Photos: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arriving in Texas

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On Wednesday, April 9, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were welcomed to Houston as Air Force One touched down at Bush Intercontinental Airport. (Photos by Chandra Jarmon/AFRAMNews.com)

Be sure to read our coverage of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Civil Rights Act of 1964:
President Challenges Americans to Protect and Preserve Civil Rights Legacy for Future Generations

Bill Clinton: Protect Civil Rights and Voting Rights or Risk Losing Voice and Democracy

Civil Rights Elders: Black Men and Women Commitments to Struggle Based on Heart and Thirsty Desire For Real Change

LBJ Summit: Carter Highlights Inequality As Strong Civil Rights Issue in 2014

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On Thursday, April 10, President Barack Obama delivered remarks honoring the 50th anniversary of former president Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act in Austin, Texas. Photos by Darwin Campbell/AFRAMNews.com

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President Challenges Americans to Protect and Preserve Civil Rights Legacy for Future Generations

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By Darwin Campbell, African-American News and Issues

“Well, What the Hell’s the Presidency For?” – Lyndon B. Johnson

AUSTIN-The real question is not what America accomplished in the battle for civil rights over the past 50 years-  It is whether it will survive the next 50 years and beyond.

That was the message President Barack Obama sent to the nation and those attending the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“The story of America is a story of progress… true because of men like Lyndon Johnson,” Obama said. “…Civil Rights made doors swing open for all. Black, White, Latino, Gay, for you and for me. I stand here today because of that legacy and those efforts.”

Introduced by the legendary Civil Rights champion and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, President Obama keynoted the end of a three-day summit commemorating the landmark law that ended racial discrimination in public places at the LBJ Library. The anniversary has spurred a new interest  in Johnson’s domestic agenda.

Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States.

His story is the American story — values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.

With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He was raised with help from his grandfather, who served in Patton’s army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank.

After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.

He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.

President Johnson was president from 1963 and 1969. He is remembered for stabilizing a traumatized nation after the assassination of president John Kennedy, and for sweeping social reform legislation including the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the introduction of health care programs for the poor and elderly.

Using a famous quote from former President Johnson, Obama pointed to the heart of the civil rights issue and challenged society to think about how every American is responsible to do the right things to help make America better.

The Civil Rights Movement was work for those fighting the battle who made great sacrifices, some even losing their lives on the uncertain promise that civil rights, integration and voting rights would become reality. Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Thurgood Marshall and thousands of others played significant roles in helping convince President Johnson to understand the need for new civil rights legislation in America.

Obama tapped into the spirit of Johnson’s love for country and compassion for the poor and needy to show the proper way a leader is suppose handle the power bestowed upon him.

In his tribute to LBJ, Obama  called on Americans to draw on Johnson’s legacy to help America become better.

Obama said Johnson was the right man for the time and overcoming the odds of poverty and the political pressures of southern Democrats who wanted Johnson to scuttle the idea giving Blacks equal rights and voting rights under the law.

“Lyndon Johnson’s genius was his ability to grasp the power of government and use it to bring about change,” he said. “He was a charming man and ruthless when needed. He used logic, was a horse trader and a flatterer.”

He described Johnson as a man whose firmness in stressing civil rights for all forged the kind of revolutionary ideas that became law and changed the nation forever.

LBJ was a son of the south, weaned on racism, a rising star in his party, but when he became president was faced with the ugly realities of how Black people were being disrespected, mistreated and their rights trampled on in violent ways. It was growing up poor and his connection to the poor and needy children as a teacher that touched the very center of his soul.

Obama said Johnson’s leadership and compassion was a very important factor in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other key legislation following it.

“He understood government has a role to play,” Obama said. “Helping people strive for prosperity and opening gates of opportunity and helping them walk through those gates.”

Unfortunately, He noted that there are those in America promoting ideas in opposition to Johnson contending that America is trapped by its own history and would be better off rolling back LBJ’s legacy – Obama said it is a position he rejects.

“These rights and freedoms were won through faith, struggle and persistence,” he said. “We cannot be complacent. We must be vigilant. History can travel forward, backwards or sideways.”

The president made it clear that Johnson and other civil rights leaders have paved the way and set the example.

President Obama’s  story proves the premise of “What the Hell’s the Presidency For”.

His years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose.

In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents.

As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world’s most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online.

He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009.

He and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

President Obama is proof that fairness and equality, if properly applied, in America can work for all Americans.

For civil rights gains to survive the next 50 years and beyond, every American must strive to be an active example, vote and fight to keep civil rights issues on the front burner and alive for future generations to come.

That is this generation’s charge and will be it’s greatest legacy.

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Bill Clinton: Protect Civil Rights and Voting Rights or Risk Losing Voice and Democracy

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Story By: Darwin Campbell,

African-American News&Issues

AUSTIN-Like a wise old philosopher, former President Bill Clinton made his appeal for a nation to choose healing and unity over the partisan politics that threatens to shatter the delicate nature of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act.

With his silver white hair and glasses, he warned that the country could be headed down a bad road that undermines 50 years of civil rights and the spirit of Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr. and others whose sacrifices are written on the walls of history.

“I am concerned that we are headed to the dust bin of history because of too many challenges of trying to recreate yesterday,” the 42nd U.S. President said during his speech at the 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Summit Celebration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “We should not paralyze this country with these challenges and erect barriers to (voting) and political participation because of race, disability, income or transportation. It undermines the spirit of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.”

William Jefferson Clinton, the first Democratic president in six decades to be elected twice, led the U.S. to the longest economic expansion in American history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs.

After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results.

