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Public Statements

Recognizing Juneteenth Independence Day

Location: Washington, DC

RECOGNIZING JUNETEENTH INDEPENDENCE DAY -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 19, 2008)

TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2008

* Mr. HOLT. Madam Speaker, I rise today as a cosponsor of H. Res. 1237, a resolution recognizing the importance of the Juneteenth anniversary celebrations held nationwide on June 19th. On that date 145 years ago, Union forces led by General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, bringing news of the Confederate surrender and enforcing, after two-and-half long years, the Emancipation Proclamation. Americans across the country commemorate this day with celebrations, discussions, and family picnics. In my own state of New Jersey, Juneteenth is celebrated at churches, community centers, and family gatherings across the state. This day marks a time for people to come together, enjoy the company of friends and family, and reflect on the past. It is a time of somber tribute to the struggles of slavery conjoined with a cheerful and celebratory attitude towards the future and the opportunities afforded by that great proclamation.

* I strongly support H. Res. 1237, which recognizes the significance of the Juneteenth anniversary and proclaims the sense of Congress that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future. I rise to honor the celebration, and to honor the myriad contributions that African-Americans have made to American society and culture in the years before and since. African-Americans have honored this country with their service and dedication as inventors, teachers, artists, musicians, first responders, soldiers, doctors, and statesmen and countless other professions. They rose from the bonds of servitude and yet, facing discrimination at every step, have continued to persevere. The longevity of the Juneteenth celebration is an enduring testament to the strength of these Americans in the face of tremendous adversity and bears witness to the virtue of celebrating diversity.

* I must also rise today to recognize the obstacles that still face us. Juneteenth evokes reflection on a dark chapter in our Nation's history, and reinforces that which we already know: the struggle for equality is far from over. The joyous celebration of the emancipation of the slaves of Galveston, followed by decades of inequality under Jim Crow, serves to remind us all of the need to remain committed to our original principles and the belief in liberty and justice for all. While our history has at times failed to live up to these founding ideals, it is important that we remember our past. So that we may better ourselves and our country, we must bear closely the lessons of history as we strive for progress.

* Today, Juneteenth is the longest-running celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. Its durability alone illustrates its significance. For that reason, Madam Speaker, and for all the reasons above, I hope that my colleagues will join me in supporting H. Res. 1237.

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