Tomorrow, February 12th is Abraham Lincoln's birthday, an event that in the past offered leading government figures an opportunity to speak out on the important issues of the day. On February 12, 1957, New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner delivered a speech before the Norwalk Catholic Club in Connecticut to express his own concerns about race relations in America.
"Today, the shrill voice of the demagogue is heard once more in portions of our land, inciting to lawlessness. Mob violence, limited fortunately to a relatively few places, so far, has replaced the democratic processes of law and order. Southern, and some northern, politicians, fearful for their political future and, in some cases, eager for political profit, cater to the violent passions of the white supremacist. More than 90 years ago, Lincoln called for a 'practical system, by which the two races could gradually live themselves out of their old relationship to each other, and both come out better prepared for the new.' Surely 90 years is time enough to hesitate on the doorstep of racial equality. What is needed in this critical hour is a strong voice, an influential and unequivocal voice, a voice undeterred by political opportunism, to espouse, as Lincoln did, the principles of democracy and adherence to the law, in keeping with the particular needs of our time."