Brinkley, 106) The morality of civil rights would have to wait a month.

Still, according to historian Nicholas Andrew Bryant in his highly critical book, “The Bystander: John F. Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality,” (2006) Kennedy refused to bring about legislation throughout the Birmingham Campaign, and only considered action after the riots broke out. Bryant, who examined the Kennedy civil rights legacy throughout his entire political career, questioned why it took the president over two years to get to the issue and pursue legislation.

Sheldon M. Stern points out that according to Bryant Kennedy had “a willingness to make important symbolic gestures about race and civil rights, coupled with a reluctance to take political risks.” (Hoberek, 79) Bryant also concluded Kennedy’s civil rights record showed a “symbolic approach to the race problem meant that many of the changes he ushered in were largely cosmetic.” (Hoberek, 85) Historian Alan Brinkley writing his biography John F. Kennedy as part of the American Presidents Series concurs, writing that towards civil rights Kennedy had a “pattern of rhetorical activism followed by resistance and delay began on his very first day in office.”

The pivotal moment that changed Kennedy perception on civil rights was viewing African-Americans fighting back with the May 11 race riots. Kennedy could no longer sit idly by; civil rights had also become law and order issues that he could not let go unresolved. Bryant analyzes in his book, “It was the black-on-white violence of May 11 — not the publication of the startling photograph a week earlier — that represented the real watershed in Kennedy’s thinking, and the turning point in administration policy. Kennedy had grown used to segregationist attacks against civil rights protesters. But he — along with his brother and other administration officials — was far more troubled by black mobs running amok.” (Bryant, 393)

A taped conversation between the president and his brother and Attorney General Robert Kennedy from the Oval Office confirmed his motivation. Kennedy indicated on May 12, “First we have to have law and order, so the Negro’s not running all over the city… If the [local Birmingham desegregation] agreement blows up, the other remedy we have under that condition is to send legislation up to Congress this week as our response…As a means of providing relief, we have to have legislation.”

June 11, 1963, was a busy day for the civil rights movement. Earlier, Alabama Governor and strong segregationist George Wallace delivered his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door Speech.” Alabama was the only state that still did not desegregate their schools, Democrat Wallace entered office earlier in the year promising “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” Wallace was unyielding refusing to negotiate and compromise with the Kennedy Administration, hoping instead for a confrontation that would elevate his status, while diminishing Kennedy in the Deep South.

Wallace physically prevented two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from completing their registration at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Wallace literally stood in front of the school’s Foster Auditorium door blocking Malone and Hood from entering. Wallace attempted to prevent the university’s integration despite a court order the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

When Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach asked Wallace to move aside, he refused. Instead, Wallace delivered his infamous speech on states’ rights. Wallace called the desegregation an “unwelcomed, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus” and “a frightful example of the expression of the rights, privileges, and sovereignty of this state.” (Brinkley, 109) Katzenbach then contacted President Kennedy.

President Kennedy again was forced to federalize the Alabama National Guard Executive Order 11111 to end the conflict. Kennedy issued Presidential Proclamation 3542 to force Wallace to comply and allow the students to enter the university building and complete their registration. Four hours later Wallace finally moved aside after being by Guard General Henry Graham, allowing for the integration of the University. Wallace made national headlines upping his profile, but also forcing Kennedy’s hand that he had no choice left but to announce his intentions to introduce a civil rights bill to Congress.

Kennedy’s address would have an adverse reaction on civil rights leaders. Just hours later in the early morning of June 12, Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi. Evers was African-American civil rights activist and the field secretary for the Mississippi state NAACP, who earlier in the day demanded desegregation from local leaders. Byron De La Beckwith, who belonged to the segregated group the White Citizens’ Council, shot Evers in the back as he entered his home after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Although De La Beckwith was first arrested on June 21, 1963, for Evers’ murder, it took until 1994 for him to be convicted of the crime.

It was against this turmoil in the nation over civil rights that President Kennedy called and booked time on all three major networks for him to speak to the nation at 8 PM EDT on civil rights and the situation in Alabama in his “Report to the American People on Civil Rights.” Kennedy decided the time was ripe to announce his intention to introduce civil rights legislation. As Cohen recounted, “The pretext was Tuscaloosa (today’s confrontation), the context was Birmingham (the unrest there elsewhere that spring), and the subtext was Washington (to make the case for legislation.)” (321)

It was a hastily drafted speech by Ted Sorensen in a mere two hours and revised by Kennedy. Sorenson looked back at past speeches he created for Kennedy on the issue, his own experience, and softened the rhetoric of the past few days. The president’s brother Bobby Kennedy was not pleased with Sorenson’s quickly written speech and even requested civil rights advisor Lee White to assist. The short time to draft the speech made Kennedy nervous, even doubtful if should even deliver it according to White’s observations.

Kennedy’s other poet laureate historian Arthur Schlesinger was nowhere to be found despite attempts to reach him when they did finally reach him it was too late for him to help with the speech. In the end, White did not add to the speech, but aide Louis Martin did, however, Sorenson never gave him authorship credit. The speech was not completed in time, and President Kennedy was receiving pages just as he was about to start. Kennedy determined Sorenson’s speech was too short, and he needed to fill up time, added eight paragraphs “off-the-cuff” (Cohen, 338) to the address, which is considered the best lines. The “moral issue” would be the speech’s overriding theme.

The President told Americans that segregation is a “moral issue” that is wrong. Kennedy stated; “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” President Kennedy accomplished two points in his speech, the introduction of civil rights legislation, and the beginning of significant comprehensive school desegregation.

Kennedy pleaded to the American people that civil rights are the responsibility of all citizens; “It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. 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.”

Kennedy specifically emphasized the lack of action since the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954. The landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education case ended the legality of the separate but equal system. Kennedy lamented; “Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job. The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.”

In his speech, President Kennedy began an active pursuit of Congressional legislation that would end segregation. Kennedy laid out his legislative plans, “Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law…. I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public-hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.”

President Kennedy also introduced the pursuit of the vote for all African-Americans. The president stated, “Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But the legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.” With his speech that night, Kennedy was pushing in motion not only the Civil Rights Act, but also the subsequent Voting Rights Act passed two years later in 1965 which guaranteed the vote to all Americans.

Kennedy concluded his 15-minute speech with a request for support from the American public for his sweeping and necessary proposals. The proposals were based on Constitutional rights for all Americans. Kennedy expressed to the nation, “Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents… This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.” Cohen described the speech as “a triumph. These were words written in haste for the ages. It was a knock-down, flat-out masterpiece.” (Cohen, 338) Meanwhile, historian Garth E. Pauley in “The Modern Presidency and Civil Rights” called the speech “the first sustained moral argument by an American President on civil rights.” (Hoberek, 77)

President Kennedy no longer wanted to be the bystander as Bryant called him, but he wanted to take his longtime rhetoric on civil rights and turn it into action. Kennedy told Arthur Schlesinger about his decision to move, then on the bill, he “thought more highly of American Presidents” who emphasized “concrete achievement rather than political education.” Kennedy’s civil rights speech as Cohen indicated, “was the moment a president pivoted. Kennedy was moving from detachment to engagement, from being a transactional president — as political scientists would classify leadership of a certain type a half century later — top a transformative one.” (Cohen, 338)

Kennedy submitted a civil rights bill to Congress the next week on June 19, which historian Robert Dallek in his biography of President Kennedy, an Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 described as “the most far-reaching civil rights bill in the country’s history.” (Dallek) The law would guarantee the right to vote for all with the minimum of a sixth-grade education, and end discrimination in all public and commercial facilities establishments and accommodations.

Kennedy also requested that the attorney general is granted expanded powers to implement school desegregation, asked to end job discrimination and create job training opportunities and a “community relations service.” Kennedy used the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution to justify the contents of his proposed bill.

The leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. approved of President Kennedy’s speech and described it as ‘the most sweeping and forthright ever presented by an American president.’” Initially, King told Reverend Walter Fauntroy who he was watching the speech with, “can you believe that white man not only stepped up to the plate, he hit over the fence!” (Cohen, 339) Publicly King sent Kennedy a wire saying, “I have just listened to your speech to the nation. It was one of the most eloquent, profound and unequivocal pleas for justice and freedom of all men ever made by a president. You spoke passionately for the moral issues involved in the integration struggle.” (Cohen, 339) Kennedy, however, faced a tougher response from Congress.

Still, King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” delivered on August 28, 1963, over two months later during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom would eclipse Kennedy’s speech as the most relevant to advancing civil rights. Although a pivotal moment, the march attended by 200,000 to 300,000, concerned Kennedy who asked King to cancel it, fearing “a big show on the Capitol” would hinder the passage of the civil rights bill. Kennedy even refused to meet with the delegation of civil rights leaders at the White House before the march concerned it could cause demonstrations. Instead, Kennedy opted for meeting King and the other leaders of the major organizations after the march ended that day.

