Watch video and replay of President Barack Obama’s speech at the unveiling of the statue of Rosa Parks on Weds. Feb. 27, 2013 at the U.S. Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall in Washington, DC. The dedication ceremony starts at 11 a.m. ET; see live stream video online of both the speech and the full ceremony via the embedded player below. Thereafter the full replay video and transcript text will be posted.
UPDATE: Replay video and transcript are below.
Remarks by the President at Dedication of Statue Honoring Rosa Parks — US Capitol
United States Capitol
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.
It’s been often remarked that Rosa Parks’s activism didn’t begin on that bus. Long before she made headlines, she had stood up for freedom, stood up for equality — fighting for voting rights, rallying against discrimination in the criminal justice system, serving in the local chapter of the NAACP. Her quiet leadership would continue long after she became an icon of the civil rights movement, working with Congressman Conyers to find homes for the homeless, preparing disadvantaged youth for a path to success, striving each day to right some wrong somewhere in this world.
And yet our minds fasten on that single moment on the bus — Ms. Parks alone in that seat, clutching her purse, staring out a window, waiting to be arrested. That moment tells us something about how change happens, or doesn’t happen; the choices we make, or don’t make. “For now we see through a glass, darkly,” Scripture says, and it’s true. Whether out of inertia or selfishness, whether out of fear or a simple lack of moral imagination, we so often spend our lives as if in a fog, accepting injustice, rationalizing inequity, tolerating the intolerable.
Like the bus driver, but also like the passengers on the bus, we see the way things are — children hungry in a land of plenty, entire neighborhoods ravaged by violence, families hobbled by job loss or illness — and we make excuses for inaction, and we say to ourselves, that’s not my responsibility, there’s nothing I can do.
Rosa Parks tell us there’s always something we can do. She tells us that we all have responsibilities, to ourselves and to one another. She reminds us that this is how change happens — not mainly through the exploits of the famous and the powerful, but through the countless acts of often anonymous courage and kindness and fellow feeling and responsibility that continually, stubbornly, expand our conception of justice — our conception of what is possible.
Rosa Parks’s singular act of disobedience launched a movement. The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today. It is because of them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair; a land truer to its founding creed.
And that is why this statue belongs in this hall — to remind us, no matter how humble or lofty our positions, just what it is that leadership requires; just what it is that citizenship requires. Rosa Parks would have turned 100 years old this month. We do well by placing a statue of her here. But we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction.
May God bless the memory of Rosa Parks, and may God bless these United States of America. (Applause.)
11:55 A.M. EST
Live web-feed video player is above; Adobe Flash is required. If not enabled on your mobile device, use these options; the free official White House apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android here. Or the CNN for iPhone and iPad app and the Android app here or the C-SPAN for iPhone and iPad app, Blackberry, and Android app which can be found here.
The ceremony starts at 11 a.m. ET. Use the World Clock to find the equivalent times in your time zone on February 27 or February 28, accordingly.
As noted, the location of the new statue is the U.S. Capitol Building in the National Statuary Hall. The statue honors the Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks who became instrumental in history in December 1955 when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white passenger — as was the custom in the segregated, Jim Crow South. Her actions led to the in Montgomery bus boycott which brought national and eventually international attention to segregation, and marked one of the first leadership efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and eventually brought about the end of segregation in the city bus system.
The statue was authorized by H.R. 4145 which was signed into law in December 2005 by then President George W. Bush, shortly after Parks death in October 2005. It is 9 feet tall and is the first ever full-length statue of a African-American woman in the U.S. Capitol.
A video report is below.
Photo credit: Official White House Photo (2013) by Pete Souza
- President Obama: (Video) Speech at Groundbreaking of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
- President Obama MLK National Memorial Dedication Speech Video at Oct. 16, 2011 Ceremony