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Honoring the Life of and Expressing Condolences of the Senate on the Passing of Rosa Parks

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, one of the honors and duties of serving in the United States Senate is to note the passing of great Americans and to recognize their greatness. Last night, Rosa Parks died in her home in Detroit. She was 92 years old.

Rosa Parks did not set out to become a hero on the evening of December 1, 1955. She was, like millions of other Americans, merely on her way home after a long day's work.

She was a seamstress in Montgomery, AL, but her simple, profound act of civil disobedience was the spark that ignited the modern civil rights movement. For far too many African Americans at that time America did not live up to its promise that ``all men are created equal.'' Thanks to Rosa Parks, America was forced to look at itself in the mirror, admit its failing, and recommit itself to its founding ideals.

Dr. Martin Luther King once wrote that ``human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men.'' This is the story of one such effort.

Rosa Parks was heading home that winter night on the Montgomery city bus system, which was segregated. Front row seats were reserved for White passengers. Blacks were restricted to the back of the bus and sometimes the middle of the bus. But if a White passenger demanded a Black person give up his or her seat, that Black person was required to do so.

On that first day in December, the White bus driver demanded that four African Americans give up their seats so a single White man could sit down. Three of them complied.

Rosa didn't.

``If you don't stand up I'm going to call the police and have you arrested,'' said the driver.

But Rosa Parks had had enough of the evil divisions of segregation, and she replied to the driver, ``You may do that.''

With this simple refusal, Rosa Parks set into motion a crusade that would eventually awaken the conscience of our country. Perhaps the time was right for a nation like America to erase the stain of segregation. But it was not inevitable that the struggle would start on that day in that town, lit by one woman's courage and conviction.

Nor was it inevitable that Mrs. Parks took her stand in a town that counted among its residents a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. In response, Dr. King became the leader of the local bus boycott. Over time, as we all know, he led America's civil rights movement to overcome the injustices that robbed millions of our fellow citizens of their full rights as Americans.

Rosa Parks' life proved that one American with courage can make a majority. We note her passing with sadness but also with deep gratitude for the gift she left all of us.

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