Kennedy was right, he would not see the civil rights bill his administration authored passed into law, or even debated and put to vote on the floor of Congress. President Kennedy continued pushing Congress to pass civil rights legislation with bipartisan support in the following months but to no avail. Civil rights were one of four bills, Kennedy wanted to be passed, but never did in his lifetime, the others were a “tax cut, federal aid to education, and Medicare.” (Cohen, 360) Kennedy’s agenda stalled mostly because of his civil rights bills that led to anger from Southern Democrats and in general from the south. Kennedy would be assassinated months later, on November 23, in Dallas, Texas leaving his Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson from Texas to take over the mantle.

Pursuing civil rights, however, would become central to Kennedy’s legacy. Nevertheless, as Brinkley noted, there was a “harsh and often violent opposition that made it unlikely that his civil rights legislation would succeed soon. His tragic death, and the political skills of Lyndon Johnson, made possible the passage of civil rights and voting rights legislation. But John Kennedy — and the great movement that he finally embraced — was essential to great achievements.” (Brinkley, 112)

President Kennedy’s address to the nation on June 11 altered forever the direction of civil rights in the country. Historian Penial E. Joseph says it “might have been the single most important day in civil rights history.” Joseph also noted, “without the moral forcefulness of the June 11th speech, the bill might never have gone anywhere.” (Hoborek, 78) Without President Kennedy haven taken initial action with this speech and laying out his bold vision and plan to make a civil rights a reality for all Americans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never have passed and signed into law on July 2, 1964.

Sources:

Brinkley, Alan. John F. Kennedy. New York: Times Books, 2012.

Bryant, Nick. The Bystander: John F. Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality. New York: Basic Books, 2006.

Cohen, Andrew. Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History. [Toronto, Ontario]: Signal, McClelland & Stewart, 2016.

Dallek, Robert. An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co, 2003.

Dallek, Robert. John F. Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Hoberek, Andrew. The Cambridge Companion to John F. Kennedy. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Joseph, Peniel E. “Kennedy’s Finest Moment,” The New York Times, June 10, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/opinion/kennedys-civil-rights-triumph.html. Accessed June 12, 2017.

Pauley, Garth E. The Modern Presidency & Civil Rights: Rhetoric on Race from Roosevelt to Nixon. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2001.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights
June 11, 1963

Good evening, my fellow citizens:

This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Viet-Nam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

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.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or cast system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. 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.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in a series of forthright cases. The executive branch has adopted that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.

But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is in the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last 2 weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I am also asking Congress to authorize the Federal Government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to de-segregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today a Negro is attending a State-supported institution in every one of our 50 States, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.

In this respect, I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.

Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom’s challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.

My fellow Americans, this is a problem which faces us all–in every city of the North as well as the South. Today there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate in education, moving into the large cities, unable to find work, young people particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or lunch counter or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a State university even though qualified. It seems to me that these are matters which concern us all, not merely Presidents or Congressmen or Governors, but every citizen of the United States.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.

We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.

This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.
Thank you very much.

OTD in History… June 10, 1953, President Eisenhower rejects isolationism in the Cold War

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OTD in History… June 10, 1953, President Eisenhower rejects isolationism in the Cold War

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Getty Images

On this day in history June 10, 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered a speech National Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting in Minneapolis where he laid out his “New Look” foreign policy, which rejected isolationism in the Cold War and emphasized nuclear weapons for defense. Eisenhower used his speech to respond to two of his foreign policy critics; Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft (R-Ohio) and Air Force chief of staff Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg. Sixty-five years later, the nation is yet again faced growing isolationism within the Republican Party. President Donald Trump’s presidency is based on an “American First” policy that isolates the country on the world stage and practices protectionism, while he is presently engaged in a trade war with allied nations.

Six months into Eisenhower’s presidency, the United States was still fighting the Korean War, which formed the basis of Taft and Vandenberg’s complaintsto the president. Taft had long been a bone in Eisenhower’s side; Taft was a candidate for the Republican nomination in 1952 and his isolationist views and actions were the reasons Eisenhower decided to run for president. The two were rivals for the nomination, with Taft suspected of trying to block Eisenhower’s nomination at the convention. The two agreed to uneasy peace during the campaign, which did not last once Eisenhower was president. Taft wanted Eisenhower to withdraw from the United Nations, should they fail to make a peace deal with Korea, so that the US can devise their policy to deal with the warring nations which he called “the ‘fortress’ theory of defense.” Meanwhile, Vandenberg objected to Eisenhower’s Defense Secretary Charles Wilson cutting the Air Force’s budget by $5 billion.

Eisenhower “feared,” according to Thomas Zoumaras, in the book, “Reevaluating Eisenhower: American Foreign Policy in the 1950s,” “that an isolationist president would succumb to protectionism.” (p. 156) The President also believed “that world trade and foreign aid, during periods of economic and military crisis would strengthen the anti-Communist alliance system enough to guarantee peace of the U.S. defense budget.” (p. 156) Eisenhower’s “New Look” foreign policy looked to keep the American economy “vital” but “build” defenses to fight the Cold War, maintain nuclear weapons as a “deterrent,” use the CIA for covert actions and maintain and build alliances in the world. Part of the “New Look” policy was the philosophy of “more bang for the buck” when it came to defense spending.

Instead of arguing with Taft and Vandenberg, the President chose to respond to them in his speech National Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting. The speech emphasized national security and did not mention either one by name. Eisenhower declared, “It is no wonder that our national security is so vast a matter-for the struggle in which freedom today is engaged is quite literally a total and universal struggle. It engages every aspect of our lives. It is waged in every arena in which a challenged civilization must fight to live.”

In response to Taft, Eisenhower focused on the Cold War as an international “total struggle,” which “calls for total defense.” The President called the Cold War, “This whole struggle, in the deepest sense, is waged neither for land nor for food nor for power — but for the soul of man himself.” Eisenhower rebuked Taft’s isolationism’s, saying, “There is another theory of defense, another oversimplified concept, which I believe equally misleading and dangerous. It is what we might call the “fortress” theory of defense.” The President emphasized his international approach focusing on “unity,” stating, “We know that only with strength and with unity — is the future of freedom assured. And freedom, now and for the future, is our goal!”

To Vandenburg, he argued that nuclear weapons make the vast arsenals used in World War II useless, and instead, the defense can be more efficient, with the strategy, “fewer planes ‘on order,’ more in the air.” Eisenhower pointed out, “There is no wonderfully sure number of planes or ships or divisions, or billions of dollars, that can automatically guarantee security.” Both Taft and Vandenberg would be out of Eisenhower’s way soon enough; Vandenberg would retire at the end of June, while Taft died of cancer on July 31.

Throughout the Cold War, the US remained internationalists, sometimes too much so. As the country became involved over public objections in conflicts, in Vietnam and more recently Afghanistan and Iraq, Republicans have again developed a more isolationist approach. All of which culminated in Trump’s presidency, which resorts to a large extent to Taft’s views, while ignoring Eisenhower’s successful strategy.

SOURCES

Melanson, Richard A, and David A. Mayers. Reevaluating Eisenhower: American Foreign Policy in the 1950s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

McClenahan, William M, and William H. Becker. Eisenhower and the Cold War Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a over dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Politics February 2, 2017: Obama should follow the rules of the former presidents club and not criticize Trump

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Obama should follow the rules of the former presidents club and not criticize Trump

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Just ten days into his successor Donald Trump’s presidency and former President Barack Obama has decided to him. On Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, Obama released a statement through his spokesman praising public protests and dissent to his successor temporarily travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim nations without stable governments and halt to the Syrian refugee program. Obama broke tradition with the former presidents club, who usually chooses to avoid criticizing their successor allowing them to run the country and make their mistakes or successes, it was a model Obama’s predecessor Republican former President George W. Bush religiously upheld, making only one comment six years into Obama’s presidency. Obama’s choice to speak out imperils his legacy, historical perspective while blurring the lines of the presidency.

After Trump issued his executive order on Friday evening, Jan. 28, protests erupted at airports across the country, while lawsuits were filed and heard for those caught in the ban. The executive order halted travel to the US from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, with nonimmigrant or immigrant visas. The order halted refugee entries for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program for an indefinite period.

The order was amended to allow entry to those with green cards, dual Canadian citizens and possibly those who worked with the US military. The order is based on the 2015 Terrorist Travel Prevention Act and its amendment in February 2016 under President Obama, which established these countries as threats because they do not have a stable government to communicate with US immigration to vet travelers. The bill created more extensive and vetting process for refugees from those countries. Obama’s bill caused little fanfare or objections.

