WBUR’s David Boeri shared a story about Richard Goodwin, a man I knew nothing about but who apparently inspired change by his words.
Richard Goodwin was speech writer for Lyndon B. Johnson during a time full of racial tension. Goodwin crafted what became known as the “We Shall Overcome Speech” landing him a place in history with partner and deliverer – then President Lyndon B Johnson. For shortly after this speech, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.
But the path to this momentous occasion is worth noting. It was unexpected, last minute, it offered a voice to his feelings, and though he had to cram it was a masterpiece delivered at just the right time.
Listen to this great interview with Goodwin, listen to the interview, read the We Shall Overcome’ Speech | WBUR.
Though I knew of the speech, i did not know about the personal scramble that took place leading up to the speech. Young Jewish speechwriter Richard Goodwin had to hustle and write thanks to a last minute change and job assignment.
Then president LBJ rightly assumed that because Richard Goodwin was liberal and Jewish he would have a sense for the need. And so he did for he chose words that inspired everyone except the Southern Segregationists who “slumped into their chairs and knew they were done.”
The words Goodwin founded and the president shared came from a universal place – known by his own family members. holocaust survivors and recognized by anyone familiar with the ideal of democracy or bitterness of bigotry or injustice in their various forms.
Five months later the passing of
“Their cause must be our cause too. Because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”