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Lyndon Johnson Addresses the Nation on Civil Disorders (July 27, 1967)

President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation in the days after a major episode of unrest in Detroit was sparked by police violence against black civilians. 

My fellow Americans:

We have endured a week such as no nation should live through: a time of violence and tragedy.

For a few minutes tonight, I want to talk about that tragedy—and I want to talk about the deeper questions it raises for us all.

I am tonight appointing a special Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.

Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois has agreed to serve as Chairman. Mayor John Lindsay of New York will serve as Vice Chairman. Its other members will include Fred R. Harris, Senator from Oklahoma; Edward W. Brooke, United States Senator from Massachusetts; James C. Corman, U.S. Representative from California, 22d District, Los Angeles; William M. McCulloch, the U.S. Representative from the State of Ohio, the 4th District; I. W. Abel, the president of the United Steel Workers; Charles B. Thornton, the president, director, and chairman of the board of Litton Industries, Inc.; Roy Wilkins, the executive director of the NAACP; Katherine Graham Peden, the Commissioner of Commerce of the State of Kentucky; Herbert Jenkins, the chief of police, Atlanta, Georgia.

The Commission will investigate the origins of the recent disorders in our cities. It will make recommendations—to me, to the Congress, to the State Governors, and to the mayors—for measures to prevent or contain such disasters in the future.


Those charged with the responsibility of law enforcement should, and must, be respected by all of our people. The violence must be stopped, quickly, finally, and permanently.
It would compound the tragedy, however, if we should settle for order that is imposed by the muzzle of a gun.

In America, we seek more than the uneasy calm of martial law. We seek peace that is based on one man's respect for another man—and upon mutual respect for law. We seek a public order that is built on steady progress in meeting the needs of all of our people.

Not even the sternest police action, nor the most effective Federal troops, can ever create lasting peace in our cities.

The only genuine, long-range solution for what has happened lies in an attack— mounted at every level—upon the conditions that breed despair and violence. All of us know what those conditions are: ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs. We should attack these conditions—not because we are frightened by conflict, but because we are fired by conscience. We should attack them because there is simply no other way to achieve a decent and orderly society in America.

Read entire article at Miller Center (University of Virginia)