On Monday, Obama’s spokesman issued a statement supporting the very vocal protesters, who held rallies at airports, city streets and even in front of the White House. Kevin Lewis, Obama’s spokesman, expressed in the statement, “President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.”

Obama’s spokesman continued, saying, “Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.” Lewis concluded, with the sharpest rebuke to President Trump, saying, “About comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

Former First Lady, 2016 Democratic nominee and Secretary of State under Obama, Hillary Clinton also tweeted her support, while daughter Chelsea participated in a protest in New York over the weekend. Apparently, the former president wanted his former Democratic supporters to protest as they have been doing in the little over a week Trump has been president. Former White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told the Washington Post, “What is notable about the grass-roots response to Trump .?.?. is that it is exactly the response that President Obama called for in his farewell address.” Essentially, Obama wanted dissension to Trump’s presidency and was always planning to be critical given the new president’s campaign pledges.

Such sharp criticism by a former president of his successor is the exception rather than the rule, even more so when it occurs just over a week after leaving the office. The Washington Post, which is highly critical of Trump, even had the headline, “Obama, in a rare move for an ex-president, breaks silence to criticize Trump on immigration.”

Twice, Obama implied he would only comment on Trump’s presidency in exceptional circumstances. Two days before leaving office at his final press conference on Jan. 18, Obama said, “There’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.”

Obama indicated which issues would warrant his opinions, “I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination ratified in some fashion; I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise,” Obama said. “I would put in that category, institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least, I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else.”

Just after the election in November, at his press conference in Lima, Obama also expressed what he would publicly say about Trump after he left office. Obama said, “I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance. As an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal but go to core questions about our values and our ideals, and if I think that it is necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, I’ll examine it when it comes.” Obama remarks should come as no surprise, according to the Washington Post Obama organized his post-presidency office for political advocacy.

Obama however, surprised everyone by his criticism, it is unprecedented in American history for a former president to comment especially so early on in their successor’s term. Presidential historian Robert Dallek told the Washington Post, “I don’t think it’s very common at all for an ex-president to be commenting on the performance of his successor.” Obama is certainly not following the traditional and examples of most former presidents in American history.

Obama’s behavior is somewhat surprising given the respect, his predecessor George W. Bush gave to him when he embarked on the presidency. Although Obama spent much of his first term criticizing Bush and his policies, Bush never said a word to counter his successor or disparage him publicly for most of his time in office. Speaking in 2009, Bush said of Obama, “He deserves my silence. There’s plenty of critics in the arena. I think it’s time for the ex-president to tap dance off the stage and let the current president have a go at solving the world’s problems.”

Bush explained in 2014 over five years after leaving office the two reasons why he chose not say anything about the Obama presidency. Bush indicated, “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president; I think it’s bad for the presidency for that matter.” Bush also said his reasons were personal, “Secondly, I really have had all the fame I want. I really don’t long for publicity. And the truth the matter is in order for me to generate publicity … I’d have to either attack the Republican Party, which I don’t want to do, or attack the president, which I don’t want to do. And so I’m perfectly content to be out of the limelight.”

In a 2013 interview with CNN Bush mentioned another reason why he will not criticize his successor, “I don’t think it does any good. It’s a hard job. He’s got plenty on his agenda. It’s difficult. A former president doesn’t need to make it any harder. Other presidents have taken different decisions; that’s mine.”

Bush finally broke his silence in 2015, at what was suppose to be a private event, without media coverage. Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition and donors in Nevada, Bush criticized Obama’s Middle East policies including negotiating a deal with Iran and withdrawing troops from Iraq. Supposedly, Bush said of the Iran deal, “You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren. That’s how Americans should view the deal.”

Most of the former presidents kept silent in public refusing to criticize their successors in office. Afterward, many have grown close even after contentious campaigns where they were opponents. Rivals in the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush became close friends in 2005, as did Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford who were opponents in the 1976 election. President Harry Truman became friends with one of his predecessors; Herbert Hoover after the Republican helped the Democrat “restructure the executive branch.” Lyndon Johnson reached out to his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and during the Vietnam War, and he was friends as well with Truman.

Dwight Eisenhower happens to be the best example of a recent former president not criticizing their successor, even if seems appropriate. Eisenhower never admonished his successor Democrat John F. Kennedy, even during biggest blunder the Bay of Pigs although he criticized him privately calling him “Little Boy Blue.” Afterward, Kennedy sought Eisenhower’s advice, and apparently, Kennedy admitted, “No one knows how tough this job is until he’s been in it a few months.” Eisenhower responded, “Mr. President. If you will forgive me, I think I mentioned that to you three months ago.”

Jimmy Carter has been the most vocal and critical post-World War II president criticizing three of his successors. Carter was a one-term president, with an active post-presidency. He criticized fellow Democrat Bill Clinton’s morals on the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his pardon of Marc Rich; he criticized Republican George W. Bush saying in 2007, “as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.” Carter even was critical of Obama for how he handled North Korea and Iran. Carter’s criticism and meddling in foreign affairs made him the most disliked living former president.

Carter was not the most severe case of post-presidency criticism, that prize might go to Republican Theodore Roosevelt to his handpicked successor William Howard Taft. Taft made promises to keep Roosevelt’s cabinet and stay true to his policies but soon moved on to forge his own path. With Republican encouragement, Roosevelt mounted a campaign against Taft even winning more primaries, but Taft won the nomination after discrediting Roosevelt’s delegates.

Roosevelt, in turn, mounted a third party run with the newly formed the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party with a progressive “New Nationalism” platform. Roosevelt ended up being competitive to the Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson and secured a second place finish in the election that Wilson won, leaving Taft in the dust. Even with all the animosity, later on, Roosevelt said in 1910 after returning from an extended trip to Europe and Africa, “I will make no speeches or say anything for two months. But I will keep my mind open .?.?. As I keep my mouth shut.”

Time magazine editors and presidential historians, Nancy Gibb and Michael Duffy in 2012 book “The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity,” argue that there are usually bonds between the presidents. Gibb and Duffy write, “Such are the journeys this book attempts to trace: the intense, intimate, often hostile but more often generous relationships among the once and future presidents. It makes little difference how much they may have fought on the way to the White House; once they’ve been in the job, they are bound together by experience, by duty, by ambition, and by scar tissue.”

There are also rules including as former President George H. W. Bush has said, “No matter the politics, you know and understand the weight of the decisions the other guy had to make, and you respect that.” Gibb and Duffy indicate the two most important rules, “The Presidents Club has its protocols, including deference to the man in the chair and, for the most part, silence about how the members of the world’s most exclusive fraternity get along and the services they provide one another.”

Obama seems to be breaking with one of the most important precedents set out by the first former president George Washington. As Gibb and Duffy indicate, “but most of all to relinquish his power peacefully, even prematurely given his immense stature, at that time a striking act of submission to untested democratic principles.” Obama seems to look to incite Democrats many who have said Trump is “not their president” or claimed like Rep. John Lewis that he is “not the legitimate president.” Instead, Obama should have looked to precedent, where former presidents,
“join forces as needed, to consult, complain, console, pressure, protect, redeem.”

Obama speaking out so soon shows he is having difficulty letting go of the presidency and that confuses Democrats and his supporters who seem so adamantly against President Trump. Obama is showing too much partisanship, just after the election, and the inauguration of a new president. Gibb and Duffy say, “They can support whomever they like during campaigns; but once a new president is elected, the others often act as a kind of security detail.” The partisanship does nothing to help Obama who left the office with an average approval rating lower than the majority of post-war presidents. In the post-presidency, most former presidents reputations heal, and their popularity soars, because they stay out of the partisan fray, leaving it to the current president.

Obama needs to stop encouraging protests and chaos from his supporters and Democratic Congressional leadership, and instead look to give Trump some advice and guidance in private while letting his supporters know Trump is the president. Whether Democrats and liberals like Trump’s policies or not they need to look for effective means to make a difference rather than protesting in the streets and airports because all it seems like is lawlessness and pettiness because the Democratic Party just never accepted the election results of a president that legitimately won.

Sources:

Gibbs, Nancy, and Michael Duffy. The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “Theodore Roosevelt: Campaigns and Elections.” Accessed February 1, 2017. http://millercenter.org-/president/biography/roosevelt-campaigns-and-elections.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

 

Politics January 29, 2017: Obama polarizing historical legacy as the nation’s divider-in-chief

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Obama polarizing historical legacy as the nation’s divider-in-chief

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Obama era was the most partisan; Barack Obama reigned over the country as the polarizing president history according to a new Gallup poll released on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 that looked at the partisan support of Obama during his eight-year presidency. The survey proved what already seemed obvious from the news media and recent events that Americans are more partisan than ever in American history. It is leading the country down the wrong path and divides not seen since the Civil War, ironically by a president who was elected on a pledge to unite rather than divide.