According to Clinton, attacking the two is clear way to divide the American public and take away the political voice of the poor and disadvantaged.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out provisions in the Voting Rights Act that protected and secured  solid voting rights under the initial act. That act eliminated discrimination in voting, allowing millions of people of color to vote and created more diversity in public service across local state and federal government.

Under attack are the years of open registration and the increasing barriers to registration and going to the polls, including the addition of photo identification at polling places.

He also noted how Lyndon Johnson overcame his strong southern past, understood poverty and hunger on a personal level and used his skills and at the appropriate time to forge the kind of political coalition he needed to pass the Civil Rights Act.

The act was a major step forward in ending discrimination and promoting racial equality. It prohibited discrimination on the basis of color, race, sex, religion or national origin. Johnson went far beyond civil rights and racial integration and believed that education, economic opportunity, health care, affordable housing, clean air and many other issues were inherent  civil rights of  all American.

“He used the power of the presidency to redeem the promise of America,” Clinton said. “It was a big vote that changed millions of lives.”

Clinton said today, the current move is to divide the American public and work to chip away at current voting and civil rights progress. He added that the pattern of lawmakers has become very divisive and disrespectful, especially to civl rights martyrs killed trying to fight for what  was right during the struggle.

According to the former president, the best example of government that will help eliminate party bickering and gridlock is having a government that is inclusive.

“I loved Nelson Mandela,” he said. “Mandela was a great man, but he also practiced the politics of inclusion.”

Clinton noted that when you hold down or hold back a particular people, you hold back the progress of the entire group. He also told the crowd that all in the human race are the same. Race and color does not distinguish one group from another or make them better than another,he said.

He noted that it is the role of leaders in government to help lift up the poor and place them in a position to achieve success and pursue the promise of the American dream.

Clinton said it is up to this generation to keep that promise that Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights worked so hard for and died trying to make happen. Shrinking achievement and personal dignity does nothing to advance the cause of America

“We owe it to these who brought us here,” he said. “We have to get together…we are in an interdependent and go into the future together.”

Clinton made it clear of the cost of eroding rights, restricting freedom and failing to unite using political inclusion.

“We owe it to LBJ, Martin Luther King Jr., the martyrs, immigrants. Thanks (for your work and sacrifices) is not good enough.” he said. “Why risk the future of this great experiment. LBJ and Martin Luther King decided to form a more perfect union and  so should we.”

Civil Rights Elders: Black Men and Women Commitments to Struggle Based on Heart and Thirsty Desire For Real Change

CivilRightsAUSTIN-Civil Rights elders Georgia Congressman John Lewis, former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and Former Congressman and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young  shared their recollections of movement history, insights and visions for the future at the 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library.

The three legends looked back, gave their views from the frontline of the movement and explained their roles forging it. They also measured how civil rights is being received in America today and examined and explored the civil rights issues of the 21st Century.

One of the first things shared  a diverse set of reasons that set the tone was their motivation to enter the movement.

Lewis said he got involved in civil rights because of life growing up in Troy, Alabama and parents who told him that “times are the way they are” and that he should “not get in the way and not get into trouble.”

Lewis said after being denied a library card because it was a Whites-only library, he decided he would be involved with making a change.

“Sometimes you gotta find a way to get in the way,” Lewis said. “Sometimes you need to make some noise.”

Lewis said his inroads into civil rights was driven by meeting Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr in 1957 and 1958.

“It changed my life,” Lewis said. “I have not looked back since and worked to influence ways of peach, love and nonviolence.”

He also studied with Jim Lawson on Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and the principles of non-violence.

Young, grew up in a neighborhood surrounded by an Irish grocer, a Whites-only bar and the Nazi Party

and because of his skin color faced a tough life growing up in a segregates school.

“I grew up in an environment that day-to-day was a civil rights movement,” he said. “My father told me that it was a sickness and not to get upset or lose my temper because doing so I lose. He taught me to try to help make a difference.”

That set Young on a path that would lead him later to become the right hand man and confidant of Martin Luther King Jr.

Bond found his way into the movement after he got into college at Morehouse College and participated in a sit-in with about 15 people from five Black colleges at a local cafe near campus that got him arrested.

“I took a stand that I was spending money and paying my taxes,” he said. “It was the first time in my life I got arrested and went to jail. Some (Blacks) were in fear, but others appreciated the fact that we did.”

After being introduced to eye opening racism America in the 1950s and 60s that demonstrated that it  was not open to equality, the men found themselves in the whirlwind of the movement not knowing whether at the end of the storm whether they would live or die.

Lewis, Young and Bond said a combination of factors drove the move to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – some of which included the power sit-ins in major cities, “Bloody Sunday” in Selma and the killing of Megar Evers in Mississippi and the bombing and burning of churches in the South and the activism of thousands of young students who participated in Freedom Rides across the South.

However, the greatest show of power came with the combined solidarity of Blacks and some Whites, labor groups and religious groups coming together with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the historic March on Washington.

“It was the finest hour of the Civil Rights Movement,” Young said. “It was crucial in shaping the response and set the stage for it to be a multicultural, multinational movement.”

The men made notable remarks about the contributions of African-American women to the civil rights movement.

Some of the great women mentioned that given credit for turning the movement on its ear were several in Black history who are rarely mentioned as prime movers of the movement.

Some of those women include Ella Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Fannie Lou Hamer, Constance Baker Motley and others who King and other pastors did not take leadership roles because of their religious beliefs.

“There were tensions over roles,” he said. “It was a situation where there was some male chavenism. Pastors tried to treat things like it was their own churches,” Lewis said. “If it were not for women, there would not have been a civil rights movement.”

Bond, Lewis and Young agreed that the contribution of woman must never by dismissed, disrespected or forgotten.

“We were all in it together,” Lewis said. “There was no looking back, no turning back and that is why we continued to push until it was done.”