Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the House floor today in support of a resolution commemorating the historic Selma to Montgomery Marches of 1965 by preserving the history of the Civil Rights Movement and its heroes in Congress. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you very much, thank you Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
“I rise in support of the legislation and commend Congresswoman Sewell and Congresswoman Roby for their leadership in bringing this to the floor and giving us the opportunity to speak about the heroes amongst us.
“In some of the darkest hours of our nation's history, as we all know, there are stories of great courage. By preserving these stories, which this legislation enables us to do, we ensure that those who come after us will know that the cause of equality is both our nation's heritage and our hope.
“Unsurpassed in courage, in our midst, is our colleague, the conscience of the Congress, Congressman John Lewis. On March 7, 1965, as many of us all know, Congressman John Lewis was the leader of 600 peaceful, orderly Americans, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He was met by state troopers, tear gas, bullwhips, and nightsticks. Although he faced great prejudice and discrimination, he was not embittered-he was emboldened: to dedicate his life to the cause of justice and equality.
“It is a great privilege for each of us to serve with John Lewis in Congress. An honor to call him: colleague. And I want to speak about his leadership in taking so many Member of Congress, and their families and friends, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in recent years. I had that privilege, to join him, in the year 2001. After the visit, I said to him: ‘of the three days we were [here], Congressman, in Montgomery and Selma and in Birmingham,' in the course of the weekend, and ‘the experience was one that every school child in American should experience.' We talk about Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, and Independence Hall, and Baltimore and the Fort McHenry in Boston, with all of that history in New York and the rest. This is a very important part of who we are as a country. And, if you want to learn about America, it's important to visit these sites. To see the courage. To see the commitment to the values of our founders, that were so courageously defended and advocated for. At this sad time, and for many of us, it was in our lifetime that this disaster was happening in our country, this ongoing disaster, but the culmination of it, where it took so many people a longer time to see, we always talk about the inevitable in the minds of some, and the inconceivable in the minds of others. And how our work is to shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable. Well it took some people a much longer time to understand what was inevitable for America. That we would be moving, gravitating, toward a more perfect union.
“That would not of been possible without the leadership of people like John Lewis. There aren't many people like John Lewis, who followed his lead. And there were others Members of Congress, who also were leaders in our nation's civil rights movement, and we honor all of them today.
“They include: Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn, who was arrested several times for his civil disobedience on behalf of civil rights. Congressman Barney Frank and Congressman John Conyers, who both volunteered during Freedom Summer. Congressman Bob Filner, who spent several months in jail after his efforts as a Freedom Rider and he takes great pride in being invited back to the reunion of the Freedom Riders. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. And, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who along with Congresswoman Roby is a cosponsor of this legislation, as Congresswoman Sewell is from Selma and her family opened their home to travelers on the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery.
“I'm sure there are more. But, all of these people played a role, John Lewis, of course, an icon in our country, for his leadership at that time.
“These Members of Congress-these American heroes-made history. They also made progress for our country.
“I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation to ensure that our history-and the heroes of it, that that history lives on long after we are gone.
“With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.”