On Nov. 21, President Barack Obama announced an executive order that will shield perhaps 5 million economic immigrants from deportation and grant them eligible for work permits. In response, many on the right reacted with calls for a government shutdown, impeachment, and a lawsuit while also describing him as an “emperor” and a “dictator” and as acting “shameful.”

President Harry Truman issued to Congress on Feb. 2, 1948, an appeal to “secure fully our essential human rights.” He then went on to ask for the establishment of a Commission of Civil Rights and ordered a review of discrimination in the military.

However, in the legislative session of 1948, not one bill regarding the president’s requests passed. The requests were characterized as “devastating,” “obnoxious,” “repugnant” and “un-American.” What was Truman to do?

Congress wouldn’t act, so he did.

On July 26, 1948, Truman issued two executive orders relating to civil rights of all persons in federal institutions. In the second of these, No. 9981, Truman gave America the following: Article One, “It is declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Forces without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

Reactions were mixed. Millions applauded, while millions vowed never to abide by this “un-American” order. Many clergy taught that racial integration violated Biblical “truth.” To be fair, many of the detractors came to apologize as they realized their errors of judgment.

Earlier, Truman had been advised to “go easy” on racial integration. He replied, “I am not asking for social equality … I am asking for equal opportunity.”

This is exactly what President Obama asks of America today by issuing his legal executive order, an equal opportunity for 5 million people.

Allan Watson


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