Saint Peter's College Michaelmas Convocation
CITATION FOR HONORARY DEGREE

Some 110 years ago on August 24, 1855 Abraham Lincoln wrote these prophetic words to Joshua F. Speed:

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." When the know- nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal except Negroes, foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty, - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy towards the foreigner has had a long life, hypocrisy towards the Catholic had a long life too, but hypocrisy towards the Negro has had the longest life of all. Every young American child is made to memorize these words of the Declaration of Independence of 1776:
We hold these truths to be self-evident : that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Every young American child, made to memorize these words before 1954, lived with the hypocrisy and the contradiction between these words and the practices that were observed in so many places in America. The Negro child who lived in the deep south had to sit in the back of the bus, the back of the street car, the back of the movie theatre, the back of the church, yes, the back of the Catholic Church.

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Dr. Martin Luther King's Speeches In Jersey City