Quotes to note from Civil Rights Summit speakers

“You’re reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions of those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your vision. But the presidency also affords a unique opportunity to bend those currents by shaping our laws and by shaping our debates, by working within the confines of the world as it is but also by reimagining the world as it should be.”

 — President Barack Obama during his keynote speech at the Civil Rights Summit on Thursday


“We are genetically 99.5 percent the same. Why are we risking the future of this great experiment, the wide horizons that Lyndon Johnson and his colleagues open to us, by spending 99 and a half percent of our time on that half percent of ourselves that is different?”

 — Former President Bill Clinton speaking at the Civil Rights Summit on Wednesday


“We’ve fallen short in a lot of ways. You know, we still have gross disparity between black and white people on employment, the quality of education. We kind of accept self-congratulations about the wonderful 50th anniversary. Which is, which is wonderful, but we feel like, you know, Lyndon Johnson did it. We don’t have to do anything anymore. I think too many people are at ease with the still existing disparity.” 

— Former President Jimmy Carter speaking at the Civil Rights Summit on Tuesday


“There is a difference between reading about something in the history books and listening, yesterday, to President Carter talking about his growing up in a very segregated South. Part of moving civil rights forward is having the next generation of leaders understand where we all have come from.” 

— UT President William Powers Jr. at the Civil Rights Summit on Wednesday


“All great fortunes are amassed with either cheap or slave labor. The NCAA is the one group everybody is focusing on. They have this money machine. To keep it this way, the labor force has to be free or very low wages.” 

— NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell, speaking at the Civil Rights Summit, on whether college athletes should be able to unionize


“The stupidest thing we can do economically is make [undocumented immigrants] leave. We don’t have anybody to replace them. So the impracticality of sending them home should be obvious to everyone.” 

— Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour during a panel discussion at the Civil Rights Summit.


“Money should not determine who gets higher education. It should be based upon will and skill and not based upon money. Many students would be good teachers, or doctors, or lawyers, or scientists or researchers cannot afford to go to school. We cannot afford to discard great minds. We can afford to educate our children, and we must. And right now, we’re making education costs prohibitive. Jails for profit and schools for profit do not reign true, but a bright future.” 

Rev. Jesse Jackson on whether the cost of higher education is a civil rights issue


“I think one of the parallels is that, like the battle for racial civil rights, for a long time people denied that [same-sex marriage] was a civil rights issue. They defended it on religious grounds, on constitutional grounds, on grounds of tradition, on grounds of protecting the family — all of the ways that we have, over the course of the history of our country, tried to deny one group of our citizens the equal rights that our Declaration of Independence and Constitution promises to everybody.” 

— Attorney David Boies, one of the attorneys who argued against California’s Proposition 8 in 2013, on whether same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue at a panel discussion Tuesday


“Citizens who are gay or lesbian are being denied the fundamental right to marriage, and they’re being denied the protection of equal laws in respect to marriage, and that takes away their right to dignity. You’re taking away the person’s decency — their dignity — when you’re calling them different.” 

— Attorney Theodore Olson, who also fought to overturn California’s Proposition 8, on the constitutionality of limiting same-sex marriage at a panel discussion Tuesday