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"Above All, New Will,"

by A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. January/February 1998 issue of Poverty & Race

My preferences are that the leadership voice of John Hope Franklin will never be muted. He does not need anyone at the White House or elsewhere to speak for him or to explain his views. I can think of no one as able as John Hope Franklin to present a thoughtful report. The major tasks ahead will not be whether the Advisory Board's original report is insightful; the issue is whether it will be implemented by the President, the Congress, and the other public and private sectors and by the goodwill of most citizens.

In 1968 and 1969 I was a member of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson. Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower was chairman, and I was vice-chairman. While we were focusing primarily on issues pertaining to violence in our society, in my separate concurring statement I wrote the following:

"The major problem in our country..., as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) noted,. ..has been our failure to have ‘a realization of common opportunities for all within a single society,' and the failure to have a ‘commitment to national action' which is ‘...compassionate, massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it will require new attitudes, new understandings and, above all, new will.'"

As it was in ‘69, the challenge today will not be the inability to describe the problem, but the failure will occur if we do not develop and implement the "new attitudes, new understandings and, above all, new will."

A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. is Public Service Professor of Jurisprudence at Harvard University and a Commissioner, U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

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