tv Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for 1965 Voting Rights Marches Foot... CSPAN March 20, 2016 12:45pm-2:01pm EDT
him, and use them for his purpose. >> you can watch the entire program sunday. tv onlyamerican history on c-span 3. >> last year marked the anniversary of the march to selma. the congressional gold medal is the highest award given from congress. this is about one hour. >> please welcome our honored guests, member of the united states house of representatives, members of the senate.
>> ladies and gentlemen, the honorable paul ryan. [applause] rep. ryan: today we welcome the foot soldiers of the civil rights marches. last year, we celebrated the anniversary. we felt that contribution was so great that they deserve the highest honor in our position -- possession, the congressional cold metal. to share the specialty with you. ofare also in the presence people like my friend and colleague, the honorable john lewis. [applause] we are also honored to be here
martha could not be here with us today, but she is with us in spirit. i want to thank you again for taking the time to join us. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the presentation of the colors by the united states color guard, the performance of the national anthem, and the retiring of the colors. ♪
we gather to honor those who marched years ago so that we americans today find it unacceptable that many still do not have easy access to the vote. their 50th year since brave determination was on display, we bestow the congressional medal on those who changed not just alabama, but the world. so may people have been inspired to struggle for their own freedoms, thanks to the example given by our heroic fellow countrymen, foot soldiers, those many years ago. , inspire us to a knowledge that the struggle for the right to vote without
impediment continues in our own time. a history of elections , notstrate that exclusion fraud, has been the greater scandal. , then.rage we face the challenge of guaranteeing voting rights in our own day. wonderful counselor, mighty god, peace. father, prince of amen. seated.e be ladies and gentlemen, the united states representative from the seventh district of alabama, the honorable terry soul. [applause]
rep. seweel: all elected officials and guests assembled, today we gather to honor the courage, tenacity, and faith of the foot soldiers who marched in 1965 from selma to montgomery. the personal sacrifice of these brave foot soldiers compelled to itsion to live up ideals of equality and justice for all, and led to the passage of the voting rights act of 1965. over 50 years ago, a selma preacher and educator, reverend esederick douglas re invited reverend martin luther
williams, and the members of the southern leadership congress, to join the sum of protest. they were joined by other man named johna lewis, and members of the student nonviolent courtney committee to mobilize the demonstration. while these men set into motion the series of events that changed this nation, they were joined by a cast of thousands of men and women known and unknown, to walk across, the bridge for voting of quality and better america. all thehe american stove the congressional gold medal upon the foot soldiers who dared to march in the 1955
voting rights movement. we are joined today by so many of those soldiers. i know the speaker acknowledge them already, but you are so special, and it has been so long, i want those foot soldiers who are living and here today, please stand and be recognized one more time. [applause] while we know that your com rades will accept this on your behalf later in the ceremony, please know, this nation owes all of you a debt of gratitude, and we humbly say, thank you. i would also like to recognize the families of the foot soldiers who gave their lives in this cause. with the families of dr. martin luther king junior rise.
the family of ralph upper neck abernathy.t the sister of jimmy lee jackson. [applause] i was so honored and humbled to sponsor hr 431 with my colleague. thebill to honor congressional gold medalist was indeed a momentous occasion. i was so proud that all my colleagues in the alabama ilegation joined martha and as original cosponsors of the bill, putting aside partisan politics. we join together because of a deep love for the state of alabama and deep appreciation of the special role that our state plays in the voting rights movement. a special thanks to senator
booker and sessions of alabama who cosponsored the bill and made the journey to selma last year for the commemoration. along with other members of congress, republican and democrat, it was a glorious day to welcome you to my hometown. as a native of selma, and now the united states representative, i know the journey as the first black woman member is thanks to your contribution toward democracy. the congressional gold medal ceremony should serve as a compelling reminder of the power of ordinary americans collectively working together achieving extraordinary social change. history teaches us the price of freedom is never free.
