AUSTIN — A half-century after the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation, President Barack Obama declared that he had “lived out the promise” envisioned by Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who championed the push for greater racial equality.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which Johnson signed into law, Obama lauded his Democratic predecessor’s ability to grasp like few others the power of government to bring about change and swing open the doors of opportunity for millions of Americans. “They swung open for you and they swung open for me,” he said. “That’s why I’m standing here today.
Obama spoke at the end of a three-day summit commemorating the landmark law that ended racial discrimination in public places. The anniversary has spurred a renaissance of sorts for Johnson’s domestic agenda, which included the creation of Medicare, Medicaid and the Voting Rights Act. And against the backdrop of Obama’s own troubled relationship with Congress, there have also been fresh bouts of nostalgia for Johnson’s mastery of congressional deal-making.
“No one knew politics and no one loved legislating more than President Johnson,” Obama said.
Former President George W. Bush closed the event by calling education the key to the future for poor and minority students, and delivered a warning that he fears the “soft bigotry of low expectations is returning.”