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Public Statements

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park & Byway

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Church Creek, MD

This has been a tremendous program hasn't it? Let's give it up to the New Revelations Baptist Church Choir, who warmed up this place for us. And how about let's give it up for B Company, the re-enactors for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. And also our spiritual solo, Renna McKinney, who is outstanding. And our inspirational re-enactor Melissa Sparks, who did a great job.

Shortly, we are going to break ground just behind us, and I just had a couple of thoughts I wanted to share. I want to thank Mayor Jackson-Stanley for her leadership. I want to thank the Ross-Tubman family, who worked so very hard today to do this work of the heart that was required to make this day possible. I want to thank Secretary Salazar for your commitment, your work, and your love of this Chesapeake region. It has been a true honor to work with you on behalf of the people of Maryland, and to be able to work in such an historic and positive way with our great President Barack Obama. You've been awesome Ken, thanks so much for all you've done for us.

And above all, thanks to Harriet Ross Tubman, our "Moses," who really has brought us here today. It seems on this sunny day, that the geese have even come to settle here for a moment, doesn't it? In honor of Harriet Tubman, and to warm this free, cold land.

Fredrick Douglass once wrote to Harriet Tubman, "Much that you have done may seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you."

What a tremendous individual,… tremendous feats of courage, and valor, and accomplishment. While none of us can know her in the same way that Fredrick Douglass and her contemporaries knew her, I think we all have a sense that her spirit is with us today. That spirit of heroism, that spirit of courage.

It was said of her that her tales of adventure are beyond anything in fiction, and her ingenuity and generalship are extraordinary, wrote the famous abolitionist leader Thomas Wentworth Higginson. With this praise, Higginson offered these chilling words of caution. He said, she has had a reward of twelve thousand dollars offered for her in Maryland, and will probably be burned alive whenever she is caught, which she probably will be.

But she never was.

I was sharing with Secretary Salazar that on sunny weekends like this, my father would bring his boys to the Eastern Shore and we'd go to Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. And he would tell us also of Harriet Tubman. And as a little boy I remember trying to imagine the courage that it must have taken to escape as a slave. And I imagined as a little boy the courage it must have taken to come back again and again, not only for the people that she loved, but for people she had never known. I imagined as a little boy what sort of pain she must have experienced biting down on a bullet as they operated without any anesthesia on a wound on her skull. Such courage and such things for little boys and little girls to imagine in their hearts.

I leave you with the words of Samuel Allen from his poem "Harriet Tubman aka Moses."

He said:
By fire in heaven she was guided
saved by stream
and by water reed
by her terrible grimace of faith
beautiful and defiant,
Till the moment in the long journey
came the first faint glimpse
of the stars, the everlasting stars shining clear
over the free
cold
land.

Let us vow today together that we will tell her story again and again to generations and generations of little boys and girls who will carry her courage in their own hearts.
Thank you very much.


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