Updated: 06/09/2014 10:46 PM
Created: 06/09/2014 9:33 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier
"The ultimate core of the Civil Rights Act is our common humanity." President Bill Clinton emphatically delivered that message at the University of Minnesota on Monday.
Clinton urged Minnesotans to continue to live up to that law's promise, 50 years after it was signed. He came to Minnesota to honor both the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the Minnesotan who played an integral part in getting it passed.
Clinton told an audience of thousands at the Northrop Auditorium that he would not have been elected president without the Civil Rights Act, and that there would have been no Civil Rights Act without Hubert Humphrey.
"Fifty years ago, Hubert Humphrey carried a bill to lift the last great stain on American history," Clinton said.
And for 70 minutes, as a guest of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Clinton echoed the evening's theme: "Keeping Faith with a Legacy of Justice."
"We have made so much progress. We are less racist, we are less sexist, we are less homophobic, than we used to be. Our one remaining bigotry is, we don't want to be around anyone that disagrees with us anymore," Clinton said.
He told Minnesotans the challenges of the civil rights movement still resonate today, through issues like immigration reform, income disparities, and voter disenfranchisement. He slammed a recent Supreme Court ruling that rolled back part of the Voting Rights Act.
"Which emboldened states to try to, for the first time since 1965, to actually make an aggressive effort to restrict the franchise," Clinton said,
He also railed against the divisive climate infecting politics, and the country in general, urging unity in its place.
"We will always fight to assert our common humanity over our important and interesting differences," he told the crowd at the close of his remarks.
Civil rights remains an issue of weight in Minnesota, with much scrutiny focused on the state's stubborn achievement gap.
At Monday night's event, Clinton formally accepted the Dean's Award for Public Leadership from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Proceeds from the event will go to student scholarships designed to promote diversity and inclusion at the U of M.