it has been paid for by blood, sweat, tears of our ancestors. while we can never truly be paid the foot soldiers for their sacrifices, we can pay tribute to them by remembering to vote in every election. every election. rep. sewell: while we are beyond the bridge, voting rights are still at risk. they're a modern-day barriers. challenges have weakened the voting rights act of 1965, and the charge of the foot soldiers is still relevant. it is the cause of voting. voting is so critically important. every generation faces its own political struggles, and there is so much work to be done. the tactics employed are still relevant today, and what can we learn from these foot soldiers? we can learn that nonviolent protest works.
collective action works. strategic and tactical thinking pays off, and effective leadership towards a common goal is the key. i want to end by reminding all of you by the 104-year-old amelia boynton, who was on the bridge with john lewis, and struck on the head. she was on the bridge with reverend reese, and i have the great fortune of inviting her to the state of the union last year. she was so excited to meet president obama. as we waited for him to arrive as he gave his speech, she was filled with anticipation. everyone around look at her, beaming -- looked at her, beaming. she held -- he held her face in her hand and said, "i know i'm
president of the nine states because of you, and to say thank you is not enough. [applause] rep. sewell: but i am saying thank you. i'm about to give a speech as president of the united states in a few minutes, and it is all because of you." amelia boynton said, "make it a good one." [laughter] rep. sewell: i say in closing, let us all make it a good one by remembering the sacrifices of the foot soldiers. make every day a good day. we, in congress, should give you the gift of strengthening the voting rights act of 1965. [applause] rep. sewell: and i hope and pray that during this black history month we will make each and
every day a good one. thank you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the united states senator from new jersey, honorable cory booker. sen. booker: good afternoon. this is truly a day that the lord has made, and the day that came to be because of some legends i can stand before right now. there are generations now in america who were not alive to bear witness to your courage. i say this to you with confidence, as one of only five african americans ever elected to the eye of state senate, i stand here today because you did not let anybody turn you around. [applause]
sen. booker: this is truly one of my life possibly just moments. to patron the to some of the actual ordinary americans, whose footsteps paved the way for me and my generation. i feel honored to partner with senator sessions. this award is one of the highest civilian honors our nation can bestow. it is clearly fitting, to give distribute, to those who in the face of violence worked with peace, in the face of hatred showing incredible love, in the face appear, who showed incredible -- in the face of fear, who showed incredible courage, a love of their country
and fellow countrymen and women, putting one foot in front of the other. time after time, they not only marched into history, but awakened a national consciousness, picking the moral imagination of this country and people beyond. they were a light onto the nation, through their work, these patriots ushered in the passage of the voting rights act, one of the crowning achievements of this democracy, breathing life into the constitutional promise that the fundamental right to vote should not be infringed upon because of the color of someone's skin. this award represents our
collective national gratitude to the courageous men and women, humble heroes who worked hard to move a stubborn country forward. i believe now that we cannot pay back to these folks with tributes, awards, and honors. we must except the application -- the obligation by paying for that forward. we have a lot of work to do in this country should voting rights, civil rights, economic opportunity, equal justice under the law. this shows clearly that the dream of this nation fills a man. that the call of this country still pulls out for the courageous that holds out for the courageous -- still holds out for the courageous.
we have a bill to pay. i stand here in gratitude, the leaders in congress who have elevated this day and made it special, understand, this day was earned by the sacrifice, sweat, and indeed blood is shed for this nation. thank you. [applause] >> the united states and from alabama, the honorable jeff sessions. sen. sessions: thank you congressman sewall for your fabulous work and leadership and energy you have up to our delegation, a son and daughter of selma.
cory booker is one of our most able members of the senate, and one of the best people in the senate. thank you. [applause] sen. sessions: i was born in selma, a teenager at the time of the march, growing up 35 miles south of there in the little town of candon. i saw evidence of discrimination virtually every day, and i think even the use of our time were aware of the historic event that was beginning to unfold. i should have stepped forward more. he has challenged more than a century of discrimination.
it was touch and go. lives were at risk. among those opponents, there was violence. reverend read, jonathan daniels, were murdered. the first peaceful march was stopped violently, by state troopers. with his white hat going down, the troopers attacked. yes, this time it was going to be different. yes, there was no turning back.
