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The President's News Conference of

February 8th, 1961

8.] Q. Mr. President, 3 months ago a Federal court in New Orleans ordered two public schools there desegregated. Since then, what is apparently an organized campaign of intimidation has kept most white children out of those schools and effectively frustrated the court order.

During the campaign you spoke of using your moral authority as President in the civil rights field. Can you tell us what you plan to say or do to help the New Orleans families who evidently want to obey the Constitution but are afraid to do so?

THE PRESIDENT. I will--at such time as I think it is most useful and most effective, I will attempt to use the moral authority or position of influence of the Presidency in New Orleans and in other places. I want to make sure that whatever I do or say does have some beneficial effect and, therefore, it is a matter which we are considering.

Q. But you do not have anything to say specifically about New Orleans today or about what has happened there--for example, last week the man who had tried to send his children to school and then in fear left town?

THE PRESIDENT. We are going to--I will comment. As far as New Orleans goes, it is my position that all students should be given the opportunity to attend public schools regardless of their race, and that is in accordance with the Constitution. It is in accordance, in my opinion, with the judgment of the people of the United States. So there is no question about that.

Now specifically, what we could most usefully do in order to provide an implementation of the court decision in New Orleans, that is a matter which we are carefully considering. On the general question, there is no doubt in my view: students should be permitted to attend schools in accordance with court decisions. The broader question of course is, regardless of the court decisions I believe strongly that every American should have an opportunity to have maximum development of his talents, under the most beneficial circumstances, and that is what the Constitution provides. That is what I strongly believe.

On the question specifically of what we can usefully do in New Orleans in order to provide a more harmonious acquiescence with the court decision, I would feel that we could perhaps most usefully wait until we have concluded our





13th: The American Embassy in Moscow is notified by Lee that he wants to return to the United States.


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