"We Shall Overcome"
Lyndon B. Johnson
Cerena Vang
Lyndon B Johnson inherited the United States after the assassination of President John F K ennedy in 1963 . The country was in the middle of chaos, torn by the Civil Rights Movement that had taken motion after the Supreme Court Decision in Brown vs Board of Education in 1954 that demanded the integration of Black and White students. By 1965, Civil Rights activists had already been campaigning for a year to encourage Black voter registration and protesting voting rights discrimination . Civil Rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had planned to march from Selma to Montgomery in an attempt to raise awareness about the difficulty faced by Black voters in the South. The racial tensions among the communities reached an all-time high when a deadly violence broke out in Selma, Alabama in response to the march.
On March 15 th , 1965, President Johnsons responded to the violence and racial tensions in his infamous speech, using the words, "we shall overcome". This phrase, that had been coined by the Black community during their movements, was echoed by Johnson throughout the speech recognizing the Black community and their struggle for equal rights. President Johnson\'s speech was directed at both the American people and Congress as an attempt to urge the immediate passage of the Voting Rights Act. His per suasive/protest speech was delivered prior to a joint session o f congre ss on March 15 th 1965. Johnson\'s speech was not planned; however, it was a response to recent events and was used to persuade Congress to pass the Voting Rights Acts. Critics claim that President Johnson used the public media to bring attention to issue and the pressure that Congress felt from the n ation was a major key point in pushing the Voting Rights Act through the following year.
President Johnson\'s speech used many different rhetorical devices. One characteristic that separated this speech from the others was barrowing of the phrase, "We Shall Overcome". This was the phrase/slogan that defined the Civil Rights Movement. They had songs, speeches and protests centered around this saying. It was a phrase that was undeniably associated with the Civil Rights Movement. By using that phrase, President Johnson was making a public statement that he stood in solidarity with their movement and their cause. His speech highlighted the importance of respecting each other\'s beliefs and differences. It encouraged the Nation to see past the color of someone\'s skin and see them as a human being. Johnson\'s speech highlights repetition when he repeats the phrase "we shall overcome". He also uses maxims from the Constitution to display the values that the United States was built upon to show that it is the Nation\'s duty to respect those values. The phrases include; "give me liberty or give me death" and "all men are created equal" . Amplification can also be detected when Johnson reiterates the Constitution\'s message of equality and demands that the Nation "acts in obedience to that oath".
Johnson\'s speech was powerful and confident. If President Johnson had any dou bts or fears about how the Nation would respond to his position in the Civil Rights movement, he did not display it. Out of all the Presidents during the Civil Rights Movement, Johnson was not afraid to stand in solidarity and make it known to the public that he was for equality. This speech was written and given with a purpose and the audience could easily see that in President Johnson\'s tone and rhythm. He knew where to pause to make the most impact and he knew where to emphasize his words. President Johnson\'s body language was poised and respectable. He did his best to remain neutral and let his words of reason and logic reach the hearts of the Nation instead of displaying too much emotion. President Johnson\'s speech on March 15 th , 1965, was the final push that the Civil Rights Movement needed to convince Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. The following year, with large majorities in both the United States House and Representatives and the Senate, President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6 th , 1965. This new law