TRIBUTE TO ROSA LOUISE PARKS
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first, I appreciate the courtesies extended to me by the distinguished Senator from Pennsylvania and the distinguished Senator from Iowa.
I rise to pay tribute to one of the giants of American history. Today we honor the remarkable life and legacy of Rosa Parks, who died just last evening at the age of 92.
The Detroit News today says:
Courage in the face of oppression; resistance in the face of injustice. That is the enduring legacy of Rosa Parks, whose defiance on a racially segregated Montgomery, Ala., bus lit the flame of the modern civil rights movement and inspired freedom movements from South Africa to Poland.
The Detroit Free Press today:
When Rosa Parks refused to get up, an entire race of people began to stand up for their rights as human beings. Her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man was a simple act that took extraordinary courage in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. It was a place where black people had no rights that white people had to respect. It was a time when racial discrimination was so common, many blacks never questioned it. At least not out loud. But then came Rosa Louise Parks.
I am so proud Rosa Parks was a resident of Michigan. We have claimed her for many years and are so proud that she has left her legacy to all of us, particularly in Detroit, MI.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks left work in her hometown of Montgomery, AL, and boarded a bus headed for home. When the bus became crowded, she was ordered by the bus driver to give up her seat to a white male passenger. She refused. Rosa Parks was arrested, and 4 days later the Montgomery bus boycott began. The boycott lasted for over a year until the Montgomery buses were officially desegregated in December of 1956.
Rosa Parks was a courageous woman who did what she believed was fair and right. She is a testament to the power of one individual willing to fight for their beliefs. Her actions set the civil rights movement in motion and set a precedent for protest without violence. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Rosa Parks for her contribution to freedom and justice for all men and women in this country. Truly, her actions changed the course of history.
Rosa Parks moved to Detroit in 1957 and it became home for her for nearly 50 years. In 1977, she and Elaine Easton Steele founded the Raymond and Rosa Parks Institute for Self-Development in Detroit to offer guidance to young African-Americans. The institute's many programs include the annual Pathways to Freedom bus tour that exposes young African Americans to landmarks of the civil rights era.
The people of Michigan take great pride in the fact that Rosa Parks became part of our community in our great State. She devoted her life to public service, to helping people, and to helping to serve as a role model for our children. She made such an impact on our country and on the people of the metro Detroit community that the actual bus where Rosa Parks made her defiant stand is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.
Children from all over the world have come to see the bus that became this symbol of the civil rights movement. Nicknamed the Mother of Civil Rights, President Clinton awarded Rosa Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, the highest civilian award this country can bestow. Mrs. Parks also received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. Earlier this year, Senator Levin and I introduced a bill to name a Federal building in Detroit after Mrs. Parks. We think it is important that we recognize her in this way to thank her in some small way for her incredible contribution to our country. It is an honor she richly deserves, and I believe it is important that we pass this bill this week in the Senate, just as the House has passed the bill, so that we can together, in a unanimous way, say: Thank you, Rosa Parks.