President Obama dedicates Rosa Parks statue in United States Capitol building.
2/28/2013, 3:51 p.m.
Today civil rights legend, Rosa Parks, was memorialized in the Unites States Capitol with a statue in her honor. The statue will make history, becoming the first statue of an African American woman to be housed in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. Below are the remarks by President Barack Obama at the dedication and unveiling of the statue:
11:45 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, Assistant Leader Clyburn; to the friends and family of Rosa Parks; to the distinguished guests who are gathered here today.
This morning, we celebrate a seamstress, slight in stature but mighty in courage. She defied the odds, and she defied injustice. She lived a life of activism, but also a life of dignity and grace. And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America -- and change the world.
Rosa Parks held no elected office. She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power. And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who've shaped this nation's course. I thank all those persons, in particular the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, both past and present, for making this moment possible. (Applause.)
A childhood friend once said about Mrs. Parks, "Nobody ever bossed Rosa around and got away with it." (Laughter.) That's what an Alabama driver learned on December 1, 1955. Twelve years earlier, he had kicked Mrs. Parks off his bus simply because she entered through the front door when the back door was too crowded. He grabbed her sleeve and he pushed her off the bus. It made her mad enough, she would recall, that she avoided riding his bus for a while.
And when they met again that winter evening in 1955, Rosa Parks would not be pushed. When the driver got up from his seat to insist that she give up hers, she would not be pushed. When he threatened to have her arrested, she simply replied, "You may do that." And he did.
A few days later, Rosa Parks challenged her arrest. A little-known pastor, new to town and only 26 years old, stood with her -- a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. So did thousands of Montgomery, Alabama commuters. They began a boycott -- teachers and laborers, clergy and domestics, through rain and cold and sweltering heat, day after day, week after week, month after month, walking miles if they had to, arranging carpools where they could, not thinking about the blisters on their feet, the weariness after a full day of work -- walking for respect, walking for freedom, driven by a solemn determination to affirm their God-given dignity.
Three hundred and eighty-five days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the boycott ended. Black men and women and children re-boarded the buses of Montgomery, newly desegregated, and sat in whatever seat happen to be open. (Applause.) And with that victory, the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho, began to slowly come tumbling down.