Speech to National Association of Radio and Television Announcers

"They say one thing and do another. They say another thing and then do nothing. But you know and I know that talk is cheap. And you know and I know that the partisan talk of conspiracy is merely a tool used by the few to bludgeon the many. But this year the many can speak."
Philadelphia, PA • August 18, 1972

I am glad to be in Philadelphia to address an association of Black broadcasters. We are a people of many languages… a people of many cultures. We came to this nation at different times for different reasons under many different circumstances. We are a nation of instant communications… a nation where television and radio provide the instant, electric link between cities, states and people.

But do television and radio accurately reflect the diversity of America? You know the answer to this as well as I do. But how can we expect television and radio to understand when we have a President and an administration that systematically avoid even asking the right questions. They ask whether the media is biased against them. But the question we must ask is more profound: is the media biased against the people?

I never felt the reality on television that I first felt among migrant workers in California. I never saw the reality on television that I saw with my own eyes on Indian reservations in Montana. I never saw the reality on television that I saw four days ago in a foundry in Wheeling, West Virginia... there in the heat of open furnaces amid the thin, black dust of the cooling pits I saw the unfair, unsafe, tedious, youth-stealing work that the American laborer shoulders every day.

Too often the eye that guides the television camera represents the world of the middle class whites. It represents the sights and sounds of a life far more homogeneous as it appears in the media than it is in reality.

I never saw the reality on television that I have seen in Bedford-Stuyvesant and South Chicago -- the reality that people live. The problem is one of perception.

We all remember the television coverage of the Attica riot. Those prisoners -- men who would rather have died that live another day in a jail cell. We all remember the townspeople of Attica who felt threatened by an institution that has been long neglected by the society around it.

Some have said that the coverage of the Attica riots was neither sensitive nor comprehensive to either side -- the townspeople or the prisoners. The prisoners felt their side of the story was never fully told -- and the townspeople of Attica felt the same. This does not mean that television was in the middle, telling the objective truth. It means that institutions like the network television and like the Federal and state governments are not sufficiently sensitive to any minority in America.

But the problem is larger than that. It is one of regaining and redefining the spirit of the American melting pot.

It is a problem similar to the one that I faced in the formative days of the Peace Corps.

It was one of preparing ordinary Americans from different cultural backgrounds to go to a foreign land, and live with people of different values and different perception. It was difficult but it was done.

But nothing will be done with a Republican Administration that refuses to face the problem and talks only of “conspiracies.” We live with an Administration that hides the real problems of Americans behind a smokescreen of neglect, of inaction and double talk.

They say one thing and do another. They say another thing and then do nothing. But you know and I know that talk is cheap. And you know and I know that the partisan talk of conspiracy is merely a tool used by the few to bludgeon the many. But this year the many can speak.

In the next 80 days the men and women of America will decide our future and that of our children.

So tonight, while I realize that your principal interests lie in the field of broadcasting, I would like to address myself to the broader issue of human dignity and freedom.

Twelve years ago, John F. Kennedy told us that “This was a great country... and it can be even greater.”

His dream is still very much alive in the hearts of all Americans.

I know.

I lived a part of that dream.

I fought those fights.

I stood with John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King so that equality for all might be a reality.

I watched thousands of young Americans travel around the globe to make a better life for the people of Latin America... Africa... and Asia.

That was the time of the Peace Corps,

And that was an earlier, easier time.

A time when men were proud to stand in the service of their country.

A time before Jackson State and Kent State.

A time before Mylai and the Pentagon papers.

A time when the Federal government and the Justice Department opened the doors of higher education to Southern Blacks… instead of spying on those who stand against war, and for truth.

We are living through different times… Times of doubt and suspicion… doubt about the ability of our institution to with the problems of life in America.... Suspicion about the real motives of politicians.

And you can see this doubt and suspicion throughout the land.

You can see it in the faces of the poor Blacks and Chicanos in Los Angeles whose life is one of frustration and unemployment.

You can see it in the faces of families faced with soaring property tax bills, at a time when money is scarce and jobs are even scarcer.

And we know why Americans are doubtful and suspicious. We know why when we see our government engaged in the barbaric bombing of North Vietnam.

We know why when we recall that four years ago Richard Nixon promised us a secret plan for peace... and yet four years... and twenty thousand lives later, that plan is still a secret... that was a reality.

We know why when we see the Justice Department trying to justify the tapping of telephones and the spying on Senators and citizens alike as necessary to the maintenance of our national security.

We know why when we see the Justice Department telling us that the times are so perilous that these extreme acts are necessary because there are those groups among us who threaten the stability of our government.

Well, I would say to John Mitchell, to Richard Kliendienst and to Richard Nixon that the answer to this argument was here in Philadelphia by William Pitt… who said that “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human dignity.”

And I would say to them that while George McGovern has been saying… “Come home America”... this Administration has forgotten America.

They have forgotten America because they refuse to end the bombing and end the war.

They refuse to take the stop that will allow hundreds of prisoners of war to step into the sunlight of freedom... to return to their families and to America.

They have forgotten America because they talk of a “benign” neglect” and tell us to watch what they do and not what they say…

And what they have done is neglect America.

They have neglected America when they have vetoed appropriations bills that would have meant the construction of schools and hospitals... legislation that would have meant jobs.

They have neglected America when they have stood behind legislation that infringes the very concepts of liberty that have been won in battle and vindicated by history… a man’s right to privacy and jury trial.

No-knock and preventive detention are not bills that will reduce the crime rate… They will reduce a citizen’s rights in a free society.

They mean that a man’s home can be invaded upon the mere whim of a law enforcement official.

They mean that a man is guilty until proven innocent.

They have neglected America when they have turned the Department of Justice into the Department of Politics.

They have neglected America when they neglected its people. They have talked of the forgotten Americans ... and then have forgotten much of what America is all about.

They have forgotten the faces of the Black men of North Philadelphia and the Whites of South Boston who have no job for tomorrow and no hope for the future.

They have forgotten the dreams of the Black children of the Mississippi Delta and the Brown children of East Los Angeles who get an inadequate education and an unfair chance at the future.

They have forgotten what it’s like to live under the threat of medical bills that can bankrupt you… of property tax bills that can cripple a family budget…

They have forgotten what America means to the people who live in the jungles of Northeast Brazil and the children of Northern Africa.

To them America means hope.

It means a dream.

I have come to Philadelphia tonight to ask you to help me reclaim this dream.

I have come to ask you to stand with George McGovern and Sargent Shriver in fighting to reclaim the heritage and decency that is the real meaning of America.

I have come to tell you that I need more than just a vote or a contribution. I need and offer a commitment to the ideas that have allowed men and women with different hopes and different beliefs to live together.

I have come to ask you to stand with George McGovern and Sargent Shriver so that the people of this country will be assured the reality of a decent life instead of the hollow ring of an empty promise.

No nation has filled the pages of history with more promise and dignity than America. Men and women crossed miles of ocean and centuries of neglect to help build this land.

Our liberties have been preserved through wars and proclaimed through history.

We must stand by our heritage and expand its application.

We must stand for the future and stand by the words of a man who knew America well… a man who said: “We know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find it in our midst and in our hearts the leadership that will teach us to discover our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all.”

This is our task this fall.

Let history record that we… here in this room tonight…. met the challenge.

Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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