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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, our Nation is mourning the recent loss of an icon in this country's civil rights movement and a true national hero, Ms. Rosa Parks. Today, along with Senators Obama, Levin, Stabenow, Kennedy, Corzine and Smith, I am introducing legislation to honor the memory of Rosa Parks by placing her statue in the United States Capitol. This will help future generations understand her efforts to increase equality in the United States.

When I met Rosa Parks, I was overwhelmed by this graceful, small woman's quiet strength and humility--her conviction in taking on the army of power that was deployed before her--her courage to dig in, knowing full well the power of the courthouse, the power of the sheriff's badge, the power of the vigilante, the power of the establishment--knowing that on dark country roads or after a knock on the door in the middle of the night, people still disappeared and died almost anonymous deaths. So many were killed just trying to be citizens in the land of the free.

Rosa Parks reminded many and taught even more how to speak the truth to power. In an era when these words are thrown around too easily, she lived the words `courage' and `patriot'--she loved the dream of our country more than herself, and she was willing to risk it all to live the dream.

In the struggle for civil rights, some were called to stand up to Bull Connor's fire hoses and police dogs--some to stand up to Klan terrorism--and some to stand up to state sponsored acts of violence. But some were called simply to sit down--at lunch counters in Greensboro and Nashville and Atlanta--or on a bus in Montgomery.

Ms. Parks' dedication to civil rights has had an impact on the lives of all Americans. Her act of courage on December 1, 1955 inspired a movement that eventually brought about laws to end segregation, ensure voting rights, end discrimination in housing, and create a greater equality throughout this Nation. Thanks to Rosa Parks, a path was forged for future generations to encourage freedom and social justice. Her legacy of courage and commitment plays an important role each time our Nation acts for equality and justice, and most of all, in the hope for a better America.

If just one woman was able to do all this, then how much greater the responsibility is for those of us with privilege and power who pay tribute to her today. The life of Rosa Parks demands deeds, not epitaphs. Our final words cannot be spoken or written while her cause is still unfinished. No simple words can match what she did in that sacred moment on a municipal bus in Montgomery, Alabama. What matters now is what we do after the candles are quenched, the speeches have been exhausted, and the next bus comes by.

I am grateful for the opportunity to join my colleagues in this body, as well as those in the House of Representatives, to honor the legacy of this graceful, humble, and courageous woman who embodies the American spirit. If this legislation is adopted, when our children and our grandchildren visit the United States Capitol, they will have the opportunity to learn more about the women who risked so much for their freedom. Ms. Parks belongs among the other great leaders that have shaped this country and made the world a better place.

Sometimes the days seem heavy and the odds seem high, but that moment on a bus in Montgomery always comes. Someone gets on that bus, refuses to equivocate or yield and changes history. Today, that someone must be us, for Rosa Parks and for our country.

The bus still comes by again and again and each time we have to decide whether to go quietly to the back, or by simple acts of courage and conviction, change the direction of our own country's journey. A statue of Rosa Parks in the Capitol can help future Senators and Congressmen find the courage necessary to make sure our Nation takes the right course in the future.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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