According to Gallup, Obama had the largest “party gap in presidential job approval ratings” in support of all presidents in the post-World War II era, with 70 percent, up nine points from the presidency of Republican George W. Bush. A trend started in Republican Ronald Reagan’s era, but steadily grew during George W. Bush’s presidency, and became a fact during Obama’s time in office. According to the Gallup, the partisanship has to do with the times even more than his policies, explaining, “The extreme polarization in Obama’s ratings could reflect his policies and approach to governing, it also reflects the era in which he governed.”

Gallup has been crowning the last six years of Obama’s presidency as polarized with an increasingly larger partisan divide. According to Gallup, Presidents Reagan, Bill Clinton, Bush and now Obama a party gap of over 50 percent, with 52, 55, 61 and 70 respectively. Nixon was the only president to a gap in the 40s range with 41 percent. Three presidents had gaps in the 30s, Dwight D. Eisenhower, with 39 percent, George H. W. Bush with 38, and John F. Kennedy with 35 percent. The least divisive presidents partisan wise were Jimmy Carter and Lyndon B. Johnson with a 27 percent gap, and Gerald Ford with a 29 percent.

Party support divide among recent presidents:

Average approval, Republicans Average approval, Democrats Average party gap
% % pct. pts.
Obama 13 83 70
G.W. Bush 84 23 61
Clinton 27 82 55
Reagan 83 31 52
Nixon 75 34 41
Eisenhower 88 49 39
G.H.W. Bush 82 44 38
Kennedy 49 84 35
Ford 68 37 29
Johnson 44 71 27
Carter 30 57 27

George H. W. Bush presidency might not seem divisive because it was not during its first three years with a party gap of only 32 to 24 percent, but his last year in office when the economy was in trouble became far more polarized with a gap of 54 percent, which continued through the Clinton era. Gallup indicated that the average party support gap from 1953 to 1981 was only 34 percent, from 1981 to 2017 it grew to a 54 percent average.

Pew Research Center conducted a similar survey, which they released earlier this month, just before the inauguration. Pew published their review on Oct. 28, 2016, just days before the 2016 election. Obama had a 54 percent approval rating and 42 percent disapproval, but the margin of approval differed greatly between the parties. Pew claims Obama’s poll ratings were “more politically polarized than any president’s dating back to Dwight Eisenhower.”

According to Pew “An average of just 14% of Republicans have approved of Obama over the course of his presidency, compared with an average of 81% of Democrats.” Pew explains, “The gap in partisan presidential ratings has widened in recent decades as Americans have grown more divided in their basic values and beliefs along partisan lines and as partisan animosity has increased.” Pew indicates, that “Partisan divisions in assessments of presidential performance, for example, are wider now than at any point going back more than six decades.”

Gallup, however, tracks that this polarization has increasingly become a problem in the last 15 years, under Bush and Obama, where the party gap averaged 60 percent. Pew Research Center determined recently in a survey entitled “Political Polarization in the American Public” found one of the reasons for the rise in partisanship is attributed to the disappearing middle, centrist American, the so-called mushy middle. Instead, “92 percent of Republicans are now to the right of the median Democrat, and 94 percent of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.” While the “partisan animosity” is so that each side believes the other “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”

It is ironic that Obama was at the center of the growing partisan divide since he burst onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic National Conventionwith a keynote address calling for an end to red and blue states division, which at that point he called a figment of the media. Obama with soaring rhetoric said, “Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America… The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into the Red States and the Blue States; the Red States for Republicans, the Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too… We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

Obama echoed that call throughout his 2008 campaign of change and hope, speaking at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa back in November 2007, he firmly stated, “I don’t want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s. I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the President of the United States of America.” In his March 2008 speech on race calling for a “more perfect union,” Obama made clear he was the choice candidate for unity and end of divisive politics, saying, “For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism…. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”

Obama’s failures as president had more to do with intense partisanship than any other determining factor; it was his inability to compromise with Republicans and they with him that led to a legislative gridlock that was the hallmark of Obama’s presidency since the Republican took control of Congress in the 2010-midterm elections. When the GOP won the House of Representatives in 2010, Obama divisively declared, “The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.”

Republicans could not forgive Obama for passing with the Democratic-controlled Congress the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and most importantly the Affordable Care Act, healthcare law, which passed into law without a single Republican vote, that the GOP spent the remainder of his presidency trying to repeal it. Obama’s inability to compromise led to the sequestration, across the board spending cuts to reduce the deficit in March 2013, and later that year one of the longest government shutdowns in October that last over two weeks over failing to agree on a federal budget. Obama had little legislative success for his last six years in office, because of his confrontational and cold war attitude to the Republican Congress.

President Obama’s go it alone rhetoric on executive actions while chastising Republicans in Congress for not passing legislation he desired including immigration reform also added to the partisan “rancor.” His threats of “governing” by “pen and phone” to create a “year of action” in 2014 just before his State of the Union address only caused more of a partisan divide, without attempts to negotiate really with Republicans he just angered them. Speaking at his first cabinet meeting that year, Obama made clear, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. One of the things that I will be emphasizing in this meeting is the fact that we are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we are providing Americans the kind of help that they need.”

Jeffery Rosen, Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School, commented to NY Magazine on Obama’s legacy in the January 2015 article, “53 Historians on Obama’s Legacy.” Rosen analyzes, “Nevertheless, Obama’s rhetoric on executive orders has been so polarizing — “Where I can act without Congress, I’m going to do so.” — that he has inflamed his opponents and strengthened their resolve to reverse his achievements.”

Obama, however, inflamed more with his talk than actions, he only issued 277 executive orders only a 35 per year average, less than his immediate predecessors did and less than any president in 120 years based on a yearly average. Just as he used his rhetoric to unite Americans in his 2008 campaign, he used it to divide them in during his presidency.

Instead of negotiating with the opposing party in Congress, as most presidents did in an attempt to pass legislation, Obama thought ridicule was the way to go. It had the opposite effect; it made the Republican Party stronger, their supporters more resolute resulting in the 2016 election where the GOP swept the elections at almost every level. The Boston Globe put it best, “Like all presidents, Obama has been frustrated by partisan opponents. But no chief executive in modern times has been so quick to impugn his critics’ motives, or to resort to mockery and demonization when amicable persuasion would serve so much better.” They concluded how much Obama contributed to the partisan divide, stating, “When presidential rhetoric is mean and contemptuous, the whole public square is befouled.”

Rosen indicated that Obama’s blazon executive actions had not fared well especially with the courts, where the Supreme Court struck down his recess appointments and then did the same in 2016 with his orders on immigration. Rosen contextualized, “Throughout history, unilateral presidential actions designed to circumvent Congress have led to pushback in the Courts and Congress that have ultimately undermined, rather than strengthened, the president’s legitimacy.”

Obama realized how much he contributed to the partisan divide in the nation by his last year in office. The former president called it his greatest regret since he campaigned in 2008 as a uniter but became a divider. First Obama lamented his failures as he was running reelection in September 2012 during an interview, saying, “I’m the first one to confess that the spirit that I brought to Washington, that I wanted to see instituted, where we weren’t constantly in a political slugfest . . . I haven’t fully accomplished that. My biggest disappointment is that we haven’t changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked.” Still, Obama turned his positive hopeful campaign from 2008 into a more insulting model in 2012.

Again, in his last State of the Union Address in January 2016, Obama admitted his presidency’s failure to close the partisan gap, expressing, “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”

In the same State of the Union, Obama made a final “plea” to end the partisanship, saying, “A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions, different attitudes, different interests. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us.” The president, however, never seem to take his advice or practice what he preached.

Obama failed to do anything to soothe the partisan divide in his last year in office and possibly inflamed according to Gallup with his intensely partisan rhetoric as he campaigned for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. The campaign between Clinton and Republican, now President Donald Trump was one of the nastiest in American history with a deep partisan divide between two vastly different candidates and the demographics of their supporters.

During his campaign speech for Clinton, Obama made the differences between the parties stark, with rhetoric as divisive as the GOP who was accusing the same of, saying the day before the election, “So we got one more day. And we can choose a politics of blame and divisiveness and resentment. Or you can choose a politics that says; we’re stronger together. Tomorrow you can choose whether we continue the journey of progress or whether it all goes out the window.” Obama’s stump speech was full of insults he opposed during his first campaign not just for the Republican nominee but the party, “If you think ‘Voting for Endless Gridlock’ is a good slogan, you should vote for the Republicans.”

