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Extracts From LBJ Announcement Of The Appointment Of The Kerner Commission

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My fellow Americans: We have endured a week such as no Nation should live through: a time of violence and tragedy. For a few minutes tonight, I want to talk about that tragedy - and I want to talk about the deeper questions it raises for us all. I am appointing a special Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Governor Otto Kerner, of Illinois, has agreed to serve as Chairman, Mayor John Lindsay, of New York, will serve as Vice Chairman... The Commission will investigate the origins of the recent disorders in our cities. It will make recommendations - to me, to the Congress, to the State Governors, and to the Mayors - for measures to prevent or contain such disasters in the future. But even before the Commission begins its work; and before all the evidence is in, there are

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My fellow Americans:

We have endured a week such as no Nation should live through: a time of violence and tragedy.

For a few minutes tonight, I want to talk about that tragedy - and I want to talk about the deeper questions it raises for us all.

I am appointing a special Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.

Governor Otto Kerner, of Illinois, has agreed to serve as Chairman, Mayor John Lindsay, of New York, will serve as Vice Chairman...

The Commission will investigate the origins of the recent disorders in our cities. It will make recommendations - to me, to the Congress, to the State Governors, and to the Mayors - for measures to prevent or contain such disasters in the future.

But even before the Commission begins its work; and before all the evidence is in, there are some things that we can tell about the outbreaks of this summer.

First - let there be no mistake about it - the looting, arson, plunder and pillage which have occurred are not part of a civil rights protest. There is no American right to loot stores, or to burn buildings, or to fire rifles from the rooftops. That is crime - and crime must be dealt with forcefully, and swiftly, and certainty - under law...

Those charged with the responsibility of law enforcement should, and must, be respected by all of our people. The violence must be stopped: quickly, finally, and permanently.

It would compound the tragedy, however, if we should settle for order that is imposed by the muzzle of a gun.

In America, we seek more than the uneasy calm of martial law. We seek peace based on one man's respect for another man - and upon mutual respect for law. We seek a public order that is built on steady progress in meeting the needs of all our people.

Not even the sternest police action, nor the most effective Federal Troops, can create lasting peace in our cities.

The only genuine, long-range solution for what has happened lies in an attack - mounted at every level - upon the conditions that breed despair and violence. All of us know what those conditions are: ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs. We should attack these conditions - not because we are frightened by conflict, but because we are fired by conscience. We should attack them because there is simply no other way to achieve a decent and orderly society in America...

This is not a time for angry reaction. It is a time for action: starting with legislative action to improve the life in our cities. The strength and promise of the law are the surest remedies for tragedy in the street.

But laws are only one answer. Another answer lies in the way our people will respond to these disturbances.

There is a danger that the worst toll of this tragedy will be counted in the hearts of Americans; in hatred, in insecurity, in fear, in heated words which will not end the conflict, but prolong it.

So let us acknowledge the tragedy; but let us not exaggerate it...

-- Lyndon Baines Johnson, 27 July 1967

The Kerner Commission concluded, among many other things, "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal."

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