Civil Rights are Moral Values - Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s speech to the NAACP Breakfast, January 2005
I am thrilled to be here today with you to help honor Dr. King. Haverhill is a city on the rebound and we are happy to have you here.
In the last election, we heard a lot about moral values and moral issues. Unfortunately, we heard very little about the real moral issues of the day. The great moral issue of the day, as it was the great moral issue when Dr. King was alive, was and is the issue of civil rights in America . President Kennedy taught us this when he introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and said “this is not a black issue, this is not a white issue. This is a moral issue.”
Over 40 years, when Dr. King talked of his dream of one America, an America where black children and white children are treated equally, the values in that dream were moral values—but we heard very little talk about those moral values in the last election.
When a child goes to bed hungry, ill housed, ill clothed or ill fed, that is a moral issue.
When for millions of Americans, Dr. King’s dream of one America , an America of tolerance, when that dream remains only a dream, that is a moral issue
Sixty years ago this very month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in what some have called the greatest speech of the 20 th century, proposed a second bill of rights that would guarantee to all Americans the rights to decent health care, to a decent job, and to decent housing. When that remains only a dream to millions of Americans, when all too many of our people are still ill housed, ill clothed and ill fed, that is a moral issue and should offend our moral values.
When millions of Americans are denied a decent place to live, these are moral issues and should offend our moral values
When even to this day, there is a pay gap between white and Afro-Americans for the same jobs, when studies show that equally qualified Afro-Americans are less likely to be hired than their white counterparts, this is a moral issue.
I have lived long enough, in 58 years, to have seen, to have been a cheerleader and an onlooker in the greatest struggle for moral values in our lifetimes, the struggle for civil rights. It was my greatest thrill, when I was a young college student, to have gone down to the Boston Common and to have seen Dr. King, as I know many of you did.
And when my children were little and asked about monarchs and Kings, it was my greatest thrill and honor to tell them that one day, I had walked with a King.
To those of you who led that struggle, to those of you who marched, or participated in any way, you led the fight for moral values, you led the greatest struggle for moral values in our history and to those of you who participated, to those of you woke up America and woke up our conscience, to those of you who helped us see that the struggle for civil rights is a struggle for moral values, thank you and welcome to our great city.
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