President Obama celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act on Wednesday, saying the landmark legislation "brought us closer to making real the declaration at the heart of our founding — that we are all created equal."
"Few pieces of legislation have defined our national identity as distinctly, or as powerfully," Obama said in a statement. "By outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, the Civil Rights Act effectively ended segregation in schools, workplaces, and public facilities. It opened the door for the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act. And it transformed the concepts of justice, equality, and democracy for generations to come."
The bill, which became law on July 2, 1964, offered a comprehensive ban on racial discrimination at public accommodations and anywhere that received federal funding.
Obama said the anniversary should be an occasion to "recommit ourselves to making America more just, more equal and more free."
"We’re still working to tear down barriers and put opportunity within reach for every American, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they come from," he said.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said a variety of administration officials were participating in activities to mark the anniversary. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Attorney General Eric Holder were slated to speak at Howard University, while Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx traveled to Louisiana for an anniversary ceremony.
"There's no doubt that somebody like Lyndon Johnson, if he were still here with us, would be looking at the world, or this country, as it exists right now, and I think would be remarkably impressed at the conviction and dedication of the American people to make as much progress as we have in the last 50 years," Earnest said.