Obama’s failure to bridge the partisan divide only led to a more divisive presidency, and it is only getting worse. According to the first numbers Gallup collected from Trump’s fledgling presidency show the nation is even more divisive and partisan under Trump. According to Gallup, Trump is seeing a 76 percent gap between party approval ratings with 90 percent of Republicans approving of him while only a meager 14 percent of Democrats. Trump’s first week in office included a flurry of executive actions, adding a wall to the Mexican border, approving oil pipelines, and barring refugees and immigrants from some Muslim countries resulting in reactionary protests across the country and around the world, ensuring a new age of even more polarizing politics.

Obama’s polarizing numbers show a greater failure, while Trump had always campaigned as a divisive, controversial, revolutionary and populist choice, Obama overriding theme throughout his career in national politics was the aim to unite the partisan divide. Instead, his period in the spotlight created the most intense divisions within the country not seen since the Civil War when the North and South waged war over their brothers over states rights and slavery.

Now the country seems on the verge of a new ideological civil war between the Red and Blue States, Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. While not yet violent, this new war uses the weapons of words and protests against those they ideologically oppose, with Obama’s Democrats being the most vocal and extreme. Obama always wanted to emulate Abraham Lincoln, but now his only semblance to the great president who presided and ended the Civil War was the Lincoln, the divider which when elected in 1860 saw half the states of the union secede. Unlike Lincoln, Obama further tore the country apart and never tried to put it back together.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Politics January 25, 2017: Americans agree with Trump’s America First Inaugural Address

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Americans agree with Trump’s America First Inaugural Address

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Political pundits and the news media may have initially called President Donald Trump inauguration address dark and divisive, but the American public liked it and his American first theme. According to both a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, and a Gallup poll released Sunday, Jan. 22 a majority of Americans liked Trump’s inaugural address. The Politico poll found that 49 percent approved while Gallup found 53 percent did not. The Gallup poll also looked at other reactions from the inauguration, and found it very much a partisan affair but was in tune to recent inaugurations.

According to Politico’s poll, 49 percent that either “watched or heard” the speech thought it was “excellent or good,” a total of 65 percent of Americans “reacted positively” to the speech’s “American First” theme and presidential agenda. Only 39 percent of Americans thought the speech was ‘fair or poor.” Meanwhile, 61 percent agreed with the policy of “”buy American and hire American.” Additionally, Politico’s poll found that “51 percent of voters described the speech as ‘optimistic,’ 46 percent of respondents say the speech was ‘presidential,’ and 44 percent say it was ‘inspiring.’”

After the inauguration, Gallup conducted a poll to gauge the reaction of Americans to the ceremony, Trump becoming president and his inaugural address. In this poll, Trump’s numbers were closer to feelings about recent inaugurations. The survey showed that a significant number of Americans 53 percent said that his speech was “excellent” or “good,” while 20 percent have a negative view saying it was “poor” or “terrible,” with 22 percent saying the address was “just okay.”

Despite the positive reviews, historically inaugural addresses have been well received by more Americans. In 2013, Barack Obama had 65 percent of Americans giving him “excellent/good ratings” and in 2005; George W. Bush had 62 percent. Obama broke the record in 2009 when he was inaugurated as the first African-American president in American history receiving the highest ratings from 81percent of Americans.

According to Gallup’s poll, 39 percents of Americans felt more hopeful, 30 percent felt less hopeful, and 30 percent felt no different. In general, there was a partisan divide on to how hopeful Americans felt, with 78 percent of Republicans feeling that way, while 56 percent of Democrats felt less hopeful. In comparison, during Obama’s second inauguration in 2013, 37 percent of all American voters felt more hopeful, 27 percent less hopeful, and 30 percent no different.

In 2005, When Bush had his second inauguration, 43 percent felt more hopeful, 25 percent less hopeful and 28 percent no different. The exception to this trend was Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, where he ran on hope and made his history with his election, then 62 percent felt more hopeful, only 11 percent felt less hopeful, and 23 percent felt no different.

Additionally, Gallup asked who viewed the inauguration, Trump’s was hardly the most watched inauguration, and neither was it the most watched recently. According to Gallup’s poll, 46 percent of all Americans saw Trump’s inauguration in any format. Additionally, 23 percent saw news or subsequent coverage of the inauguration.

Only Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 beat Trump’s in recent years, Obama had 60 percent viewership for his first inaugural, but only 38 percent for his second, while Bush had 40 percent for his second inauguration. There was a partisan divide in viewership that was not there as much in previous inaugurations except Obama in 2013, with 61 percent of Republican viewing Trump’s inauguration, versus only 35 percent of Democrats.

The voters’ view of Trump’s inauguration and address was a sharp contrast to the news media’s immediate reaction and commentary from pundits and academics all who agreed that Trump was divisive and failed in his first act as president. A majority analyzed that Trump should have gone a different route than his address that closely resembled his campaign rhetoric and stump speeches. The media was wrong again about Trump as they were about his prospects of winning the election. The contrast and two strikes against the news media show that they are too biased against Trump to the point they are risking their credibility, and the possibility that Trump’s presidency will be a success because he is the one more in tune with the American public.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Politics January 25, 2017: Trump sees lowest approval rating of any new president in recent history

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Trump sees lowest approval rating of any new president in recent history

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Donald Trump entered the presidency with the lowest approval rating of any newly inaugurated president. According to Gallup poll’s first three-dayapproval rating tracking of the Trump presidency released on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, the new president only received a 45 percent approval rating, the lowest for any president in the post-World War II era. Trump also received a 45 percent disapproval rating. In contrast, the American public felt much better about his inauguration on Friday, with 39 percent feeling hopeful, which is on par with the last inauguration.

According to Gallup Trump has a 45 percent approval rating, new president usually sees some of their highest numbers in this honeymoon period. Only Ronald Reagan in 1981 and George H. W. Bush in 1989 came close with a 51 percent approval rating upon entering the office. Reagan also won in a close election that was more an anti-Jimmy Carter vote than pro-Reagan one. Even George W. Bush fared better with 57 percent, despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore, with the Supreme Court deciding the presidency over a month after Election Day.

Approval ratings upon entering the presidency:

1. Harry S. Truman (June 4, 1945) 87 percent
2. Lyndon B. Johnson (Dec. 9, 1963) 78 percent
3. John F. Kennedy (Feb. 14, 1961) 72 percent
4. Gerald Ford (Aug. 18, 1974) 71 percent
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower (Feb 4, 1953) 68 percent
6. Barack Obama (Jan. 24, 2009) 67 percent
7. Jimmy Carter (Feb. 6, 1977) 66 percent
8. Richard M. Nixon (Jan. 27, 1969) 59 percent
9. Bill Clinton (Jan. 25, 1993) 58 percent
10. George W. Bush (Feb. 3, 2001) 57 percent
11. Ronald Reagan (Feb. 1, 1981) 51 percent
12. George H.W. Bush (Jan. 25, 1989) 51 percent

Trump has been a divisive figure; he surprised all political polls and pundits to win the election against Democrat Hillary Clinton, winning the all-important Electoral College with 306 votes but lost the popular vote to Clinton by nearly three million votes. Trump was not able to endear himself to the American public during his presidential transition period. Many Democrats protested Trump’s election, questioned his legitimacy because he lost the popular vote. Insulted, instead of reaching out, Trump continued to play to his supporters, choosing the most all white male cabinet since Reagan’s in 1981.

According to polls taken in the week before his inauguration, disapproval for Trump’s transition was up at historically high numbers. A survey from Fox News on his inauguration day said 37 percent approved of the then president-elect, while 54 percent said they disapproved. A poll from ABC/Washington Post released earlier in the week showed that only 40 percent approved of Trump and his transition. Meanwhile, Obama had an 80 percent approval during his transition.

Gallup released a similar poll on Monday, Jan. 16, that looked favorability ratings. In that poll, only 40 percent of American view Trump favorably while 55 percent view him unfavorably. His Vice President’s numbers are not much better with only 42 percent having a favorable view of Mike Pence.

Trump’s numbers were historically low. Most president-elect facing their inaugurations had high favorability ratings. In 2009, Barack Obama had a 78 percent favorability rating, in 2001; George W. Bush had a 62 percent, while in 1993 Bill Clinton had a 66 percent favorability rating. According to Gallup, Trump did not even high numbers among Republicans, with only 82 percent having a favorable view of him. In comparison, in 2001 97 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of Bush, while in 2009, 95 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of Obama and in 1993, 92 percent had a favorable view of Clinton.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Politics January 23, 2017: Obama leaves office with average approval ratings how will his legacy fare?

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Obama leaves office with average approval ratings how will his legacy fare?

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Obama White House

Barack Obama is leaving the presidency popular and with a high approval rating, but his term average is lower than other recent presidents. According to a Gallup Poll released on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, the day Obama left office his final approval rating and the average for his presidency. According to Gallup Obama’s last approval rating was 59 percent, but his average is much lower at just under 48 percent with 47.9. With the President Obama’s final poll numbers set in stone, it is becoming easier to determine how he ranks against his predecessors, what his legacy will be and how history will look at him.

According to earlier Gallup poll on Obama’s favorability published on Monday, Jan. 16, Obama has a 58 percent favorability rating, when he entered office in 2009 the president had 79 percent favorability his highest. In general, Obama has averaged a 53 percent favorability rating; his first year was his best where he had a 55 to 69 percent rating, and most recently after the 2016 election where Obama saw a 61 and 62 percent favorability rating. At his lowest, the president had a 42 percent rating just after the 2014 mid-term elections, where the GOP regained control of the Senate and saw momentum.

Of the four presidents, Gallup tracked favorability ratings, Obama will see himself in second place after Republican George H.W. Bush, who left office in 1993 after losing his reelection bid, but still managed to have 62 percent favorability by January 1993. Ranking after Obama is Democrat Bill Clinton who had 57 percent favorability in January 2001. Only Republican George W. Bush embattled by two long and unpopular wars and an economic collapse fared the worst, with only a 40 percent favorability rating.

Obama’s favorability rating is on par with his approval rating, where last scored a 59 percent according to the Jan. 17–19 Gallup Daily tracking, with a 57 in his last weekly poll. Obama had an average of 49.1 percent approval rating for his first term and a 46.7 percent for his second term. Obama tied for second place with the smallest approval rating range, which was only 31 percent. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953–1961) also had a 31 percent range, but John F. Kennedy, who died tragically in office, had the smallest range of only 24 percent.

Obama’s last weekly approval rating puts him in the high range of departing approval ratings of post-World War II presidents. Bill Clinton in 2001 had the highest exit approval rating with 66 percent. Next Reagan had 63 percent in December 1988; Obama comes in third with 59 percent, tying with Eisenhower with 59 percent in 1961 and Kennedy who had a 58 percent approval rating just before his assassination n November 1963. Of the recent presidents, George H.W. Bush with 56 percent in 1993 and George W. Bush, who only had a 34 percent approval rating the week before Obama took office in January 2009.

Despite this recent uptick in popularity Obama will not leave office as one of the most popular presidents, in fact, his term approval rating will only sit below 50 percent at only 47.9 percent. Obama’s highest approval rating was 69 percent just after his inauguration, Jan 22–24, 2009, with the highest weekly average that week with 67 percent. Obama’s lowest point was a three-day average of 38 percent approval rating “Eight times, most recently Sep 2–5, 2014,” with a lowest weekly average of 40 percent, which Obama saw 12 times during his presidency “most recently Nov 3–9, 2014.”

Of the 12 post-World War II presidents, Obama sits at ninth place. Obama’s numbers never really went far high or very low accounting for his low position. Gallup analyzed that Obama “subpar approval ratings for much of his presidency.” Gallup noted that Obama started out with high numbers for an incoming president but after his first year in office his numbers to around 50 percent and staying below the “majority level” until he just before his reelection in 2012 in his 16th quarter in office.

After his second inauguration Obama’s approval numbers fell to the 40s, and during that period, he saw his lowest numbers. With his presidency close to ending a contentious presidential election going on did Obama’s numbers rebound in 2016 his last year in office where he again saw numbers over 50 percent. As Gallup indicates, Obama’s “32nd and final quarter job approval average of 55.7% was his third-highest as president.”

The following is the term averages:

1. John Kennedy (January 1961-November 1963) 70.1
2. Dwight Eisenhower (January 1953-January 1961) 65.0
3. George H.W. Bush (January 1989-January 1993) 60.9
4. Lyndon Johnson (November 1963-January 1969) 55.1
5. Bill Clinton (January 1993-January 2001) 55.1
6. Ronald Reagan (January 1981-January 1989) 52.8
7. George W. Bush (January 2001-January 2009) 49.4
8. Richard Nixon (January 1969-August 1974) 49.0
9. Barack Obama (January 2009-January 2017) 48
10. Gerald Ford (August 1974-January 1977) 47.2
11. Jimmy Carter (January 1977-January 1981) 45.5
12. Harry Truman (April 1945-January 1953) 45.4

Despite the rankings, Obama’s lowest approval rating was only 38 percent, which he saw in August and October 2011, “after contentious negotiations over the debt ceiling limit and subsequent downgrading of the U.S. credit rating.” Obama saw a 38 percent approval rating again in September 2014, when as Gallup indicates, terrorist group ISIS beheaded American journalists, and after a particularly tense summer in the US, with racial tension, and international conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Israel with the Palestinians. Most post-war presidents saw approval rating lower than Obama with five below 30 percent. Only Eisenhower and Kennedy never saw number lower than the 40s.

The out-going president had the third highest job approval low of all post-war presidents.

Job approval lows:

1. John Kennedy (September 1963) 56
2. Dwight Eisenhower (March 1958) 48
3. Barack Obama (2011, 2014) 38
4. Bill Clinton (June 1993) 37
5. Gerald Ford (January 1975 and March 1975) 37
6. Lyndon Johnson (August 1968) 35
7. Ronald Reagan (January 1983) 35
8. George H.W. Bush (July 1992) 29
9. Jimmy Carter (June 1979) 28
10. George W. Bush (October 2008) 25
11. Richard Nixon (July 1974 and August 1974) 24
12. Harry Truman (February 1952) 22

President Obama’s low overall ranking is also because he has never had high peaks in his approval ratings, and only ranks ninth in job approval highs, with 67 percent. Only Nixon and Reagan also never saw approval ratings over 70 percent during their presidencies. Obama’s presidency never had a “rally event” a threat to public security as Gallup calls it that bolsters an approval rating to very high numbers. The only thing Obama had that was close was when his administration caught “Osama bin Laden in May 2011,” but then Obama’s approval rating only bumped up to 52 percent.

Job approval highs:

1. George W. Bush (September 2001) 90
2. George H.W. Bush (February 1991) 89
3. Harry Truman (June 1945) 87
4. John Kennedy (April 1961) 83
5. Dwight Eisenhower (December 1956) 79
6. Lyndon Johnson (February 1964) 79
7. Jimmy Carter (March 1977) 75
8. Bill Clinton (December 1998) 73
9. Ronald Reagan (May 1981 and May 1986) 68
10. Barack Obama (January 2009) 69
11. Richard Nixon (November 1969 and January 1973) 67
12. Gerald Ford (August 1974) 71

Obama average approval and favorability numbers come as historians will start assessing his presidency as a complete picture. Gallup analyzes that “Obama’s average job approval rating for his entire presidency was lackluster.” The poll blames it on the lack of a rally event and polarization caused by Republican opposition throughout his term.

Still speaking of the relation between Obama’s approval rating and ranking in history, Gallup concluded, “A president’s overall approval average is one indication of how well he did his job, but often a president’s ratings at the end of his presidency have a greater impact on how he is remembered. Reflecting this, Americans believe that Obama will be judged more positively than negatively by history, and predict he will go down in history as a better president than several of his predecessors who had higher average approval ratings.”

Although it is still early, Obama ranking as president and afterward might not be the same, Obama was not able to accomplish all that he wanted to as president because of his and the Republican Congress’s impasses and stubbornness, and a growing partisan divide. Obama was a go it alone president making his mark through executive actions, with just eight alone in his last month as president. Still, he failed to reform immigration neither through Congress, not through executive action, which the Supreme Court struck down.

Still, in his first year as president, he accomplished what no other modern president could a health care law, the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. The GOP will try to repeal it, but they will face resistance from a public who views it as part of the rights. Obama’s other greatest accomplishment is turning around the economy from a great recession to a flourishing economy with the lowest employment rate in decades. He reformed the education law and saw the nation’s highest high school graduate rates, Obama also believed in second chances, reforming federal sentencing laws, and granting more clemencies and commuting more non-violent drug sentences than any previous president.

According to a recent article in the New Orleans Tribune, “Historians Rank President Obama’s Legacy” historians see psychological effects as part of his success. Obama broke boundaries as the first black president; he was also a professor president who was “disciplined” and often made unpopular decisions, which he saw fit. Obama believed in the American people being the best they can, which was behind his 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes We Can;” he made Americans hope and believe they all could aspire to equality and even the highest office in the land.

We are still too early to assess Obama’s place in history and ranking among the presidents. Time magazine in their article “The One Reason We Can’t Assess President Obama’s Place in History,” spoke to three prominent presidential historians, Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, Timothy Naftali, Clinical Associate Professor of History and Public Service at NYU and Doris Kearns Goodwin. All three agreed that perspective, context and time are necessary to assess Obama’s legacy to see how his policies and accomplishments hold up.

