In a March 1965 address to a joint session of Congress, President Lyndon Baines Johnson opened one of the most resonant speeches of his presidency with these words: I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.
His appeal for voting rights was heard across the nation and he viewed their securement a sacred trust in America's quest towards equal rights for all of its inhabitants. But as LBJ knew, the destiny of democracy is not preordained. It is in the hands of every generation of Americans with a charge to leave it stronger for the next. The salvation of history must be earned in our times.
Today, despite the strides made toward civil rights, racism has flared alarmingly, threatening to compromise our nation's dignity, erode our democracy, and define the next era of our country's evolution. LBJ's words and deeds a half century ago are a clarion call.
While no exploration of the complex issue of race can be definitive or complete, we hope that in bringing together a myriad of voices, The Summit on Race in America will promote a deeper understanding of the challenges our country faces. In doing so, we also aim not only to strengthen our resolve for meaningful change but to foster greater unity among all Americans.