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Providing Technical Corrections to Public Law 109-116

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 2206, a bill that simply provides technical corrections to Public Law 109-116.

This legislation authorizes the Architect of the Capitol to enter into agreement on behalf of the Joint Committee of the Library to acquire a statue of Mrs. Rosa Parks. It also extends the time period for that agreement by 2 years.

In 2005, it was my privilege to introduce this very important legislation with Senator John Kerry and Senator Mitch McConnell of the other body to honor the life and work of the late Mrs. Rosa Parks by placing a statue in National Statuary Hall.

Everyone knows the story of how Mrs. Parks helped spark the modern civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on a legally segregated bus that fateful day, December 1, 1955, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott and the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr.

From the beginning, Mrs. Parks led a life dedicated to social change, becoming an active member of the Montgomery, Alabama, chapter of the NAACP, which in the 1940s and 1950s was considered a dangerous organization. It could cost you your job. It could even cost you your life.

In 1943, along with the State president of the NAACP, she mobilized a historic voter registration drive in Montgomery and was later elected NAACP chapter secretary. Mrs. Parks was a courageous woman who possessed the firm and quiet strength necessary to challenge injustice.

Following the 1954 Brown Supreme Court decision which provided equal protection under the law's legal framework, her refusal to give up her seat eventually led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Open Housing Act, all of which helped make America better for all Americans.

Rosa Parks remained a committed activist until the end of her life. In the 1980s, she worked in support of the South Africa anti-apartheid movement. In Detroit with Congressman John Conyers in 1997, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, a career counseling center for African American youth.

With dignity, with grace and with courage, Rosa Parks inspired generations and helped to make the world a more just and compassionate place. In life she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999, the highest honors our Nation bestows on civilians.

This placing of a Rosa Parks statue in National Statuary Hall is a testament to the fact that the long arc of history bends towards freedom and justice and equality. When Statuary Hall was created by law in 1864, African Americans could not be citizens of the United States. Indeed, the term ``African Americans'' did not exist. Under that law it was impossible for us to be considered favorite sons or favorite daughters of States.

When Rosa Parks takes her place in National Statuary Hall, she takes with her Frederick Douglass. She takes with her the United States coloreds troops. She takes with her Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. She takes them there. Indeed, she takes the legacy and history of redefining what it means to be an American for all Americans as she takes her place among the enormous statues that presently represent the various States within that great Hall.

She takes with her countless nameless people of African descent, who from slavery to today, sacrificed for an America many would never live to see.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose half statue is not in Statuary Hall, would implore us, Now is the time.

I want to thank Senator Feinstein for introducing this bill in the other body. I want to thank Matt McGowan and Khalil Abboud from the Joint Committee on the Library for diligently working to get this extension enacted into law. I want to thank Barbara Wolanin from the Architect of the Capitol's Office for working with all of us to make sure that the goals of my original bill are realized.

I want to thank Chairman Brady and Ranking Member Ehlers for their sensitivity on this critical issue at this critical hour. And I want to thank in a special way our late Chair, Juanita Millender-McDonald, who worked with me tirelessly on this effort.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I might add that in the 13 years I have had the privilege of serving in this body, I have only missed two votes: one vote because my pager died and the battery did not forward my pager the power to let me know to vote; and the other vote was when I was on the other side of the aisle so overwhelmed by the number of Republicans who were willing to sign onto a Rosa Parks statue in Statuary Hall that the Democratic clerks could not find me to tell me to vote. I was overwhelmed by that occasion.

I am hoping, Mr. Speaker, that today Members of Congress will once again vote ``aye'' on S. 2206. I know of no American more worthy of an honor than the late Mrs. Rosa Parks.

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