As Zelizer told Time, “Those policies have to last to be significant, they can’t fade away. If a president does a lot of things that are still around two decades later, I think that’s a great measure of whether a President’s been successful.” Naftali believes that “presidents’ reputations… improve with time,” and Kearns Goodwin says what is important is “whatever historically ends up helping towards social justice or economic opportunity.”

Just as his soaring hallmark rhetoric, Obama had so much potential for greatness, but like his ratings, in the end, he came off as just average according to the numbers. Only in the years, ahead looking back with clearer and less rose-colored views will historians really be able to see how much or if Obama truly changed the country during his tenure.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Politics January 18, 2017: Obama leaves office beloved with high favorability ratings

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Obama leaves office beloved with high favorability ratings

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Barack Obama is leaving the presidency popular and with a high favorability rating, just not as high as he entered the office. According to a Gallup Poll released on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, Obama’s favorability is the second highest of all presidents since 1992, when they began looking at favorability. Obama’s favorability is on par with his approval rating. The president is not even the most popular member of his outgoing administration, First Lady Michelle Obama has a higher favorability as most first ladies do and even Vice President Joe Biden is proving more popular.

According to the Gallup poll, Obama has a 58 percent favorability rating, when he entered office in 2009 the president had 79 percent favorability his highest. In general, Obama has averaged a 53 percent favorability rating. His first year was his best where he had a 55 to 69 percent rating, and most recently after the 2016 election where Obama saw a 61 and 62 percent favorability rating. At his lowest, Gallup notes, the President Obama had a 42 percent rating just after the 2014 mid-term elections, where the GOP regained control of the Senate and saw momentum in the House and general support.

Of the four presidents, Gallup tracked favorability ratings for, Obama will see himself in second place after Republican George H.W. Bush, who left office in 1993 after losing his reelection bid, but still managed to have 62 percent favorability by January 1993. Ranking after Obama is Democrat Bill Clinton who had 57 percent favorability in January 2001. Only Republican George W. Bush embattled by two long and unpopular wars and an economic collapse fared the worst, with only a 40 percent favorability rating.

First Ladies are history more popular than their president husbands are, and Michelle Obama is no exemption to that rule. First Lady Michelle has maintained her favorability during the last eight years, entering in 2009 with a 68 percent rating and leaving with the same number. Mrs. Obama’s highest numbers were two months into the presidency where she saw a 72 percent rating.

Vice President Biden sees his best numbers to date leaving office with a 61 percent favorability rating. Biden’s popularity seems to be recent, at his highest point after the 2008 election, the VP only had a 59 percent rating, and throughout the Obama administration Biden only saw a 38 to 49 percent favorability rating, his number only rose after the 2016 election where they hit 57 percent and kept climbing.

Obama higher favorability ratings in the lame duck quarter of his presidency are on par with improving approval rating, where he last scored a 59 percent according to the Jan. 17–19 Gallup Daily tracking, with a 57 in his last weekly poll. Obama had an average of 47.9 percent for his both terms in office, 49.1 percent approval rating for his first term, and a 46.7 percent for his second term. At his highest point, Obama had a 69 percent approval rating in January 2009, and at his lowest points he had 38 percent in August and October 2011, and then again in September
2014.

Gallup called Obama’s approval rating average “sub-par” and “lackluster,” but they “predict he will go down in history as a better president than several of his predecessors who had higher average approval ratings.” President Obama was always more popular personally than was his policies and accomplishments; he ends his presidency the same way well liked by an American public anxious about the future administration and nostalgic for the last one.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

On this day in history November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas launching four days of national mourning

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On this day in history November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas launching four days of national mourning

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history… November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States (1961–63) was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. by Lee Harvey Oswald, while in a Presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas heading towards the Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy was in an open limousine waving at the cheering crowd with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nelly when three shots in succession erupted, which hit the President, and the Governor. Governor Connally was hit just once, while President Kennedy was hit twice, fatally. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Hospital, where President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 46 years-old, 30 minutes after the shooting. For three days after the shooting, the nation mourned the loss of their young president culminating in a state funeral on November 25.

President Kennedy’s visit to Texas was part of his early re-election campaign strategy, where he hoped in 1964 to win Florida and Texas. Although the president had not formally announced his re-election, he already started touring states. In Texas, Kennedy was looking to bring squabbling factions of the state’s Democratic Party together. President Kennedy and First Lady Jackie left Washington on Thursday, Nov. 21, where they would go on a “two-day, five-city tour of Texas.”

On that fateful day, Friday, Nov. 22, the Kennedys started out in Fort Worth that rainy morning, before taking a thirteen-minute flight to Dallas. Arriving at Love Field, the Kennedys were greeted by the public, with someone handing Jackie a bouquet of red roses. In Dallas, the rain stopped, and the Kennedys joined the Texas first couple the Connallys in a now open top, convertible. They had to travel only ten miles to reach their destination, the Trade Mart; Kennedy was supposed to address a “luncheon.”

They never reached there. On route, Kennedy and Connally were both shot, but the president more seriously, with wounds in his head and neck, he “slumped over” into Jackie’s lap, and where she shielded him as the motorcade now sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital. There was little that could be done to save the president, and he received last rites before being announced dead at 1 p.m., a mere half hour after he was shot. In the book “The Kennedy Detail” Secret Service agent Clint Hill recalled, “It has taken me decades to learn to cope with the guilt and sense of responsibility for the president’s death, and I have made it a practice to keep my memories to myself. I don’t talk to anybody about that day.

President Kenney would return to Love Field where barely three hours before he arrived alive, leaving in a casket boarding Air Force One. Inside the “crowded” plane US District Court Judge Sarah Hughes swore in Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson as the 36th US president at 2:38 p.m. Jackie Kennedy was standing by Johnson’s side, still wearing the clothes stained with the president’s blood.

CBS News was the first to report Kennedy had been shot at 12:40 p.m. CT as the network cut into popular soap opera “As the World Turns” to report what had happened to the president. Anchor Walter Cronkite went live at 12:48 p.m. Cronkite announced the president’s death as he took off his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. There was an immediate outpouring of grief by the nation after news of the assassination broke, as they mourned the loss of an idealized young President. Robert Thompson, “a professor of pop culture and television at Syracuse University” commented, “While we didn’t see the assassination live, the television show about the assassination was a four-day long drama that played on national television.”

Police arrested Oswald, an hour after the shots were fired. Oswald, a Soviet sympathizer with ties to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, had shot Kennedy from the school book depository building, where he recently began to work. Two days later, Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner fatally shot Oswald, as he was being transferred from Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail; Ruby claimed he wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy any further grief.

The nation proceeded into four days of mourning, culminating three days later on November 25, 1963, when a state funeral was held for the slain president. According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Jackie Kennedy modeled the funeral after President Abraham Lincoln’s, Lincoln had been assassinated nearly a 100 years before. On Saturday, November 23, as Kennedy’s body was in repose in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours, President Johnson declared the day a national day of mourning. On Sunday, November 24, the President’s coffin was carried by the same horse-drawn carriage as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Unknown Soldier before him, to the Capitol building where his body laid in state for 21 hours, with 250,000 people visiting his casket in the Capitol’s Rotunda.

On that Monday, November 25, one million people gathered on the route of the processional from the Capitol to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where the funeral was held. Foreign dignitaries from 100 countries, including 19 heads of state came to pay their respects, and millions of Americans and 23 countries watched the assassination coverage and then funeral on TV, which was covered by then three big networks; ABC, CBS, and NBC. John B. Mayo in his 1967 book “Bulletin From Dallas: The President Is From Dead” determined that “CBS clocked in with 55 total hours, ABC played 60 hours and NBC — airing an all-night vigil from the Capitol Rotunda on Sunday — broadcast 71 hours of coverage that weekend.”

After the Requiem Mass, as the President’s body was carried from the cathedral, three-year-old John Jr. saluted his father’s casket giving the mourning nation an iconic image to remember. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia after the service Jackie Kennedy and the president’s brothers Robert and Edward lit an eternal flame that remains burning over the President’s gravesite.

In 2010, historian Ellen Fitzpatrick published her book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation.” Speaking to PBS’s Newshour about the purpose of the book and looking back at the memory of President Kennedy, she claimed; “And what I was trying to get at was how Americans at the moment viewed John F. Kennedy. It seemed to me that, in the decades since his death, there’s been so much historical revisionism, much of it appropriate, that dismantled the hagiography that grew up around him in the immediate aftermath of his assassination.”

