Speaking to select crowd at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin on Thursday, President Barack Obama honored the life of the former president and detailed the progressive effects of Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Obama told the crowd the change sparked by Johnson has been progressively powerful at changing how the world identified and enforced civil rights.
“What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression, it required the presence of economic opportunity. We want to open the gates to opportunity, President Johnson said, but we’re also going to give our people, black and white, the help they need to walk through those gates," Obama said.
Obama said it’s true -- despite the Civil Rights Act -- that our society is still racked with division and poverty and that race colors political debates, but he said he rejected cynicism that it was all for nothing.
“Because of the law President Johnson signed, new doors for opportunity and education swung open for everyone; not all at once but they swung open, not just blacks and white, but also women and Latinos and Asians and Native Americans and gay Americans and Americans with a disability, they swung open and they swung open for you and they swung open for me,” Obama said.
The president said his only concern is that this generation, a generation that doesn't have a vivid memory of the civil rights movement, will see events like the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as easily done, not knowing the struggles and hard work it took to get the country to that place.
Obama said one lesson he hoped a new generation of Americans take with them from this celebration is that with enough love for their country they too could make these same type of changes.
Watch the president's remarks here: