(Photo: Public Domain)
President Barack Obama will join former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, this week to honor the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
Known as the Civil Rights Summit, the three-day event is being held as part of the national celebration marking the 50 years that have passed since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.
Elizabeth Christian, president of the LBJ Foundation, which oversees the library, told The Christian Post why the event was being held.
"We are facing in the next two or three years the 50th anniversary of some of the most important events of our country's history, such as civil rights, federal funding of education, creation of National Endowment of the Arts and extensive environmental legislation," said Christian.
"This summit essentially kicks off three years of celebrating nation-changing legislation."
Held at the LBJ Library on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, the summit began Tuesday afternoon with a panel on whether gay marriage is a civil right.
Mark K. Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, announced the Summit back in February in a statement published in the Austin Chronicle.
"President Johnson's vision for a more just and honorable America contributed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the most transformational civil rights legislation since Reconstruction and a crucial step in the realization of America's promise," said Updegrove.
"But his vision went far beyond ending racial discrimination. He believed that education, economic opportunity, health care, clean air and water, and access to the arts and humanities, among other things, were inherent civil rights for all Americans - and it's reflected in his legislative legacy."
Robert Hutchings, dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at UT Austin, told CP about the collaborative effort of the LBJ Presidential Library, the LBJ Foundation, and the LBJ School of Public Affairs on the Civil Rights Summit.
"There is a kind of division of labor, with the library focusing on LBJ's role and legacy and the school more focused (naturally) on current issues of public policy, some of which are much the same as in LBJ's day," said Hutchings.
"We also want this Summit to catalyze a national 'call to public service,' much as JFK and LBJ did for my generation. We have also used the occasion of the summit to announce that the LBJ School will create a Washington, D.C. Center in the coming year, to 'bring LBJ back to Washington' and empower a new 'get it done' generation."
July 2 of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of when Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"I think it is safe to say, if the Civil Rights Act did not pass when it did, it would have taken two more decades to accomplish," said Christian to CP.
"It took a president like LBJ with the ability to unite Republicans and Democrats to pass such a large piece of legislation. If we did not have that Act, President Obama may not have been elected. It's impossible to overstate its importance."
Other discussions held on Tuesday include topics on immigration policy, music's connection to social consciousness, and remarks by former President Carter.
Wednesday will include conversations on President Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., sports as a platform to discuss civil rights, and a speech by Clinton.
Thursday, the final day, will include a keynote address by Obama, remarks by Bush, and discussions on education and gender equality in the modern day.
In addition to the presidents, featured speakers include: Jim Brown, NFL Hall of Famer; Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor; Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio; The Rev. Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center; and Ed Welburn, General Motors vice president for Global Design.
Watch live streaming of the LBJ Civil Rights Summit here.