Continuing, Fitzpatrick explained, “It had become increasingly difficult for students, for younger people, even people of my own generation, to recover that moment, the kind of idealism and faith that people had and the way that President Kennedy was viewed in his time… So, I was thinking, how can I recapture this? And I went into the archives. I asked the archivist. I remembered the condolence letters. I remembered Mrs. Kennedy thanking the public.”

Historian Alan Brinkley eloquently honored Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his death in 2013, with an article in the Atlantic Magazine, simply titled the “Legacy of John Kennedy” doing just that looking at the mystique of the 35th president that has only grown with time. Brinkley explains the reason why Kennedy remains a legend despite many failed policies and the introduction of far sweeping laws that passed during his successor’s administration. Brinkley writes Kennedy “remains a powerful symbol of a lost moment, of a soaring idealism and hopefulness that subsequent generations still try to recover. His allure-the romantic, almost mystic, associations his name evokes-not only survives but flourishes.”

After the most bruising and ugly presidential election in perhaps American history, the image Kennedy invoked is a sharp contrast to the political reality of today making Brinkley’s conclusion even more powerful. Brinkley expressed, Kennedy’s “legacy has only grown in the 50 years since his death. That he still embodies a rare moment of public activism explains much of his continuing appeal: He reminds many Americans of an age when it was possible to believe that politics could speak to society’s moral yearnings and be harnessed to its highest aspirations. More than anything, perhaps, Kennedy reminds us of a time when the nation’s capacities looked limitless, when its future seemed unbounded, when Americans believed that they could solve hard problems and accomplish bold deeds.” Whether Democrat or Republican it impossible in the era of Donald Trump not to wish for the idealism of the Kennedy era and ponder what if…

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a over dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

On this day in history December 17, 1862: Grant Issues General Order No. 11 Against the Jews

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY…

On this day in history…. December 17, 1862: Grant Issues General Order No. 11 Against the Jews

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

HNN, Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On this day in history… December 17, 1862, Union General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Order Number 11, expelling Jews from areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

General Order Number 11 stands out in American history as the first instance of a policy of official anti-Semitism on a large scale. The anti-Semitic order had deeper roots; many Northerners and Union army officials harbored anti-Jewish resentments. Jews in Union occupied Southern cities and towns faced the brunt of this prejudice. As Berthram Wallace Korn explains in his authoritative work, American Jewry and the Civil War (1951): “Some of the most prominent people in the Union were imbued with prejudice against the Jews.” (Korn, 164) It was this anti-Semitism within the ranks of the Union army that led to General Grant’s General Order No. 11 that called for all Jews to be expelled in his district, which covered the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

Underlying the order was a negative image of the Jewish merchant and the belief that Jews were part of a black market in Southern cotton. Although at war, the North and South still relied on each other economically. The North especially needed the South’s surplus cotton for the production of military tents and uniforms. The Union army would have implemented a ban on trade with the South completely; President Abraham Lincoln preferred a limited trade in cotton. The Battle of Shiloh made this trade possible by opening up the Mississippi River down to Vicksburg. This soon became very profitable for both sides; army officers, treasury agents, and individual speculators became involved, although Jews were distinctly a minority.

Army officers especially took advantage of the moneymaking possibilities to such a great extent that Lincoln complained, “the army itself is diverted from fighting rebels to speculating in cotton.” Although neither side prohibited the trade, President Lincoln ordered that all of the cotton that was traded had to be licensed by the Treasury Department and the Army. Each army commander was responsible for the cotton trade in their respective areas. General Ulysses S. Grant was the commander of the Department of the Tennessee, and therefore responsible for the licenses in that area. The limited trade in cotton and the overwhelming need for cotton in the Northern army led to soaring prices. This prompted many traders to bribe officials to be able to sell cotton without a permit. Jesse Grant, Grant’s father, took a prominent role in trading cotton and obtaining permits.

By the fall of 1862, trading was getting out of hand. Grant was annoyed that requests for licenses were distracting him from planning the capture of Vicksburg. Grant was getting an abundance of requests for licenses, and when Grant’s father sought them for a group of Cincinnati merchants, among whom were some Jews, the general issued his order. Although some of the traders were Jewish, most were not. Among the high ranks of the Union Army, the words “Jew,” “profiteer,” “speculator” and “trader” all meant the same thing (Feldberg, 118), while the Union commanding General Henry W. Halleck lumped together “traitors and Jew peddlers.” Grant concurred, describing Jews as “the Israelites,” an “intolerable nuisance.” It was because of old European prejudices and anti-Semitism that Jews were singled out. As in Europe, Jews were made scapegoats. History was repeating itself, but it this time it was in America.

On November 9 and 10, Grant sent his commanders in Jackson, Tennessee, orders that “no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad southward [into the Department of the Tennessee] from any point.” Grant also noted his disdain for Jews to C.P. Wolcott, Assistant Secretary of the Army. He claimed Treasury regulations were being violated “mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders.” (Feingold, 93) However, the illegal trading of cotton continued, and Grant continued to believe it was the fault of the Jewish merchants. On December 17, 1862, he issued Order 11:

“The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department [the “Department of the Tennessee,” an administrative district of the Union Army of occupation composed of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.”

The order implied that all Jews in the region were speculators and traders, which they were not. Despite this, Grant’s subordinates carried out the order around his headquarters in Holly Springs and also Oxford, Mississippi, and Paducah, Kentucky where the Jews of these communities had to evacuate from their residences within a 24 hour period. In Holly Springs, the Jewish traders in the area had to walk 40 miles to evacuate the area. Thirty Jewish families who had been long time residents of the town also had to evacuate even though none of them engaged in the cotton speculation and two of them had been veterans of the Union Army.

The order caused an uproar and was criticized by both the Jewish community under Union command, and non-Jews in opposition to the Union’s Republicans. The anti-Semitic order was a shock for a Jewish community that had rarely been discriminated against. Democrats and others opposed to the administration believed the order represented another example of Lincoln’s willingness to trample on civil liberties. Peace Democrats complained that the Republicans were more concerned with the rights of blacks than of Jews, who were white. Jewish leaders organized protest rallies in St. Louis, Louisville and Cincinnati, while the leaders of the Jewish communities in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia sent telegrams to Lincoln protesting the order.

Residents of the expelled Jewish communities denounced the order. Cesar Kaskel, a merchant and president of the Paducah Union League, sent a telegram to Lincoln condemning Grant’s actions as an “enormous outrage on all laws and humanity, … the grossest violation of the Constitution and our rights as good citizens under it.” (Feldberg, 119) Kaskel also led a delegation to Washington to meet with Lincoln directly. He arrived in Washington just two days after the Emancipation Proclamation became law. Kaskel met with the prominent Jewish Republican, Adolphus Solomons, and was accompanied to the White House by Cincinnati Congressman John A. Gurley. They showed Lincoln documents proving that the Jews who had been expelled from their homes were upstanding citizens not involved in cotton speculation.

Lincoln ordered General Halleck, General in Chief of the Army, to revoke the order immediately. Halleck wrote to Grant on January 4, “A paper purporting to be General Orders, No. 11, issued by you December 17, has been presented here. By its terms, it expells [sic] all Jews from your department. If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.” Grant complied three days later, but the mass evacuation of the Jewish communities in Holly Springs and Oxford, Mississippi, and Paducah, Kentucky had already been carried out.

The Jewish community was grateful to President Lincoln for his swift revocation. On January 7, Rabbis Isaac M. Wise and Max Lilienthal of Cincinnati, Martin Bijur of Louisville, and Moses Strauss of Baltimore led delegations to Washington to express their gratitude to the President. Lincoln tried to make amends to the Jewish community. He said he had been surprised by Grant’s order and said he did not discriminate between Jews or Gentiles and would not allow any American to be discriminated against based on their religion. Lincoln told them he believed that “to condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad. I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.”

General Order No. 11 was a rare instance of officially ordered anti-Semitism in American history, but just the fact that an order was signed and implemented punishing a religious community, as historian Henry Feingold states, “without due process of law,” put a spot on America’s reputation for religious tolerance. (Feingold, 94) It was an act more reminiscent of the anti-Semitism Jews endured in Europe for centuries, where without reason Jewish communities were expelled from towns and countries at a moment’s notice. The order revealed a disdain for Jews by high-ranking officials in the Union army among them Grant, William T. Sherman, and H. W. Halleck. It demonstrated that Jews in both the North and South were not sheltered from official anti-Semitism even in the safe haven of America.

Sources and further reading:

Henry L. Feingold, Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present, (Twayne Publishers, 1974).

Michael Feldberg, Blessings of Freedom: Chapters in American Jewish History, (KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 2002).

Bertram Wallace Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951).

Meyer Weinberg, Because They Were Jews: A History of Anti-Semitism, (Greenwood Press, 1986).

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