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Public Statements

Juneteenth/Blair's Bill

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

JUNETEENTH/BLAIR'S BILL -- (House of Representatives - June 19, 2007)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Rush) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. RUSH. Mr. Speaker, I stand here today, along with my congressional Black Caucus colleagues, in recognition of Juneteenth Day. It is fitting for us to not only acknowledge where we have been in the past but also to evaluate where we are today as a people.

Mr. Speaker, one of the most pressing issues in the African American community remains the issue of education. Many of my colleagues have outlined the progress and the challenges that many African American students face as they strive to acquire the educational benefits that every American should receive.

In the words of the great African American leader Malcolm X: ``Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.''

Education is, of course, the key to a bright future. And it is the vital ingredient in finding success and achieving the American Dream. While African Americans have come very far, educationally, there is still much work to do at the Federal, at the State, at the local, and at the family level to ensure that all of our students are learning and are being given the chance to succeed.

Today, Mr. Speaker, African American females, in particular, are achieving gains in education that were previously unheard of. Black females are graduating from college, graduate school, and post-graduate school at record levels. And this is something we can all be proud of and take comfort in.

However, Mr. Speaker, there are still many problems. Today, our Nation has more African American men in prison than in college. In many urban cities, Black males are dropping out of high school at a rate of 50 percent and even less are going to college.

One problem that many of our young students face is the issue of gun violence that pervades our community. Mr. Speaker, we have to make the schools and the neighborhoods that we live in safe for our students. We must address the gun violence that is plaguing so many of our communities.

African American males under age 30 are nearly nine times more likely to be murdered than a white male under age 30. African Americans make up only 13 percent of the population of our Nation but in 2001 suffered almost 25 percent of all firearms deaths, and 52 percent of all firearm homicides.

Mr. Speaker, just days ago, on May 10, a student, Blair Holt, was riding home from school on a public bus and was fatally shot while trying to shield a young female friend from a gunman's bullet. Blair Holt was an honor student with plans to attend college, and instead, his young life was prematurely taken for no reason at all. Mr. Speaker, this school year alone, 31 Chicago public school students have been murdered; 31 students have lost their lives; 31 students have not given their talents, their skills, and their abilities to make this world a better place.

While this statistic is true for the schools in my district, gun violence is all around. Gun violence is prevalent in so many of the communities all around this Nation. And we must put an end to this domestic terrorism that is destroying communities and making our constituents live in fear. As elected officials, it is incumbent upon us to enact legislation that would help reduce the flow of guns into our communities and help our struggling and frustrated law enforcement departments all across this Nation to keep track of those who possess guns and where those guns are.

I have introduced H.R. 2666, Blair's bill, which would implement a Federal gun licensing and registry program. This bill will help law enforcement track over 200 million guns that are too often ending up in the hands of criminals, young people, and gang members.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 2666 is a step in the right direction. We must do all that we can for our Nation's children.

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