Page:United States Statutes at Large Volume 104 Part 6.djvu/947

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PROCLAMATION 6165—AUG. 6, 1990 104 STAT. 5337 Proclamation 6165 of August 6, 1990 Voting Rights Celebration Day, 1990 By the President of the United States of America A Proclamation When the Voting Rights Act was signed into law a quarter of a century ago, our Nation took an important step toward fulfilling its promise of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all. Through this historic act, the Congress guaranteed the enforcement of the 15th Amendment to our Constitution—an Amendment that had been ratified almost a century earlier. Ratified on February 3, 1870, shortly after the end of the Civil War, the 15th Amendment guarantees that the "right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Despite the adoption of this Amendment, for the next 95 years many black Americans and others continued to be denied their right to vote through discriminatory laws and practices. For example, literacy tests required by some State and local governments deterred many blacks from voting or registering to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was designed to enforce the guarantees of the 15th Amendment by prohibiting such discriminatory tactics. Signing the Voting Rights Act into law. President Johnson observed that "freedom and justice and the dignity of man are not just words to us. We believe in them. Under all the growth and the tumult and abundance, we believe. And so, as long as some among us are oppressed— and we are part of that oppression—it must blunt our faith and sap the strength of our high purpose." Because America's promise of liberty and equal opportunity for all is not an empty one, the adoption of the Voting Rights Act marked an important victory not only for black Americans, but also for our entire Nation. President Johnson also observed that the Voting Rights Act brought "an important instrument of freedom" into the hands of millions of our citizens. "But that instrument must be used," he noted. It was a firm yet gentle reminder that all Americans would do well to heed today. Millions of people around the world have struggled to gain the right to vote, a right that is at the heart of freedom and self-government. Many have died for it. We must not fail to be inspired by their sacrifice, and we must never underestimate the importance of a single vote. Every American who is old enough to vote should register to do so. He or she should strive to become more fully informed about issues and candidates and faithfully exercise his or her right to participate in the electoral process. By employing the "instrument of freedom" protected by the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, each of us can help build a brighter future for ourselves and for generations yet unborn. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Congress, by House Joint Resolution 625, has designated August 6, 1990, as "Voting Rights Celebration Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this day.