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Sen. Kennedy Evokes JFK in Appeal for Rights Bill

Apr. 9, 1964 - Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) invoked the memory of President John F. Kennedy today in an emotional appeal to the Senate for passage of the pending civil rights bill.

Making his first speech since he entered the Senate in January 1963, the youngest brother of the slain President spoke in a voice that sometimes broke as he struggled to control his emotions.

While his wife, Joan, put her handkerchief to tear-filled eyes in the special visitors’ gallery, the 32-year-old Senator said of the late President: “His heart and his soul are in this bill. If his life and death had a meaning, it was that we should not hate, but love one another; we should use our powers not to create conditions of oppression that lead to violence, but conditions of freedom that lead to peace.”

Of the embattled bill, he said: “It abounds with reasonableness with conciliation, with voluntary procedures, with a moderate approach toward its goals.”

Meanwhile, in an off-the-floor development over the House-passed measure, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) failed to unite Republican Senators behind his proposals to alter the bill’s fair employment section. After Dirksen presented his fair employment proposals to a closed conference of all Republican Senators, Sen. Kenneth Keating (R-NY), a leading GOP supporter of the 11-part bill, told newsmen “no consensus, broad or narrow, was arrived at” in the 2½-hour meeting.

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