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Directing the Joint Committee on the Library to Procure a Statue of Rosa Parks for Placement in the Capitol

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the Senator from Connecticut and I wish to address a matter that just passed the Senate a few hours ago.

Mr. President, it is the honor and duty of this Senate to recognize the greatness of extraordinary Americans. I am very proud that we have done so today for Rosa Parks. With the passage of S. Con. Res. 62, the Senate has directed the Joint Committee on the Library to commission a statue of Ms. Parks and place it here in the Nation's Capitol, so that Americans who visit this place 100 years from now can see it, and reflect on how one woman's courage altered a nation.

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.

I say to my friend from Connecticut that I was a teenager at the time, living in Augusta, GA. The first 8 years of my life I lived in Alabama. In those days, I think the stereotypical reaction to white southerners was that they all must surely have been against what began that evening with Rosa Parks's appropriate act of defiance. My parents are both deceased, but I remember how inspired they were as white southerners by the act of Rosa Parks. As I make my remarks tonight and listen subsequently to the remarks of my good friend from Connecticut, I remember my parents, who were white southerners born into southern culture who realized that this was not right, and who admired greatly not only Rosa Parks's act of defiance, but the later civil-rights bills that were to come.

For far too many African Americans at that time, America did not live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. But thanks to Rosa Parks, America was forced to look itself in the mirror, admit its failing, and recommit itself to its founding ideals.

Rosa Parks was headed 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. But if a white passenger demanded a black person give up his or her seat, they were required to do so.

But on that first day in December 50 years ago, the white bus driver demanded that four African Americans give up their seats so a single white man could sit. Three of them complied. Rosa Parks did not.

``If you don't stand up, I'm going to call the police and have you arrested,'' said the bus driver. But Rosa Parks had had enough. 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 preordained that the struggle would start on that day, in that town, lit by one woman's courage and conviction. We will always thank Rosa Parks that it did.

Rosa Parks' life proved that one American with courage can unshackle millions. Her passing on October 24, just a few weeks ago, left us with sadness, but also with deep gratitude for the gift she left all of us. By honoring her in the Capitol, we show our gratitude.

I wish to thank my many colleagues who cosponsored this bill on both sides of the aisle, and particularly my good friend from Connecticut, Senator Dodd, with whom I have collaborated on a number of issues over the years.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote that ``human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men.''

This bill helps ensure that Rosa Parks' efforts will never be forgotten.

I yield the floor.

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