the right was rightly protected by judge johnson's name's order, and the foot soldiers moved out. with a message to america and the world. the murders during that time were despicable and improved on the courage -- and moved in on the courage of the foot soldiers, who knew their lives were at risk, but they changed history. they gave themselves to a great cause, justice and equality. american ideals, clearly not being realized. they did so with courage, fidelity, making it hard -- making it part of the most significant event in civil rights history.
i want to thank those who walked for displaying your commitment, your courage, and you did it in the spirit, let me say, of jesus. it was in that spirit that spirit of the you overcame, and overcame in a way that change the hearts of millions of people, a monumental achievement worthy of this prestigious honor. more needs to be done. it was indeed a monumental event. you have made selma, alabama, and yet america and the world a better place. [applause]
>> ladies and gentlemen, the democratic leader of the night is house of representatives, the honorable nancy pelosi. rep. pelosi: isn't it wonderful that we heard morgan's beautiful tribute? thank you for handling the space so beautifully. [applause] rep. pelosi: mr. speaker, i am pleased to welcome all of you here today. we are joined by senator
sessions, senator booker, and how pleased we are to be here with terri sewell. so many friends from alabama. every day here is an alabama splash. [laughter] rep. pelosi: what an honor it is to be here with reverend frederick douglass reese. thank you, reverend. and what an honor it is for each of us, every day, to serve with john lewis and the congress of the united states. [applause] rep. pelosi: he is wearing two hats today, well not any hat. but he is wearing both the hat
as a foot soldier and a congressman, john, thank you for blessing our country with your service every day. [applause] rep. pelosi: 51 years ago, thousands of men and women forward to lay claim to the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote. you have suffered bigotry and brutality. you have the opportunity to cast a ballot and shape the future of our great country. the path leading to the selma marches was powered by the determination of young people. students could change the arc of history.
reverend reese, just imagine, reverend reese was the one that called martin luther king to come and join the march. [applause] rep. pelosi: a week after bloody sunday, president johnson came before a joint session of congress and called on congress to pass sweeping voting rights legislation. he was moved by the march. he said at the time, to congress, at times history and faith meet at a single time, in a single place, to change the search for freedom. so it was at lexington and concorde. so it was at appomattox. and so it was at soma, -- at selma, alabama. i'm so honored that he said that.
his words are recognition of what we all now -- all know. that wasn't just about black history, it was about american history and any other event in our country. selma was an act of courage that challenged the conscious of the country. lisa's mother was the one who answered the challenge, saw it on tv, the march, the treatment of the marchers, and went down to alabama. she was shocked, as you know, a martyr to the cause of helping out. we were asking her, as children and as family, this year family ever asked the question why she
went -- does your family ever asked the question why she went? she says no, her family wonders why everyone didn't go. [applause] rep. pelosi: with your heroism and the voting rights law, you helped realize the somal marchers helped make america more american. thanks to you, for all most 50 years, the voting rights act was part of her them -- part of our democracy. the protection it guarantees has been diluted. we celebrate your bravery with a congressional gold medal. the men and women of somma did
not -- of selma did not march for metals. -- for medals. you marched for legislation, and we must come together, democrats and republicans, and pass a renewed, restored voting registration act without further delay. [applause] rep. pelosi: you have the courage to march forward into nightsticks. we should have the courage, and indeed the decency, to hold the vote in congress on the voting rights act. 51 years later, the dignity,
feel the dignity, see the dignity in this room, from all of you. the dignity and determination of the somma marched still echoes through the decade, as a source of strength, inspiration, and as a challenge to every last one of us here today. let us be worthy of your legacy and continue your march for justice. let us pass the voting rights act. thank you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the democratic leader of the night the senate, the honorable harry reid. sen. reid: we all know that the voting rights act was driven by those who stood up against bigotry and hatred.
civil rights leaders change the nation through activism. the reverend martin luther king jr. rose up. and as we recognize the actions of these civil rights giants, we helped to end injustices within communities and institutions. unsung heroes embody the kurds and resolve of civil rights, and our catalyst for change. in 1947, thomas was appointed by senator brooks as a mail carrier, a mail carrier. during that time, numerous agencies in washington maintained separate dining
facilities for black and white staff. not long after, thomas took a stand free quality, in defiance of long-standing senate practice, stopping in the senate cafeteria to sit down and heat -- and eat his meal. when asked to leave, he refused. his courageous act may change in the senate. a man asked to enter the all-white senate press -- lewis refused to back down and appealed to the senate rules committee. the stands these men may seem small -- took may seem small, but no matter who you are, you can encourage others to come your way.
