Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Yesterday my brother emailed me the text of President Lyndon Johnson's remarks at the signing of the Hart Cellar Act, writing: "So, Dad was able to come to the US in 1969 as a result of the Hart-Cellar Act (also called the INS Act of 1965). It abolished the national-origin quotas that had previously existed. I came across President Lyndon Johnson's remarks at the signing of the bill in New York on October 3, 1965, and thought they were pretty good." I agree. Here are a few highlights of the remarks Johnson made on Liberty Island more than 40 years ago (the full text of the speech can be found on the LBJ Library's website):

Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide. The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources--because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples. And from this experience, almost unique in the history of nations, has come America's attitude toward the rest of the world. We, because of what we are, feel safer and stronger in a world as varied as the people who make it up--a world where no country rules another and all countries can deal with the basic problems of human dignity and deal with those problems in their own way.

Now, under the monument which has welcomed so many to our shores, the American Nation returns to the finest of its traditions today. The days of unlimited immigration are past. But those who do come will come because of what they are, and not because of the land from which they sprung. When the earliest settlers poured into a wild continent there was no one to ask them where they came from. The only question was: Were they sturdy enough to make the journey, were they strong enough to clear the land, were they enduring enough to make a home for freedom, and were they brave enough to die for liberty if it became necessary to do so?

And so it has been through all the great and testing moments of American history.

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