HOUSTON, April 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by the then president Lyndon B. Johnson, saying he is a benefactor of Johnson's efforts as the first U.S. African- American president.
At the Civil Rights Summit held in the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, Obama delivered an emotional speech, invoking the memory of the Texas-born Johnson and lavishing his praise on his Democratic predecessor.
"Because of the civil rights movement, because of the laws that Lyndon Johnson passed, new doors swung open," Obama said. "They swung open for you and they swung open for me. That's why I'm standing here today, because of those efforts and because of that legacy."
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and ended racial segregation in schools and public places. The act, together with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Medicare, are viewed as the most important legacies of Johnson.
Obama acknowledged that half a century after the passing of the acts, race issue is still embedded in the American society.
"Yes, it's true that despite laws like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, our society is still racked with division and poverty," he said. "Yes, race still colors our political debates and there have been government programs that have fallen short."
Obama said while Johnson's civil-rights laws of the 1960s "are a foundation" for the future, "we cannot be complacent." He urged younger Americans to recognize that civil rights is more than a law, that "our rights, our freedoms are not given, they must be won."
Obama was one of four U.S. presidents to address the summit. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have already delivered remarks on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, while George W. Bush is scheduled to speak later Thursday.