a senate staffer chose to eat her lunch in the senate cafeteria, and diners gawked. they made snide remarks, and christine returned each day with courage in her heart, refusing to back down. that kurds reflects the core of the civil rights movement. today, we posture recognize -- we pause to recognize those who took a stand for voting rights and equality. the foot soldiers of 1965 show that these marchers carried the banner -- the foot soldiers of
1965 carried the banner to selma, and we honor their strength and acts of selflessness. we will take the time to honor, in my mind, the outstanding footsoldier, a man i deeply admire. congressman john lewis. [applause] sen. reid: before john set out to march on bloody sunday, he told me he had an apple and a book. he thought he would be incarcerated and would have an apple and read the book. he never ate the apple or read the book. we all prayed at the time.
he's been on the frontlines of the civil rights movement, fighting for justice and equality. when i say he "thought" that is not a figure is each -- of speech. he was arrested and beaten in mississippi, organizing the mississippi freedom summer. his head was smashed with a wooden crate, among other things, on bloody sunday. he was knocked within a little bit of his life. racists mobbed these peaceful protesters. despite being spit upon, rested, -- arrested, he never stopped fighting for freedom. thank you, john. [applause]
sen. reid: today, we honor every footsoldier who refused to give up. we demand the status quo and equality for all, so today, we salute the foot soldiers. fearless men and women have transformed the nation. thank you all. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the majority leader of the united states senate, the honorable mitch mcconnell. [applause] sen. mcconnell: from time to time, we come together in retrospect on the historic grounds of the capital, we recognize those who shaped our nation. we again do so now, honoring the brave men and women who helped us many years later.
when those who marched on selma took their journey, they did so without the promise of a ballot. victory was never assured or even likely. through the fog of gas, through hails of lugs, they marched on. first over the bridge, and then with dr. king right back again. as they reached the end, halted once more by troops and police, dr. king led a prayer of solidarity.
marchers met in the street of a -- in the shadow of the human barrier, in the greatest demonstration for freedom that we have ever had in the south. it takes more than teargas to extinguish an idea. ribs can break, schools can be fractured, and it takes more than a hose to break your spirit. congressman lewis understands this better than many, and as others have said, we are glad he is with us here today. he knows that marchers spirits were not broken, and that a profound, but simple idea continues to burn bright. we are all god's children, equal before him and before the law. the marchers continued onwards. after five long days, after 54 long, lonely miles of freezing
temperatures, grueling rain, the marchers say that they have moved towards their goal of freedom. from some of the montgomery, -- from selma to montgomery, their pilgrimage changed the moral landscape of the south. let me tell you, events like these help transform the south in many ways. that is why some 50 years later,
we gather this afternoon. we also bestowed at the highest honor that congress can give, we do so in the hope that it may serve as both a mark of honor and a reminder of the march, from selma to montgomery, a reminder of what it helped to achieve in our nation, and a reminder of the enduring, indomitable, unbreakable power of the human spirit. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the united states house of representatives, the honorable paul ryan. [applause] rep. ryan: what a beautiful day and moment this is. martin luther king once said
that the right of protest was the glory of america, our rejection of violence that made us great. i can think of no better proof in the people right here in this room. they live in a country that denied them the vote. yet, they did not abandon their belief in freedom. they denounced all forms of violence and did not wilt nightsticks worked -- nightsticks or spray teargas or hide behind a wall of state troopers. what they did was march, and they won, because they awakened america's conscience. victory did not come cheap,
there is always a price for freedom. they paid it. the indignities. the injustices. the cruelty that piled up and up and up. they were called outside agitators, subversives, and other ugly names. in the end, no lie could overpower the truth. today, we recognize them for who they are and what they are, foot soldiers for freedom. they changed the way we live and how we live. they taught us that only a good country can be truly a free country. i am honored and proud to present this medal to the foot soldiers, because they have added immensely to the glory of america.
ceremony possible. i want to thank my colleague, representative sewell, senator booker, and sessions, for leading this congress to stop and pay tribute to the countless, nameless foot soldiers of the voting rights movement. it was there determined -- their determined, marching feet that led to the passage of the voting rights act of 1965. they were not rich or famous, they had very little money. some of them have never learned to read or write. they changed the nation for the better. together, for the better here today.
