FNC On the Record - Transcript
Sunday, December 1, 2005
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, 50 years after civil rights hero Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, President Bush signed a bill that will make her the first black woman to be honored with a statue in the U.S. Capitol. And, he is calling on Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Joining us live from Montgomery, Alabama is Reverend Jesse Jackson and, in Chicago, is his son, Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Reverend Jackson, first to you since you're in Montgomery. It's a big day today isn't it?
REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION FOUNDER: It's a huge historical moment after 58 years of legal Jim Crow that was struck down in 1954 and Rosa Park sat down this day and challenged a state's rights law. In 13 months she won.
What makes it a kind of big day for me emotionally is that Congressman Jackson put forth a bill to make her have a life size statue in Statuary Hall in the Capitol where the likes of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee and others are and that bill was passed, Congressman Jackson on one side and Senator Kerry on the other and Mr. Bush signed it into law today.
But, he also today made a commitment he had not made to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so it was a proud day for me as the father watching Congressman Jackson's work unfold and also a great day for human rights activists and civil rights in this country.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Jackson, how exciting is it to have these two events? I mean it's unfortunate that Rosa Parks, you know, didn't make this anniversary. You know she came up a little short by a couple weeks. We had hoped that she would make this trip or make this anniversary. But how exciting for you the legislation and the agreement to extend the Voting Rights Act?
CONGRESSMAN JESSE JACKSON, JR., D-ILL.: Well, Greta, this is a momentous day not only for all Americans but a momentous day for people around the world. Lest should we forget that when students were standing in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square they began singing, "We Shall Overcome." They were paying tribute to Rosa Parks long before President Ronald Reagan said, "Tear down this wall."
In Eastern Europe, in Berlin, Rosa Parks had begun fighting to tear down walls in our own country. And, at that time, President Reagan was actually a Democrat, a southern Democrat who found himself on the other side of that particular wall.
And so, Rosa Parks' contribution, while there will be those who will limit her efforts to just the domestic content, it had broad implications for Eastern Europe. It had broad implications for China. It has broad implications for human rights around our world.
And, for President Bush to recommit himself to that continuing and lasting legacy, extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he was really challenging Congressman Sensenbrenner and Congressman John Conyers to move forward on an agreement that would provide a key piece of that social civil rights legislation and opportunity to survive long into the future.
VAN SUSTEREN: Reverend Jackson, who was down there in Montgomery today to celebrate Rosa Parks?
REV. JACKSON: Well, you know, the original Montgomery Improvement Association members. She sat down on the front of the bus nine months before Mrs. Parks and she was 15 years old and she was arrested. They determined that not to be the case they wanted to use as the test case but her lawyer was Attorney Gray (ph), who was Mrs. Parks' lawyer nine months later.
It is an error to separate Mrs. Parks from the context of her time. The '54 Supreme Court decision, May 17, 1954, Emma Tills' killing August 28, 1955 three months before she sat in and eight years to the day before the march on Washington and Dr. King emerged December 5, 1955.
So, if Rosa Parks was the mother of that movement, the modern movement, Thurgood Marshall was the father of it. Emma Till the (INAUDIBLE) and Dr. King the prophet unto it. So, there was this huge moment in time where much of the world spun around what happened here in Montgomery, Alabama.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Jackson, when can we expect that statue to go up in the Capitol?
CONGRESSMAN JACKSON: The legislation calls for it to be erected by December 1, 2007 and so there are two years for the Architect of the Capitol to begin the process of having, identifying and constructing the statue to be erected in Statuary Hall.
But it also coincides with the extension of the Voting Rights Act. And so, Rosa Parks' lasting legacy will be that contribution, not only the statue in Statuary Hall but also the idea that we should have representation in the Congress of the United States and that representation should be extended at that pre-clearance and those provisions should go before the Justice Department or the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to ensure that states are not engaged in voter intimidation, voter discrimination so that we can ensure that all votes are counted and that all Americans have an equal opportunity of getting represented in the Congress.
REV. JACKSON: Greta, let me say this was a big day for President Bush as well. Whenever presidential leaders fend for civil rights and human rights they win, so we feel a sense of joy that Rosa Parks will have her proper place in the Statuary Hall and the Voting Rights Act will be extended. But it was a great day, really a victory for President Bush as well and so today then we're really all winners.
VAN SUSTEREN: And, indeed it was and the only sort of sadness with it is that Rosa Parks isn't here to enjoy it with everyone else. Gentlemen, nice to see both the Jacksons, nice to see you.
CONGRESSMAN JACKSON: Greta, it's a pleasure.
REV. JACKSON: Thank you.