Reflections On LBJ VRA Speech

By Greg Moore, Executive Director, NAACP National Voter Fund


On March 15, 1965, in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon Johnson made a historic appeal to Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act (VRA). His message was a clarion call for Congress to move pass its partisan division and support this landmark legislation on a bi-partisan basis. During his remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge last week President Barack Obama gave an impassioned plea for Congress to pass a strong Voting Rights Amendment Act that has been stalled for well over a year.

The energy and excitement that was ushered in last weekend in Selma must continue. We need to increase the pressure on Congress to pass a new voting rights bill that will restore the damage done by the US Supreme Court in 2013. This August 6th the national will again mark one final VRA anniversary as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the VRA bill being signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Somewhere between the Selma Bridge walk and the bill signing anniversary in August we need to find a way to come together as a nation and convince a recalcitrant Congress to live up to its historic obligation.

A lot of people have given up on this Congress being able to come together on anything. But we cannot give up on our struggle to ensure the right to vote for all of our people.  There are only a handful of misguided legislators standing in the way of a vote to restore the VRA. In the House its Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) who has refused to even hold a hearing on the bill and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) who has not committed to bringing the bill to the House floor for a vote.

In the Senate it’s the Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, (R-IA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) who need to hear our voices. We need to call, mail, email or even visit their offices demanding, (at a minimum) a hearing and an up or down vote in both houses of Congress on a bill to restore the VRA to its full strength.

The 40,000+ marches who converged on Selma have sent a very clear message to Congress: that the right to vote is sacred and belongs to the people, not the Congress or to the US Supreme Court. Congress cannot continue to hide behind the excuse that Washington is dysfunctional. This is Our Vote and our Democracy that is at stake. We the People must demand that they act as we continue in our renewed march toward freedom and against those forces who are still seeking to deny our right to vote.


Greg Moore, Executive Director, NAACP National Voter Fund

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