[applause] rep. lewis: some of us stood on the line day in and day out. some stood on courthouse steps. some were beaten, tear gassed, and left bleeding in the streets. they were sharecroppers and tenant farmers. they were schoolchildren and college students. teachers, lawyers. some flunked the "literacy test." some were asked to count the number of jelly beans in a jar. they were just ordinary people,
with a next-door new revision -- with an extraordinary vision. the president of the united states, lyndon johnson, members of the house and senate, and the american people inspired our pain and suffering, because of our sacrifice, they made a commitment to pass the voting rights act in 1965. it is the most effective piece of legislation passed by congress in the last century. i want to leave you with the words of dr. martin luther king jr., who inspired a nation and an entire generation when he said, "a great leader -- when he
said, "if you protest with dignity and love, and the history books are written in future generations, the historians will say, there lived a great people who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of our civilization." so thank you, each and everyone who marched, who prayed, who never gave up, who never gave in, who kept the eyes on the prize. thank you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen,
blessing that this great nation has to offer. i stand here today, saying thank you. had it not been for the lord on our side, we would have perished. but he saw us through the many dangers seen and unseen, brought us over mountains and water, allowed us to be here today. i don't know what you told them when you woke up this morning. i told him, "thank heaven." [applause]
our great god, we thank him for allowing us to be here at this hour. it is a great hour. when we think of all the difficult roles -- roads we have taken, the many difficult beatings, what we can remember, is that god allowed us to be here at this hour. i don't know what you told him when you woke up this morning, but i told him thank you. thank you. thank you. may god bless all of you. [applause]
hopevere during days when unborn has died. we praise you for this ceremony that bestows the congressional ,old medal on the foot soldiers boots on the ground who serve as catalysts for the voting rights act of 1965. courage of these drum majors for justice, may we tackle the challenges of this generation with a similar creativity and competence.
lord, continue to bless and keep us. poor in misfortune and rich in blessings. give us enough challenges to keep us humble, enough hurt to keep us humane, enough failure to keep our hands tightly in yours and enough success to make us certain we are walking with you. we pray this prayer in the name of him who said "i have come that you might have light and ,ight have it more abundantly
>> i am a c-span fan. "reels weekend on america" -- a film documentary john f. kennedy's 1963 conservation tour. here is a preview. president kennedy: i plan to journey across the united states beginning in pennsylvania, landing in column -- ending in california to talk about the conservation of our resources. was delighted -- i was reminded of a poem called offrican names." it started i have fallen in love with american names. miningin title of trains, a plume war bonnet of medicine hat.
>> the names were las vegas, whiskeytown and tacoma. salt lake city, great falls and billings. laramie and cheyenne. here are some of the remarks he made at las vegas and at other places on his tour. [applause] president kennedy: i came on this trip to see the united states, and i can assure you there is nothing more important for any of us that work in washington than to have a chance to fly across this united states and drive through it and see what a great country it is and come to understand somewhat better how this country has been able for so many years to carry so many burdens in so many parts
of the world. the primary reason for my trip was conservation. i include in conservation first our human resources and then our natural resources. [applause] know how much of the atlantic coast is available for -- about 8%. 92% of the whole atlantic coast, and the figures are the same for the pacific, are held by a comparatively few people. unless we now, before it is too late, take these areas of the country which offer the maximum for recreation for all of our people, unless we set them aside now, it will be too late. there is not very much you can do today that will materially alter your life in the next three or four years in the field of conservation, but you can build for the future. you can build for the 70's as
built this of us great dam and lake i flew over today. our task of propelling a third wave of conservation in the united states following that of theodore roosevelt and franklin roosevelt is to make science the servant of conservation and to devise new programs of land stewardship that will enable us to preserve the screen [applause] >> you can watch the entire program sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3.
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