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President Kennedy Speaks on Race Relations at Mayors Conference in Honolulu

June 9, 1963 - President Kennedy told the National Conference of Mayors in Honolulu today that in “a moment of moral and constitutional crisis” in American race relations, “the time for token moves and talk is past.” He called for increased local responsibility in meeting disturbances that he said could be expected in Northern cities and in the South. “This is not a Southern problem, it is a national problem,” Mr. Kennedy said. He suggested to the mayors a five-point program of action, briefly described his legislative plans, and offered this personal credo: “I do not say that all men are equal in their ability, character, and motivation. I do say that every American should be given a fair chance to develop all the talents they may have.” Immediately after his speech, President Kennedy boarded his Air Force jet for a nine-hour, non-stop flight back to Washington. Following are the elements of the President’s five-step program:

1. Establish an official biracial human relations committee to identify community tensions before they become crises, to improve cooperation and communication between races, and to advise local officials, merchants, and organizations what steps to take to insure prompt progress.

2. Abolish all city ordinances requiring segregation.

3. Eliminate discrimination in employment and promotion.

4. Provide equal employment and housing opportunities and access to public accommodations.

5. Start a campaign to eliminate school dropouts, thus cutting unemployment among the unskilled.

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